IENATSCH TUESDAY: Projects Old and New

Riding a motorcycle is best, but working on projects like my 1986 GSX-R1100 and a new 2015 FZ-07 Racer is a close second.

GSX-R right-side close-up

This column started last winter with my purchase of a sad and sorry 1986 GSX-R1100. It wasn't the first abused kitten to enter my life and it won't be the last, but it might be the most fun.

I redressed the bike in GSX-R750 Limited Edition bodywork from a dusty garage shelf, painted it after sanding away the oxidation and rust, coated the wheels with Ford tractor paint, slipped on some Avons, and then started riding the hell out of it. The thing is a freight train, stable as a Mount Rushmore and has proven to be all I hoped it would be.

Except I was making it a bit too precious.

white GSX-R static side view
finished GSX-R static right-side view

Which one is better? Sure, the “1052 Limited” looks pretty but that beauty and rarity makes it too fragile for me to “use as intended.” GSX-Rs are not meant to be finicky collectors’ items that run occasionally and for a very short time. Somehow, this one survived 29 years and at least 37,900 miles…who was I to end that run of bad-assery? “Better” can mean a lot of things; for motorcycles. it often means “rideable.”

You know what I mean. I took a junkyard dog with a rough-and-ready ancestry of let’s-get-it-on riding on backroads, dragstrips, and road courses and got busy making it an untouchable prima donna.

“No, I can’t take the 11 because my backpack will scratch the LTD tail section.”

“I don’t want to ride it today because the driveway’s muddy.”

“I’ll just take the truck, I don’t want to leave the 11 out overnight with that bodywork on it.”

The old GSX-R that I practically got for free was headed down the same path so many of my other bikes had taken: Too precious to actually ride!

“So, why did you even buy that thing?” That was the question Judy asked from the seat of her XT250 as she watched me bypass the GSX-R for my FZ1 to ride into town. We would be on dirt roads and her question was a good one. Why would I leave my 29-year old almost-free bike in the garage and put dusty miles on my incredible do-it-all FZ1? Both were up to the task, but the Limited bodywork had put a serious dent into the bike’s usefulness in my mind.

That night, the LTD bodywork went back onto the shelf and the big Suzuki sat naked as I evaluated the stock plastics. During the initial flurry of work on this bike, I had cleaned, plastic-welded, cut, sanded, and primed the stock body. As I looked over the pieces more closely, the soldering iron came out again and I plastic-welded for a few more days. My sandpaper and files did a bit more trimming. It felt good and I was back to what I truly wanted when I bought this bike: A clean sheet of paper that could not be any worse, no matter what I did.

GSX-R fairing sides

How bad can it get? Pretty bad. The stock fairing sides were so devastated that I just hacked the bottom two inches off each side. The mounting tabs were shattered so I plastic-welded some material into place and drilled through the whole mess. My fallback was knowing that AirTech makes all-new parts that could save the day if my “fabrication” skills failed.

By the third day, the 1100 was ready to ride and we scooted through 250 miles of Colorado canyons. Two days later, more plastic welding was needed when a tab broke on the left side. Then more miles. Nothing wrong. More miles and again no problems. Strap my tailbag on the back, push the button, ride the bike, and leave it parked anywhere. Few gave the re-liveried GSX-R a second look when only a week before it had been hard to miss.

new brake rotors

Have you had a brake rotor explode on you? It’s followed immediately by “bad things,” and those things prompted me to ditch the (probably original) warped rotors for EBC’s finest. The instructions told me to not fit used pads to new rotors, so new pads went in too. Drastic improvement in feel and power.

The odometer had frozen at 37,946.7, and I’ll bet the front brake rotors had seen every one of those miles and more. The bike shuddered under braking and the rotors were already too thin to turn. My research showed that EBC made perfect-fit rotors and I ordered a pair. Problem solved in 30 minutes and the EBC stainless pieces are beautiful in looks and execution, while eliminating the last doubt I had in this bike. I’ve seen cracked rotors explode in painful ways and running those thin warped rotors had my imagination jumping all over the place every time I squeezed on the brakes.

