Lots to do this year !
My main KR is just about sorted but there's still a list of little jobs to do on it : Try the racing spark plugs to see if they help the warm-starting problem. Fit some new exhaust gaskets - the pipes are blowing a bit where they join the barrels. Maybe fit some new exhaust studs at the same time. Strip the fuel tap and fix the minor leak. Fit the new mirrors and the set of new brake hoses and fittings. Touch-up the paintwork in a couple of places. Source some new original bar-end plugs from somewhere.
As far as the special goes, I've arranged to take all the various bits down to NK Racing at the end of this month so Nigel can work his magic on them. Hopefully I'll get back the black frame fitted with the ZXR400 front-end and the KR1 rear wheel. Before I can deliver it to him though, I need to remove the GPZ front end that's currently fitted and fit the spare yokes from the crashed bike instead (although he'll only be using the stem to fit the ZXR yokes). I've got a sprocket and disc to fit the KR1 wheel now so that should be enough to get everything aligned at the back, but I still need to work out what to do about handlebar positioning.
So when I get the special back, what direction should I take with it then ? The original idea was to create the sort of bike that Kawasaki would have made if they'd continued developing the KR instead of producing the KR1 - 17" wheels, better brakes, more power but still looking like the old tandem-twin. Japanese bike magazines are full of mid-80's Ninja's and aircooled GPz's that have been tastefully tweaked and modernised in this way. But there are other options. I could do a homage to the original works racer using one of the replica seat units from Airtech. Or I could go in the other direction, fit some more modern bodywork and get a paintjob like the stunning Kawasaki MotoGP bike. Or something in the middle inspired by the experimental X-09 250 GP racer. KR500 replica paintjob ? I know it's been done already but it looks fantastic. A streetfighter ? Or even something in the style of the bikes ridden by the Bosozoku - they're kind of like the teenage Japanese Hells Angels but they ride old 250's with cissy bars, apehangers and patriotic or metalflake-flame paint jobs. Feel free to provide some inspiration - here's some pictures to get your imagination working :
And what about the engine ? It'd be good to update it a little using a powervalve top-end from the 'S' and I believe
the bores can be taken out to 300cc or so. What about fitting barrels from another bike ? An AR125 is just half
a KR (more or less) - would that be of any benefit ? KX125's are in a much higher state of tune and parts should be
relatively easy to find. What about a KR350 or 400 using KX185 or KDX200 bits ? Or a square-four 500 ? Or
using the top-end off one of the watercooled two-stroke jet-ski's ? OK, I'm just dreaming now and I certainly don't
have the skills or gear to do any of this myself, but I definitely want to explore some ambitious options. I'd like
to use only Kawasaki parts if possible but we'll see. Any suggestions ?
I managed to find a new home for Darin's jigsaw this month so I've got some garage space to work in now. Not only that, but Mark (the new owner) kindly let me have 3 spare bits that are missing or damaged on my donor bike : the gearlever shaft, waterpump housing and (most of) the clutch assembly. And he gave me a set of AR50/80/125 microfiches which could be useful when it comes to checking out interchangeable parts (see above).
Quite a few of the KR owners I've been in contact with have told me the frame/engine/registration numbers of their tandem-twins and suggested I maintain a register of known bikes. I'd like to do this, particularly for UK KR's and especially in an attempt to trace the remainder of the original Huddersfield bikes. So if you've got a KR, let me know the details (including the number on any spare engines you've got too !) and as much history as you know about your bike (date of registration, previous owners, origin etc). I promise that none of this information will be published anywhere on my site or made available to anyone else whatsoever. Thanks to those of you who've already sent me their details.
I removed the GPZ600R front-end from the special in one big lump and then stripped down the standard front-end on the spare bike. The yokes were put in the special frame along with one spare handlebar to give Nigel an idea of positioning. The GPZ front-end was slotted in the spare bike so that I can move it around as needed - it's a bit of a tight fit with the fairing subframe though. The standard KR front wheel and brakes were stashed up in the garage roof for now, along with the bent forks which now drip oil on me when I walk underneath them...
