A ZRX risen from the Philly streets…
The Kawasaki ZRX1100 was a throwback to the muscle bikes of the 1980s, a retro-styled machine that recalled the Eddie Lawson superbikes of yore, sporting a retuned 1052cc ZX-11 engine that made nearly 100 horsepower at the rear wheel and plenty of midrange punch. Yes, the motor was liquid-cooled, unlike the big-block air/oil-cooled mills of the yesteryear, but it was bulletproof, and the ZRX had some real 80s superbike cred:
“Big discs and black, three-spoke wheels — along with the braced aluminum swingarm complete with eccentric adjustment — make this, in some ways, more of a faithful replica than the original KZ1000R.” —Cycle World
Enter Rob Kirkpatrick of Pennsylvania’s Motor League, who credits his father for getting him into bikes at an early age. As with many of us, his two-wheeled obsession came full-force in the saddle of a dirt bike:
“It started when my uncle threw me on his clapped-out 1975 RM250 and sent me down a remote dirt road in Bradford, PA.”
Rob went on to race motocross, and started working on bikes to help defray the costs of racing:
“I spend most nights in my garage located in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania. It’s constantly moving with projects ranging from vintage HD’s to modern MX bikes and a mix of everything in between.”
By day, he works a 9-5 desk job slinging dirt bike parts for an e-commerce company, and it was there he heard one of his coworkers had a rough 2002 Kawasaki ZRX1100 for sale. The bike’s history wasn’t pretty:
“Its early life was spent ripping from North Carolina to Philadelphia on a regular basis at high speeds with no oil changes. From there it was used as a part-time track bike and neglected daily commuter with again, no oil changes.”
He bought the bike for a few hundred bucks and set about rectifying the damage from years of time living on the mean city streets, getting knocked over by cars and generally neglected. The result is one bad brute of a build, which has earned a permanent place in Rob’s garage:
“Hopefully this will inspire more people to save a similar bike from the recycle bin and realize you don’t have to spend thousands for a super fast and fun, decent looking bike.”
Amen, man. Below, we get the full story on this reborn ZRX, which reminds us of a two-wheeled big-block street sweeper.
Kawasaki ZRX1100 Custom: In the Builder’s Words
My dad was riding long before I was even born and always had a bike or two in the garage. I would say he is the one responsible for getting me into bikes at a really young age. It wasn’t until I was around 12 or so that I rode my first real dirt bike and that’s when the interest turned into an obsession. It started when my uncle threw me on his clapped-out 1975 RM250 and sent me down a remote dirt road in Bradford, PA.
From that point on I was hooked on dirt bikes and eventually got into racing motocross. Dirt bikes are still a big part of my day to day, and if I could I would sell everything else and ride off-road everyday. The only downside of racing and riding MX is keeping up with the maintenance costs. Out of pure necessity I started working on bikes for some extra cash.
I spend most nights in my garage located in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania. It’s constantly moving with projects ranging from vintage HD’s to modern MX bikes and a mix of everything in between. During the day I hold a 9-5 desk job slinging dirt bike parts for an e-commerce company in Philadelphia. That’s where I overheard a co-worker had a ZRX in rough shape slated for a quick sale on Craigslist. I snagged it up for a few hundred bucks before anyone else could.
The bike’s history isn’t pretty and sometimes I wish I didn’t ask about it. Its early life was spent ripping from North Carolina to Philadelphia on a regular basis at high speeds with no oil changes. From there it was used as a part-time track bike and neglected daily commuter with again, no oil changes. It spent its final years in stock trim getting knocked over by cars in Philadelphia.
As soon as I got the bike home I started to chisel off the broken and bent pieces. Most of the damage was from its time spent parked in the city, so thankfully no high-speed damage repair was needed. I went through the motor replacing worn parts, made a sub frame to relocate the battery, electronics and overflow tank. A Kawi H2R tail section from GFTP (Glass From The Past) lives over the rear tire and a $5 swap meet find ¾ fairing is up front.
It has K&N filters, new wheel bearings all around, new chain and sprockets, clip on bars, brake service, suspension service and so on. The bike has had a hard life but after some attention it’s back in action and ready for another two decades. I planned on selling it once I got it straightened out, but instead it’s turned into my go-to bike and now has a permanent spot in the garage.