It was a nice warm sunny afternoon and a customer of ours came in to sell us a 2003 Kawasaki Voyager. I had never owned a motorcycle of this size, a big touring bike, but I knew that I wanted to do some traveling with my wife who tours the country on a BMW. The Finger Lakes BMW Rally was coming up as we approached the Labor Day Weekend. So I purchased the motorcycle from the customer after we negotiated a price. I had hesitations as the motorcycle was only running on 3 cylinders, the forks were collapsed, and the fairing was hitting the front fender. But because of my roots in Kawasaki, I just had to take the chance on it.
Fortunately, our mechanic, Eric, had experience with these motorcycles and he highly endorsed the performance, handling dependability and rideability that this motorcycle offered. The bike only had 14,000 miles on the odometer, and we figured we’d give it a try.
Eric pulled the bike into the shop, pulled the carbs and went to town with it. The collapsed forks were just an air pressure issue, and the carb cleanup was routine for Eric as well as the general maintenance performed.
Eric started working on the motorcycle on a Thursday. I wasn’t sure if he was going to finish the bike before our upcoming Labor Day trip, but he did. We had ordered some new Avon Tyres for it which hadn’t arrived, however we used the trusty old Dunlops for the trip. I rode the bike in town a little. It seemed very awkward at the beginning as I am more used to riding Z1s, H2s, KZs, and some vintage BMWs. My heart was not into this motorcycle.
After the bike preparation, Robin and I departed for Watkins Glen, NY, taking the back roads on Route 6 across PA. It was a treat for me to ride a bike fitted with a tour pack and hard saddle bags, including liners, as well as AM/FM cassette tape player, cruise control, fairing vents, etc. Deep down inside, I am a true “naked bike” rider at heart. When we were young, we used to laugh at people who rode with windshields, as this was the first thing that came off the motorcycles. Now I’m singing a different tune...
So my wife and I were heading down I-80 to get to route 66 just West of Clarion PA. I started checking the mileage on the bike and we were getting a true 44-mpg through all types of traffic, a few bursts of speed through the hills and forests.
We had been riding 150 miles or so to Coudersport, I was getting accustomed to the feel of the heavy bike. I loved the brakes, the power, and the radio was really turning me on. It started getting old with my wife reminding me to “turn that radio down!” when we pulled into a quiet area with it blasting away. It was a real novelty for me to enjoy a radio while riding. On the radio that night they were talking about Neil Armstrong being laid to rest earlier that day. Ironically, the full moon was huge that night, practically lighting our way through the mountains. It was almost surreal and I had never seen the moon like that before.
We stopped at Coudersport PA after several hours of night riding, and checked into a motel West of town where we happened to meet 6 or 7 gentlemen gathered for a cross-country dual-sport ride. They rode everything from KLR650 to KTMs to Suzuki’s and came from as far South as TN to MI, meeting in the middle for a week-long off-road adventure.
After our conversation with the off-road guys, we ventured down the road about 3-4 miles and discovered a unique café and bistro, the only place open for dinner at around 8:30 at night in Coudersport. “Olgas,” opened fairly recently, is situated in a stone storefront, featuring big windows, and a beautiful big wooden bar. What a find. You ordered off of a pretty extensive menu offering healthier and gourmet dishes, and while you waited for your food, you were encouraged to shop in their art gallery. The owner, Olga, is a young woman who does her painting and crafts right on site, and her wares decorate the entire building, several floors, along with the works of other artists. It was a nice find in an otherwise low-key town. http://eggdecorator.com/cafe_bistro.php
We rode two-up to dinner and back to the hotel, where we found our off-road buddies outside enjoying themselves, kicking tires in anticipation of the week’s adventures in the wilderness. Robin thoroughly envied them.
The next morning we set out toward Finger Lakes, heading toward Wellsboro PA, which is near the Grand Canyon of the East, then from Route 6 caught route 15 N, a new highway heading into Horseheads NY. As we were going through, all of a sudden it hit me, this bike is really growing on me. It was such a pleasure to be riding with my wife through this beautiful area. As we all know it is great to ride with a friend, but when you can ride with someone who is your friend, partner and wife, it is an experience that is hard to explain.
As we were riding our motorcycles, we were always looking for Kawasaki dealers, old stuff on the roads, etc. We fell short on that quest this time, but needless to say the riding was great.
Once we got close to Finger Lakes, winding up route 54 into Hammondsport we stopped at the Glenn Curtiss Museum. This is a real, must-see for anyone into airplanes and motorcycles and history. “Dedicated to the memory of pioneer aviator, Glenn Curtiss, the museum contains a priceless collection relating to early aviation and local history.” Glenn Curtiss began his career as a builder of bicycles and then, motorcycles. In 1907 he became the "fastest man on earth" when he attained a speed of 136.4 MPH on his V8 powered motorcycle. An exact reproduction of this bike is one of several Curtiss motorcycles that are on display. http://www.glennhcurtissmuseum.org/
Within a mile or two of the museum, you get your first eyeful of the Finger Lakes, heading up County Rd 87 toward Watkins Glen. This is a beautiful part of the country. This is where the Voyager really started to “gel” with me, thinking of past racing experiences, thinking about what you see on TV with the moto GP, we were riding some of the roads where the old Watkins Glen Grand Prix race took place before the actual track was built. These roads take you right past where the BMW rally has been held for over 25 years, on Labor Day Weekend.
