dear diary
July 4, 2004, 70,650km
Since last winter I have been looking for a bike to use in the winter in stead of the ZRX. As you could have seen above winter isn't the best time to ride a bike. Especially the salt causes damage to engine and other parts made of metal. So I wanted to buy a cheap bike to ride in the winter.
Today I went with Ton to the east of the Netherlands to have a look at a Kawasaki GT550. This bike is shaft driven and has a good reputation for durability. E.g. a lot of couriers in London have been using this bike.
The one I went to see has been built in 1983 and looked ok. What can you expect from a 21 year old bike? There was some rust here and there, the front brakes felt spongy (needs new oil) and the paint has had better days. But still I thought it would be worth while to buy this bike for € 750.


GT550 as shown on www.marktplaats.nl

This week I'll take care of the paperwork and go to pick it up.


July 6, 2004, 70,650km
Paperwork has been done (€ 10.20). Today I bought the service manual from another member of the Kawasaki Club (€ 10.00).


July 7, 2004, 70,800km
Picked the bike up today. I had to travel 150km to get home again on the GT but all wend well. Despite the rain the bike kept running smoothly. I've got to adjust the levers and stuff to my liking, but the first impression is that this isn't a bad bike. Reactions of the drive shaft are minimal and the engine sounds quite healthy. Brakes and handling are another story. Front brakes are hardly working. The brake fluid looks reddish in stead of clear. Tires and suspension need an overhaul I think. First I will replace the tires to see if the handling gets better. If not than the suspension will be checked/renewed. Indicator lights aren't working good either. They flash in an irregular manner. Could be the relais. I've got to buy another license plate too. The one that's on the bike now is illegal, because it's an old version.
Enough work to do. Just as well I've got three weeks vacation starting next week.


July 7, 2004, 70,800km
The first thing to do on the GT is to make it safe. After that it must be possible to use it legally. Then I will have a look at making it reliable and comfortable. After that I will have a look at its appearance.
Checklist GT550 improvement:
  • Change brake fluid
  • Check brake pads front and rear
  • Fit new tires
  • Mount new license plate
  • Fix indicator lights
  • Check suspension front and rear
  • Change engine and shaft oil
  • Check spark plugs
  • Check air filter
  • Adjust handles and gear lever
  • Grease cables
  • Check battery
  • Check wiring
  • Mount grip heating(?)
  • Paint exhaust and engine
  • Etc.


July 10, 2004, 70,800km
Bought some stuff to use on the bike:
DescriptionAmountPriceTotal (€)
License plate114.9514.95
Valvoline Tectyl ML17.297.29
Valvoline Penetrating Oil13.993.99
Hammerite Degreaser17.197.19
Sanding paper fine11.791.79
Sanding paper corse11.751.75
Hammerite heat resistant paint spray18.408.40
Hammerite heat resistant paint can113.9513.95
Paintbrush22.505.00
Grand Total64.31

July 11, 2004, 70,800km
Sprayed some screws I'm going to remove with penetrating oil in order to make this job more easy. Removed the license plate.
I noticed a lot of play on the gear lever where it's attached to the engine. Could be one of the causes of the cluncky downshifting. Wiring looks ok. Seems that the previous owners have left this alone.
Made some pics of the bike 'before'. I don't expect the appearance to improve a lot, main goal is to make the bike reliable for winter'sport'.


Ugly looking exhaust, but the sound is ok



Notice the reddish brake fluid...

GT550 and ZRX1200


I noticed that one bolt of the rack is gone and that another has been broken of. Especially the latter is inconvenient because I have no electricity in my garage and hence can't use a drill to get it out...
I'm a bit worried about the front brakes. I've read some owners comments on the net and it seems that the front brakes are hardly up to their job. It seems that the wear very fast and that the calipers are prone to seizing in winter. Just as well the rear brake is a sturdy drum version.


