Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mission ZZR

So it's a usual evening. I'm wasting time farting about on the internet when


A message from Rick.

"Ok, final offer on the ZZR. £100 to charity and its yours, but you need to collect it."

Wow. That really is a good offer......

Rewind back a couple of years. My mate Rick is getting ready to move to Germany with his missus Andrea. One of the things he's looking to sell is his 1993 Kawasaki ZZR 1100. It's got a few nice bits and bobs on it but is old and its done 95000 miles. Rick offered me the bike at a good price, but I couldn't afford it at the time.
However now I had some money from a couple of bikes I had fixed up, only thing was now the ZZR was 1000 miles away in the Black Forest in Germany.
I mulled over the pros and cons. On the upside I'd be getting an iconic bike, the original ICBM for fuck all. I'd get a holiday in Germany and despite being a monster of a bike, parts weren't too crazy price wise and it's relatively straight forwards to work on.

OK Rick. I'll have it.

We spent the next few months firing messages about the bike back and forth on Facebook and speaking about it on Skype. The bike was really old and had now done just over 96000 miles but Rick assured me that it was all good. He gave it a check over, put a new battery and air filter in it and it fired up. He filmed the whole thing too.

There were a few options for the route back but most were involving expensive hotels. Rick had done it a few times already, in a one-er. And he said it was easy. Fuck me, that's a fair distance. 1000 miles in one go. Rick assured me it was easily doable and kept assuring me it was all fine. I was feeling a bit nervous though.......

I booked my flight over and a ferry ticket from Dunkirk to Dover with an open 72 hour window to get the crossing. This gave me a few days in Germany. The plan was to use a couple of these to get the bike sorted and do a few trial runs about the area, visit my mate Wolfgang for a night then head back to Scotland the following day. I had planned for the ride back to take 14-16 hours including stops and the ferry crossing. If the shit hit the fan or I felt too tired this would give me time to stop in a hotel for a night and still make my engagement/birthday party the following evening.
The other thing that was on my mind was the legality of the bike. It had been in Germany for the past two years. It had no road tax and wasn't MOT'd. After getting some advice of various folk it seemed that it would be ok to ride it home as long as I had an MOT booked at a garage near my house. A quick phone call and Allan Ramsay at Customized Choppers, just down the road, had booked me in. I got the bike insured pretty cheap (getting old has it's benefits) and that was me ready.

On Tuesday the 19th May I flew from Edinburgh to Basel where Rick collected me. We headed back to Andrea and his place at Rickenbach, not far from where HB and I stayed when we visited back in 2013. As we pulled up to Rick's house I could see the ZZR sulking in the gloom of the garage.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.

I had a quick look around it. It looked like, well, it looked like a bike that had done 96000 miles then sat in a garage for two years. But Rick kept assuring me it was all fine and we'd make it back to Scotland. I could still hear the echos of laughter from the doubters and naysayers back home who said we'd end up stranded somewhere in Germany. We still had some servicing to do on it. The oil needed changed and the brake and clutch fluid changed and bled through. I fired it up it sounded great, as all big Kwaks do. The brakes felt OK and suspension wasn't pishing oil everywhere. The clutch felt a bit funny as I put it into gear to pull away, better keep an eye on that....
The bike went well for the fist few metres until I had no clutch. Shite! Back to Rick's where a quick inspection found the clutch fluid reservoir to be empty. Ah well, that's that job ticked off the list. We refilled it and bled it through. Sorted. Take 2.
I headed out again into the German countryside. I was obviously taking it easy, the ZZR being a strange bike to me and the fact that it hadn't been ridden in two years were two points sitting at the front of my mind. I took it down to the car wash place and gave it a good clean where I discovered the back wheel was gold, just like the front one. It looked much better once it was washed, however it didn't handle too good, especially compared to my GS back home. This will take some getting used too. Over the next couple of days I went for various spins about the Black Forrest, getting more used to the ZZR's handling characteristics. It pulled like a train and sounded awesome but its age and every single one of those miles it had covered plus each mile to get home played on my mind, making me super paranoid causing me to treat the Kawasaki like a fragile two stroke. 