A very busy weekend. I crammed the KR frame and all the other special bits in the car and dropped them off at NK
Racing. Nigel was great, he understood exactly what I'm trying to do with the bike and was very
enthusiastic. He spent ages explaining how he works and showing me other projects he's working on, then measured up
the KR and decided how everything was going to fit, writing everything down in detail but with sufficient flexibility to
allow for tweaks as required. He's going to use the ZXR rear wheel and will make everything fit within the standard
swingarm by sinking the sprocket and disc further into the hub. Not much doubt about his skills either - his showpiece
YZR500 replica was on a nearby bench covered in various one-off machined alloy bits. I just hope the rest of my bike
will do his work justice ! The next day was spent at the Donington show, meeting up with other KR owners and admiring
all the nice bikes. I managed to come home without spending any money too - I tried to find some standard GPZ600R bars
in the autojumble for my spare bike but no luck.
Another of my New Years Resolutions has been achieved ! For months I've been watching piles of desirable KR parts come up for sale on Yahoo Auctions Japan without being able to get hold of any of them. Firstly, the site is almost entirely written in Japanese of course, secondly all the ads have a 'will not ship internationally' clause. There are a few middleman services which aim to get round these restrictions but they all looked complicated and expensive. But I finally bit the bullet this month, signed up with one of them and made a test purchase. And then another ! It works very well, delivery is quick and I'm going to be doing this quite a bit I reckon. It is expensive - the four small items in the photo below cost me a total of £100 all in - but it does prove that these difficult to find parts are no longer completely unobtainable.
That red/white bike in the other photo is my new toy - don't worry, the KR's are still my main love ! It's a Yamaha TZR250SP, the reverse-cylinder model with a dry-clutch. I couldn't resist it, I've always liked them. I'm keeping the site strictly KR-focussed but if you want to know more about the Yamaha, it's got its own TZR Page.
Been a bit quiet on here recently hasn't it Tim ? Erm, yeah - sorry. I was a bit ill earlier this month, and it's been too cold to do any work in the garage, and I've got the TZR now to play with, and my home computer decided to eat itself, and...
Nothing to report I'm afraid. Another package from Japan produced a pair of KR bars and clamps last week but I've not got round to fixing all the little niggles on the bike like I planned to. I haven't done anything to the TZR either so it's not like I've been distracted by that. I have scanned the entire KR parts book and made it available online for you all though - what, you hadn't noticed ?
I bought an Optimate-3 battery charger and immediately put the KR battery on charge to test it out. It told me the battery was duff ! Further tests revealed that although all 6 cells were full of acid, one of them wasn't bubbling under charge - this problem is usually terminal (poor quality battery joke - sorry...). The battery wasn't actually the correct one anyway - it's the correct size, shape and rating but the vent is on the wrong end and the previous owner has had to cut the battery box away to make it fit. I ordered a new fully-charged battery of the correct type (YB4L-A) along with the Optimate flying-lead which lets you easily keep the battery monitored and topped up without removing it or even taking the sidepanel off. A quick check of the donor bike revealed its battery box had been modified in the same way too, so it looks like shopping time on Yahoo Japan again.
I contacted Nigel to see how far he'd got with my KR rolling chassis - he said it was the next job to do on his list. I was quite happy about this, I've got plenty of other stuff to do in the garage and was enjoying having a bit of space to do it in. But a couple of days later I was poking about on t'internet (as you do) and I came across a picture of a KR special that's pretty much exactly what I'm trying to do ! I don't know who's it is or exactly what he's done (I found it on a Japanese webpage) but from the photo it appears to be fitted with the USD front-end, wheels and brakes from an RGV250 VJ22. There's a nice pair of custom exhausts, some rearsets, a massive curved radiator, the sidepanel and tailpiece have been cut down, he's fitted the seat cowl and fairing-mounted mirrors, and it's even got the KVSS bits off the 'S' (at least the stickers suggest that). It looks bloody fantastic - if you built it or know who's it is, please get in touch. And come on Nigel, give me my chassis back, I want to get on with it now !
A few more little packages arrived from Japan, but sadly not the original KR helmet that I was outbid on (boo !). But there was a new battery box so I fitted that along with a pair of new handlebar end plugs. A quick pump up of the tyres, swing of the kickstart lever, and... nothing. Couldn't get it running. I think the fuel might have gone off because there's a sticky yellow substance all over the left footrest hanger. Time to investigate the fuel-tap leak then...
