The Kawasaki KH250 was my first ‘proper’ road bike. When I hit 17 in 1981 you could own and ride a 250cc bike as a learner in the UK and the Kawasaki triple was my weapon of choice.
Mine was a second hand 1978 KH250B3 which had the front disc brake. It was the Kawasaki green version and the previous owner had put a Two Four cafe racer style seat (whatever happened to them?) and a set of 3 spoke gold mag wheels.
Kawasaki Triple History
The KH250 was a direct descendent of the S1 250 (Mach 1) produced from 1971 until the name change to KH250 in 1976.
The KH250 (together with the KH400) were produced until 1980. The KH500 (formally the infamous H1), was only produced for a year and retired in 77.
The KH250 Engine
An air cooled 3 cylinder 2 stroke that pretty much remained the same throughout its 4 years production. You could argue it hadn’t really changed since it was used in the Mach 1 in 1971.
Power was available pretty much the entire throttle range rather than a power band that kicked in once your rev counter hit a certain number like most of the 2 strokes at the time, the RD250 for instance.
Whether a short blast to work or a run out to the coast, it was generally thrashed to within an inch of its life but coped well apart from the middle pot would seize now and then.
Looking back I probably didn’t help the problem when trying to keep the cost down I only changed the offending piston rather than having all 3 rebored and replaced.
It drank fuel for fun, mainly because it was rode for fun. It also went through an alarming number of spark plugs and I would always carry spares if we were heading to the coast.
It sounded sweet though, the nicest sounding bike of all the 250’s of the day.
I spent a lot of time riding with 2 mates, one who rode a second hand Honda Superdream and the other an old Yamaha RD250B so my main memories about the performance of the KH250 relate to comparisons with these.
The KH250 was fastest away from the lights but once the Yamaha’s power band kicked in Billy would generally catch me around the 50mph mark. The 4 stroke Superdream would be some way behind.
Riding the twisty country lanes of Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire both the Yamaha and the Superdream handled better although the Kawasaki would come out of the bends faster, again thanks to the availability of low end torque.
The old Yamaha RD250B was fastest at the top end but not by much. When racing back to town after a coffee at the Blue Star cafe Billy would slowly come past me on the Blyth Rd doing a couple of mph more than me.
My clock would be nudging the 95mph mark but I suspect it was nearer 90 than 95.
Buying a KH250
I’ve met at least 5 KH250 riders over for the Isle of Man TT and I can only remember 1 who hadn’t bought it because they used to ride one in their youth. Even the odd one out had tracked down and restored his Dad’s old bike.
I would imagine most of the KH250’s that are currently road legal have been lovingly restored or very well looked after.
Try the owners forums or the Classic Bike ads as well as Ebay.
Restoring a KH250
As a top selling 250 parts are plentiful so don’t be put off by something that needs a bit of TLC. There are plenty of bargains to be had if you’re handy with a spanner and fancy doing your own restoration.
There are specialist shops catering for all the Kawasaki triples so all you are going to need to do your own restore is money, time and the drive to complete it.
Example prices for KH250 parts as of 2020:
- Crank shaft £400
- Mudguard £125
- Footrests £45
- Engine casing bolts £18
- Side panel £40
Prices from Kawasaki Triple Parts who appear to have every part you could need for any of the classic triples.
Are The Kawasaki Triples a Good Investment?
While the value of the KH250’s is on the up they don’t command anything like the money the earlier triples are fetching but they do compare favourably with their bigger brothers the KH400 and KH500.
As of 2020 a fully restored mint condition 1972 S1 (Mach 1) can fetch £10k and a very good condition 1976 KH500 – only made for 1 year – can be had for around £7000.
A mint KH250 can currently be picked up for around the £6k mark.
In 2015 a restored KH250 would fetch between £2500 and £3500 so the quarter litre is definitely appreciating.
I hadn’t long purchased my triple when the UK Gov announced plans to restrict learners to 125cc bikes within a year or two. Instantly, myself and thousands of other quarter litre owners found the market for our bikes became none existent.
With the trade in value and private sales market for 250’s on its arse, many of us ended up keeping our bikes for an extra year while we saved up for our next ride, even after passing our tests and getting full licences.
I forget what I let it go for in the end but I definitely remember the sour taste losing money left.
Despite that, I do remember the bike fondly. It was a pocket rocket that would blow away the boy racers in their Ford Escorts for fun.
It also taught me how to handle a decent sized bike. Something I think the next lot of learners on 125’s missed out on.
Would I buy another? Probably not. I went a different route once I passed my test and gave up chasing speed in exchange for style.
Don’t let me put you off though, the KH250 can still be picked up cheap enough to make a fun packed Sunday ride.
And if like me you used to own one, the sound and smell of that screaming 3 cylinder 2 stroke will bring all the memories of your early riding days flooding back.