Bike of the Month July 2010.
Glenn Derksen, Canada.
I bought my 1984 KZ1100R on March 10th, 1985 for the princely sum of $3999 Canadian.
It was brand new and I knew on the day of purchase that this was to be my ‘keeper’!
My history with street bikes started with a 1979 Honda CB750F;
I was drawn to the sport bike style of the day and quickly began to change components on the bike for
better handling and performance - S&W; Street Strokers and a really nice Yoshimura 4-2 exhaust system
set up the bike quite nicely.
Although I’d improved the Honda from stock it still wasn’t what I was ultimately looking for.
One of my riding buddies had a Kawasaki Z1-R and was very vocal about the superiority of his machine.
Eventually, through the bravado of his arrogant statements, enough of the message did get through to me;
the Kawasaki really was superior! That set me off to check out the new models offered for 1982.
I was convinced that I didn’t have enough experience to go for a liter bike yet so I confined my selection
possibilities to the 750’s. There it was staring right at me, a firecracker red GPZ750 R-1.
After some quick haggling about a trade-in value I was out the door with my brand new bike, but not before
standing slack-jawed looking at something that was standing up on the showroom pedestal at the dealer’s
- a KZ1000R-1. It was priced around a thousand dollars more than the purchase price of the 750 but
it was more a difference
than I was comfortable with at the time; too big, too much power for a street ‘newbie,’ which is what
I considered myself to be. The lime green paint was just so much ‘in your face’ that I was intimidated by it.
“If you were confident enough to ride around a bike that said ‘look at me’ like that one did, you’d better
be a good enough rider to pull it off” I thought.
I put the 1000 out of my mind and concentrated on enjoying my brand new 750. Enjoy it I did! It was lighter
and way more powerful than the Honda, comfortable as well.
I took a few extended trips with the 750 and really appreciated the comfort and reliability of the little
red machine. Three years passed with GPZ and I was now ready to make the jump to the 1000’s.
I had kept abreast of the evolution of the new models and although I appreciated the new technologies
entering the industry,
I didn’t like the new styles. The newest fuel injected 1100 engine in the GPZ model was intriguing but the
new body work and the mono shock didn’t appeal to me, nor did the styling of the new water-cooled Ninja.
Honda had gone to the V-4 which wasn’t what I wanted. Suzuki was going the Katana route;
I wanted to ride a motorcycle, not an insect! I made a casual visit to a small Kawasaki dealer near
my hometown and checked out the previous year’s brochure of new models that he had lying around.
There it was - the 1100R at the bottom of the page! I asked if it was still possible to acquire
one of last year’s models and after a couple of phone calls he told me he could get it.
A down payment was quickly paid and I awaited my new machine. It came in the stardust silver colour,
and I really liked it at the time - a bit more subdued, not bringing so much attention to itself.
On the ride home I quickly discovered that the shocks had to go! The stock shocks were not up to the
challenge of comfortable street riding. As is the custom,
I opted for the piggyback Marzocchi Strada’s, bright red to complement the subdued paintwork.
Big improvement. The 84 came with a stock 4-2 Kawasaki exhaust;
I put on a stainless Micron Power 4-1; it looked good but
I had issues with cracking at the collector that required tig welding to cure.
On went the 33mm Mikuni smoothbores which are still there today; when tuned they are
wonderful but there’s a dearth of mechanics in my area who know what they’re doing with them.
The antenna-like rear view mirrors hit the garbage can with a thud; a small Napoleon bar-end
mirror lowered the visual profile of the bike while still keeping it street legal.
Year after year I rode the bike in this configuration without any major issues; it was my daily
ride for three seasons of the year, stowed away only in the dreary West Coast winters.
Sometime in 2000 I became aware that it was running very hot, took it in and discovered that
the rubber mounts from the carbs to the intake had cracked which allowed the bike to run lean
my engine was ‘cooked!’ One major overhaul later, with the insertion of an 1170 Wiseco piston kit,
I was back on the road. I decided at this time that I needed another motorcycle, so purchased
an older Kawasaki Concours
an amazing bike that I used for 5 or 6 years without any problems at all.
I rode a couple of Iron Butt rides with it: a Saddlesore 1000 and a Bun Burner 1500.
A terrific bike, but it lacked what the 1100R had in spades - SOUL! With infrequent use the 1100R
was beginning to show its age, and it was with sadness that I witnessed it deteriorating.
Through a series of life events I somehow abandoned the bike and allowed it to fall into a state of disrepair.