"You'll be fine. It has never, ever let me down" - Rick.
Rick's words started bouncing around my head with the rest of the shite in there.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany


Despite my worries and the occasional rain shower I really enjoyed spinning around the Forest roads on the big ZZR. I changed the oil on the ZZR and in the process covered the entire underside of the bike, the exhaust and Rick's garage floor in oil and the Kawasaki was ready to go home.
In the evenings we went out for pizza and had a barbecue along with plenty local beer and schnapps. Rick also made me a birthday log.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.
Excuse the pics, some were taken on my phone.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.
The campsite we stayed at on our last visit.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.

ZZR at Rick and Andrea's
ZZR at Rick and Andrea's place.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.
Route planning.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany
BBQ with Rick and Andrea.
Collecting the ZZR from Germany

Collecting the ZZR from Germany

ZZR at Rick and Andrea's

The 21st, my birthday, was the day I said my goodbyes to Rick, Andrea and their cats and headed to the hills, over the awesome road through Todtnau to Freiburg where I was visiting my mates Wolfgang and Uta. Wolfgang had sent me some directions, and I got pretty close to Uta's place before I had to admit defeat and wait for him in a petrol station to come and get me. Wolfgang thought it was hilarious that I was riding such an old bike back to Scotland in one go, but he wasn't a fan of the ZZR. Wolfgang much prefers BMWs and Harleys. He said the ZZR was too fast and too uncomfortable and that it would break down, I told him he need to get a sense of adventure and myself and the ZZR would get to Scotland easily. One thing we did agree on was that the rear tyre on the Kawasaki was looking pretty fucked. The last thing I wanted was the Police pulling me on a fucked tyre or getting a puncture so Wolfgang got on the blower and sorted out a tyre at his local bike shop. A short trip over town and the tyre was collected and another short trip later the tyre was fitted by Wolfgang's pal in the tyre shop. It was like watching an F1 team. The guy knew his stuff. ZZR prepared for tomorrow's trip we headed back to Uta where she had cooked an incredible meal which we enjoyed with some nice beers and wine, but not too many as I was driving early the next day.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany
ZZr gets a new back tyre.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.
Uta's cat

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.

I was up early the next day and after a great breakfast from Uta I said my goodbyes to her and Wolfgang and to her son Mauritz who had got up to see me off.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.
Uta, Wolfgang and Mauritz beside his bike.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.
Wolfgang, me and Mauritz.

I was off. Only about 1000 miles to go!!!!!!
I had a rough idea where I was going but managed to get lost about three miles in. I experienced more great German hospitality when I asked someone for directions and he led me all the way to the road I needed, only briefly stopping at one of the roadside stalls to buy some fruit which they tried to give me.
I had pondered two routes home. Google maps, who I chose to follow, were saying it was faster to go via Nancy/Metz/Brussels but the last time I had done the trip I had gone via Reims. Anyways, both routes went through Strasbourg which was absolutely fucked with roadworks. I had no GPS and was navigating by directions I had written myself on a bit of paper in my tankbag. My navigation system hadn't accounted for the main road being closed. Fuck!!!
There was a sign that I think said diversion which I followed at the road closure about the same time a guy on a BMW R1100 RS was riding beside me. I asked him if he knew what was going on and if I could follow him through Strasbourg. It turns out he was going the same direction as me all the way to Luxembourg and yes, he'd help me find my way through Strasbourg. He also pointed out that "there is a lot of smoke coming off your bike."
"Yeah, thats OK mate, I don't mind it" was my reply each time, as I remembered the state of Rick's garage floor and hoped the cat litter I'd put down had done the job.
I followed RS man back and forth through a web of diversions and roads works till eventually, and I mean a good hour or two later, we got back on an autoroute. We battered up the French autoroutes stopping for fuel near Metz. Mr RS turned out to be a cool guy called Audi who bought me a coffee at our shared fuel stop. He really saved my ass in Strasbourg, without his help I'd probably still be there. 

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.
Audi and the ZZR in France

Audi headed to Luxembourg and I went to Belgium. The chaos of Strasbourg and my earlier navigation error had cost me some time but I should still be ok to get the ferry at 4pm as planned.
All was going well till I got near Brussels and a wall of traffic. My rusty filtering blade was quickly sharpened as I wove my way through the sea of cars, trucks, motorhomes, and vans all who were all trying to find a place on a six lane road. After another hour or so of filtering the traffic cleared a bit but I had to get my finger out. The ZZR1100 was never a slow bike so upping the cruising speed was no issue but keeping a paranoid eye out for Police as well as usual the concentration of riding a bike can be pretty fatiguing. I met a fine balance about 90-100. 

