The world of the Superbike is a fast moving one. The pace began to warm up around the late 60’s, gathering momentum throughout the following decade and really kicking in during the 80’s and early 90’s. History tells us of quantum leaps around the launch of Honda’s Fireblade in 1992 and then again two years later with the Ducati 916. In reality these battles were being fought, albeit unwittingly, many years before.
The bike that opened Kawasaki’s account in the madness stakes, the 500cc H1, is quite a rare find these days and even harder to drop of the important parts to complete a restoration. Kawasaki Triples club treasurer Keith Philpott, a 49 year old systems engineer for Xerox, is a confirmed fan of three pot motorcycles although his own biking career began on the Suzuki variety with a brace of GT380’s passing through his hands in the seventies, he claims he couldn’t afford a Kawasaki back then as they were the most expensive of the four Japanese brands at the time.
Richard Young took possession of the KT250 as a well-used and abused yet complete, competition machine in 1998. It was languishing in a mates garage and he knew very little about the type along with possessing little or no interest in trials riding although having long been a lover of the Kawasaki brand this seemed like a perfectly good idea to take on and restore.
Personally, I have always harboured a soft spot for those high bar monster muscle bikes that the yanks seem to have so much fun racing on throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Unlike the UK on the other side of the pond “proper” fully faired race machines regularly did battle with high bar naked monsters.
There can be no better way for any bike manufacturers to enter a new decade than with a highly developed and ground-breaking machine. Kawasaki not only achieved this task with relative ease but also added a new category in the biking world line up when they effectively stuck the attributes of a sports bike and tourer together to form the tag Hyperbike.
Kawasaki’s two-stroke Superbike, known in the factory as the 602, came out of the period immediately following the furore created by Yamaha TZ750. Shortly after the introduction of the big Yam, in the October of 1974, the homologation rules were changed meaning manufacturers only had to produce 25 machines thus making machines not based upon road based engines more feasible.
In standard form the Kawasaki Z650 is a perfectly able machine. Its chassis is competent, and the engine willing to rev on, making it the almost ideal B-road scratcher for the late 70’s. However, like most bikes from the period, a standard Z650 does show its age in more modern times and as seen here by choosing a few areas to improve the middleweight Z can be transformed.
Unlike today, there was little choice in 70s motorcycling and any desire to ride something that bit different meant creating it yourself after the donor bike had been acquired or buying a ready modified model.
If you wanted to emulate to the look of the GP race machines there was only one route to down, the fibreglass body kit; held in place by ugly metal brackets and heavy beyond belief, the body fit added kudos to the humblest of machinery and trapped your thumbs on a regular basis too.
During the birth of the modern day motorcycle, no one had any hard and fast ideas about its perfect shape and form. When Honda created the inline four cylinder Superbike in 1968, the rest of the leading protagonists shot off in different directions simply to avoid copying, all to return at some point, some within a few short years and others around ten years later.
The ZXR750, first seen in 1989, is a beautiful machine even by today’s standards. It is sleek and very business like looking. Lavishly finished in a thick coating of paint that is so typical of Kawasaki’s top bikes from the period, the livery mimics the racing styling perfectly.