Been a bit cold for working in the garage hasn't it ? OK, maybe it's fine for you Aussie KR owners but I need to sort out some kind of heater I think. Anyway, due to a million other things all happening at once, I've not managed to do anything to my bike(s) in the last 3 months apart from fit a new tax disc. Time to get off my arse and do something constructive.
First I contacted Inox about identifying and obtaining an assortment of nice shiny fasteners to replace the scabby ones dotted all over the bike. They had no data on the KR250 but with the help of my parts-book (which I realised shows thread/length information) I'm going to compile my own list so that they can offer a specific kit in future. One of the main jobs I need to do soon is sort the brakes - they need completely stripping and servicing so with the help of Brakes-4U I identified and ordered a full set of EBC pads. They'll do the same for you at a discount if you mention KR250.ORG - see the Info page for details. I also talked to Sunrise Graphics to see if they could provide any of the various decals and stickers found on a KR. As a first step we discovered that the 'K' labels on the brake-calipers are the same as those on the GPz900R so I ordered some and they arrived by return of post. As with Inox, I hope to help them assemble a collection of the relevant items for the benefit of other KR owners.
Gareth needed a right-hand handlebar bracket to get his rescued 'S' through an MOT so I removed the one from my spare KR and sent it to him. He has a spare KR bought for parts too so to thank me he sent me a mint top exhaust end-can sleeve and heatshield ! Mine have suffered crash damage in the past so this is a fantastic help towards making my bike look smart again.
One of the RD boys (thanks Ali) kindly offered to try and source me some KR parts during a shopping trip he was planning to Japan. I asked him to try and find a lower exhaust end-can sleeve and a factory-option single-seat cowl and at one point it was looking very hopeful but no, they're no longer on the system. Oh, I got all excited for a minute there. Nothing else to report this month except I've made a much better-looking and more accurate set of MPH numbers for the speedo and the tyres have gone flat again...
I ordered a set of brand-new indicators from Chris at Netbikes (see Info page) and they arrived from Australia in less than a week - that's impressive ! I won an Ebay auction for a complete top-end gasket set (also from Australia, 3 days delivery !) and while we're Down Under I got a package from Jeff who used to work in a Kawasaki dealership in Melbourne in the '80's. He'd been tidying his garage and came across an old T-shirt that had been given to dealers at the original launch of the KR. He very kindly sent it to me - what a fantastic piece of tandem-twin history !
I visited my local fasteners supplier (Scotts) just to see if they could help with some of the nice shiny bolts and stuff I want. They didn't have any bike-specific fasteners in but I did buy a small selection of bolts and washers to try. I also bought some black screen trim (from Hein Gericke) to try and hide the rust on the bottom seam of the tank. The RD boys reckon that the best paint for that factory-finish on black exhausts is actually BBQ paint from Wilko's so I got a can of that too - I'll post pictures of the results on here when I've done them.
Easter weekend, dry and sunny, dig the KR out of the garage and see if it runs. Pump up the tyres first (flat again), squirt the chain with WD40 and give the rest of the bike a quick once-over. Ignition on, choke on, kick, kick, kick... waaaaahhhhhh ! Fantastic - I'd forgotten how good it sounds. Helmet on and time for a ride. The brakes have got worse for being neglected - there's a definite reluctant scraping sound from the front but it stops OK. I'd forgotten how crap the forks are too - there's that solid pulsing from the warped disc and anti-dive. But the engine feels ace - what a great powerband and what a fantastic howl from the pipes. I warm it up and then thrash it on my favourite 'rollercoaster' back road. I'm wary of it nipping up but it's fine. Back home and then too busy with other stuff to do any work on it. But a couple of days later, I get the chance to take it out again and manage to take some pictures of it, just to prove to you all it still runs really. In fact, if you look closely you might see that the engine is still running in the pics - I daren't switch it off in case it wouldn't start again...
I've had a cool idea ! I love the whole "80's-ness" of the KR but I also really like those specials where someone has
taken an older bike and brought it up to date. You know, like an original LC but with modern suspension, wheels and
brakes. What if I did that to the KR but with the ability to swap it back to standard easily and quickly as required ?