I just couldn’t believe the horsepower of the Voyager as well as the brakes and the handling. For a truly vintage rider, this was really a treat for me.
We hung around at the BMW rally in Watkins Glen, met a lot of old friends, and met some new friends. Everyone has a story to tell at these rallies, and sharing these stories is really a fond memory. We rode around Seneca Lake, which is the largest of the Finger Lakes, about 38 miles in length. Our trip circling around the lake would be around 100 miles. Looking for photo-ops, these roads are lined with wineries and restaurants catering to the wine enthusiast. There are over 80 wineries in the area.
We also managed to fit in a charter boat ride on Saturday on the 1926 John Alden Malabar VII Schooner. “True Love,” was featured in the 1956 movie "High Society" with Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. http://www.schoonerexcursions.com/
The rally always has a nice little flea market, and we did a little buying while there. We wound up buying some Buco saddlebags and some Wixom bags, and our friends from Toledo graciously offered to haul them back for us in their car. We stayed on the campground on Sunday night at the Connecticut BMW Club cabin, then said our final goodbyes. We then set sail back to Ohio. We were prepared for the rain as we left, but ended up shedding the Frogg Toggs partway into the trip, being reminded of how much protection these big bikes offer.
Although I have done very little touring on modern motorcycles, after I got used to the weight and maneuvering this large bike it became almost automatic. With the wonderful horsepower, instant throttle response, overdrive transmission, good brakes, and totally functional luggage, this is the best touring bike I’ve ever straddled. Our total mileage for the weekend was a little over 1,000 miles. We got a constant 40+mpg, and I would highly recommend a bike like this to anyone wanting to travel cross-country, once you learn how to manage the weight. There is something about a Kawasaki in-line 4 cyl that will grow on you. This is basically the great-grandson of the Z1 if you really think about it.
Now that we are back in Ohio sitting down to write this article, I realize how much I'm riding this bike as a daily rider to run errands for the shop, etc. The Avon Tyres finally did arrive and got mounted; in one month, we’d already put another 1,000 miles on those tyres!
Perhaps it will be difficult now to return to my Z1 roots.
Spring has begun to show itself, and our service department is
getting BUSY! Pictured here are Hilo, Johnny, and Mark with
happy customer Ray's '74 Kawasaki Z1 900 motorcycle.
He's ready to ride! Are you?
Here's hoping all have a fun, safe riding season! Enjoy!
92022-206 Chrome Rear Turn Signal Washer
Here’s a quick and inexpensive way to return the sparkle to your Kaw triple: replace the old, rusty rear turn signal washers with a pair of Made-In-The-USA reproduction 92022-206 rear turn signal washers. Each kit comes with two chrome plated washers that are an exact match with the original pieces, but with more durable chrome.
Your $19 investment will look like a million bucks!
The kit fits ‘72-‘73 H2 750, 1972 H1 500 and 1972 S2 350.
Click on the JVMC web site and go to the Kawasaki/ “Homegrown” parts section to find these little sparklers. They’re also available in our eBay store, number35. As always, shipping is free in the 48 continental states. And dealer inquiries are invited.
Has your’72-’73 H2 or ‘72 H1B or C lost touch with earth (ground)? Did your rear turn signals stop working? Or are you just trying to finish the restoration/rebuild on your 500 or 750 triple? You need our latest “Homegrown” Kawasaki part offering: 23061-003 Turn Signal Earth Plate Kit. These American-made parts are exact replacements for the scarce earth plates and meet or exceed OEM standards.
Cost for the zinc plated kit is $10 and are available on our web site in the parts section Kawasaki>Homegrown
. They’re also in our eBay store, number35
. As always shipping is free in the 48 continental states. Dealer inquiries are invited.
Zinc and Chrome Plated Kits Available
The hard-to-find 92003-079 sidestand bolt and 315B1000 nut is now available in a kit from Johnny’s Vintage Motorcycle Company. Like all our famous “Homegrown” parts, the 92003-076 bolt is manufactured in the U.S.A and meets or exceeds OEM standards. Both kits fit the following bikes: Z1/KZ-900 ’73-’76, KZ1000/1100 ’77-83, H1’69-’75, H2 ‘72-’75 and many other Kawasaki models.
The kit includes a genuine Kawasaki 315B1000 nut. Additionally, the kit is available in either factory-spec zinc or chrome plated finishes. The zinc finished kit is the correct piece for 100-point restorations, while the chrome bolt adds “bling” to custom projects. The nut in the chrome kit is zinc plated, but does not show when installed.
Cost for the zinc plated kit is $10, Chrome $12. You can find both here on our web site in the parts section Kawasaki> Homegrown
. ebayers can purchase the kits in our eBay store, number35
. As always shipping is free in the 48 continental states. All dealer inquiries are invited.