When I first wheeled Project ZXR into the garage a couple of weeks back, I had all the best intentions. Really, I did. I was going to pull it apart, inspect everything, fix the bits that I could fix, replace the bits that I couldn’t fix, and generally make everything lovely again before I rode it. That way, I would save a few quid by not having to insure the thing while it was just sitting in the garage, and I could SORN it rather than buy a tax disc.
And then I had an entirely innocent thought. What if I spent all this time and money putting it together and it turns out that either a) I didn’t like it, or more likely b) it didn’t work properly. That would be a lot of time and effort wasted, right? I’d already gone for a very quick whizz up the road just to put some petrol in the tank, but I now had a little voice at the back of my head saying “go on, just slap it all back together, and go out and ride it. It makes perfect economic sense, and you don’t have to enjoy yourself”. So, I made sure that nothing was about to fall off, put some air in the tyres, got my leathers on, and just had time to think “I can resist anything except temptation” before riding off up the road.
Of course, it wasn’t all beer’n’skittles’n’sweetness’n’light. So lets get the bad stuff out of the way first. Most importantly, the cooling system needs a lot of attention. The thermostat, temperature sensor, and fan switch are all broken. Which means the engine was overheating, while the temperature gauge was reading normal. And the fans weren’t coming on. Glad I noticed this on a short whizz up the road rather than before sticking it on the dyno, but I wonder how long it’s been ridden like that in the past. Fingers crossed that Kawasaki’s reputation for building tough motors means that all is well. Secondly, the brakes bound on after a bit of rather enthusiastic application. I should have known. I’ve had this before on one of my previous ZXRs using pattern levers. Easy enough to fix, but a bit of a pain at the time as the only thing to do is pull over to the side of the road and let it all cool down. Thirdly, the handling is a bit squiffly from the front, which I think is down to the cheapo tyres and a blown fork seal. Easy and cheap to fix the seal, but expensive to replace the tyres, obviously. And lastly, either one of the exhaust gaskets has gone or there’s a hole in one of the headers as there’s definitely a bit of extra noise that shouldn’t be there when bimbling around.
But… but… for the moments that everything was working well, for a 25 year old bike, it’s fantastic. The handling in long fast corners is just as I remember, and just why I fell in love with these bikes in the first place. Yes, by modern standards it’s heavy, and slow. But tucked behind the screen, listening to the induction noise (once described by the greatly missed John Robinson as “like a box of terriers approaching resonance”), lining up the entry into the next corner, it was perfect for me. I managed to travel back 20 years in 10 minutes. Neat. Can’t wait to get it finished now. Yes, there’s obviously work to be done. And money to be spent. But right now, it looks like I’ve made the right choice.