First, a bit of history: my first bike (circa 1992) was a 1980 KZ550A1, complete with Honda turn signals and a salvage title. It was ratty and beat up and missing a few bits and pieces, but once I’d sorted a few things out (hot tip: the LTD550 center-stand works on the KZ550, too) I fell in love.
Then a couple of weeks ago, after some ill-advised late-night Craigslist wandering, I ended up with another one.
It looks worse than it is, and it’s (mostly) all there and intact under the wrap. Ignition timing was off and the carbs needed some help but it made it 50 miles home under its own power.
I swapped the goofy cafe bars for this more KZ-like sweep, though cable routing right now is dubious.
(I fixed the tachometer, too!)
PO said he tried wrenching on it a bit but it “wasn’t really for him.” Luckily it doesn’t look like he went too far into the thing. After I got it home I did an old-skool guerrilla-style (or maybe gorilla-style?) timing/dwell adjustment, with a shitty old multimeter and a set of feeler gauges, so now it sounds a little less like the top end is trying to diesel itself apart.
Next up: new brake shoes and (Hellfire and damnation! Mystery and alchemy!) maybe a carb rebuild.
Ok—I still think, “Fuck yeah!” when I open up the garage door and first lay eyes on the thing. That’s a good sign.
Today: taking a peek into its rear end. Sloppy seconds for me; PO has been here, too.
Shoulda taken Before pix of the brake arm setup; he’d cranked down the Brake Arm Twiddly Nut to take up the brake shoe wear without relocating the brake arm, so it all looked a bit like a violin bow instead of a proper 90-ish degree elbow. Best to take it apart and see what’s going on.
The old shoes don’t look too bad, worn down but not all the way through. I didn’t know how old they were and I didn’t want to chance it, so out they went. The lining was fine. Bearings were happy, and had been greased recently.
So I cleaned it all out, greased the pivots a teeny bit, and then wrestled it all back together, being sure to reset the wear indicator and install the brake arm at the correct (right) angle. Then I spun on the Brake Arm Twiddly Nut.
The drivetrain? Meh…
It’s got an o-ring (530?) chain and stock gearing—at least in the rear. (I haven’t taken off the side-case to confirm in the front, but I’ll be clam-diggered if it isn’t stock.) The rear sprocket doesn’t look too bad to me but it’s all the way back in the dropouts. So should I drop a link and stick with it or swap it all out? (NOTE: I didn’t count the links because Math Is Hard.)
I fired it up and took it for a short shakedown ride. The rear brake was much better and it’s idling better than it was before my shade-tree timing fix. It still doesn’t really like to idle at low rpms and it still sounds a little cammy and rattly down low. Not perfect, but definitely BTIW.
It was a nice day, and it fired right up from cold on about half choke—just like my old one.
It’s delivering power a lot more smoothly now—after adjusting the timing and dwell back from Completely Shitty, but it still bogs and then surges when you crank it from mid-throttle. I’m tempted to try the listen-to-it-with-a-stethoscope-while-channeling-Yo-Yo-Ma method of syncing the carbs but really they probably need a proper teardown and talking-to. I’m just dreading that part of it (all those little bits and pieces), so instead I’m going to pretend that the caramelized varnish and little crumbs of calcified rubber will just reconstitute themselves back into o-rings and gasoline on their own.
Next up: untangling all the misrouted cables and such under the tank, and maybe mustering up the courage to pull the carbs off and see what lurks inside.
Geeze, just look at the difference in the stock Kawa brake return springs in the hub and the "new" ones in the packaging!
Which did you use? I would re-use the old 'uns to be sure!
Losing a link on the chain to get beck into spec. adjustment range is a no-no, but, judging by your comment concerning PO's wrenchin' skills, it is possible that it wasn't the correct length to begin with... what to do? You really need to look at the front sprocket to asses if the chain is worn.
Also, you know it is inevitable, those carbs have to come off! The satisfaction of having a sweet running & idling engine afterward is worth it, trust me.
Have a good look at this awesome page for all the info. you will need to get the carbs sorted. s3.amazonaws.com/gpzweb/index.html#home
Just kidding! Yeah—I was surprised to see those itty bitty shitty springs; made me wonder if I had gotten the wrong-sized shoes. (Though I read somewhere that our feet grow as we age, so who knows?)
Maybe I’ll save the new ones just in case one of my daughters might need braces someday. They’re still sealed in the package and everything.
Regarding the carbs: Thanks for the link and yes; I’m planning to take ‘em apart at some point, but just I need to procrastinate some more first. (I’ve started taking apart the cable linkages already; more on that later.)
And yeah, I should take a proper look at the front sprocket; I’ll have a chance to do that the next time the clutch cable snaps.
Spent a few hours taking things apart, mostly digging into the cable and control wire routing, and waging war with the headlight bucket.
I LOVE how easy these things are to work on, and how well built everything is. It only gets tricky when you’re trying to undo somebody else’s leavings.