Collecting the ZZR from Germany
Another fuel stop. Belgium this time.

I passed Ghent with ease and carried on to Dunkirk. I was running low on fuel and time. Should I gamble running out of fuel with being delayed till the next ferry?
No, I decided. that would be fucking stupid. If I ran out of fuel it could take me ages to get sorted. I pulled in to the petrol station, fueled up and asked what the time was. 3.20, and the ferry's at 4. In the words of Elwood Blues, "Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don't fail us now." And by fuck, can the ZZR shift. I was still short shifting at 8 or 9 grand in my paranoid state that the bike would annihilate itself and we were getting to the jail side of 100mph easy. But the road didn't end, WHERE THE FUCK IS THIS FUCKING FERRY!?!?!?!?!
Eventually I followed a sign after sign over several roundabouts towards the ferry terminal. It was like a racetrack, I had the place to myself. This is not a good thing where you are nearing a ferry terminal. There should be loads of other folk there too who are also riding to the ferry. Am I going the right way? Yes! Yes I am, I can see the ferry. I rode up to the first stop, "Have I made the 4 o'clock ferry??" I half shouted at the lady forgetting I should be speaking French.
"Ah, shite."
"Don't be silly, that ferry was supposed to leave at 4. It is twenty past four now." she laughed in perfect English. "Don't worry, there is another one soon. Oh! There is smoke coming off your motorcycle."
"Aye. Its all good."

I got through passport control and joined the queue. The only other folk there were three guys on Harleys who looked like the German Sons Of Anarchy who were heading to a Harley rally in England somewhere. We were joined by two more German guys on bikes and then the cars began to fill up their lanes waiting for the 6pm ferry.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.
ZZR and German SAMCRO at Dunkirk.

After a wee delay we were on the ferry. I tried to snooze for a bit and managed 15 minutes shut eye before buying a big coffee and some sweeties. As the ferry got in the white cliffs of Dover appeared out the mist. One country to go. All six of us bike guys headed back to our wheels. The first guy opened the door to the deck. "This is not good."
It wasn't. Our six bikes were surrounded by lorries, and lorry drivers have a habit of starting their trucks as soon as possible, gassing us bikers to the point you think you'll pass out. Sure as shite is brown the truck behind us fired up, then another, and another. "TURN THAT FUCKING THING OFF YOU PRICK, YER GONNAE GAS US!" I must have been getting tired or something, but it was shout or get gassed for the next 15 minutes. In fairness to the trucker he got on the CB radio and all the other trucks turned off their engines too.

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.
White cliffs.

We rolled into England, this was the part of the trip I was worried about. All it would take is one target obsessed, power mad copper to run my plate. No MOT, no tax, and not all Police know the law as well as you'd think. I was sure I was OK, but that doesn't stop some dafty trying to impound your bike or give you a hefty fine.
Speed limits were observed as I crossed Kent to the Dartford Crossing, a tunnel that goes under the river Thames. From there it was a ride through Essex as the sun set. I stopped of at what appeared to be the most popular service station in England for a bite to eat. A tank of fuel for the Zed and half a Whopper and a few chips later in true Essex fashion we was like totally on our way babes, yeah?
Erm, aye.

North. that's what the signs say.
North. Thats where I'm going. North, north, north.

"What time is it? Hmm. I dunno. I stopped for food at the back of ten maybe? That whopper was shite."
I was having conversations with myself. I must be getting tired. Better keep an eye on that.


"Am I going the right way? I hope petrol stations are open. It's getting late. Fuck, that one's shut. Better fuel up when I can"

"Where's the North signs gone."

Late on I seen a sign for Hull. Rick had given me his Mum's address there and I could crash there if I needed to, but I didn't feel too bad.
The ZZR was performing really well. I had done several hundred miles on it and my arse was still relatively comfortable, my throttle hand/wrist was fucking killing me though and I was using some weird yoga type positions to try and sort it out. That aside I felt good. I had even passed some Police who had ignored me. ZZR was returning good fuel economy and running sweet. The light could do with some adjustment though. On dark bits I was toiling to see if I was going above 60 mph, but this isn't a real issue in England. The south and middle (which they call the north) of England is full of roadworks and 50 mph average speed cameras and the real north is full of potholes and big trenches in the tarmac that the worn ZZR front tyre loved to follow. Fucking scary stuff at 2 am when you've been on the go for 17 hours. I stopped at Scotch Corner for my first Red Bull of the trip. I also ate a mars bar, took a pish and put on my blue jumper and winter gloves. I was getting cold which I put down to being knackered over actual temperature..
I headed North
The last stretch of the A1 from Newcastle to the border with Scotland dragged on

and on 

and on

I could hear a weird, high pitched squeaky sound. What the fuck is that? 
I throttled off, slowing down. After a few seconds I realised it was me. I was making strange involuntary sounds. I must be tired. I better keep an eye on that.

