Friday, 29 June 2018

Kawasaki GT750

I wasn't all that keen on the looks of the GT at first. It looked a bit plain with its all black engine and paintwork looking the colour of something that’s normally found on roads leading into farm yards. I did quite fancy the shaft drive.

After my Z650, the engine was incredibly smooth thanks to the rubber mountings. After a 20 mile ride on a demo bike I was impressed enough to trade in the 650 for a new un. When I got the new bike home, I noticed that there was some oil on the tyre, it was dripping from the gear housing on the rear wheel. This turned out to be a faulty oil seal and was renewed a week later, along with one of the side panels which had a crack in it.

The oil seal never gave any more trouble in 33000 miles, although I did notice that some oil did drip out of the gear housing at odd times in cold weather. A mechanic told me that this was blowing out of the breather hole and was cured by dropping the oil level down a bit.

A couple of weeks after picking the GT up, I decided to fit Krauser panniers from the 650 - I ended up with a bike that was over three foot wide and would probably knock peds off foot paths, I could not even get out of the front gate with them on. Some mods to the brackets got things a little better.

After a couple of months, the GT had about 2500 miles on the clock and the back tyre was wearing down fast, the central groove had almost disappeared. My god, I thought, surely tyres are going to last longer than this - 2500 miles and I’ve only been running it in.

I took it back to the garage for the 3000 mile service when I had a Roadrunner R2 fitted. This proved better on grip and wear. I was quite relieved to find that it was hardly worn after 2500 miles. The front tyre lasted for 6000 miles, the Roadrunner fitted then did 9000 miles.

The next rear Roadrunner lasted only two days! I was coming home late one night when there was a very loud bang. I stopped and found that the rear tyre was flat. I pushed the bike home, there I found that there was an half inch open ended spanner sticking out of the tyre. It must've been flicked up by the front wheel. The back tyre was a write off. A few days later I had a Roadrunner AM21 fitted which both gripped and wore better still.

The suspension had air springing, front and rear. The rear I was never able to get on with as it seemed such a performance to alter the pressure in them whenever you wanted to carry a pillion. I replaced these with Koni Dial-A-Ride shocks, which in my opinion were far superior and got rid of the problem of the air shocks bottoming out, letting the rear tyre wear through the wiring under the back mudguard.

As I have already stated, the engine is very smooth. From 3000rpm there is no step in power at all, just a smooth steady flow right round to the redline. Below three grand there always seemed an annoying flat spot that was most noticeable when pulling away from a standstill, and seemed to get worse when the weather was very hot. It did seem to improve if the carbs were properly balanced. I have read of the problem in the glossies so it’s a common fault.

One of the best things about the GT was the range of the five and a half gallon tank - about 220 miles at 50mpg before running onto reserve. The fuel gauge was a bit of a joke, after 180 miles the gauge would show empty and a red warning light would flash on and off, which was rather annoying.

Comfort was very good, with a wide, soft seat that remained comfortable after many miles. The footrests were a bit high and too far forward; I always tended to ride with my toes on the pegs. I fitted a GPz type handlebar fairing that I bought from Ranger Developments, colour matched with GT brackets, it bolted on with no problems. The fairing was quite effective for its size, keeping a bit of wind off your chest.

Care should be taken when fitting tank bags, as on full lock, the engine kill switch can hit the bag as I found out when on holiday in Wales, I’d just pulled out of a pubcar park on full lock and the engine cut out, making the bike topple over. Very embarrassing.

The brakes were very good and well up to stopping the machine when fully loaded with panniers et al, whatever the weather. They never gave any problems apart from the inside pad on the rear caliper seizing up now and again. It did help, though, if the sides of the pads were coated with Copaslip. 

Front disc pads lasted about 12000 miles, the original pads replaced with Ferrodo Formula 1 pads and after that EBC, which I found were the best. When I sold the bike it still had the original rear disc pads. 

Just before the warranty ran out, the exhaust system was replaced as the front down pipes were going rusty. I believe Kawasaki had quite a few problems with black exhausts at that time. The black engine turned out to be easier to clean than the alloy one on the 650. The worst part to keep clean were the gold wheels, as they became coated in brake dust.

After 3 years they were looking so bad that I took them off and re painted them with Hammerite smooth gold paint, which I found easier to keep clean. The finish on the tank was quite good, although rust did start to appear behind the tank badges after a couple of years.

Once the warranty had run out, I did most of the servicing myself, apart from the shims on the valves which I took to the garage when they needed doing although that was only once at 12000 miles. Oil and filter were changed every 3000 miles along with the plugs, the air filter was also cleaned (wash in petrol, soak in oil). The oil in the rear wheel housing was changed at 18000 miles. Apart from these items there was little / to bother with.

When the GT had done about 26000 miles the gearbox got stuck in third. I was about ten miles from home and managed to ride it back with no great trouble, even negotiating a a uphill hairpin bend near where I live with ease. The problem turned out to be a broken spring on the claw that turns the selector drum. It meant I had to take the shaft drive off and remove the bevel gear housing. Easy to do but very fiddly to get back together. The spring only cost 99p but took lots of phone calls to track down. The problem is apparently very rare. 

I never used the GT in the winter because I don't like black ice. I used it mainly for commuting to work in the good weather, going to race meetings and for my holidays. Twice I went to Wales on touring holidays and found it was well up to the job, even returning over 60mpg just pottering through the lanes, up and down mountain passes. I always found that it was very deceptive because the motor was so smooth - on motorways it was very easy to romp along at the ton without even realising it.

In 1988 I felt the GT was getting on a bit and I very reluctantly sold it. I did think about getting another one, but in the end I bought a new Yamaha XJ900, this being the only shaft drive, other than the GTs, which was in my price range. I have had the XJ for nearly a year now and it is every bit as good as the GT, being a lot more powerful but not quite as smooth. I still think the GT was one of the best bikes I’ve owned, I | just hope the XJ carries on living up to it.

Brian Penfold

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