Big and sim­ple in nearly ev­ery re­spect, so rea­son­ably straight­for­ward to re­store. But some parts are now hard, or vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble, to find. If you want it to be orig­i­nal in ev­ery way you’ll have your work cut out

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Reader Restoration -

To bin is a sin

“I don’t like to re­place parts with new-old-stock un­less I ab­so­lutely have to,” says Chris. “I find it much more re­ward­ing, not to men­tion less ex­pen­sive, spend­ing the time re­furb­ing. That’s what I did with the shocks.”

From top to bot­tom

When Chris got the bike it was show­ing only 24,000 miles so he thought he’d get away with just a top end re­fresh. “Most of the mo­tor work was to the head, but see­ing as we had it apart I asked Debben Per­for­mance to go through the whole thing.”

Bright spark

Tay­lor leads pro­vide the spark. Ig­ni­tion is stock but Chris is con­sid­er­ing fit­ting Dyna coils be­cause “It’s a bit fluffy at the top end.”

‘Bar none

Gen­uine R2 ’bars are, so says Chris, just im­pos­si­ble to find in the UK, “I found these on We­bike in Ja­pan. the ny­lon ’bar ends are all im­por­tant. The ’bars that were on it are now on Michaela’s ZRX400.”


I don’t need to sling a leg over Chris’s Z1000R2 to know that I like it.the po­lar white, red and deep blue pan­els are for my eyes a class above the more fa­mil­iar green of Kwak’s big air-cooled fours. Had this bike come to the UK from Ja­pan, rather than spend­ing its for­ma­tive years in Swe­den, it would have been white from the fac­tory, Chris tells me. “This was the only colour the R2 came in for the Uk.”with its black frame and mo­tor, gold and sil­ver wheels, and con­trast­ing pan­els, this Zed sim­ply oozes class.

That thought is fur­ther so­lid­i­fied as I hop on board and fa­mil­iarise my­self with the con­trols. Kawasaki have al­ways gone that ex­tra mile when it comes to cre­at­ing a road bike.the cock­pit is a com­plete ‘thing’ rather than a ran­dom soup of com­po­nents, fea­tur­ing a plas­tic cover from the clocks to the ’bars.there’s a fuel gauge be­tween the easy to read di­als, id­iot lights for both left and right turn, and a thor­ough­ness of fin­ish miss­ing from many other ma­chines of the era.yup, this is a good place to be.

There’s no deny­ing its size, how­ 222 ki­los dry (nearer 240 with flu­ids) sit­ting on a 1540mm wheel­base, the R2 packs some pres­ence. Just get­ting the thing on its cen­tre stand re­quires a not in­con­sid­er­able push down by foot on the lever to get it to ro­tate back on its prongs, so the 67lb.ft of torque rolled out by the mo­tor is es­sen­tial when look­ing to make haste.

Kawasaki mas­sively over-en­gi­neered these mo­tors.the crank is a huge, heavy and im­mensely strong bit of kit. It’ll shrug off


all lev­els of abuse, pro­vided you treat the lump to fresh oil ev­ery few thou­sand miles. But it won’t spin up quickly like a mod­ern sports­bike or even one from the ’90s –yet there’s so much shove per thou­sand rpm that it re­ally doesn’t have end revs are not what this bike is about.

Like most fresh builds, Chris’s R2 has its teething is­sues. By the time I get the key it’s not cov­ered many miles since Ray stuck the mo­tor back in the frame, and the carbs have sucked through some dirt, block­ing one of the pi­lot such it’s re­luc­tant to run smoothly down low, and only clears its throat once the carbs tran­si­tion to the nee­dles. Chris has since stripped, cleaned and re­fit­ted the carbs – a blocked pi­lot was in­deed the cul­prit. "There's still too much slop in the gear lever mech­a­nism,” says its owner with a crit­i­cal eye. “The rose joints wear, so that’s next on the list to be sorted. I just didn’t have time.”

It’s no bother. Once go­ing, any slop in the lever is barely no­tice­able and with so much torque just a twist of the throt­tle away there’s lit­tle need to be both­er­ing the cogs any­way. The sin­gle-pot front calipers are as new, hav­ing been stripped and re­built, but Chris has kept the stock lines for now, and haul­ing this thing up re­quires pre­plan­ning and a wide mar­gin for er­ror. Last minute re­liance isn’t an op­tion. “I may go for braided lines af­ter all,” says Chris af­ter I re­lay my con­cerns. “I put these back on for orig­i­nal­ity, but I won’t be tramp­ing on with this, I’ve got my H2-SX for that…”

Han­dling is straight from the book of big, heavy in­line-fours: cor­ner­ing de­mands thought, com­mit­ment to a line and a good heave on the ’bars to get it turned. It’ll take out a cor­ner quite com­pe­tently, just don’t ex­pect to change line mid-turn. Slow in, fast out, and you’ll be just fine.

Ac­cept the R2 is re­ally a throw-over from the 1970s, rather than an early ’80s su­per­bike and you’ll get on splen­didly. It’s a nice al­ter­na­tive to a Z1-R too.

Re­built calipers. Lines are OE but may be swapped to braided up­grades

Rechroming the orig­i­nals wasn’t pos­si­ble, but GPZ pipes look the part

Clocks from S. Africa. An­noy­ing squeak was cured with parts from old di­als Pi­lot jets needed a re­clean af­ter the first run. Car­bu­ra­tion is now sweet

A hefty old unit and no mis­take. Bike sur­pris­ingly nim­ble though

It’ll get along quite briskly, but don’t ex­pect to stop with­out a bit of for­ward plan­ning

Po­lar white like an ice­berg – and ev­ery bit as big as one too

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