Rather than mess about with spacers and adaptor plates etc, I want a complete front-end off something up-to-date and sporty. Ideally it'll be both Kawasaki and USD so that limits me to the ZXR400 really. I could go for a RWU KR-1S setup or even compromise a bit and fit the whole USD caboodle off an RGV250 (a popular conversion for LC's). Either way, I want the whole deal - forks, yokes, wheel, discs, brakes, spindle and mudguard, even bars and levers. It'll have to slot straight in to the headstock without any mods to the frame. At the back, I want to keep the existing swingarm and underslung shock otherwise it just wouldn't be a KR any more. But I want a fatter back wheel to match the new front one so again it's ZXR400, KR-1S or RGV as appropriate. I don't want to modify the existing swingarm at all but if I can't get it all set up straight with spacers and offset sprockets I could modify my spare swingarm - this would make the swap-over process a bit more inconvenient though. The rear-brake may need an adaptor plate I suppose.
So one day I've got a standard KR, then with a couple of hours spanner-twirling I've got a KR with fat 3-spoke wheels, USD forks and 4-pot brakes. And no anti-dive. I could even have a spare set of sidepanels with 'KR250R' logos on and fit them with the single-seat cowl and some front-only footrests when in 'special' mode ! As fate would have it, a cheap 18" 3-spoke RGV250L rear wheel appeared on Ebay the same day I had this idea so I snapped it up to get me started...
Er, is it June already ? You can probably guess that I've not done anything to my KR in the last couple of months - all ideas and no action, me ! Although those of you who thought I wasn't serious about the 'special' thing should note the photo below - that's a set of ZXR400 USD forks and yokes bought off Ebay. And the single seat-cowl promised by Steve in Australia finally made it round this side of the planet so there's nothing stopping me getting a paintjob now. The other thing that's happening this month is meeting up with Neil Haslam, the bloke who's making the KR-based racer. I'm giving Neil the wheels and discs off my 'spare' KR and he's giving me all the spare roadbike bits he doesn't need for his racer - that includes mirrors, clocks, lights and indicators I guess. I also finally got round to having some KR250.ORG stickers made up so I'm giving some to Neil for his racebike. In fact Neil's letting me have the whole front end off his bike, 'cos he was playing the other day and found that a KR1 or KR1-S front-end slips straight in without any mods whatsoever ! Maybe I was a bit hasty with those ZXR bits...
Ah, a sunny Sunday, nothing better to do, time to needlessly waste some of the earths natural resources then ! So, what do you think - better with the single-seat converter or not ? Actually I was making sure that it was running OK in preparation for the VJMC Lotherton Hall show a week later. Spent the day before it polishing the bike in the sun, set off for the show in the pissing rain the next morning - isn't the British summer marvellous ? It was dry and sunny when we arrived though. Not as busy as last year but some nice machinery there all the same : couple of TZR250's (including a lovely reverse-cylinder one), three NS400R's, Graeme's RG400, a few LC's and aircooled RD's, couple of Kwak triples and lots of nice Kettles and aircooled GT's. Oh, and that cool 'RG800' thing.
I'd made up a little publicity thing for the site and stuck it on the screen when we got there. Didn't expect to see any other KR's there - in fact there were very few Kawasaki's at all. The KR didn't miss a beat all day (176kms) though I was dreading have to start it in front of everyone when we left. I thought I'd have to push-start it on the grass but it coughed a bit, ticked over on one as usual, then the second pot chimed in just when I was starting to look embarrassed ! Had a great ride home too.
I wanted to get some paint so I could touch up the scabby top-fairing and spray the seat cowl. RS Bikepaints reckoned they could do me some aerosols - colour-matched to a panel if I took one in - but their mysterious opening hours meant that it was never going to happen. The local branch of Halfords will make aerosols to order too but require the manufacturers paint codes to do it - I couldn't find those anywhere in the parts-book or on the internet. So I tried the local Kawasaki dealer. Needless to say, 'KR250A' means nothing to them but I was prepared for this and had identified two other UK models with the same paint colours - Lime Green and Polar White. This enabled me to order genuine Kawasaki touch-up paint, although I had to settle for tiny bottles with a brush inside rather than the spray cans I wanted. Unbelievably, they had to come from Japan (it took a month) and cost over £20 for the pair ! The part-numbers are T56019-1087F (Green) and T56019-108F1 (White). I haven't yet tried them to see if they're a good match and I don't know if those numbers will enable me to get some aerosols made up - watch this space.