I headed north.



My headlight picked up some movement on the other lane..
It was my light reflecting off the road markings.
I must be tired. I better..,. Aye, aye, aye. I'll keep an eye out.

Eventually I came over a hill as the sun came over the horison and a familiar coastline was in sight. Round the roundabout at Berwick and over the border. I was in Scotland. 
Some guy somewhere was shouting "WOOO HOOO HOOO! FUCKING GET IN!!" 
"He must be tired" I thought, "He really should keep an eye on that."

I came of the last roundabout before my turn off and decided to give the bike the full beans, up to 70 mph of course. 
Holy fuck, its the Millennium Falcon, it's turning everything else backwards (to 70mph) at ten grand it started to wheel spin, or was it clutch slip. We better wait till I've woken up again to find that out for sure. 
The last ten miles were done with the visor up just taking in the sights and smells. I had done it. 
When I got in to the drive I was so tired and cold I was shivering uncontrollably. It was 4.30am. My trip had taken 22 hours, 6 more than I had thought. I couldn't even be bothered putting the bike away, instead just dragging it into the back garden. I took this last photo to send to Wolfgang, Rick and my folks to show we'd made it home. When I got up the next day I also sent Audi a message. He'd given me his e mail/mobile number incase I had any problems on the continent. 

Collecting the ZZR from Germany.
The blurred picture is due to me shivering away.

Well? Did the ZZR survive the journey?

After we were both home I done a few checks and inspections on the ZZR. A matching new front tyre to the rear transformed the handling but there was still smoke coming off the bike. I took the bike out for a few trial runs, including one high speed road on a closed (cough) road. It's 23 years old, but the ZZR is still a missile of a bike. It was still accelerating at 160, the other guy on the ZX7R must have shit his breeks when I went screaming past, but when I slowed down at the end of the (cough cough) runway there was that smoke again. All the oil that I had left over from the service would have burned off ages ago so I stripped the lower fairings off the bike and cleaned everything up. After a few spins I found the problem.

Keeping the ZZR alive.

I took it round to show Faithir for a second opinion. It looked like there was a porous gasket on a banjo bolt.

Keeping the ZZR alive.
He's either inspecting the bike or having a rest.

While further "cleaning" the area we were concerned about Faithir managed to shove a screwdriver through the alleged porous gasket.
"It might be ok..." 
I fired the bike up. Oil pished out. It wasn't OK
Luckily all was not lost. I got lots of help from The ZZR1100 Appreciation Society on Facebook and new parts were quickly delivered from

Keeping the ZZR alive.

Keeping the ZZR alive.

Keeping the ZZR alive.

Keeping the ZZR alive.

Keeping the ZZR alive.
New gaskets top, old gaskets bottom.

The gasket wasn't porous, it was completely corroded. Turns out this isn't too uncommon on older ZZRs. New gasket fitted and the problem was solved, or was it? I took the bike out for a few trial runs, but fuck sake, there's that smoke again. The new bike specific oil I put in it when repairing the banjo gasket had stopped the bike slipping its clutch in higher gears and helped it spin its wheel in the lower gears. I had just put it in so I didn't want to fork out for new oil as well as what ever I had to do to fix the leak.

ZZR repair

It turned out to be a simple fix. I hadn't cleaned the banjo bolt's surfaces up enough of it was also too badly corroded to get a proper seal. A new one was pretty cheap so I tilted the bike back to save losing my new oil and installed the new banjo bolt. And that's it sorted. the bike has ran well ever since. It really needs a new radiator, the current one is pretty much held together by radweld and it'll need an new chain and sprockets at some point but what do you expect. The bike has done 98500 miles now. Not far off the Mission of 100000.
And by fuck it s fast.