With the snow finally falling I’ve had time to start into the naked Concours project. The first thing that needed addressing was the final drive unit which was leaking from the inner seal. When the Clymers manual says you can do it but it’s a big pain in the ass, it’s best to have a practised hand do the work. I took the unit off (easily done as it’s held on the drive shaft by four bolts) and loosened all the fasteners on the inner plate.
Two Wheel Motorsport, my local Kawasaki dealership, said they could do the work and estimated two hours of shop time and a twelve dollar seal. I dropped off the unit and got a call back four days later saying it was done. It was a nice surprise to find that the work took less than an hour and my $250 estimate was suddenly a $120 bill. You hear a lot of negative talk about dealerships but Two Wheel did this job professionally and quickly, and then didn’t overcharge when they easily could have.
I cleaned out the shaft drive end and re-greased everything. Reinstalling the unit was easy and straightforward. With the grease holding the spring in place I was able to simply slot the drive unit onto the shaft splines and re-torque the four nuts. Everything went together smoothly and the drive feels tight and positive.
Since this was the only mechanical issue with the Concours I was able to begin thinking about the customization side of things. With over 100lbs of plastic and metal removed from the bike I needed to start thinking about how to minimally dress this naked machine in order to cover up the plumbing and electrics. Having a metal shop at work means handy access to fabrication tools. Our shop teacher is also a Concours owner and is eager to help with panel building. He suggested I do cardboard cutouts of the pieces I need and then we can begin the process of creating metal body work.
Body work craft day in the garage.
Doing the cutouts is tricky even in cardboard. The left side cover goes over some electronics including the fuse panel and needs to bulge outward in order to contain all of that. The right side is more straightforward but still needs cutouts for the rear brake wiring and rear suspension adjuster. I’m curious to see how close the metal cutouts come to the cardboard templates.
The shop at school has a plasma cutter and we should be getting a laser engraver shortly. With such advanced tools I’m already thinking about engraving panels. Collecting together a bunch of line drawings of iconic images and sayings in a variety of languages would be an interesting way to dress up the minimal panels on this bike. If the laser engraver can work on compound shapes I might drop the gas tank in there and engrave Kawasaki down the spine of it where the gold stripe will go rather than looking for badges or decals.
I enjoy the mechanical work but now that the Concours is working to spec I can focus on the arts and crafts side of customization. Next up is trying to figure out how a minimal front panel that contains the headlight and covers up the electrical and plumbing at the front will look.
A box shaped rear fairing working off and 80’s race bike vibe combined with a minimalist cafe racer look
The paint’s already coming off the tank. I need to figure out how to make a rough 3d outline of the rear body work (cardboard, wood, thin metal?) in order to begin getting an accurate sense of how the back end will look. If I can get handier with 3d editing software I’ll 3d print a few various prototypes first (maybe scan it with cardboard panels in place). The front fairing will be a minimal street-fighter type of thing. I wanted to go with a bikini fairing, but it’s a bit too delicate for the big shoulders of the Concours. Monkeying around in Photoshop has gotten me this far:
But this is more of a sculpting thing than a pen and paper thing. I need to make some cardboard outlines and see what feels right in 3d (Close Encounters style). The Mike Tyson/heavyweight feel of the Concours means I’m thinking more melee fighter than I am lightweight and delicate.
Eighteen months ago I found a 1994 Kawasaki ZG1000 sitting in a field. It was in pretty rough shape, unused with grass growing up through it. I was immediately drawn to it, though I was worried about transitioning from my relatively modern, fuel injected, first bike (an ‘07 Ninja) to this twenty year old, carbureted machine that clearly needed TLC to be roadworthy. One of the reasons I got into motorcycling was to re-spark my dormant love of mechanics, which had been prompted by Matt Crawford’s brilliant little book, Shopclass As Soulcraft. I briefly battled with worries about my abilities and working on motorcycles (of which I had no previous experience). When you get a car repair wrong you tend to roll to a stop surrounded by a big cage. If you get a bike part wrong it can throw you down the road. I’d been away from mechanics so long that I was afraid I’d lost the touch.
Once I got my hands moving again they quickly remembered what they once knew. My ability to repair machines hadn’t been unused, it had simply been focused elsewhere, on IT. Those years of rebuilding cars and working in the industry quickly came back to me.
