Wednesday 15 May 2013

Black & Gold

1989 Kawasaki GPZ 600R
1989 Kawasaki GPZ 600R

This bike was imported from Scotland in the very early 90's by a friend of mine. He rode it for a couple of years before moving away from Ireland, leaving the bike parked up in his uncle-in-law's garage, where it sat for about ten years.

Sometime in the mid noughties, I got a call asking me would I like to take the bike for free, on condition that I pick it up quickly. Apparently the uncle-in-law wanted his garage back.

It looked pretty sorry. The tyres were flat, the brakes were seized, it was skanky. It was showing some corrosion and obviously, it didn't run. I picked it up in the van and brought it to the workshop and ignored it for another couple of years. 

I had other projects on and I was of the mindset, "Meh... It's only an old 600".

When I finally got around to looking at it, I was surprised to find that it had only covered 18,000 miles. I serviced the brakes, fitted new tyres, checked the valve clearances (they were fine), fitted new sparks and a battery and changed all the fluids, filters and the fork seals. I then set about cleaning and balancing the carbs. The thing started up and purred like a kitten. I gave it a very thorough cleaning and it polished up well. It wasn't in mint condition, but it certainly wasn't far off.

And then I rode it. And was surprised to find that it was very, very fast. It wasn't particularly quick - It was much heavier than most of the bikes I ride, but it was slim and slippery and something about the way it made power encouraged a heavy throttle hand. Kawasaki fours are like that - sort of raucous. It was a lot of fun to drive and I kicked myself for not fixing it up sooner.

It was fun, but it wasn't perfect. It didn't fit me - the seat was narrow, the foot-pegs were too high, the bars were too far away and nothing was adjustable. On the other hand, the fairing worked very well. It was terrific at speed, protecting you from the weather and allowing you to concentrate fully on the discomfort in your wrists, knees, back and ass.

It came with air adjustable suspension front and rear. And at the front this was complicated by the addition of an anti-dive system. Maybe this worked well when the bike was new (I doubt it) but it certainly wasn't working a decade and a half later. It could be made to operate reasonably well with some faffing around with a bicycle pump and digital pressure gauge but it needed constant attention - leave it for a couple of days and you had to start all over again. 

As for the anti-dive - that's an idea best forgotten. Mercifully, it mostly has. Sorry for bringing it up again.

These issues aside, it was a really nice bike. It was totally reliable and everything worked as it should. It looked great - It had a very 80's Japanese, almost manga, feel to it. And it sounded great, even with the original 4:2 exhaust system.

I sold it for a paltry sum during the great motorcycle purge of 2010, the proceeds going to fund my master's degree. However, it appears to be on the market again, having covered less than a thousand miles since than.

Would I buy it back? 

It was fast, reliable, fuel efficient and cool in an 80's Kawasaki way, but no, I'd rather have a GPZ 900. But if you're looking for a really nice example of a pretty good bike (with low insurance costs) it might be worth a look.

1989 Kawasaki GPZ 600R
Speedometer on the right is unusual, but the clocks are clear and everything works.

1989 Kawasaki GPZ 600R
Fast, efficient and reliable with 80's Kawasaki cool

#GPZ600R #KawasakiGPZ #Mercenary #MercenaryGarage

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