Nigel phoned me to say the front end was all sorted on the special but that there was a problem with the rear. He originally thought he'd be able to make the ZXR400 rear wheel fit by moving the disc and sprocket carrier inboard but on further investigation there wasn't enough metal on the hub to do it, short of making a complete new hub from billet. I'd originally assumed that the ZXR rear wheel would be too wide anyway so had obtained a KR1 one to use instead - it has the same spoke pattern so it should be a visual match for the front. So I delivered that back to Nigel and three days later he rang me back to say it was all done and ready to collect.
Look good don't you think ? The yokes are the ZXR400 ones with the KR stem pressed in and billet risers lovingly welded to the top - clip-ons will be too low to clear the standard bodywork I want to use. I offered up the fairing subframe - it's very tight with the new yokes but it should work. At the back the cush-drive has been machined down to bring the sprocket inboard slightly - this results in only a 4mm offset from standard which should be easy to cope with at the drive sprocket. He's used the KR1 rear caliper and bracket and made a new torque arm so it can be hung underneath instead of on top like the KR. He's also put threaded inserts in the swingarm to allow me to fit bobbins for a paddock stand, and he's had to machine various one-off spacers and sleeves to make everything fit properly. Needless to say, all new bearings/seals have been used throughout along with stainless disc bolts etc.
Obviously there's a long way to go yet. Before I can think about stripping it and getting everything painted/polished, there's a few things I need to do. I need to make sure the brakes I've got work so I fitted the ZXR front calipers, lever and master cylinder and found some old hoses to connect them all. I also found an old hose to fit the rear KR1 caliper and fitted a cut-down KR brake lever along with some footrest brackets. I also fitted the fairing subframe to check the clearance on the yokes - looks perfect to me, although the lockstops will need grinding down to improve the half-mile turning circle I now seem to have. And I found some rusty old bars lying around so fitted them to give me a starting point for checking clearance etc. What's that last photo ? I didn't want to fit my new bearings until I've had the yokes powder-coated so I got my Dad to turn a wooden spacer so that I can bolt everything together without it flapping about. It's such a good fit, I reckon it'd pass an MOT...
No progress lately with either the special or my main KR I'm afraid, I've been neglecting both in favour of my TZR ! But that's over now, and the next step is to get my main KR through it's MOT, which has expired. There's still a few little problems to iron out but there's also a new one - moving the bike in the garage the other day revealed a dangerous crack in the left hand handlebar clamp ! I've got a spare one and it's a known common problem but it's scary to think that it could have snapped while out riding. Check yours now ! That leak's got worse too - looks like 2T oil but the location suggests fuel ?
Another UK KR owner (Hi Corky !) contacted me asking about aftermarket rear shocks. Not something I've ever come across before - even in Japan I've not seen any off-the-shelf replacements advertised. It's difficult because on the KR the underslung rear shock is actually in extension instead of the more normal compression. The RD500LC was a similar design and so are some recent Buells but it's not gonna be as easy to find a replacement unit as it would be for a KR1 or similar. I've taken some measurements off mine and Corky's gonna try a few race suspension specialists and see what they come up with. Details on here if it looks promising !
Even with a few days off work I still didn't get chance to do all those little jobs to get the KR running and MOT'd again. I did get some swingarm bobbins for the special but they came with dangerously short bolts, so one of Hein Gericke's stainless allen-bolt workshop packs was purchased and they were fitted. But look what's on the front cover of the VJMC magazine that came through my door this morning - yes, that's my KR at the Lotherton Hall show a year ago ! Looks good don't you think ?
I borrowed some RGV250 footrest hangers off a mate to see they'd be adaptable. Held up against the other bike (with the original footrests intact) they seem to be the right sort of size/shape, and fitting should be fairly easy using a thin alloy adaptor plate. The problem will be the tight space around the gear lever shaft and the need to bend the linkage rod out so it clears the frame. Unless I run it inside the frame rails, R1-style ! Sounds great but the chain is in the way. I would have got some ZXR400 ones from a local autojumble to try too if the price hadn't been so ridiculous - I'd still like to keep every thing 'Kawasaki' if possible. I managed to get a spare tank though (thanks Mark !). It's got an unusual paint job - a respray or an obscure original scheme ?
