A young builder transforms a “fallen” ZRX into a 70s-inspired beast…
Introduced in 2001, the Kawasaki ZRX1200R was a burly, big-bore muscle bike whose retro style and big-block power harked back to the Eddie Lawson replicas of the early ’80s — a replica of the replica, which was fun, fast, and full of attitude…without costing a king’s ransom:
“The 2001 Kawasaki ZRX1200R is a fantastic motorcycle. The successor to the ZRX1100 (which was on Cycle World’s ten best list for 2000, and gathered other accolades) has been bored, stroked, tuned and tweaked to create a machine that is so entertaining, and performs so well, it is hard to believe that Kawasaki prices this machine at only $7,899.00 MSRP.” –Motorcycle Daily
Though the ZRX looked decidedly retro, the 1164cc engine was from the ZX-11, boasting an aluminum block, liquid-cooling, and 36mm Keihin carbs with Kawasaki’s throttle-responsive ignition control (K-TRIC) for snappy response to the right wrist. The result was 123 bhp and nearly 83 lb-ft of torque — a beast!
Enter our new friend Kyle Seifert (@Jesushoovy), a young man who began riding a Honda CBR250R to / from college and owned a succession of different bikes before picking up his first ZRX at the start of the pandemic…now he has three in the garage:
“I’ve since dubbed it the ‘ZRX Sanctuary’ and hope to increase the count soon. My workshop for my machines is my father’s garage — kitted out with a plastic folding table and Ryobi tools. It amazes me just how much I’ve been able to accomplish with such a minimal setup.”
Kyle decided to build a more aggressive 70s-inspired custom to complement his more stock-appearing ZRX, using a slightly beat-up 2001 donor:
“The design concept for this build was to create a bike that took the high-tail look from the Japanese Muscle Bikes of the 70’s-80’s and pair it with a more classical cafe front end. I enjoyed taking the stock ZRX platform and stripping it down to look more like a thicker 70’s KZ1000.”
Kyle nicknamed the bike “Aki” as both a shortening of Kawasaki and the Japanese word for “fall” — after all, the donor had endured quite a few drops before finding its way into the ZRX Sanctuary. Now this ZRX1200R cafe racer / muscle bike weighs 71 lbs less than stock (!) and Kyle projects it will dyno at 125-135 whp, based on the similar setups. As you can imagine, this one-of-a-kind ZRX not only looks stunning, but the performance boost is readily apparent from the saddle:
“Aki is an absolute dream to ride…What I really love is how easy it is to take corners, thanks to the lighter ZX10 wheels. I ride this bike quite often, so it is definitely not just a show build.”
Below, we talk to Kyle for the full story on the build, which has been invited to The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show later this month — congrats and well-deserved, Kyle! We’ll make sure our photographer gets some good shots of it at the show!
ZRX1200 Café Racer: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Kyle Seifert, and I am still pretty new to the bike scene. My first motorcycle was a CBR250R I rode to and from college. I’ve had a few bikes since then (‘75 KZ400, ‘07 KLX250, ‘16 FZ-07), but I’ve finally landed on a great, fast, reliable and CHEAP platform for my wrenching — the ZRX.
I purchased my first ZRX in the very early days of the pandemic and took the extra time off in the garage to begin modifying the bike. I kept it mostly stock, but changed up the jetting, airbox, throttle, and wheels. Before I knew it, I had two more ZRXs in the garage with parts flying around between the three. I’ve since dubbed it the “ZRX Sanctuary” and hope to increase the count soon. My workshop for my machines is my father’s garage — kitted out with a plastic folding table and Ryobi tools. It amazes me just how much I’ve been able to accomplish with such a minimal setup.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
The donor bike is a 2001 Kawasaki ZRX1200R.
• Why was this bike built?
