Cifu Motorsports Home / Motorcycles / 1993 Kawasaki ZX11
Unlike many people, a LOT of my coworkers ride motorcycles. One day, my friend Jarrett came to me at work with the idea of buying a motorcycle. With a wife and 2 kids, he was trying very hard to finance his "stay at home mom" household. He reasoned that he could buy a motorcycle which would be fun and it would be economical from a cost and fuel standpoint. He came to me with the idea because I was pretty good as scouring classified ads and I knew motorcycles.
At that point, I should have known enough to tell him "no, get away from me!" It seems that every time I start looking at classifieds, I manage to find things that I want, and it ends up costing ME money. This was to be no exception.
In 1988 my object of "power lust" was the Yamaha VMax. It was a frighteningly fast, muscle bike. The problems with it were numerous though. To begin, the seat was little more than a thinly padded telephone pole, the fuel capacity was a joke and it wasn't known for it's great handling. Nonetheless, it DID have a 119 horsepower engine and it would bend light at full throttle. In 1990, the focus of my desire changed--rather abruptly.
The March 1990 issue of Cycle Magazine debuted the latest in a long line of Kawasaki performance bikes. The cover read:
"ZX11! On day one, Kawasaki's shimmering black bullet hammered the quarter mile in 10.52 seconds at 132 MPH. On day two, it pumped out 127 rear wheel horsepower on the dyno. On day three, it went full ballistic, rocketing across a dry lake at 175 MPH. This machine is the speed freak's midnight fantasy, a ride on the blast wave of an endless explosion..."And so began my obsession with this machine. Photocopies covered my cubicle walls. Of course I was trying to pay off bills at the time and buy a house so the ZX11 was to remain as unattainable as a Cindy Crawford. When I changed jobs, the articles came down and went into a box, soon to be forgotten.
In 1993, Kawasaki reinvented the ZX11. Being the 4th iteration of their biggest Ninja, it was dubbed the "D" series (being the first year, it was the D1). They lengthened it, refined the brakes, increased the horsepower and wrapped it in my favorite color--candy apple red (the one thing I still loved about the VMax). The fuel capacity was increased to 6.5 gallons and in the process created the ultimate sport touring mount (at least in my eyes). At the time, Dick Allen Honda / Yamaha was also dealing in Kawasaki. Every time I went to buy parts for the Gold Wing, I would stop at the one on the showroom floor. One time I entertained the thought of buying it but by this time, I had just bought my house. That much change was not to be found in my bank account. The dream went to the back burner again.
As Jarrett and I discussed his wants in a motorcycle, he clearly wanted sportbike styling. He liked the new Suzuki Katana 600 but couldn't afford the price. The 600 cc class bikes aren't my thing but I agreed to help him find something to meet his needs. As we began looking through classified ads, I started to find ZX11s for sale. Thanks to the introduction of the Suzuki Hayabusa in 1999, Mr Eleven was no longer the "Big Dog" that it once was. After 8 years on top, somebody finally knocked them off. That was bad for Kawasaki but good for me. It meant that used prices were finally going down. According to the Blue Book, the value of my desired 1993 was $6000 retail and $5000 wholesale (private party). "DAMN! I can do THAT!" I exclaimed.
Jarrett's search for a bike, changed to Greg AND Jarrett's search for bikes within 3 days. After a marathon night working in Quicken, I reasoned that I could eat frozen burritos and canned chili for 6 months and save the $5000 to put Mr Eleven in my garage. In the meantime, I would start watching the ads. If the right bike was found early, I would finance the unsaved balance for the remaining time and buy it.
The next day at work, I announced my plans at which point my boss came out of his office waving the previous week's Cycle Trader magazine around. "Did ya' look in here yet?"
"No, that thing is all dealers and overpriced bikes, besides, all the ads are down in Los Angles or Orange County." I replied.
He flipped through it for a minute "Hmmm...1993 Kawasaki ZX11...THAT'S the one you want isn't it?" He was baiting me. "3600 miles, K&N filter, $5800, let's see...phone number...six-six-one nine-four-eight...HEY, this thing is right here in Lancaster!"
I grabbed it from him. It was indeed a Lancaster phone number. This was only 3 days after Jarrett asked me to help him.
A quick phone call got the owner's wife on the phone. The bike had not been sold and was at a local dealer on consignment. They were the SECOND owners. The first owner was probably spooked by it and sold it with only 1200 miles. The second owner had added 2400 miles to it but most of it's life was in storage or in the house (yes, IN the house). It was about 10:00 AM at this point. Within an hour, I was at the dealer, under the bike looking for ANY evidence of a crash or abuse. There wasn't a scratch on it ANYWHERE. I checked the bolts on the bottom of the fairing, the kickstand, the pegs, etc. I found nothing. It was just as gorgeous as when I first laid eyes on one back in 1993. It had a tank bra, a K&N filter and teflon brake lines--just the mods I would have done. Other than that, it was a new motorcycle.
