"This KZ1000 was built to be a combination of retro styling and modern upgrades. I built it over several years. Adding modern parts, better suspension, brakes, and a little more power make for a great ride," says Nelson
Nelson Hallgren, who's based in Northern California, is a KZ1000 owner-enthusiast and has owned Kawasaki KZs and GPZs since 1985. A lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, mechanic and occasional racer, he has rebuilt and modified countless Japanese and European motorcycles since he started riding at age 10! Nelson has owned the same 1978 Kawasaki KZ1000 for almost two decades and has written an ebook about how to restore and customize a KZ1000, which is available on his website. In this story, which he's written exclusively for Faster and Faster, he talks about his beloved KZ1000.
The 1978 Kawasaki KZ1000; a classic superbike to be sure. Honda's 1969 CB750 was a game changer but a lot of us older guys are stuck on the Kawasakis. The 900 Z1 started it all and eventually Kawasaki pumped it up to a 1000. These bikes have a long history in roadracing and drag racing. The motors are strong and they respond well to modifications. It's an air-cooled inline-four with dual overhead cams. The cam lobes push on shims and buckets to open the valves; much like many modern bikes do today.
What's it like to ride this thing? Well not quite like an old bike and certainly not like a new one either. I've owned modern sport bikes, and it would be silly to try to compare the performance of a 38 year old bike with the latest corner carvers. But even so, this bike is quick! Every time I gas it hard through the gears I still think to myself , "holy crap this thing is fast!"
The sound is incredible. The Vance and Hines 'Sidewinder' drag racing pipe is a 4-into-1 with no muffling and a wide-open megaphone. You might expect it to be really loud, but it's not. The two big valves in each cylinder make a throaty rumble you don't hear from the modern four valve machines. It's sounds a bit like a cross between a muscle car and an Indy racer.
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