This winter I’ve been deeper into the bike than ever before. Besides maintenance items like spark plugs, I also had a close look at the tires, and elected to retire the mis-matched, old tires. With the tires off and the wheels naked, I looked into industrial coating options. Fireball Performance Coatings is only about half an hour away in Erin. After meeting with the owner Mark, I went with a candy coated gold that’ll gel nicely with the red/gold trim look the bike is developing. The rims are done and are currently at Two Wheel Motorsport getting Michelined up. Future bike projects are definitely going to make use of Fireball’s coatings.
This week things start to go back together in a big way. With the tires and rims back I’ll be popping in the new bearings, putting the balancing beads in (first time trying them), and installing the wheels back on the bike. With the wheels (and disk brake rotors) back on I’ll be able to finally finish the rear brake lines and reinstall the rebuilt calipers. It’s a lot of bits and pieces that need to come back together, fortunately I’ve been taking photos as I go (a good way to keep track of what goes where). Between that and the Clymer shop manual, everything should come back together nicely.
A big part of taking things apart is cleaning them up, even if parts don’t get replaced. I’ve been into many dark places that haven’t seen anyone since 1994.
The clean and shiny drive disk in the rear hub – it’s what the shaft drive feeds into.
A cleaned up shaft drive housing on the back of the bike.
The rear suspension is cleaned up, but it needs a good greasing.
Owning an older motorcycle can be frustrating, but it’s also very rewarding. The operation of the machine is only one part of your relationship with it. By laying hands on the mechanicals you become familiar with your motorbike in a new way. That mechanical relationship integrates with the riding relationship, creating something richer.
It might be nice to have a newer machine that always works, but even if I could afford that, I don’t know that I’d sell off the Concours. It’s nice to have a machine I’m this intimate with.
As I finished writing this Triumph emailed me with a link to the new Street Twin configurator. That’d be a lovely machine to start another story with…
What got me on the Ninja as a first bike was listening to the engine. I was very rational about bike decisions prior to hearing that parallel twin purr. That it looked the way it did didn’t hurt either. I keep finding myself looking for reasons to take photos of it…
Were money less of an issue I’d get it custom upholstered to run the stripe all the way through.
The back end is going to get tidied up and topped with a cafe style brown leather seat. I’m also researching LED light systems that will be all but invisible under the seat until they light up.
The front end is going to get a basic/minimalist light cover and a light that has indicators built in for a clean look our front (no indicator storks poking out). The front fairing and light will be mounted to the forks.
Stripping on the Ducati Monster is a thing of beauty.
As for paint colours, I’d like to try and take the tank back to metal and then have a crimson stripe running over the minimal front fairing, along the tank and across the minimal rear body work. An asymmetrical design with a thick centre strip and a thinner stripe off to the right is what I’m currently thinking, though I’ll see what works as the bike comes back together. If the tank is too rough I’ll redo it red with a gold stripe that matches the wheels. Now that I say that, it might be what happens anyway.
I’m going to use the Structure Sensor scans to map out body work in 3d. I’m also going to make use of a Dremel 3d printer to print out scale replicas of different body configurations. These are some screen grabs of the 3d scan (which you can see at the top).
The massive twin exhausts might get modified, but right now I’m enjoying the big-guns look they have, so I’ll probably be keeping it. They help visually balance a bike that looks otherwise top heavy with that massive gas tank.
First go at a logo – I think I’m going to have to find the Kawasaki Heavy Industries logo for this heavyweight streetfighter.
I never intended to become hooked on Kawasakis. The motorcycle fixation of my younger self was always Hondas, but when I finally got into motorcycling it was Kawasakis that kept appearing in the right place at the right time, and they’ve generally been good to me. To date I’ve owned three Kawasakis, two Yamahas and a Triumph; not a Honda in sight.
After selling the Yamaha XS1100 custom project bike last summer I decided to double down on the wounded Concours which, in spite of a lot of work and money spent, wasn’t sellable. When I can ride I ride but when the snow flies I tend to get busy in the garage, and this winter is no different.
The Concours is in an unprecedented state of undress. With the rear end removed and the plastics off it looks like a completely different machine. Yesterday I removed the coolant reservoir located under the oil cooler behind the front wheel. It’s going to get relocated to the back of the battery box so it’s out of the way of rocks being kicked up from the road. There are a lot of after market options for a coolant reservoir, so finding an alternative that fits well in the new location shouldn’t be hard.