I built this bike to be a different, more aggressive styled ZRX to complement my other, more stock build. This was a purely personal project (no sponsors, just my own pocket change). I aimed to make it more track-focused, hence the heavily upgraded brakes, suspension, and wheels when compared to the stock setup.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The design concept for this build was to create a bike that took the high-tail look from the Japanese Muscle Bikes of the 70’s-80’s and pair it with a more classical cafe front end. I enjoyed taking the stock ZRX platform and stripping it down to look more like a thicker 70’s KZ1000.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
- Revival secret LED 7” retro vintage headlight
- Revival pancake headlight bucket
- Rise Corp. adjustable headlight bracket
- Nitro Racing heat polished full titanium exhaust system
- Nitro Racing exhaust bracket modified by Clark Creations to fit Moriwaki rearsets
- Moriwaki Engineering billet rearsets
- Stites ZRX to ZX14 billet triples
- 2010 ZX14 front forks
- 2007 ZX10 Wheels powdercoated metallic black
- Galfer wavy rotors for ZX10 mounted to the front and rear
- Radial monoblock Brembo calipers
- Custom brake hanger mount for ZX10 rear brake
- Rear brake reservoir delete
- 2021 ZX14 front radial master cylinders (Brembo brake, Nissin clutch)
- AC Performance Line stainless steel brake and clutch lines
- Swingarm rebuild with new bearings and powdercoated gloss black
- Chopped frame to fit a custom carbon fiber shortened tail
- Custom carbon fiber side fairings
- Custom carbon fiber Seat Pan w/ custom diamond stitched seat
- Custom carbon fiber Battery Tray for lightweight lithium battery
- Custom carbon fiber Electronics Tray
- Stock tank repaired and repainted with custom livery by Proper Moto w/ TWM billet tank cap
- Ducati Monster S4R Carbon Fiber front fender adapted to ZX14 forks with aluminum mounts and titanium fasteners
- Daytona DEVA-01 slim digital dash
- Integrated taillight
- GSG MOTOTECHNIK Skeleton Clutch Cover
- Custom Skeleton Pulse Cover
- ELS honeycomb mesh +4 degree advancer
- Wrinkle red powdercoated valve cover w/ Muzzy billet emissions covers
- James Compton Customs manual cam chain tensioner
- James Compton Customs skeleton counter shaft cover
- James Compton Customs steering stem nut
- K-Factory billet large piston clutch release
- Custom billet engine breather cover w/ titanium fasteners by WNV Engineering
- Airbox removed and replaced with pod filters
- Sigma6 Jet Kit installed for filters and free flowing exhaust
- Posh high throttle kit
- Active Racing kill switch and ignition controls
- Steering dampener
- Custom slim radiator shroud
• Does the bike have a nickname?
I named this bike “Aki,” which is both a shortening of the name “Kawasaki” and also the Japanese word for “fall.” The bike was originally not in the best shape, having been in a few “falls” and I originally fell in love with the ZRX platform when I bought my ‘99 1100 in the “fall.”
• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?
I haven’t had the chance to make it to a dyno, but other bikes with similar intake/exhaust/jetting setups make between 125 – 135 WHP. The weight, however, is something I’ve measured along the way and it’s something I take a lot of pride in — I was able to carve 71 lbs off the bike. I weighed it in with a full tank of gas in her stock form at 531lbs. Now, with my modifications, she’s down to only 460lbs with a full tank. I have plans to keep dropping that number, but that’s where she sits at this moment.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Aki is an absolute dream to ride. The wide open Nitro Racing titanium exhaust sings at high RPMs and growls down low. The upgraded throttle paired with the proper jetting on the carbs provides a very snappy and attentive ride, and the five-speed transmission, while definitely missing a gear, shifts like butter. What I really love is how easy it is to take corners, thanks to the lighter ZX10 wheels. I ride this bike quite often, so it is definitely not just a show build.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Above all, I’m very proud of my choice in parts and vision for the project. This was my first ever really transformative build, so it has been a fantastic experience learning what all goes into these machines. I already have further plans for Aki, so this is not at all a finished project. (Is there even such a thing?)
• Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
I’d like to thank my father for lending me the garage space to work on my passions, my close friend Iori for the help along the way and advice on build direction, my brother Tate and his friend CJ for the muscle when needed, and my friend Pete for the help wiring some of the more complex items. Finally, I want to thank the ZRXOA for the immense amount of information on these machines and the endless inspiration from others builds.