Like many people I thought that ‘someday’ I’d fix it up into the condition that it so rightly deserved.
In the meantime I bought a Harley Davidson Road King, something that I never dreamed I’d do.
Although I admit I’ve entered the ‘dark side’ of motorcycling, I think there’s enough room to accommodate
my enjoyment of both aspects of motorcycling. Fast forward to last fall, my wife and I took on
many projects with our home, one of them being a complete remodeling of the kitchen.
As I was getting ready to yank my hair out by the roots, a light bulb came on… restore the R!
We both agreed that this was great way for me to get some fun therapy. As the house was being
torn apart I was able to escape to the garage and tinker and plan the rebirth of my 1100.
The internet can be a wonderful thing; it was here that I discovered kz1000r.com, with the
help and encouragement from everyone on this site I forged ahead and got the job done.
It can be challenging to find competent caring people to assist you with a project like this,
but my experience has been nothing but gratifying.
I took the bike to Kenco Motorcycle in Sooke BC. They cleaned up my carbs and fired up the bike
which had not been run for 2 years. With the information that everything was alright I decided
that it was time to dismantle the bike and get things started! Being only able to do rudimentary
mechanical chores myself, I had the mechanic at Kenco, Wayne, take everything apart and store
in boxes and zip locks.
Now I could take the parts to the required experts to have painted or
reconditioned. There is a paint shop here in Victoria that is perfect for the type of work that I needed;
in fact the name of the shop is ‘Perfections’! I decided that I wanted the frame painted instead of
powder-coated; if things got dinged up in the future at least it could be touched up.
The engine looked pretty rough with lots of pitting. Perfections blasted it and applied a satin finish,
which gives the engine a different texture from stock, but I like it as it looks more ‘sinister’.
It took a lot of Brainstorming on my part, but after a lot of thought I decided it was time to truly
embrace the Eddie Lawson heritage of this model and go for the Lime Green paint scheme.
Kano sent me an R-2 tailpiece for the paint shop to scan and we were on our way.
I ordered R-2 decals from Reproduction Decals in Ontario, Canada.
The decals are exact as far as I can tell and they were a fun company to deal with.
Because of space issues the poor bike had to live outside for a couple of winters before the
rejuvenation work started; consequently the fork tubes had become pitted and in desperate
need of replacement or repair. I was unable to find replacement fork tubes but did find an industrial
shop nearby that was able to grind them down and re-chrome them to the stock 38mm.
With new fork seals and bushings the front end feels better than new.
I quickly became aware that the reconditioning of the bike had taken on a life of its own.
It really started to become a Restoration rather than a quick ‘fix it up’. With that in mind
I determined that it was time to put on some parts that were only fantasy for me before.
This involved getting in touch with Kipkawa in England.
They manufacture lots of parts for the ELR’s; I bought the S-1 rear sets and the S-1 seat cover
as well as the Earl’s oil cooler and brackets from them.
Alan from Kipkawa was very helpful in giving me tips on getting things fitted properly.
The Marzocchi’s that I’d used since 1985 weren’t going to look right with the new appearance of
the bike so it was time to consider which shocks to replace them with.
Because I’d decided to honor the S-1 heritage of the model, I bought the Works Performance
Racers. This was an excellent choice as they look just right on the bike and they perform admirably.
It was also time to get rid of the worn out Micron Power header system.
In its place came the black Kerker with a 1.5 inch competition baffle.
As all of these items were arriving I was able to go
through the boxes and zip locks one by one and clean all of the bits and bobs.
When things were to be reassembled,
I figured they might as well be as clean as possible.
Finally, I took a look at all the parts and figured… it’s time to get it put together.
Kenco had a lull in their work schedule and I took everything to them.
Wayne understood clearly what I was hoping to accomplish and was very careful during the reassembly.
My goal was to have basically a stock 1100R, but with enough elements of the S-1 to give it a more
‘track like’ appearance a kind of blend between stock and “breathed on”.
I’m extremely happy with the result and am continually amazed at what a wonderful,
smooth motorcycle it still is after 27 years! It is a real head-turner; I get many comments from guys
saying that they thought it was a ZRX until they took a closer look.
That brings a smile to my face, and I’m grateful to everyone involved that I can ride this bike
with pride. There are an infinite number of ways to alter these bikes to make it your own;
I hope you enjoy the look of my vision and that you’ll continue to enjoy your own bike in the
manner of your own configuration.
You guys are the best, Glenn....
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