Much as I love the current tachometer, I decided to find a replacement. Turns out a KZ440 tach doesn’t fit: it’s a little smaller and only has one gauge bulb. Oops.
But it already looks like the MacArthur Maze around the gauges anyway, so I took off the tank and started untangling the mess, and of course I found more wrong as I dug in.
The Speedo cable wasn’t routed through its retaining loop at the brake line junction, and the tach cable is on its way out. Throttle cables are old and kinked; PO had strangled them with a cable tie around the top tube.
I pulled off the headlight, which was loose in its bezel. Somebody had missed the Tab A/Slot B part of reassembly, and I had to take it all apart to pop it back together again. This started a long fight with all the rings and springs and tiny screws, though I’d imagine those of you who are into needlepoint would have had an easier time of it.
I went on to the headlight bucket, intending to reinstall the original blinkers, but found one of the stalk mounts broken at the Grounding Wire Bung Backing Thing. So the bike must’ve been dropped or whacked on the right-front at some point, which would also explain the munged tach and bent headlight mount. (I was just going to take off the damaged mount and jump up and down on it until it was about the right shape again, a technique commonly used by bicycle mechanics known as “cold-setting.” And I can probably just thwack the headlight bucket back into shape.)
But all the little rubber bits for the ears were there and in generally ok shape. PO had snipped the blinker wires and used the ends to splice in his own cheapo minis. (Kudos to him for not tearing into the main harness.) Thanks to @loudhvx for posting the wiring diagram; it came in handy when sussing out the mess.
So far so good Sturmey.
I generally like to keep the front turn signals stock because they are the most important and are protected by the handlebars. The rears I tend to make a little smaller so they don't get knocked around when parked.
Also, If I were you I would ditch that hell-piece of smog equipment known as the Air Suction Device. It can cause all sorts of issues that are difficult to track down.
2016 Yamaha FJR1300ES
1982 GPz750 R1
1974 Kawasaki H1
1976 Kawasaki KZ400
1979 Yamaha XS650 cafe'
2001 Yamaha YZ426
1981 Honda XR200 stroked in an '89 CR125 chassis
1967 Triumph GT6
"If you didn't build it, it's not really yours"
Congratulations on your purchase of this Artisan Series Limited Edition 1980 KAWASAKI KZ550A1 CLUTCH CABLE.
This Artisan Series Limited Edition 1980 KAWASAKI KZ550A1 CLUTCH CABLE has been hand-crafted using only sustainable and up-cycled materials and traditional methods, all to the exact specifications of the original manufacturer.
Each Artisan Series cable strand is individually selected, book-matched, and plucked to assess material composition and tensile strength by a Board-Certified Cable Strand Assessor. (It can take up to 20 years for an Apprentice Cable Strand Assessor to develop their “ear” well enough to try for their license, and Candidates can only move forward if they’re sponsored by a Master.)
Then each cable is hand-spun to length on a traditional foot-powered loom.
Your cable was spun by:
All rubber components are hand molded, small-batch vulcanized, and individually massaged to the correct ductility by our Master Chemist, then assembled and tested by Vladimir himself. (He doesn’t trust the Soldering of the Final Cable Stop to anybody else!)
This Artisan Series 1980 KAWASAKI KZ550A1 CLUTCH CABLE is NUMBER
of a limited series of
- Presentation case
- 1.5oz Cable Lube spritzer (Banana Flavoured)
Spent most of the past couple of days successfully avoiding the carburetors, concentrating instead on running new throttle cables and fixing or rerouting the wiring away from Completely Awful.
The throttle cables needed some sorting. I’d ordered two of them (a “push” and a “pull”); both ended up having the same part number. So the right (return) cable is too long. I’d love to shorten it, but I don’t have the parts or the equipment.
I spliced the broken wires back together and replaced a couple of bullet connectors, stuffed all the entrails back into the headlight bucket and put it all back together, and then routed (and rerouted, and rerouted, and rerouted) the mess of wires and connectors and cables running along the top tube until I was vaguely satisfied.
I had tested the horn when I first bought the bike; it gave a plaintive “bleet?” and then stopped working altogether. This weekend I traced the issue back to the button, so I took apart the lefthand switch and cleaned/greased the contacts. So now it goes “Blatt!” I also tried out an OEM horn from my Versys (which looks suspiciously like the same one that was vin my old KZ550) (“Honk!”) and a Wolo Loud One (“Boop!”)
I’d really like “Boop!” but it doesn’t fit in the stock position, so I’ll stick with “Blatt!” for now. I was thinking of eventually mounting “Boop!” somewhere behind/under the battery box; seems like there’s a lot of space back there. But then again it might be muffled there, and it’d be right under my arse. So I dunno.)
So I think I figured out all the spaghetti under the tank, after a bit of trial and error. (Do the throttle cables go over the tank ears or under?)
Also: I was really excited to try out my new grease gun on the swingarm bearings, and shot in a full canister of grease, but didn’t see any old stuff come out. Then I shot in a second full canister, and then gave up. (If it starts coming out the top of the airbox you know you’ve put in too much.)