1976 Kawasaki 750B1

February 2009 and winter is dragging on. Most of the RetroTours bikes are fit but it’s too cold to ride very much. At least I can sit here by the fire and read these magazines, including the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle monthly. Leafing endlessly through the classifieds provides unlimited entertainment even when there is absolutely no intention to buy. Here’s a pretty stock looking KZ750. I had been considering this model as a RetroTours fleet candidate. It would contrast nicely with the W3 650; they are from opposite ends of a decade of intense development. While the 650 was little more than an upgrade of an existing British design from the 50’s, the KZ750 represents the cutting edge technology of the day applied to the classic vertical twin. Double overhead camshafts, counter-balancers, disc brakes, up to date suspension and sophisticated electrics offer real performance potential, while Japanese build quality assures dependability and an oil tight engine. Plus Japanese bikes are so much more responsive to routine recommissioning: parts and service information are available and the internet can fill in any gaps quite nicely. The process of restoration becomes almost a routine. The fleet really could do with another reliable representative from Team Green.

The trouble is the price: it’s about 30% too high given that even a machine that looks great in an ad is, more than likely, still going to need steering bearings, fork seals, shocks, brakes, tires, a chain, a battery and lots of cleaning and detailing. That’s just the way it is. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to call the guy and talk about it. Long story short, we negotiated, the accessories came off and the price came down. Todd and I piled into the pickup truck and drove non stop to mid Ohio where I took a freezing cold 2 mile test run, paid my cash  and loaded up my new bike for the non stop drive home; a 20 hour round trip.

After catching up on my sleep, I put the bike on the lift and went over things from end to end, eventually performing all of the above listed maintenance chores and more. Come spring and I was ready for some more serious road testing eventually culminating in this bike’s first RetroTour. It’s done 4 or 5 trips since and save for a starter clutch problem that was easily set right the KZ has lived up to it’s potential for reliable performance. Electric starting is always a joy and this bike backs it up with a kick starter. The exhaust note is very macho: just what you’d expect from a 750cc twin. While the front and rear disc brakes may not be up to modern standards, they are more than adequate. The smoothness of the engine is a revelation; it never ever seems busy, buzzy or stressed. The power band is so broad that the 5 speed transmission seems redundant: just twist and go. If anything, the KZ suffers from that same quirk that seems to affect many of the motorcycles from Japan: it’s so good at everything that it becomes almost bland.

But before modifying this bike by adding character building faults, wind up that engine a bit, exploiting the 8,000 RPM redline enabled by the DOHC design. You will be thrilled at the way it pulls and pulls and then pulls some more. With the Ikon rear shocks and modern compound brake pads the chassis is also willing. With the KZ750 you can have it both ways: a relaxed big twin lope or an intense cascade up through the gearbox. In either mode Kawasaki reliability combines with a comfortable seating position and vibration free engine to insure that you can enjoy it all day long.