by Lee Meyer
Time, Effort, Cash And One Pretty Bitchin’ ZX11
Well, it is about time. Finally this huge project is coming to a close. Throughout the month of May, friends would stop by the shop. “Hey, let’s go riding!” they would taunt. Ha ha, very funny. Co-workers amused themselves by trying to get me to duct tape a flashlight to my unfinished Skeletor bike, strap a gas can on my back and ride it as is. Again, wildly funny. I hoped they all got flat tires and the flu.
Then I started to receive some body parts from the paint man, so I began to assemble the beast. Things were looking up. Soon I would ride as well. I finished up on May 20. I have not driven a car since.
Tom Summers of Lowriders by Summers in south Minneapolis did the paint work. Tom only paints bikes&emdash;Harleys, drag bikes, customs, whatever. Tom can do just about any paint. He can restore an old Norton or do candy colors, flames and pearl for your custom. After looking through the billion or so colors in the color charts for about five minutes, I chose Candy Cobalt Blue for the ZX-11.
I have a theory behind my lengthy selection process. If you spend too much time mulling over billions and billions of colors and shades from one end of the rainbow to the other, the likelihood of serious brain lock, confusion and indecision becomes extremely high. Nearly inevitable. The result of my decision making process is a pretty cool paint job. Very, very blue.
Now, about riding it. I have put almost 500 miles on this thing so far and the new Ferodo brakes have seated in. How do they work? Way sweet. They are not as grabby as stock parts, and since they need more hand squeeze, I achieve much finer braking control. Rather than fading from the heat of hard high speed braking, these Ferodo parts seem to thrive on it. These are THE way to go to reel this big bike in from high triple digit speeds. One thing that might bother some people is that these are full floating rotors for racing use. This means clacka-clacka-rattle-rattle with every bump in the road. We must pay if we wish to play.
A stock ZX-11 fork is perfectly fine for everyday riding and touring duty. However, if you wish to ride somewhat more towards the sportier side of the tracks they leave much to be desired. If all roads were smooth as glass there would be little problem, but this is Minnesota, Land of 10,000 totally shot roads.
Leaning one of these large Kawasakis over hard in a turn and running into rough pavement causes a stocker’s front end to jitter and skitter in an uncool way. Losing the front end of a bike this big can wake you up in one big ass hurry. There is a difference between riding on the edge and riding over the edge. Seen it, done it, don’t want to go back.
Enter the fully modified forks with all those neat-o Race Tech parts installed. Wow, totally different world. They have a firmer feel, but small to medium road divots go unnoticed. Interesting. Moderate speed corner handling is very good and the bike feels much more nimble. High speed leaners are where it’s at, though, along with tight peg scrapers. The difference here is remarkable. Bumps or cracks in the road? Not a problem. Maybe a few rocks ahead? Big deal. The bike’s front end just stays planted, stuck to the road. Very unusual behavior for a big sport tourer. It inspires much confidence, and road conditions are no longer such an issue. Nice, very nice.
Okay, now here is the million dollar question&emdash;Was all this time, effort and cash worth it? To be honest I am not sure. The bike turned out pretty nice and performs as well. Also, this is now a one-of-a-kind machine. However, the time and effort were exhausting and the expenses were intense. This was not a budget project.
I was going to go into the costs of the paint work, but prices can vary from $200.00 to $3000.00 depending on who does the work and what you have. I gave Tom twenty-one pieces. I seriously doubt he will paint another ZX-11 for anywhere near what he charged me. I believe he gets about $500.00 to paint a tank and a pair of side covers from your standard bike.
I now have a pretty bitchin’ sport touring bike that doubles as a very capable sportbike. If you own a big ZX and wish to duplicate some or all of these mods, set aside a few thousand bucks. The Ohlins shock that I have not installed yet was $1,000.00 alone.
So, there you have it. The end. I hope I leave it alone now and just ride the thing. I wouldn’t bet on it though. The engine is still painfully stock.
Next month, let’s return to the world of the low-buck. Maybe convert an oldie from points to electrics and talk about those famous old Viragos. See you at First Thursday or Bob’s.