Let me take you back to a time when style outranked safety and big numbers on your side panel meant triple digit velocity, albeit in a wobbly fashion.

The year was 1983, and the bike? A slightly bent Z650 of 1977 vintage. I procured the aforementioned Kobe Comet from a bloke who had become the victim of our local psycho kids. They threw a spare wheel onto the road – à la Mad Max – in front of him. This resulted in a pair of bent forks and destroyed tacho along with other minor abrasions, while he had a few bent bits too.

Anyhoo a sum of 350 quid was agreed and off I went to accrue the funds. At the time I was the proud owner of no less than five Yamaha RDs – two 350s and three 250s, and a battered old camper van painted with flowers and Om signs.

Kawasaki Z650_77 ad BikeReview

Now back then the 250s were pretty much worthless, as our government in the UK had declared war on any learner bikes capable of any real speed, reducing the legal limit to 125cc and 12hp. The 350s were both air cooled ’73 and ’75 versions, unfortunately only one of them actually ran, the other being a basket case spares bike.

So deals were struck and all the above mentioned vehicles were off-loaded leaving me with about 400 quid in my sweaty palms. No mean feat as the deals were varied in ease and danger (a story for another time perhaps). Anyway the Kwak was in my shed a mere two weeks after sighting it and now began the process of getting the bike back to its former glory – or at least rideable.

The first task was to achieve straight forks, and I don’t believe I’m saying this, but yes I was going to tackle this myself as, 1) I am a tight arse Scott, and 2) I believed I had acquired the necessary engineering prowess after just four years of tech school as a fitter in a car factory. The reality of the situation was a bit different but at the time I decided to persevere anyway, against the advice of anyone with any knowledge of bikes.

1976-Yamaha-RD400-Bike-Review-6834

A massive pipe bender was hired and off we went bending the fork legs straight again, I didn’t even strip them! After that I heated up the yokes [triple-trees to you heathens] and took the twist out of them – sort of… All this resulted in a nearly straight set of forks complete with flat spots on the stanchions and a pair of yokes that were a step away from resembling a demented banana.

The first ride down the road was legendary, imagine if you will, a bike that has been possessed by some weird motorcycling demon on acid and that’s nearly right. It was hilarious and very nearly had me in hospital, but I made it all the way to the servo 500 metres up the road, and back, without hitting anything but the kerb. Needless to say a pair of second hand forks and yokes were exchanged for much cash and all was well – nearly.

Z650Kawasaki BikeReview Jimmy Walker

As this was my first big four-stroke I had not got used to engine braking, so the first real scratch on it was memorable. I line up the bend, get the engine spinning up nice, then, in true stroker style snick down two gears and… lock the rear wheel up resulting in my first rubber snake on the tarmac.

I recommend this maneuver if you’re at all constipated, it will work wonders. In the end though with a bit of cash thrown at it and some TLC she came good. Right up until some wanker nicked it from outside my girlfriend’s house one winter’s night.

10-years later, yeah you read that right, the police found my engine. I donated it to their fund for happy pills. So till next time, if at first you don’t succeed, hit it with a bigger hammer. – Jimmy Walker

 

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