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
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.”
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.”
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, however.at 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
“THE POLAR WHITE, RED AND DEEP BLUE PANELS ARE FOR MY EYES A CLASS ABOVE THE MORE FAMILIAR GREEN”
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 to.top 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 jets.as 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