Words: Richard Seck Photos: Richard Seck/Sheila Tang
Long-term CMG readers probably thought they’d seen the last of Mr.Seck on a track after an ill-fated racing attempt on a BMW R1100S in 2001. My spectacular St. Eustache crash resulted in what was initially thought to be a cracked rib and a sprained hip. The injuries actually turned out to be a myriad of cracks—starting at my sternum, snaking down the left side on my rib cage and finally dead-ending at the base of my spine, after making an attractive pattern in my left pelvic bone. Ouch.
Of course, Editor ‘arris couldn’t care less about his crutch-laden photographer and ad guy, as long as he continued to get the job the done (you make me out to be such a nasty boss. Now stop yer whining and get on with yer sad tale – ‘arris). What he did care about was the fact that that the beautiful beemer I had been riding was destroyed, whilst attempting to pound its rider into the ground. Sadder still, was the fact that Norm Wells at BMW Canada has an elephant-like memory.
The result? Mr. Seck gets banned from racing. Sigh …
Fast forward to November 2002, and the last beautiful riding day of the riding season in Southern Ontario. I had managed to assemble a team that would allow me to execute an idea I had devised—to do some funky action photographs of the much-loved Honda VFR that we had on test.
We all met at my friend Andre’s place where, sitting in the driveway was a mint 1989 Kawasaki ZX-7.
“Cool bike Andre”, says I.
“Do you want to ride it? It’ll be last your last chance, I’m selling it”, responds Andre.
Shortly thereafter we’re en-route to the Halton Hills with me on board the shiny green machine. We finally clear the ‘burbs of Toronto and find some corners, Andre takes the lead with his R1100GS and arcs through a left-hander at a leisurely pace. I follow, lightly push on the left bar, and … WHAM, lowside!
|And this is what he bought …|
Ow—rider drilled into the asphalt, the once-mint ZX-7 is sent sparking down the pavement and unceremoniously into the ditch.
“Guys, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
Yes, yet another dramatic episode of, Bike Attempts to Pound Brittle Man into the Pavement, only this time it was just my collar-bone that managed to snap into three or four bits. And that was that for that.
In the true spirit of: you break that thing, you bought it, shortly thereafter my credit line was increased to the amount of a mint ZX-7, and the CMG Track Bike Project was born.
|Promising Streetfighter …|
Why a Track Bike?
Initially Editor ‘arris thought this bike had Streetfighter project written all over it. That just seemed wrong to me. This ZX-7 is a classic. When it arrived in ’89 it was hailed as the tool that would carry Kawasaki riders to World Superbike to racing glory. It was loosely based on Kawasaki’s ZXR-7 endurance racers, and it is an extra-plus, super-cool-lookin’ sport bike even today (in an 80’s sort of way), IMHO. It just didn’t seem happy with its skin ripped off. And, based on my current track record, there may still be an opportunity to do that Streetfighter project yet…
|… turned into usable track tool.
Photo: Sheila Tang
Also, with the kind of performance that is available in a modern sport bike (or even a semi-vintage one like the ’89 ZX-7), I personally don’t see the point of having one without putting it on the track. After all, it is impossible to even begin to touch the limitations of these bikes without risking one’s life and/or license on the street. In fact, I don’t see much point of putting a pure sport bike on the road at all—especially considering the current sport bike insurance rates.
Did you ever calculate how many track days you can have for the cost of your insurance?
For these reasons, and the fact that riding on a track, with no speed limits—or cops—is F-U-N of the highest order, I began the process of transforming the now-battered ZX-7 into a usable track tool.
Economically does it …
|Initial inspection revealed no wheels.|
An initial inspection of the bike revealed substantial cosmetic damage. The fairing was destroyed, except for one panel on the right side. The upper fairing brackets were pretzels, bits of the clutch master cylinder were broken, the shifter tip snapped off and on it went (sad breakdown to follow).
I started by doing some research on the web and quickly discovered that hardly anyone makes bodywork for 1989 sport bikes. But with the help of the gang on the discussion board of the ZX-7 website, I was led to a company in the UK that still make replacement bodywork for these aging machines.
This company—amusingly called Skidmarx—actually produces street and racing bodywork in a choice of 5 colours, one of which is Kawasaki green! Brilliant, no paint job required, as the colour is impregnated into the fiberglass. This would seem to suggest that mild, or even deepish scratches may not be as noticeable as on painted bodywork. Thankfully, I haven’t been able to figure if that’s true or not (I’ll give you two more track sessions – ‘arris).
With the help of David Cork at Streetfighters by Design in the US, I was able to access the Skidmarx bodywork and was even sent some lovely gold fairing bolts and a smoked screen from Pro-Bolt, as a bonus. Excellent. (Nice bit of freebie scrounging – ‘arris).
