Bikes and Beards/SRK Cycles is back with more YouTube goodness; this time, Sean’s talking with Jack from CycleDrag, looking over his 1977 KZ1000. The KZ is one of the most famous bikes of the 1970s, and it looks like this machine is in gorgeous shape—although it didn’t look like that when Jack bought it.
Jack bought this bike right out of high school, through eBay. The advert said the machine needed carb work, but when he showed up to pay for it, there were flowers and weeds growing through it.
“Everything was terrible,” Jack says, but obviously he’s fixed those issues now. He says he spent eight years rebuilding the machine, with help from drag racing legend Larry “Spiderman” McBride (if you run a drag racing news website, you can meet some very helpful people). They punched the engine out to 1197cc and bumped up the compression. That makes it harder to kickstart the bike, but at least the electric start works, and the machine has plenty of zip. This is one bike where the aftermarket pod intake filters actually make sense, and they seem to be tuned correctly. Take note, café racer builders—this is what you should be aiming for.
It’s the first time the bike has been run in seven years, though, so Sean takes it easy on the big KZ. The brake and signal lights aren’t working, and neither is the speedometer. But the engine seems to run well, the brakes stop; it looks and sounds like fun. Watching this, it’s easy to see how the rideable four-strokes of the ‘70s displaced the sketchy two-strokes, with their lethally unpredictable power delivery. The KZ1000 was still heavy (529 pounds) and didn’t have a great reputation for handling, but it was easier to live with.
Once upon a time, older cycles like this weren’t too expensive. As Sean points out, though, the cost of restoring them has driven up the price of running-condition vintage bikes. If you’re looking for a cheap motorcycle, you’re probably better off at looking something newer. If you’ve got the money for something like this KZ1000, it's still a great motorcycle, and a performance machine that set standards the superbike scene still follows.