July 13, 2004, 70,810km
Degreased the engine and exhaust, drilled out the broken screw of the rack, removed tank, fairing, front indicator lights.
Ordered new front and rear tires (Bridgestone BT45's) and exhaust rings. Bought a cable greaser (€ 6.95) and some more Hammerite paint, but this time not heat resistant (€ 9.55).
After washing the bike it started a bit hesitant, probably due to wet sparkplug cables. That's something I can't have, so I think I'm going to replace the cables and probably the caps.
I tried putting some more air in the front and rear suspension. Front worked ok and is stiffer now, but still doesn't feel good. I couldn't do the rear because the nipple didn't fit.
Checked the battery and air filter. They both seem ok. Some cells of the battery need some water, that's all. Removed the exhaust and wheels. Wheel bearings of the rear wheel felt ok, of the front I thought I felt a little play. I have my garage check this out when I bring the wheels for the new tires.


Now I've removed the front wheel I could inspect the head bearing better, and it has some spots where you can feel some resistance. This is one cause for the lousy steering, and I have to dismantle it to have a better look. Maybe some adjusting is enough otherwise I've got to buy a new bearing.
I could have a close look at the front brake pads too and they are not completely worn, but since its all loose now I'd better change them too. The rear brake seems ok to me.
I must confess I have a lot of fun fixing this bike. It's been a long time I've done something myself on a bike. Maybe I've found a new pass time?


July 15, 2004, 70,810km
Tried to remove the bolts on top of the front suspension, but failed because I don't have the right tools. I sprayed it with penetrating oil and hope they will get loose tomorrow.
Measured the rear brake and it's close to the wear limit, so I'll replace it too.
Had a look at the spark plugs. The color whas fine (light brown), but the gap between the electrodes was way too large. I'll replace them anyhow, just to be sure.
Greased the clutch cable with teflon spray.
Painted the exhaust with the first layer of heat resistant paint.
Removed the instrumentcluster and head light.
Removed the sparkplug cables so they can be measured and replaced.
The tires got replaced. Inspecting of the frontwheel bearing learned that is was worn, just as I feared.
Bought some other stuff too:
DescriptionAmountPriceTotal (€)
Front tyre Bridgestone BT451106.00106.00
Rear tyre Bridgestone BT451121.00121.00
Front wheel bearings210.0020.00
Rear brake pads137.0037.00
Exhaust gasket42.8611.44
Sparkplugs Denso X24ESR-U43.0012.00
Grand Total307.44
I ordered the front brake pads too, which weren't on stock.


July 16, 2004, 70,810km
Still no luck with the suspension bolts. Painted the cylinders and cylinder head twice. Painted another layer on the exhaust.
Bought some copper grease (€ 2.50) to use on the spark plugs, etc.
Put a small sheet of metal between the gear lever linkage in order to remove some play. I believe it's a bit better now.
Sprayed tektyl under the rear mudgard.


July 17, 2004, 70,810km
Sprayed tektyl on the wheels. Painted the exhaust and engine again.
Next week I'm going on vacation to England, so the tektyl and paint can dry.


July 27, 2004, 70,810km
Bought some more stuff:
DescriptionAmountPriceTotal (€)
Front brake pads220.6841.36
Oil filter16.786.78
4l Oil125.0025.00
Shaft oil17.507.50
Spark plug cap43.3013.20
1mtr spark plug cable12.352.35
Grand Total96.19
I installed the brake pads, spark plug caps, spark plugs and spark plug cables. I've reinstalled the wheels too.
Still to do: upgrading front and rear suspension, checking steering head bearing, fixing the indicator lights and some other small things.


July 29, 2004, 70,810km
Painted some rusty parts. Removed the bolts on top of the front suspension. I could remove the springs too, so I can order new ones. Greased the throttle cable. Adjusted the steering head bearing. It had been assembled way too tight. It feels ok now. Changed the engine oil and oil filter.
The guy in the motorcycle shop advised me against replacing the front fork springs and said I'd better first try some heavier fork oil. He may be right, so I'll do that first.
DescriptionAmountPriceTotal (€)
1l Motul 20w30 fork oil112.0012.00
Grand Total12.00


July 30, 2004, 70,810km
Changed the front fork oil. The front still doesn't feel ok to me, a test ride should tell more.
Attached the exhaust again and started the engine for the first time in two weeks. It started almost immediate and idled very fine. Seems I haven't made a mistake fitting the new spark plug cables ;).