I spent the first part of this month preparing for the Classic Mechanics Show at Stafford. There were 2 KR's there this year which was nice to see, and quite a lot of KR owners that I got to meet for the first time.
I placed an order for some hard-to-find new KR bits with Classic Motorcycle Supplies in Holland as their website showed that they had them in stock. Looked promising but no - all that arrived were some piston circlips and a numberplate light cover, turns out they're not in stock at all. I bought a pair of used (but tested) CDI boxes from Brad in Australia and he offered me a box of other parts too. He kindly let me have them for the cost of postage - shame he's at the other side of the planet ! I also got a pair of fairing lowers from Japan - these seem to be the hardest bits of bodywork to find these days. I offered my spare bodywork up to the special to see if there was anything I was missing. Makes it look like a lot of progress has been made doesn't it, although of course I'm just deluding myself ! Also from Japan, I was really pleased to get one of the original KR250 paddock jackets that they sold with the bike back in the mid-80's. It's brand new, still got the sales tag on and even though it's a bit small for me I love it. Guess what I'll be wearing next time I go to Japan ?
Moving the bikes around the garage was a bit difficult so I removed a rear tyre from the old RGV rear wheel and fitted it to the KR1 one - this should help protect the rim too. At the same time I fitted another rear disc that had kindly been donated by Mark from the KR Forum. I think I need some flatter bars than the ones currently fitted and I still need to source and adapt some ZXR/KR1 footrests to fit the standard brackets.
The spares situation for the KR is getting worse by the day - I get requests all the time from people looking for pistons and rings. Someone told me that the KR1 has the same bore/stroke so I got hold of an old KR1 piston for comparison. Unfortunately, the rings are much shallower on the parallel-twin so they're not going to work as a replacement. The piston itself is shorter too. I need to find a specialist who can provide a straight replacement piston/rings or a close match than can be easily adapted. Any ideas ?
Well, it's looking promising for the piston/rings situation. Someone on the KR-1S Forum was looking for a cheap source of rings for his parallel-twin and bought some +2mm oversize KMX125 rings on spec. The bore size was correct (standard KMX125 is only 54mm) but everything else about the rings was wrong. But he sent them on to me (cheers Tommy) in case they were of use on the KR. And it looked quite hopeful - the ends are the same shape and the top ring is tapered on both sets. I had a look at a pattern KMX125 piston (standard bore, he didn't have an oversize one) and it appears to be a very good match for the KR one - the only difference is it doesn't have the extra small hole (for lightening ? an oil feed ?) above the gudgeon pin hole. In the absence of the genuine article, I'd say it's a usable replacement - but I've not tried one.
A local racer who was preparing a ZXR400SP for the track sold me his standard footrests and hangers for the special, and I picked up a ZX10R (!) gear linkage and rod to go with it. I think it's going to take quite a bit of work to make them fit - maybe cutting down the standard footrest brackets further would be worthwhile ? Or maybe I should try and get a pair of aftermarket KR rearsets from Japan ? Another box of assorted parts arrived from there this month, and I also snapped up a top-fairing on sale at a UK breakers.
I decided to test the ZXR calipers to make sure the pistons weren't seized. I had to get the pads out first, and one of the small screws that holds the spring clip down snapped off flush as soon as I touched it. A mate drilled it out, then whilst trying to clean up the thread, snapped the tap off flush - doh ! The solution - for now - was to glue a small bolt upside down over the hole and fasten the clip down with a nut instead - this will be fine as there's no loads involved but it does look a bit cack. Incidentally, I've found out that they're off a 'H' model ZXR, but the forks are off an 'L' - apparently this is the best combination, so that was a bit of accidental good luck !
Having decided not to spend any more money on Yahoo Japan for a while, another KR owner asked me to get him some bodywork
bits. I managed to get a pair of sidepanels and a pair of hard-to-find fairing lowers for him, plus a pair of mirrors
too - all from a KR250S. And of course, as I was bidding on items for him anyway, I got another couple of small bits
for myself - a single fairing lower, a pair of sidepods and a complete matching lock-set with key.
The only other thing I've done this month is to build and launch an online register to support our Diff'rent Strokers website. Have a look and feel free to add some photos and words about your own bike, as long as it's "diff'rent" enough of course. Merry Christmas !
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