My 1987 KDX200D Kawasaki is the shiniest bike in my shed. Although I’d liked the look of the KDX175s back in the mid ’80s, I bought an XR500 Honda as a more practical choice. Then late in 2009 I gave someone a used electric water heater of unknown condition and on delivering it, I saw this pile of bike bits – Kawasaki bits.
“Take it mate. There are a couple of bits inside somewhere, too.” These were exactly the words I wanted to hear…
Why it was apart remains a mystery. The cylinder and head were on but not bolted down and the piston rings were removed. Luckily no rainwater had entered past the thick dust sealing the reed petals. I re-assembled the engine and sat it in the frame to connect the wiring. It had spark so I then mounted things as necessary to start it, which it obediently did.
No headlight or airbox came with the bike so I made a filter from a piece of filter-foam sheet I happened to have, using superglue to join it. Superglue really attacks the foam but I only needed something temporary. For some reason, my young dog took a liking to the filter and tore it up before I had the chance to fit it. Once filter MK II was made I kept it well away from the dog.
Now it was ride time. The first ride was disappointing because the engine ran fine at low revs but wouldn’t rev up much. Removing my small, restrictive air filter changed all that and things became scary – there was no front brake fitted at this point.
COMPULSION TAKES HOLD
Up until this stage I had intended to just get the little KDX going well enough for occasional fun rides. That soon snowballed into a restoration, which I seemed powerless to stop. My missus repeatedly threatened to dispose of the bike, as blown lightglobes remained unchanged and leaky taps continued to drip – nothing else around the house mattered to me.
The bike was more dirty than knocked about or corroded. CT18 Truckwash and scrubbing brushes did wonders while steel wool soap pads were great for cleaning wheel hubs etc. M’lady has an ultrasonic cleaner – for cleaning jewellery she sells. She doesn’t know what a great job it does on nuts and bolts, carby components and other small parts.
There were a few other cunning plans that also came off. The airbox, from a wrecker, had a warped (plastic) filter mounting face, which I straightened by clamping between chipboard discs and heating in boiling water. I replaced the broken sight glass in the front brake-fluid reservoir with one cut from a Yamaha TT. And I used a heat gun to lessen the whitish ‘stretch marks’ in the rear plastic mudguard.
The paint I used is nothing special, but on a simple bike like this it would be easy to have a proper job done later. Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that a crankshaft seal is letting a bit of oil past, because the sparkplug looks grubby for the small amount of riding I’ve done – maybe this is why the motor was out. Because the motor runs fine, I’m in no rush to strip it down to investigate. The bike does just sit under a cover in the shed, after all.
Because I live in a remote area I bought anything I needed sight-unseen. This works fine for new parts, but from wreckers or the internet, used parts were not as good as I’d believed they’d be and I did waste some money there.
I became truly obsessed with finding good side-covers. Those that came with the bike were okay, but they were with a signwriter mate to get new white vinyl done when his workshop went up in a fire – a terrible loss for him, and one of my covers was destroyed. My heart raced when a new one eventually came up on eBay in the USA, and it was the last thing I fitted. This was a year after I first brought the bike home.
The headlight is an XR Honda item. I spray-painted it Kawasaki Green. This paint would be fragile but I’m not planning on hitting any trees. It’s handy that Autobarn can mix paint and supply it in aerosol cans.
The white, bleached, powdery coat on the fuel tank was carefully abraded away and I found that Armor All masked what I couldn’t remove.
I was blaming the float bowl needle and seat for leaking, eventually realising the O-ring between the brass seat and carb body was the fault.
I did away with the speedo and light switch and wired the lights to be permanently on. I wouldn’t mind getting rid of the battery as well, but that would leave an ugly bracket.
A list of new bits I bought includes some fasteners, wheel bearings and seals, fork seals and gaiters, seat foam and cover, rear suspension bolts, piston, gaskets, cables, handgrips, exhaust mounts, chain, tyres, brake pads and shoes, front disc, airbox cover and toolbag. The rear shock was sent for a service.
New parts I’d like to get include an intake duct, rear guard, tail-light and a lightweight (and shorter) KX125 kick-start lever.
My first calls for parts were to Adelaide’s Kawasaki dealers. As a result I learned that many bits for KDX200s are no longer available – fair enough for a 25-year-old bike. So I had to rely on wreckers and the internet for a lot of the parts I needed.
I enjoyed hunting down bits and talking with sellers who sometimes responded with variations on the theme of: “I used to have one of those”. Checking out relevant internet sites and forums was also fun, as well as informative.
AT THE END OF THE DAY
I kept receipts but I don’t want to know the total. Do footy fans, anglers, or beer enthusiasts add up the costs of their passion? Of course not! It was cheap fun doing this. I admire those who put in a big effort for a really great result but that’s not for me.
Now I have a great-looking bike that I don’t use for fear of scratching it. That’s not how it was meant to be but it’s a familiar story, I’m sure.
There are a few bikes entombed in the shed – some are good as they are, and a couple need work. The next project might be the Russian Izh Jupiter, for something quite different. With the XR500 being the only one to get any use, the others must feel they’re in a mausoleum.
If you want something to keep yourself amused and to give you time in the shed, find a worthy cause and get stuck in. It’ll be fun. I guarantee it.