July 31, 2004, 70,810km
Attached all the rest of the stuff and made a tiny test drive. It all felt ok, but I think the suspension is still too soft.
The oil light didn't go out either which must be a faulty connection (I hope). Other things to do: change the brake fluid, change the shaft oil, buy a new indicator light relais and attach the license plate.


August 7, 2004, 70,810km
Changed the front brake oil today. However the brakes still don't do much. Could be a stuck caliper, or grease on the disks. I'll have to make a test ride to see if I get any improvement. Bought a new indicator light relais too. These things at last work now.
DescriptionAmountPriceTotal (€)
Shell Advance brake oil DOT4110.1010.10
Indicator light relais111.3511.35
Grand Total21.45



August 8, 2004, 70,845km
Made the first test run! Everything seemed ok. The suspension didn't feel too bad, the oil light eventually went out and even the front brakes got better along the way. I think the bike is ready for a wet weather test run. To see if all systems are waterproof.
The difference with my ZRX is quite great. I think the GT550 weighs almost as much, but has a lot less power. This is very noticable when accelerating. Handling of the ZRX is much better too. Probably due to the better suspension, tires and overall geometry. On the other hand: the GT shifts better up. Shifting down requires some attention and cannot be done hastily.


The finished GT550


September 2, 2004, 70,970km
Second test run. It all felt ok. The bike feels a bit unstable at higher speeds (ie > 120kmh). Front brakes are kinda ok too. But I can't use just two fingers to brake, I've got to use my whole hand to get some decent decelleration. Rear brake is quite good after adjusting it a bit.
The mirrors are of the kind 'Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are'. Dunno who has invented this, but it sucks.
Now and then the oil light starts to flash. I don't think it's because of lack of oil pressure (I hope), but because of a loose connection somewhere.
I think the bike is ready to do what I've bought it for: to bring me to and fro Amsterdam in lousy weather, to spare my good bike.


September 13, 2004, 71,060km
Finally, the first ride to my work and back. The GT behaved quite well. Engine runs smooth, shifting up is very nice, down is a bit cluncky. Brakes are ok, but I will try to prevent emergency stops, since they aren't that powerfull. Suspension should have an upgrade, it's too soft and a bit unstable at higher speeds. But since it isn't dangerous I think I'd better spend my money on other things. At 244 km I ran out of fuel, at 246 km I filled the tank with 17 liters of fuel. That means an average fuel consumption of about 1 liter for each 14 kilometers. That's quite a bit more than I expected. I hoped for something like 1:20.


September 21, 2004, 71,535km
While lane splitting (which is allowed in the Netherlands) a car driver decided to suddenly change lanes right in front of me. I hit the brakes hard and at the same time took evasive actions. The latter cannot be recommended when you have proper front brakes, but with the GT the front wheel kept on rolling, so I could steer at the same time. The rear brake locked and I layed down a 'darky' on the road. The bike went sideways, which was for me the clue to release the brakes and to do some more steering. Again a narrow escape and a nice break in the daily routine .


September 25, 2004, 71,800km
Checked the head bearing again. I felt a little bit of resistance while turning the handlebar, so I tried to loosen the bearing a bit. Since I wanted to do it quick I used the brute force method with screwdriver and hammer without loosening the top nut. I could only loosen the bottom nut a tiny bit before almost destroying it. Afterwards there still was a little bit of resistance, but if I want to do a proper job I've got to have a bit more of time.


September 29, 2004, 72,000km
Measured the fuel consumption again. This time I rode 330km with only 15 liters of fuel. That's 1 liter for every 22km. That's more like it. I guess I must have been fiddling with the trip reset button the last time I measured it. That means that I can do more than 400km on one fuel load. That's not bad at all.
On my way to work I saw two other GT550's. So there are more people out there that can recognize a good commuter bike when they see one.
My GT begins to make a bit of noise from the engine. It sounds like the exhaust is leaking somewhere. Let's hope that's all it is. I'm going to check it as soon as I have the time.


