I wanted to share pictures of the two Kawasakis I used to own. Although it has been quite
a while since I rode, I still remember and love the days I ran the streets on two of the fastest bikes of
their day. I rode from early 1978 through 1983. It ended when an old lady in a big Ford LTD tank
pulled out in front of me one morning while I was doing 45 mph on my H1E.
It died and I got messed up pretty bad. I never could get to where I could hit second gear
on my Z1 the way I wanted so I sold it about a year later. I miss both to this day.
My Kawasaki 500H1E was truly a two-stroke, three cylinder rocket. I believe it was
faster than my 900 in 100 yards or less. All I had to do to beat up on other bikes, and any
car, was to hang on, it did all the work. It was totally stock. I bought it from a fellow Marine, also
from Kentucky, just as I left the Marine Corps in January 1978. I trailered it home just as it appears in the
My Z1 wasn't exactly 'factory'. I bought it from a guy that messed with Kawasaki 900/1000s in his garage all
day long. It was too serious for it to be just a hobby for him. He and his
family lived a few houses down from my parents and when he found out I rode a Kawasaki
500, he asked me if I was interested in buying his 900. Didn't take me a second to make up
my mind! After I bought it, he always kept it tuned to the max. If you look close, the pipes
are just a little brown, not dark brown or bright blue from running too rich or lean. Not bad
for a bike almost 9 years old when I sold it, huh?
He had 'tricked' it out a bit. First, he had installed Mikuni wide throat carbs. Next he added
'4 into 2' Jardine headers. Although the very popular Kerker '4 into 1' was seen on more
Kawasaki 900/1000s than '4 into 2's, the difference in performance was hardly noticeable plus I kept
the Jardines because I liked the balanced look of the '4 into 2's much better. I didn't
install the 'cross-over exhaustpipes' coming out of the engine because they had to be moved
to change the oil and replace the oil filter. I kept the collector/baffles of the exhaust sections on
each side. At first I had trumpet-shaped pipes, but their baffles kept getting blown out during hard
accelleration. (Funny, everytime I lost a baffle, local police honed into my 'excessively loud
exhaust'. Although I never got a ticket, I was pulled over dozens of times for riding a loud motorcycle
that was nothing near as loud as the current Harleys that roar by my home today!) After a year or so, I
changed from the 'trumpets' to a curved out exhaust system. That's what's pictured here. I
liked them better because not only would their baffles would stay put, I think they looked
Third, he had replaced the stock rear shocks with Mullholland Drag Shocks. They kept the
rear end from dropping during hard accelleration and turns yet still provided a comfortable
ride on the street/highway.
That's a Harley 16" rear rim in a fat Goodyear Eagle tire. It grabbed real good and added to
the quick take-off speed of my Z1. The LTD style seat was a necessity, not a pretty option.
It kept the bike from sliding out from under me. Another Goodyear Eagle on the front and
you can see I did have one bad ass bike!
Cosmetics included after-market dual horns, chrome plated gauge covers, shortened mirror
stems, plus I always covered the gauges with a shop towel held on with a big rubberband I
carried whenever I parked it that kept the gauges (especially the tach) from fading. Instead of a funky
orangish/pink, my 'red line' was still red!
I wanted to share these photos to show that at one time I did ride two of the fastest
motorcycles around. I only got beat in one single race on the Z1 and that was to a
turbocharged KZ-1000. The fastest I ever took it to was 145 mph in fourth gear (along
part of rural U.S. Highway 31E near Hodgensville, KY). Most of the time when someone
wanted to try and beat me in any sort of a somewhat organized street race, I'd use the H1E.
It could take most other bikes in a short race. If it couldn't, I could always ride my 900.
My brother had a Kaw 650 with a Kerker '4 into1' the last few years I rode. We'd race our
bikes against each other, swapping from one to another.
Although I haven't ridden a motorcycle since, I do remember what it was like being able to
out accellerate damn near everything else on the street, car or motorcycle. I remember how fast both of my
Kawasakis could go, how quick they could get there and how dangerous they were. I'm sure the
current bunch of motorcycles are much the same, perhaps a bit faster,
but no more safe than mine were. Add to that, unlike most of today's riders, I always wore a helmet with a
full face-shield. Wearing a helmet was law back then but after having my face struck by Bumble Bees,
June Bugs, large Grasshoppers and other hard bodied insects at speeds of over 100 mph, riding with a full
face-shield helmet was more about not having
bugs smashing into my teeth and/or shot down my throat or getting a knot put on my
Wanted to share the fact that I did ride some bad ass motorcycles at one time earlier in my
Thanks for your story, Tony. Paul Mercer (webmaster)
Nostalgia time again...as one gets older, the better the stories get!
I rode my 900 north/south across the Commonwealth of Kentucky several times a month and
almost always on either US 31-E or 31-W (long story but both parallel Interstate 65 from the borders with
Indiana and Tennessee). Both of these were mostly rural two-lane highways so I usually rode in the 80+
mph range. That was until I'd see a Kentucky State Trooper on the prowl.
One Friday afternoon, while heading towards my Grandparents' farm just south of Glasgow
(Kentucky, not Scotland), I was rolling along 'mindin' my own
business' when I saw an
approaching State Trooper. After I shot by him, he stopped, pulled a u-turn and began to
shorten the gap between us, fast.
While he was still about a half mile behind me and closing, it happened! Even though I was
still doing close to 70 mph, I noticed something moving in from off to my right. It was blurry,
looked pretty big and coming right at me. SPLAAT!!! The biggest damn grasshopper I've ever seen
hit my front brake lever and exploded into a brown, lumpy, juicy mist!
Gooey, slick grasshopper juice coated my hand, blew up my right arm and splattered across
my chest. I had replaced the stock handlebar grips on my Z1 with smooth ones because they had dug into my
hands on longer trips. This incident had me wishing I still had the original grips! My hand became so
slick I could barely keep the throttle open and, despite my hard efforts to wipe that gunk off onto my shirt and
jeans, my hand just seemed to get slicker and slicker.
I was able to continue on, State Trooper still on my tail, and stopped at the first gas station I came to
in Hodgenville (the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln). As I stepped off the bike, the
Trooper got out and began to walk over. He had the biggest grin on his face and began to
laugh when he asked me what I had hit. Apparently the grasshopper had made a big enough splat that
he had seen it from behind. He said it looked like a 'brown mist' had sprayed off my right side but he could
not figure what it was or what I was trying to do. His curiousity was the main reason he had
continued to follow me, not my speeding.
I told him what had happened and that I was going to clean up before heading on. He laughed, told me to be
careful and to watch out for 'anymore of those two pound
grasshoppers'! I know he had to have spred that story among his fellow Troopers!
I had hit all sorts of bugs, even a few birds, during my Kawasaki Days, but nothing compares to that bigazz
grasshopper except for the Yellow Jacket that hit me on the forehead, then crawled up under my helmet. That
thing stung me four times across the top of my skull before I could stop and kill it as it crawled
out and headed down my back. That was THE bug that got me to wear a full-face shield on all of
my helmets from then on.
Ohh those days ridin' fast on my Z! 'Let the GOOD Times
Thanks for your story again, Tony. This is exactly what I want people
to put on this website.
Not just the motorcycle specs, but the times that we remember.
As the saying goes....