All it took was a squint at Kawasaki’s Motogp bike for a thorough and utterly convincing ZXR400 makeover
Lee Young knew precisely the look he was after for his ZXR400 when he clocked the 2004 ZX-RR Motogp machine at the Sepang round
SPECIALS BUILDERS draw inspiration from all manner of sources. From the spark of the initial idea, motivation to maintain focus on the goal is essential.
For Leeyoung, it was Kawasaki’s 2004 ZX-RR built for the Motogp round at Sepang that suggested the styling for his 1998 Kawasaki ZXR400 L8. It was his wife Stef that helped with focus and motivation and she even bought some of the key components found in Lee’s mini marvel.
It all started, as it so often does, with a well-lubricated ebay bid. “I’d always fancied a pocket-rocket 400. I had bid on plenty of Honda NC30S but kept missing out,” says the 38-year-old property renovation firm proprietor. “Then on May Bank Holiday 2011 I had a little too much red wine before bed time and stuck a bid in on an original, 9000-mile ZXR400. “I awoke to find that I’d won it for £1100.The seller was so disappointed in how little the bike had fetched that when I went to collect it, he didn’t even come out of the house to deal with me – his wife just handed me the keys.”
Cheap though it was, the bike wasn’t without issues.the original mild steel headers had rotted, like they do, and the ZXR failed its MOT because one of the ’bars had been bent when the previous owner had dropped the bike on its side and it now fouled the tank on full lock.that drop had taken a cosmetic toll too.
Time for Lee to get to work. His previous bike was anaprilia RS250. He’d ordered a
“I did all the vents and recesses myself in glass fibre. I’d learned all the techniques in a previous job making caravans and Truckman tops”
Tyga fairing for that but had been on a long waiting list.three months after he got the ZXR, the RS fairing arrived and it was obvious where it was going to go. Lee modified thetyga RS front subframe to work with the ZXR’S headstock and made the other brackets in aluminium using a hacksaw, files and a pillar drill. More drastic modification was required to the fairing itself. “Obviously it had none of the vents required for the ZXR or recesses to take the ZX-6R C1H front indicators I wanted to fit, so I did all that in glass fibre myself. I’d learned all the techniques in a previous job making caravans andtruckman tops,” says Lee.
As happens with specials, one mod prompted another, and the ZXR clocks wouldn’t fit under the new fairing. So Lee bought atranslogic Micro Dash 3.The bent ’bars were junked in favour of Renthal clip-ons.thetyga RS250 rear subframe dictated a physically smaller battery and the only one Lee could find was a Shorai LFX lithium.then, even after modification, he decreed that the Rs250tyga tail was too long and tall. Not only after modification, but after paint too and it’s not the rear you see on there now.
Re-born to Bewild did the paint and Lee was very particular in what he wanted. “The 2004 Sepang ZX-RR was finished in a metallic green rather than Kawasaki’s more usual flat lime green.the ZXR’S original green wheels were painted black and the frame and swingarm done in flat black metallic,” says Lee.
Happy with the overall result, Lee rode and enjoyed his ZXR, taking in several trackdays. He did change the seat for a Catalyst Composites carbon unit from the States but that too has been subsequently junked on the grounds that it’s too light and flexible for road use, although not before Lee spent £700 having it painted. Surely Lee is one of Reborn to Bewild’s best customers. “Don’t know about ‘best’,” he says. “More like one of the most annoying. I always turn up with stuff at the last minute because I want the bike to look good for some trackday.”
It was some trackday that provided the catalyst for a raft of changes that elevated Lee’s ZXR from special to very special. “I was atanglesey lastaugust and in the sixth session I noticed the engine was smoking. It was 800ml of oil down. I’d also had problems with brake fade,” says Lee.that afforded the perfect opportunity for some engine work and a front-end swap.