September 30, 2004, 72,150km
I made some time today. It was indeed the exhaust. Almost all the nuts that fix the header to the engine were more or less loose. It looks like the engine vibrates more than you can feel. Thanks to the silent blocs you feel hardly any vibration, except when idling. After fastening the nuts and starting the engine it ran as smooth as ever.


October 3, 2004, 72,450km
Made the first real tour with the GT today. It was a tour organized by the Kawasaki Club and it led us over some dykes near the place where I live, so I knew all the roads already very well. Still it was a nice ride and the GT performed flawless. I think the GT was to oldest bike at the tour today.

Waiting for the ferry


End of the tour. Old GT among new(er) Kawasaki's


October 9, 2004, 72,927km
Loosend the head bearing a bit more, but haven't tried it yet. The license plate was attached with one screw only, so I fixed this too. Wanted to change the shaft oil, but when I loosend the bolt to check the level there was already leaking some oil out. This oil looked clean to me, so I decided to save myself the trouble and leave the oil alone.


October 13, 2004, 73,037km
The head bearing feels ok. Steering is very light now. Maybe I should buy a steeringdamper now .
Today I bought Gerbing heated gloves and I'm going to fix them to my bikes asap.


October 16, 2004, 73,216km
Fixed the wiring for the heated gloves to the battery. I tried the gloves and they didn't get as warm as expected, but maybe it takes some time before they get really warm, or maybe the current warmth is enough to keep out the cold.
I think I have a problem with my rainsuit and the heated gloves. The rainsuit is in one piece, how on earth can I attach the gloves to the wiring on the bike without making a hole in the suit??


October 18, 2004, 73,307km
Tried the heated gloves for the first time. On my way to work I had the temp at max and my hands got a bit too hot for my liking. On my way home I had dialed the temp half way and that was much better. I think I'm going to like these gloves very much. Today wasn't a real good day for a test because temperatures were around 13 degrees celcius. But so far so good.


November 13, 2004, 74,482km
Because I use the bike mainly to lane split between traffic jams, I thought it would be more safe to use a headlight with a color that's different from what is mainly used by cars. At the shop I saw the new Philips NightGuide bulbs with three colors of light: left - yellow for more viewing comfort, center - maximum illumination, right - cool white for better reflection of roadside information. I hope that with this different colored light I will be noticed sooner by the cagers.


November 16, 2004, 74,620km
The horns didn't work when I needed them to warn off a cager. Must have touched a wire when replacing the front light. Got to fix this asap.


November 26, 2004, 75,390km
Ooops, almost lost it again. Same thing like on September 21st: I lane splitting, car decided to switch lanes right in front of me without looking. I braked hard, rear brake locked, I released and steered, braked hard again, rear locked again, I released, steered and was clear of any danger. Heartbeat above 200. Another narrow escape. How long will I stay this lucky? Or is it experience and reflexes that will keep saving me?


November 27, 2004, 75,390km
Tried to fix the horns today, but i couldn't find the culprit without taking half the bike apart. And I didn't feel like dismantleing the bike, so I'm hornless for at least another week.
I bought very bright blue leds to fix on the windscreen so cagers would notice me sooner. When I got home I saw that the leds were of the blinking kind, and it is very forbidden to use flashing blue lights on non-police vehicles, so I won't be using them. Contact me if you're interested in them .


December 22, 2004, 77,000km
Happily we've had the shortest day, now it's going the right way.
The GT is riding fine, also in temps below zero.


December 24, 2004, 77,150km
Oh, oh. While riding through an orange traffic light I saw a flash behind me. So I guess it was red when the back of the bike past the traffic light. If I get a ticket for riding through red light it wil cost me 96 euro .


2005


January 21, 2005, 78,550km
The GT is still going strong, although steering seems to be a bit off again. I suspect that the steering head bearing is too tight again. I think I'm going to fix that together with the horn. Which might take a while since it is too cold to do any work on the bike.