The Check Up
Before bolting all this on, it seemed prudent to give the bike a thorough mechanical check. As luck would have it (for me anyway) I was able to enlist the services of ace mechanic, Mr. Ronn (Hoppalongg) Moffatt, who was still recovering from his Daytona injuries, and so had some time to spare.
|Ronn is kept busy while he “recuperates”.|
Brakes were checked and bled. The valve cover and cams came off and out in order to adjust the valves. The oil and filter were changed, and we even took a shot at syncing the carbs. All went relatively well—except for my crappy valve shim calculations that delayed that whole process somewhat.
Flushing the cooling system and replacing the coolant with a distilled water/Water-Wetter combo finished the motor work. Usually, no safety wiring of bolts etc. is required for a track days—so being lazy—I didn’t bother. In keeping with the economical philosophy, we didn’t perform any mods on the motor, and besides, it was powerful enough for me to begin with. The idea was to just make sure that everything was to spec and working properly.
|More plugs than a hair clinic.|
The most important component in this track bike project was getting proper rubber on the beast. Old—although still-new-looking rubber—was implicated as one of the original key crash-causing suspects. Since I didn’t particularly want to repeat that experience, Pirelli Diablos were chosen because of their sticky reputation and the fact that they had the older 170 sizing that was required for the rear.
With the tire mounted, the chain was cleaned checked and lubed. Once the engine and other mechanical bits were sorted, I removed all the equipment that is not required in the track environment: rear pegs, headlights, taillight, and signals. All the wiring was labeled, bagged and taped so that the lighting hardware could be remounted and reconnected easily if someone wanted to put the bike back on the street.
Before bolting up the fairing, I cut and bolted some Plexiglas with a white backing behind the headlight holes. The fairing was a bit of a struggle to mount, mostly because I kept finding more broken bits on the bike, delaying the process. Some shimming and enlarging of bolt-holes was also required before everything lined up, but the effort was worth it as—once together—it looks eff’n cool. Better, in my opinion, than that OTT blue, green, and white colour that came stock.
|Skidmarx skins have rough interior finish – but who cares about that?|
Although Skidmarx does not promise a perfect colour match to the stock Kawasaki green–and it is a touch off—you would have to be looking for it to notice. The inside of the bodywork also has the texture of the fiberglass threads, differing from the smooth stock panels. However, this all seems like a small price to pay for the funds you can save over stock, and no one will notice any of this as you are tearing around the track.
I can’t really say how long the whole process of bolting the fairing took. I’d just stop when it wasn’t fun any more, or when I found a new broken bit. If you were just replacing your stock panels on an undamaged bike, I don’t imagine it would take more than an hour or two. Less when you have it figured out.
Good to Go!
With everything bolted together, I couldn’t resist; I fired her up and did some hot laps down my alleyway. What a beast! This ZX-7 gave me the feeling that it was just aching to get out on the track. That made two of us!
Check out Part II, where Mr. Seck updates you on how the green monster fairs on the track!
TRACK BIKE TIPS
Photo: Sheila Tang
1) Give yourself some serious time to prepare a track bike. Unless you start with something new it will take time to go over everything to ensure that the bike is safe for the track. This project is ideal for the winter months.
2) You can save a lot of money if you hunt around for parts at the bike wreckers. Again, you’ll need time for this. We opted for getting the parts from the dealer because of our time constraints. Surprisingly, most everything that was required was still available from Kawasaki.
3) If you, like me, are new to this, don’t go nuts putting performance parts on your bike before you can exceed the capabilities of the stock bike. Track days are not racing (not supposed to be anyway), they are about going fast and having fun. Save your money for good rubber.
* Price includes $70 mounting & balancing
|Parts (the cost of all the replacement parts required to put the ZX back together as well as any tuning bits).Fairing (Streetfighters by Design pricing for the fairing kit): • Complete Skidmarx ZX-7 Standard Fairing using V piece – US$525.00 (Stock Kawasaki = C$1986.66)
• Smoked Screen – US$95.00
• Pro-bolt Fairing bolt kit – US$42.99
• Pro-bolt screen bolt kit – US$8.25
• Pro-bolt tank bolt kit – US$9.99
• Front – 120/70 ZR 17 M/C (58W) TL Diablo C$258.99*
• Rear – 170/60 ZR 17 M/C (72W) TL Diablo C$298.99*
Pirelli North America for the Diablo tires.
Street Fighters by Design and Skidmarx for the bodywork.
Pro-Bolt for the screen and fairing mounting hardware.
Cycle World West for helping with getting the other required bike parts and accessories.