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Vintage/Classic as daily ride?

Discussion in 'Older / Classic Bikes' started by Whiteyy, May 3, 2013.

  1. So I'm looking for a new bike, something lower maintenance and better at touring than my current supermoto. I wasn't initially looking at a classic bike but a 1981 Kawasaki KZ1000J caught my eye, I love the styling and the sound of these bikes, my late friend had a Z1 which looked amazing.

    What I'm asking is, will a decent example of a bike of this vintage be reliable, or at least reliable enough to put up with? Or will I be taking it apart every weekend to replace something else that's rattled off?

  2. #2 mattb, May 3, 2013
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
    I can't speak about the particular bike you're looking at, but from the perspective of somebody who's commuted for years - as his only transport and touring bike - on 1970s and '80s bike, I can say: Yes, they are very viable. You just need to get one in good condition as opposed to one that's sat out in the weather corroding and, unless you're unlucky, it should be "reliable enough to put up with" at the very least. Japanese bike's from that era were generally very robust and relatively simple in design, though of course there were inherent dogs among them (eg Yam XS750). My one golden rule is to favour simplicity: eg air-cooled, and the less cylinders/carbs the better, but it sounds like you're sold on the big four Z...and besides many of the big fours are very solid, you just have to factor in things like four carb kits, four carb boots if yours are split, etc. The big Suzuki fours - the GS range - and bikes like the Yamahas, to the XJs and also the XS1100 have excellent reputations. Have a look here http://www.realclassic.co.uk/profiles.html
    • Informative Informative x 1
  3. I'll jump in here and back @mattb up here. A good bike in good condition is a good bike. I have a 1980 Honda CX500 and it will go all day, every day.

    However - be prepared to invest time and effort into fettling it, either your own time and effort or paying for someone else's. Once you have the bike sorted though I think it will probably stay sorted for some time. You just shouldn't be surprised if it takes a bit of effort and a few swear words to get it good. If it doesn't need any of that - then you've got a good one.

    Newsflash: I thought I had a good one, but it still had some surprises in store.

    This is why a good bike in good condition is the best place to start - particularly with a daily ride. And look and review (ahem, don't buy the first one you see, not that mine was really bad).

    Take note of course that you can probably sell it for the same price or more that you paid for it - if it's sorted. As a parts bike, not so much :).

    So a decent example generally at that vintage can be reliable, if the work has been done. If it hasn't - then it won't be. After a while things stopped falling off my bike as I worked out what to tighten (nothing vital, not so far, mostly just cheap cosmetic plastic crap and doodads that POs had stuck on with post-it notes).

    Not that I know the first damn thing about a Suzuki of that era, but if you found a good one, owned by an enthusiast, I'd be willing to bet it'd be reliable enough to be a daily driver (with the right swear words available).
  4. #4 mattb, May 3, 2013
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
    And I will in turn back Bob up! Two really good points:

    1.In every case I also have found that in the early days of ownership, I've had to fettle a few things. In my case it's typically just some issue like indicator wiring, or a carb clean. And then the bike settles into a hassle-free state. (My GT550 on the other hand was a reliable dog that always went but gave consistent problems, so it's a dice roll).

    2. The beautiful thing is that I have sold each bike on for the same or better money than I bought it - free bikes!
  5. If it's in good nick and you can afford it, buy it because air-cooled big Zs ain't going to be getting any cheaper anytime soon.
  6. Both my older bikes have been inherently reliable. The 550 Kat cost me $950 and I've replaced all fluids, cleaned the fuel system out and replaced clutch cable, chain and sprockets.

    The BMW R65LS even less.
  7. Lol - I am mooning over an 80s bmw k100rs to replace the CX. Complement it if i get my way.

    Mates think I am not right in the head but at least old bikes are interesting. Mate has committed to buying a new $20k bike every 3 years because he 'only buys new'. Makes for a non cheap hobby.

    Plus you can only approach his bike with sunglasses cos the damn thing is so shiny.
  8. Eight valve K100 has 100% (or near enough) off the shelf spares availability, is so beautifully engineered and thought out that it's possibly the simplest bike I've ever worked on including Eastern Bloc strokers, is made of archival quality materials and carries an engine which, given regular oil changes, will see 500,000 km without significant wear.

    Go for it.
  9. Go for it. I ride a 30 year old bike, not daily but twice a week. I know very little about maintainence, but I've got spares like mirrors and blinkers of Ebay and fitted them. Just choose wisely and keep it maintained. A bikes wants to be ridden, not kept in a museum.
  10. You're a good man @PatB. Now to convince SWMBO. Seems to think that cos she earns the money she has a say in how it is spent...

    And I agree bikes need to be ridden, only way to find the bugs to iron out.
  11. I was sort of thinking about making a TS250X a twice weekly ride, need to find out if RM250 piston kits will work though because proper TS250X ones cost as much as 4 stroke ones!! Plus, I don't know...

  12. "Darling, I've been thinking.... This motard is so dangerous - it makes me want to ride in ways that could easily get me seriously hurt. I'm thinking that maybe a classic bike would be a lot safer for me! Plus I hear they're a lot cheaper to own. Hmmm....what do you think?"
  13. The SXV is a seriously fast bike, I usually take off in second gear. I could probably spin that story haha.

    Thanks for all the replies, that's what I wanted to hear!

    I'll probably do some modifications to bring it up to standard with something more modern, front end off a ZRX1100, probably new shocks, maybe new front brake calipers depending on how they are after 32 years.
  14. Well, frankly they weren't that hot 32 years ago and, unlike wine, motorcycle components generally don't benefit from ageing.
  15. Brake calipers are a good idea - like Pat said, they weren't brilliant (for the time the brakes were adequate) and updating the rear suspension is a good idea.

    There's a lot of good advice on the web for the K series including a very active K owners Yahoo group (kbmw) and the I-BMW forums. There's a lot of good advice and support though the BMWMCCVIC as well.

    And don't worry about any whining noises from the motor - it's normal. :)
    And you should not pay over $3.5K for an immaculate one.
  16. The guy who sold me my '95 VFR had two bikes: it and an old Z1000. He said he could only keep one bike as a daily ride, so he sold the newer bike....
  17. You change the oil in that BMW twice a year regardless and more if you use it regularly .. change the filter every second time.. sort corrosion twice a year and do normal maintenance and you will be passing it on in your will long after most internal combustion engines have been deemed illegal. By then the engine will be properly run in
  18. And on a K100 grease the splines (a very straightforward job).
  19. Lol to be clear, OP wants the Kawasaki KZ1000J.

    I'm not the OP - I already have a fully functioning CX500 but I mentioned I am mooning over the K100RS. Sorry, thread derail a bit there.

    But it does all come back to whether classic bikes are practical. I get the feeling 80s bikes are eminently rideable in today's world (mostly - I have heard whispers of frame flex in dark corners) but that 70s bikes require a new level of dedication.

    I already like old bikes. Unfortunate that my maintenance skills are limited, but I'm learning. Slowly.

    Lubing the splines won't be of much interest to the OP, but perhaps to me... If I convince SWMBO to open the purse strings.