Are you wondering about that other photo ? I was browsing Ebay as you do and found one of those metal sidepanel badges off the special-edition Z250 for sale. I put a small bid in for it - well, it's more relevant to the KR than a crappy four-stroke twin ! Don't worry, I've not drilled holes in the sidepanel, it's just blu-tacked on for the photo.
Hmm, another classic British 'summer' has been and gone then. I don't think I even took the KR out of the garage all month - disgraceful. I did make it over to Batley for a long chat with Clive Padgett about his proddy-race KR though. I then popped next door to Kawasaki Autorama to talk to Brian (ex-KR owner and former Huddersfield Kawasaki employee) and he let me take the shop demo Z1000 out for a spin. I did think very seriously about buying one but they'd sold out of green ones ! Also this month I've started an evening class course - Japanese For Beginners. If I get an invite to the 21st Anniversary Party at Akashi then I guess I ought to be able to speak to everyone...
If it's October already then I've had the KR for two years now. And it must be time for... yep, the MOT. Up nice and early, pull it out of the garage - hmm, a lot of friction there ? Ah well, it'll free off when we're moving. Started easily enough, rode it a couple of miles to my local bike shop and jumped the queue of all the people waiting for service. It failed ! Front brakes binding badly. Everything else was OK and they didn't charge me or give me a 'fail' certificate. He said if I sorted it and took it back they'd pass it so I rode it straight home and swapped the front wheel for the one from the spare bike, suspecting it was the warped discs causing the problem. But no, still binding so check the brakes and it's not a pretty sight - both front calipers need a complete strip and new pistons/seals. And one of them has a dodgy thread so it's only really held on with one bolt ! Ah well, I've been putting off sorting it so now I'll be forced to do it right. For now, I just push it back in the garage. At least it started first kick at the bike shop...
At the Stafford show I bought a handful of polished allen-head bolts from Surplus Supplies to replace all the bodywork fasteners on my KR. I also picked up a brochure for NK Racing, builders of a stunning GP-replica 500 V4 and specialists in fitting different front/back ends to LC's and the like - when I get the rest of my ZXR bits I'll be giving them a call. I had a good chat with Phil from Z-Power and gave him a shopping list of various KR parts - he got back to me the next day with prices and availability of them all. There doesn't seem to be any logic to which parts are still available from Kawasaki and which have been deleted but I can definitely recommend Z-Power for any bits you might need - they've got a KR microfiche or I can provide part-numbers if you need them. I shall be putting an order in for myself very soon.
Also this month I managed to find a brand-new KR throttle cable in Australia so I snapped that up. And I had a bit of a brainwave - the KR250 engine is effectively two AR125 engines welded together. If that was actually true, then some AR bits might actually be the same - that would be good because the AR was a popular model in the UK and you could get parts over the counter at your local Kawasaki dealer. As a first step towards proving this (or not), I bought a new AR125 top-end gasket set off Ebay to compare to my KR one - more details soon...
Large funny-shaped packages ? Yes, you thought I was joking about the KR special but another mad impulse Ebay purchase resulted in the arrival of (hopefully) all the remaining parts for my ZXR400 USD front-end : wheel, tyre, discs, spindle, speedo drive, spacers, bars, clamps, mudguard and the complete front brake system. The more perceptive of you will have spotted the matching back wheel too, complete with disc and sprocket. None of them are in the "excellent condition" I was led to believe (hmm...) but they should all clean up OK. Let's hope I can make them fit ! Also this month I sold my lovely Kawasaki 400 triple so now I've got space in the garage to work on the KR(s) and no excuses to get out of it. Now, where did I put that angle-grinder ?...
Christmas Eve, a few hours to myself, not too cold in the garage - let's start the restoration (at long last). An hour later, all the bodywork's off and I've only had to get the hacksaw out once ! There's a lot of scabby corroded fasteners but they'll be easily replaced and hopefully it'll start to look a bit nicer soon. Priority though is the brakes and forks.
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