Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kawasaki KZ400 My First Bike

I found a website dedicated to my first motorcycle, the Kawasaki KZ400...


Here's a photo I found from that website...

Kawasaki KZ400
My bike looked exactly like this one, same paint, same pin striping, same everything.

And no, I don't have it anymore. And yes, I wish I still had it.

These days, I've developed a greater appreciation for motorcycles old and new. But back then, in the mid-80s, it was mostly my means of transporation, and not so much something I loved.

My best friend back then had a KZ450, and he and I spent many a moment riding together to the pool hall, to the beach, to college, and just anywhere else we wanted to go. Riding motorcycles together as part of our daily lives brought us closer together as friends. It was that bonding that led me to finding a club to ride with when I got back to riding again.

I remember in my college days taking girls out on dates. Some of them took an interest in me just because of the bike. And we're not even talking Harley here, or cruiser, or even custom. We're talking a lightweight standard metric.

My KZ400 came to me as a third-hand bike, a 1979 model year. The previous owner crashed in a pretty serious accident that left him with an amputated leg. The gas tank was dented on both sides. Otherwise, that was the only damage to the bike. He had in storage for a couple of years.

It was in 1984 that my parents bought it for me as my high-school graduation gift. My step-father had a pretty good knowledge of engines and a good grasp of mechanics. He showed me how to take the engine apart, clean it all up, and put it back together. It wasn't until the following year that it was running, and I had learned how to ride it.

In those days I was in the habit of pulling the carburetor off, adjusting the needle, and even taking the whole carburetor apart, cleaning the parts, and putting it all back together. I would pull the head off and adjust the slack in the cam-shaft chain. I'd replace the drive chain and adjust the slack. I bought and installed new starter motors, rewired the cables, changed the fluid in the forks, and did everything myself.

These days, I've become a chicken-shit when it comes to doing my own wrenching. I'll do the oil and filter changes, and only recently started doing the tire changes and brake pad changes. I'm not sure what it is with me these days.

I remember one time, pulling the carburetor off, taking it all apart, readjusting it, and then putting it back on. The starter motor wasn't working at the time, so I had to use the kick-starter. I must have kicked it for a good 30 minutes, before it finally started. The only reason why I kicked it for that long was because I was confident it would eventually start.

But today, I don't have a clue anymore. I don't know if something is screwed up or not. It just goes to show how much I've lost touch with my mechanical ability.

My friend Brian does all his own work on his Harleys. So I'm trying to make an effort to do the same. I know I can do it, I just don't feel like doing it, and I've just lost confidence in my ability.

Something in back of mind tells me that if I had my old KZ400 back, I'd be tinkering with it, and reconnect with that old me again.


  1. I had one of those too! I got it when I was in the Army. It was one of those "barracks bikes" sold to someone else around the bikes when the owner gets transferred someplace else. I kept it though and had it until about 1985. I remember it was really fast. I don't know if I was to ride it today if I still would think the same. Sure would like to try though! It was my second bike, my first was a Honda 350.

    Congrats, on another great blog! I'll add it on to my blogroll.

  2. Ah, memories...

    My 2nd bike was a 1980 KZ550. I never really liked the bike I hate to admit, but that's not the bike's fault. The guy who had it before me frigged around with it a lot and I don't think he knew what he was doing. I didn't know either mind you - but at least I had the sense not to mess with stuff I wasn't familiar with.

    It was more cheap transportation around the city than a bike to enjoy riding like I do now. Even so, I did have some fun on it and like you said, girls were interested just because I rode a bike. I even married one of them! Of course, now she wishes I'd get rid of my bike, but that's another story...

  3. Yea,
    Had a KZ400 too. I remember it was not as smooth running as my buddy's Honda 350 and did not have an electric start. But, had a ton of fun with it and wish I had never sold it.
    Would like to own another one just for old times sake.

  4. i just bought a 1975 kz400 and it is in great condition im searching for parts and it is hard to find.new tires,a ebay air filter and a search for brake pads.its fun leakes a little oil and it has loud strait pipes. 12,000 miles and still rockin. i was also born in 75 and we run so when i saw her i was hooked.

  5. I was attending UT of Knoxville, in 1979. Never had the money to afford a z 400 but now at age 53 I just found an old 1979 Z400 h ltd model. Its been sitting for a long time but Ive put 20 hrs in cleaning it up and getting it ready to go. Looking forward to riding it soon up in The Smokies. Brings back lots of memories. I know Im gonna enjoy it!
    September 19th, 2011

  6. I'm 28 and just bought my first bike. A 1979 kz400 h ltd 20,000 miles. Having some starter problems though hope to get it running soon


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)