The 7 inch round headlight with built in LED indicators showed up from Amazon but I’m still waiting on the tail light. I’d initially thought of doing some kind of front fairing but now I’m going bare bones with only metal framing to mount the light and minimal instruments.
I purchased some stainless steel framing and I’ve been cutting it into muffler mounts and the rear light fairing bracket. That rear fairing piece is going to be as minimal as possible as well. Perhaps even a box for the rear light in bare frame. Visible girder frame pieces are going to become a part of what this will look like when it’s finished.
I took the instrument cluster apart to see if any of it was salvageable (it wasn’t), but the insides look like something out of the DaVinci Code!
Some 90° brackets on the upper fork clamps has me ready to try some headlight mounting ideas.
Some Andy Warhol-esque ZG1K shapes to get a feel for what the bike will look like:
I’m still thinking purple with asymmetrical gold racing stripes, but that might change again. Cardboard cutouts of the side panels I need have gone to the metal shop. I’m going to prototype some 3d models on the printer at work and see what various shapes look like before doing the final cuts in metal for the rear section.
While that’s going on I’ve got to get the front cowling figured out, which is what led to the video…
When I first got the Concours last year, I wanted to get it on track for the kind of mileage that these long distance bashers are capable of. I picked it up with 25072 miles on the odometer, though it had a seized speedo cable so that might not have been accurate. This summer has seen me do trips well beyond the scale of anything previously. As soon as the snow lifted (almost), Max and I made a run up to Collingwood. I then did a circumnavigation of Georgian Bay, and then outdid both with the ride to Indianapolis. With all of that I was closing in on my goal of breaking the thirty thousand mile mark on the $800 Connie’s odometer. With the weather turning I was still a couple of hundred miles away from finishing my season on target, but a sunny, cold October day lay before me offering the chance at putting the Connie to bed with a milestone on it. I’d originally wanted to crush 30k with a ride around Lake Huron, but time constraints meant it couldn’t happen. Fortunately I was close enough to hit my goal locally. To do it I cobbled together my favourite local rides, going from the Forks of the Credit to Hockley Valley to Horning’s Mills and then up to Creemore before coming back via Noisy River and Grand Valley.
178 miles and 30k is reached!
Icy Swiss chard…
With the temperature dropping and frost glinting in the early morning sun, the roads are much quieter than they were during the summer. It was a cold haul over to hot coffee at Higher Ground in Belfountain, where I warmed my hands on the mug while surrounded by Caledon’s fashionable trophy wives, drinking coffee at their leisure on a weekday morning. My bike was the only non-Mercedes SUV in the parking lot. Once warmed up I went back out and did the Forks without another car in sight:
It was so much fun that I thought I’d come back the other way, but quickly found myself behind a Lexus who had trouble keeping it moving let alone staying on their side of the road:
After getting out from behind this mobile-Lexus-chicane, I cut north on Mississauga Road and enjoyed a long, empty loop up Hockley Valley Road and back through Mono Cliffs. North on Highway 10 to Shelburne I stopped in to the same Home Hardware we got chemical hand warmers in our April cold-ride and got some chemical hand warmers for my October cold-ride. With warm hands I then tackled River Road out of Horning’s Mills, once again without another vehicle in sight. A magic moment happened when I rounded a corner to find myself riding next to two deer running across the meadow next to me. The lead deer looked across at me, then back at its running partner and then bounded off into the tree line. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect moment – just the kind of thing you’d want to catch on your action camera, except I hadn’t turned it on.
…a 179 mile day and 30k is put to bed for the season.
A short rip up Airport Road had me in Creemore for lunch at the Old Millhouse. After some hot beef poutine I was back out into the ever-warming day for a twisty ride up Noisy River’s County Rd 9 before heading back through Grand River and home again. Over the winter the Concours is getting new brake pads, the lines on the rear brakes and clutch are finally getting braided lines and both wheels are getting new bearings. New tires are also in the plan. The Bridgestone on the front has been fantastic while the Dunlop on the back has sometimes been squirelly, so a full round of Bridgestones are the goal. While the rims are off and naked I’m going to look into doing a professional clean up and powder coat with them (not too expensive, maybe a hundred bucks a rim?). I’ll also look over all the rubbers and plastics to make sure it’s ready for another busy summer next year. I think 40k is a good target. Time is the issue, I think the bike will have no trouble managing the miles.