I’ve been playing with the needle position in the stock carburetors and watching for a used aftermarket shock, but mainly I’ve been enjoying this bike in the manner intended. It was never meant to be a limited-edition Sunday-mornings-only, please-don’t-touch piece of two-wheeled jewelry. My life has been full of those and I had been on the way to creating another.

The freight train is back on the rails. No, I won’t leave it primer white but I’ve made a promise to myself to keep it “useful” because I love to ride it, not just look at it.

white GSX-R static side view

The AP MotoArts Yamaha FZ-07 Racer: An SV650’s worst nightmare?

Yamaha FZ-07 racebike

Many feel the Lightweight Twins class is the most fun class of racing. It's dominated by Suzuki's SV650, a full-size bike that makes enough power to entertain all but the most jaded racers. There isn't much prize or contingency money available and that keeps the desperation at bay. The SVs are affordable and modifications are proven and available. Someone once said you can buy an SV crankshaft at your local 7-Eleven store.

Cowboy riding the Yamaha FZ-07

Rich “Cowboy” Stampp (31) debuts the FZ-07R with a pair of wins at the CVMA. A new player has come to Lightweight Twins.

But last weekend the SVs at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway were beaten twice by Rich "Cowboy" Stampp on his AP MotoArts Yamaha FZ-07. Cowboy instructs for Yamaha Champions Riding School and we've been anxiously awaiting the debut of the Andy Palmer-built Yamaha twin. We absolutely love the bike in stock form at the school, and Cowboy, Palmer, and the motorcycle-crazies at Trackdaz trackday group put together a bike that won the first time out.

Palmer can refit the stock forks with race-ready springs and damping rates, but for this first racer he fit R6 forks matched to a K-Tech shock. The R6 fork swap only required a custom top stem bearing to work. Palmer changed the rear shock link as well and Stampp was delighted with how well the bike changed direction.

The engine mods at this point are simple and limited to a Flash-Tuned reflashed ECU with quickshifter and a Yoshimura pipe. “A few of the really built SVs could outrun me on the straights, but the FZ’s chassis made up the difference,” Cowboy reported. And you can bet this team has plans for engine mods.

The bike looks GP-trick and Palmer chased the look of the new R1 with his Catalyst Racing Composites bodywork kit. “It was important to us that it look like a Yamaha,” Palmer relates. “Yamahas are dominant in open and middleweight grids across the country and this FZ should carry that tradition into the Lightweight Rwins classes.”

Yamaha FZ-07R static view

Done. The FZ-07R looks the part and in the capable hands of Stampp proved to be an exciting Lightweight Twins racer. It rides on Pirelli Supercorsa SC1s and won with a surprisingly stock engine. Palmer fabricated adjustable mounting plates that can relocate the stock footpegs and also the Graves pegs this bike wears.

I support affordable racing and the Lightweight Twins class at most clubs provides the best bang for the buck. Palmer figures his shop can deliver an all-new FZ-07 racer for about $12,800 (total, including FZ-07 purchase) in Supersport trim utilizing the stock fork or around $15,000 for the Formula-type classes, and that would include a slipper clutch the company is sourcing. Palmer was thrilled that his FZ-07R won the first time out, but gets a bigger smile when he hears how much fun it is to ride. “Everybody who’s been on this thing loves it, and says it’s a blast to ride.”

Yamaha FZ-07R static side view

More next Tuesday!

Photo #1

GSX-R right-side close-up.Nick Ienatsch

Photo #2

White GSX-R static side view.Nick Ienatsch

Photo #3

Finished GSX-R static right-side view.Nick Ienatsch

Photo #4

GSX-R fairing sides.Nick Ienatsch

Photo #5

New brake rotors.Nick Ienatsch

Photo #6

White GSX-R static side view.Nick Ienatsch

Photo #7

AP MotoArts Yamaha FZ-07 Racer.Nick Ienatsch

Photo #8

"Cowboy" on the AP MotoArts Yamaha FZ-07 Racer.CaliPhotography

Photo #9

AP MotoArts Yamaha FZ-07 Racer.Nick Ienatsch

Photo #10

AP MotoArts Yamaha FZ-07 Racer.Nick Ienatsch