Back to Quicken, I figured that the most I could scrape together on short notice was $5000. That would cover low blue book value but the owner didn't seem like they were very negotiable at this point. Of course the dealer had the bike for sale and that complicated things. For the next few days, I calculated and recalculated the money. I couldn't get any more money and they wouldn't come down below $5300. Sitting in my house, not knowing where I could come up with the rest of the money, I tried to find things I wasn't using. Being a Mac fan, I looked at my IBM brand Pentium system that had not been used for ANYTHING since the day I brought it home. I got it cheap and thought I might use it for "something you can't do with a Mac." Well, I never found anything I really needed to do that I couldn't do with my Mac so I offered it to them in trade. They didn't have a computer and I wanted their bike. $5000 and a Pentium system put a ZX11 in my garage. That was the most productive thing I ever did with a PC :-)
Jarrett drove me over to pick up the first motorcycle he was to help with (the BMW was the second). Upon arrival at the owner's house, we gathered up the service manual, the stock sprockets (he had lowered the gearing), the bike cover and a few other miscellaneous goodies. After settling the deal, we left. Two blocks from their house I caught a traffic signal. This was my chance to see "what she'd do." As the light turned green, I rolled away cautiously. Once underway, I opened the throttle smoothly to the stop. The bike accelerated smartly but not what I remember from my lone VMax ride about 10 years earlier.
A few more times I slowed, then opened the throttle. The bike accelerated away without much fuss. I was ALMOST disappointed by my lack of terror. After a quick stop for gas, we continued on the way to my house. This time, I got on it while next to some cars, BRAAAAPP!, I looked in the mirrors to find the cars GONE! I can't really explain it. The bike's ergonomics and chassis are designed to go fast without much fuss. The forward riding position masks the sensation of acceleration (unlike the upright position of a VMax). The next thing I discovered was that not only did it accelerate quickly but what I thought was about 50 MPH was actually 90. If you hammered the throttle from a stop light, 50 MPH passed before you got through the intersection. I realized quickly that I was going to have to study the "envelope" of this bike or it would soon make a statistic out of me.
The next week or so was spent sorting out minor problems. Because the bike had sat for so long, the float needle O rings had dried out and were dumping fuel into the carbs. An improperly installed jet kit left the 3000-4000 rpm flat spot intact. A couple of relocated needle shims took care of that. The last owner also didn't tighten his after market sprockets. As I reinstalled the stockers, I discovered that the rear axle was only finger tight and the countershaft sprocket was the same way! Beyond that, the bike was ready to go.
Two weeks after buying the bike, my friend Randy came down from Redding to shoot pictures at a local boat race. When he got here after the races, he still had some pictures left on the roll in the camera. We went up to a nearby mountain pass and he shot almost a whole roll of pictures of me aboard my "new" bike. Please excuse the old Gold Wing helmet. Some moron had ripped off my other helmet and it was all I had at the time.
These pictures all predate my "sport touring" conversion of the bike. About 6 months after buying the bike, I found a guy on the ZX11 BBS who had all the touring goodies from his bike for sale. I bought his Givi 36 liter side bags, the mounts and his Helibars. The bars make a subtle but important difference in the riding position. I can now ride it for longer distances more comfortably, though I didn't notice it immediately upon installation.
As for the Givi bags, all I can say is that they are well designed, spacious, well finished, and REALLY UGLY on this bike. Unfortunately, there isn't a better solution for aftermarket bags on this bike (or many others). My reasoning was this: with lockable storage, I could truly tour on this bike without worrying about my stuff being stolen. Since the bags install with only 6 bolts, I also reasoned that I could probably install them as quickly as any soft luggage solution. Naturally, the convenience of the bags means that I haven't removed them since I installed them the first time. Had I not bought used bags, I would have opted for the larger Givi bags. These 36 liter bags are just a little too shallow to hold a full faced helmet. Other than that, they are first rate. Okay, maybe they aren't THAT ugly. It still looks better than a Kawasaki Concours so I guess I shouldn't whine. It just doesn't look as good as it does bare.
What's that? Oh...Jarrett. Yeah, he did finally get a motorcycle. He
liked the looks
of the ZX11 so much that he bought a candy apple red ZX6--but that's
The ZX11 in Action
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