Bike of the Month Dec 2011.
Rae Runge, AKA Lightspeed Alberta, Canada.
There is an interesting story about how I acquired this bike.
In the summer of 1986 I was snooping through a Suzuki dealership with a friend
who was looking for a dirt bike and a grey quarter fairing peaking out down at
the end of the row of used motorcycles caught my eye. I went down to check it
out and discovered it was this KZ1100R, listed at $3500.00. When I asked a
salesperson about it he commented that it was “just some Kawasaki” that a guy had
just traded it in on a nice, new GSX 750. A few more questions and I realized
that they did not have any idea what it really was. I left with the image of
that silver/blue bike in my mind. Went back on the weekend and looked it over
again. I appeared to be in good shape, but then I noticed a gas tank leak along
the lower seam on the left side of the tank and a small damp spot on the carpet
under the bike.
Hmmm. . . I started to formulate a plan.
KZ1100R on Highway 11 on the way to the Icefields Parkway.
Part one of the plan - protecting the target.
I cornered the salesman and pointed out the leak and told him that it was
obviously a fire hazard out there on the showroom floor. I actually helped him
move it back into the shop, where it was now safely out of the public eye. I was
probably the only one who knew it was there.
Part two of the plan – scoping out the solution.
I checked with my local Kawasaki dealer and asked about a replacement tank for a
KZ1100R on the off chance that there might be one available, somewhere. A few
days later he called to say that he’d found a brand new one, in Toronto, and the
price was $585.00. Since I was riding my GPz550 at the time, he asked me why I
was inquiring about that tank. I confessed up to my Kawasaki dealer about what I
had found and my plan. He told me that there were only two KZ1100Rs shipped to
Alberta dealers in 1984 – one to Calgary and the other one to his shop in
Edmonton, and that he’d sold that bike in 1984 for $4600.00.
1989 trip again, packing gear into the Moto Guzzi. A week’s worth of
gear in my tankbag and my raingear strapped to the seat.
1992, KZ1100R on the Trans Canada Highway, approaching Mt. Rundle in
Banff National Park.
Part three of the plan – setting the stage.
I went back to the Suzuki Dealer and looked over the bike very closely again and
the tank was the only issue I could see with it. Told them I was interested in
the bike but the price was going to have to be reduced because of the tank
Part four of the plan – closing the deal.
My Kawasaki guy said the tank was still available, so back to the Suzuki dealer
and offered them $2700 for it, as is, (pointing out again the “serious”, leaky
tank issue and the BIG problems in finding a replacement). They thought about it
for about 2 minutes and accepted my offer. Phoned my Kawasaki guy and ordered
the tank! Picked up the bike a couple of days later, rode it home with the
dripping tank and parked it until the next week when the new tank showed up.
Popped the replacement tank on it and all was good!
1992 trip, stop at Radium Hot Springs, BC.
1989 trip, last Vintage Motorcycle races at Westwood track in BC. Area
is now a subdivision.
The next spring I ditched the 4 -2 exhaust system and installed the Yoshimura
that is on it now, along with a K&N; filter and a jet kit. Later replaced the
steering head bearings with tapered roller bearings and installed a fork brace in
a somewhat futile attempt to harness the high speed handling wobble. The brace
helped a bit but simply could not make up for the frame weaknesses it was blessed
with from the factory.
It has been used to commute to work, local trips to the mountains and ridden to
British Columbia several times, once to the last Vintage/Historic Motorcycle Race
held at the old Westwood Raceway in Mission, BC in 1989. The Deer’s leap crest
on that track was something to behold, but it’s now a subdivision. One of our
group was writing an article on a 1915 Ariel motorcycle resurrection from a
pasture, and the rider was there for the inaugural public ride. Leather helmet,
goggles and a cloud of smoke could not hide the owner’s ear to ear grin. Another
trip to BC was a bit late in the fall and I ended up riding back through a
serious snow storm.
The KZ1100R now has 33,042 km on it and still gets ridden a few times a year. I
still have my 82 GPz550 with about 58,000 km on it. In 2003 I purchased a silver
ZRX1200R, a descendant of the 82 – 84 ELRs, but with modern engine, brakes,
suspension and frame geometry. The REX has been modded a fair amount (Akrapovic
SS/Ti pipe, jet kit, pods, ignition advancer, fork brace, rearsets, cut down
seat, upgraded lighting harness and tip over kill switch) and it gets the
majority of the seat time now. The GPz550 is currently down awaiting time for
some major brake work.
The heritage of all three motorcycles is clearly visible and although the KZ1100R
and the ZRX1200R are noticeably different, I often get questions or confused
looks when I show up with the either of them. They either confuse one with the
other, don’t believe the REX is relatively new, or that the KZ1100R is that old.
Lovin’ them all.
We will be featuring a different bike each month on kz1000r.com
that we feel is deserving of the title "Bike of The Month."
Check back often to see what our pick is.
To nominate or submit your own bike for "Bike of The Month."
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this will intern help us get a true market value for insurance purposes.
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