Roger Middleton at RMKD Racing was entrusted with the engine work.the Kawasaki guru advised that new rings might get another 800 miles or so out of the engine but with scored liners and new ones unavailable from Kawasaki plus a spun big-end shell or two because of oil starvation, a total rebuild and an overbore was the best solution. Pistons are 3mm-over JE, lightened and balanced by Roger.that lightening and
“I went to Dymag to order some ally wheels. And before I knew it I’d been talked into carbon fibre”
balancing also extended to the rest of the engine while the head was skimmed, flowed and ported, the valves polished and relapped and the inlets matched to the carbs.the carbs themselves had the air correctors blanked off to work with an RMKD ram-airbox and were jetted up from the stock 92 to 98 mains to 108s. Lee had a major result with the cams which he’d bought from a Zxrworld Forum member.they are the SP profile with slotted vernier sprockets as fitted to some models of the ZXR400.THIS saved Lee the cash and hassle of having a stock set reprofiled. Lee also pestered another Zxrworld Forum member to sell him some titanium Beet header pipes which he did for £150, now all he needs is a carbon-sleeve titanium can.an Ignitech CDI delivers the sparks.
The radiator had to move to make way for the ram-air and with ZXR400 rads no longer available from Kawasaki, Lee opted for a ZX-6R one as suggested by Roger, who also advised deleting the oil-cooler. However with the main outlet from a 400 rad welded on, the position of the 400 coolant pipes was not to Lee’s taste. He then acquired another 600 rad and the coolant pipes from the bigger bike and found that it all fitted perfectly in the desired position. “You learn from your mistakes when building a special,” he says. “I spent £200 buying and modifying a rad I didn’t use.” Some slight coping saw reworking of the fairing and the RMKD airbox snorkel were required to get the disparate parts to match up.
“Now the power is delivered around 3500rpm earlier than before.there’s a load more midrange and so a lot more punch out of the turns,” reports Lee.
The Dymag wheels had already been purchased and fitted before the front-end swap.a buckled original rear wheel meant something had to be done anyhow. “The Dymags were an anniversary present from Stef,” says Lee. “I live quite near Dymag and went up there with a view to ordering some ally wheels. Before I knew it I’d been talked into carbon fibre,” says Lee. Not that he has any regrets. “The difference light wheels make to handling is phenomenal,” he says. The decision to switch front-end precipitated by hisanglesey experience saw Lee acquiring a set of 2004 ZX-6R forks.these fit straight into the 400 yokes although new captive spacers had to be made to suit the ZXR400 wheels and the spindle is 5mm larger in diameter than the 400 one. Rear sprocket istalon, made to fit the Dymag wheel. Front discs are now Galfer 310mm and the calipers are Brembo M4 radials mated to a Brembo master Lee already had. Front mudguard is carbon bytyga.
A rear caliper hanger fromass Performance in Germany (yes, really) carries a Brembo caliper and does away with the stock torque arm.the amusingly named German concern also does pre-preg carbon bodywork including a fuel tank and self-supporting seat, and Lee is currently eyeing up a set of that, although that will come next year at the earliest. “I plan to have it painted as a reverse of the current scheme, the carbon weave being left on show where the bodywork is currently metallic green and to have the current black areas painted green. There aren’t many people doing aftermarket bodywork suitable for ZXR400 road bikes. There’s plenty of race stuff.the other 400s of the era are better served,” says Lee. “I can’t find an aftermarket hugger anymore which means that the current one is one of few standard parts still on the bike.”
The current seat unit – by now the third incarnation – is a glassfibre one from Roger Middleton.a Rizoma tail tidy intended for an MV 675 complements the rear lines.
Titanium fasteners abound – 38 in the front-end alone and over 100 in total – all of which contribute to a dry weight around 140kg. Lee hopes the transition TOASS bodywork with bring it down to 128kg.
“I plan to take it to all the Parks – Cadwell, Oulton, Donington and Mallory – this year. The ZXR is perfect on all those short twisty circuits.you can use all the gears, attack all the corners and really feel like you’ve ridden the bike,” Lee enthuses. “I had thought about getting another track bike but Stef says I should just focus on modifying this one. I asked her what would happen if I crashed it and she says it would just become a new project; part of the bike’s story. She’s right.”
Dymag wheels aside, Stef’s influence can be found in numerous small ways on the bike. Lee says that the slightly incongruous purple titanium rear spindle nut and orange oil filler cap are down to her, as is the Road Runner sweatband on the mastercylinder.
For now the ZXR is as finished as any special can ever be – remember there’s full carbon bodywork in the offing.when we talked to Lee he was in the process of changing insurance company. “Have there been any mods, sir?” Er... “As you can see it’s not a standard bike but more what I think a modern 400 would look and feel like if the factory continued with the development. Although I’ve lived with it so long it almost feels like a standard bike to me.”
Pretty and pretty damned effective
Transplanted ZX-6R rad a perfect fit