January 23, 2005, 78,550km
Did some servicing on the bike today. Checked the tire pressure with my new digital tire pressure gauge I got for my birthday. Tire pressure was way off and I added the necessary air. Added some oil to the engine and fixed the license plate holder that had worked itself loose again.
Put some air in the front suspension too. Maybe together with the correct tire pressure handling will improve a bit.


February 9, 2005, 79,650km
While lanesplitting an unmarked police car suddenly drove before me with flashing lights and horns. He tried to do the same as I. Of course I followed him closely. It was interesting to see how the cagers in the traffic jam would react. I must say that most of them noticed the police car in time, but there were some that just stood there in the middle of their lane and had no clue of what was going on. How blind and deaf can you be? It was no real surprise for me though: I never ride on my bike trusting that the other one will see me, because most of the time they won't.
After a few kilometers the police car had to go another way and I had to do the lanesplitting all by myself again.


February 14, 2005, 80,000km
Today I crossed the 80,000km mark. Bike is still going strong. Must be a Kawi: indestructible (I hope).


February 21, 2005, 80,365km
Seems I spoke too soon. Today the speedometer stopped working. I hope it's only the cable, since it can be replaced quite easily.


February 22, 2005, 80,365km
Things start to break down this week. Today my left electrical glove stopped working. And that with temperatures around zero degrees celcius.
Gerbing has a live time warranty on electrical components, so I'm going to get some new gloves for free asap.


February 25, 2005, 80,365km
The day before yesterday I phoned Gerbing about my gloves. "No problem", they said, "where can we send the new gloves to?" Excuse me? It's that simple? Yes it is! So I have them send to my work address and today I received them: brandnew gloves of the latest model. And I can keep the old ones too, which are prefectly fine gloves, except for the electrical problems. Unbelievable.
So if you want to buy heated gloves: buy GERBING! The gloves are perfect and the service even better.


March 2, 2005, 80,365km
Today we've had the most snow in 20 years! So I decided to go with public transport to my work, which was a good decision I think. Why get yourself in trouble if it isn't really necessary?


Winter in Amsterdam

March 4, 2005, 80,365km
Last night we've had the coldest night ever measured in March: -20.7 degrees Celcius. Still going with public transport to my work...


March 8, 2005, 80,365km
Well, the snow disappeared quite quickly, so I went with the GT to my work again. More fun and faster than with public transport.


March 9, 2005, 80,365km
Lost my license plate. Again. Well, the previous one was of the ZRX, but still... Luckily I still had the old -illegal- one, and I've put that one on the bike. Hopefully the police will have some mercy. Doubt it though...


March 16, 2005, 80,365km
Twelve days after the -20 degrees we now have +20 degrees celcius, another weather record broken. Feels much better .


March 25, 2005, 80,365km
Checked the speedo cable, but it was ok. Too bad, cause that would have been easy to fix. Now the problem of the not working speedometer lies somewhere else: the connection at the wheel, or it's the speedometer itself. I've sprayed the connection at the wheel with WD40, maybe that'll work.


April 2, 2005, 80,365km
Today I ordered a new license plate to replace the old -illegal- one. It should be ready next week.


April 10, 2005, 80,365km
Yesterday I picked up the new license plate (costs 15 euro) and fitted it today. At last legal again.


April 25, 2005, 83,965km (est.)
Had some problems starting the bike this morning. I think I wanted to start it to quickly and drowned it. After a while it started at last. To start the bike all you've got to do is to pull the choke all way out and press the starter button. It's wrong to add a little bit of throttle, I know now.
To keep track of the amount of kilometers I've done with the bike I'll estimate the numbers. I think I've been about 40 times to Amsterdam and back after the speedo stopped working, that's 40 x 90 = 3600km. Added to the 80,365km that's still on the odo makes 83,965km.


May 10, 2005, ?km
After a week of riding the ZX-12R I mounted this morning the GT again. Boy does it have a lousy suspension. And those weak brakes.
Still it started with a press of the starterswitch and it brought me to and fro Amsterdam without problems.


June 9, 2005, ?km
The front tire is cupping. I've read somewhere that this can be caused by a bad suspension. I guess this must be right, since the GT does have a bad suspension.


June 17, 2005, ?km
I guess this is the end of the GT550. This evening I collided with a lane changing car while I was lane splitting (allowed in the Netherlands). I ran into his front fender and ended on the tarmac, gasping for breath. After a little while I could breath normally again and felt a pain in my ribs and right arm. Thankfully it's 'just' some bruising. The GT and my helmet weren't that lucky. The helmet did its job of protecting my head and is a write off. And so is the GT I think. There's quite some damage on screen, handle bar, levers, indicators, instrument cluster, mirrors, etc.
Considering the worth of the GT before the crash I think this damage will render it a write off. Of course insurance will cover most of it, but it will be a first for insurance companies to cover all of the damage. Most of the time they'll say that something has lost a certain amount of value and this money you'll get. But for that money you don't have e.g. a new helmet, or another bike.
Most annoying of this event is that I thought that I was quite good in lane splitting, that I had a certain sixth sense for trouble, and that my reflexes were good enough to keep me out of harms way. Which they obviously didn't. That's a bit scary. Especially considering that I have to lane split every working day, twice a day. And for the time being I've got to use the ZX-12R...


June 22, 2005, ?km
The damage expert of the insurance company has seen the bike and has declared that it's a complete write off. I can take the wreckage home and he advises the insurance company that my total damage is 750 euro. It wouldn't be bad at all if they will pay this amount of money.
I'm already looking for a replacement. First I was looking for another GT550, but now I'm thinking about a Yamaha XJ900. It's shaft driven too, and has some more cc's. I've heard it's quite economical to drive one too.


June 25, 2005, ?km
Today I picked up the GT at my dealer and drove it home. I had to pay 150(!) euro for the expert to have a walk around my bike. Got to see if I can get this money back from the insurance company.

Helmet after doing its job


June 29, 2005, ?km
Sold the bike this evening for 100 euro. Maybe I could have received more for the bike, since there were 2 more interested guys, but I thought it was enough for the bike in this condition.


July 2, 2005, ?km
Bought a Yamaha XJ900F as replacement. Read all about it here.


July 3, 2005, ?km
The new owner picked up the GT today. That's the end of another motorcycling chapter of me.
My thoughts about the GT550: a very nice bike. Perfect for commuting: low fuel consumption, shaft-driven, comfortable, no vibrations. Om the downside perhaps the handling (it's a quite heavy bike and has a weak suspension) and the weak front brakes. But both points don't mean much if you've got to lane split every day. If I had to buy another bike just for commuting it would be another GT550 without a doubt! But because I want to do more with my second bike (e.g. long trips) I've bought the Yamaha.


THE END

September 7, 2005
Well, maybe the end of the GT550, but not the end of legal procedures.
It seems that the driver of the car that hit me told the insurance company I was driving with a speed of 50-70kmh. This would mean that I was driving faster than allowed and that the insurance company will not pay for all of my damage.
But if this cager could estimate my speed, this means he saw me and despite this he switched lanes? Sounds like involuntary manslaughter to me?
I'm sure he didn't see me and that he is lying now. All in all this means that I'm facing a long and nasty legal procedure to get some of the money I'm entitled to. B*st*rd...


March 18, 2006
At last the insurance companies have made their mind up. Last month the insureance company of the car drive came with a proposal of settling the case 50:50, since, they argued, both parties were at fault. I guess my legal aid didn't agree, because today I got a letter stating that all my costs were being paid: 750 euro for the bike, 100 euro for the helmet and 25 euro interest. That's all save the cost for the expert (150 euro). But I don't really care about that: I'm happy that after 3/4 year it's all settled now.


THE -real- END

June 27, 2006
The story continues: my legal aid has managed to get the cost for the expert back as well. Now, after more than a year, I've got all my money back.


THE -real real- END



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