Cycle News

Cycle News 2022 Issue 49 December 6

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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know, this looks like the kind of fairing I used on my KZ650 back in the day.'" "Oh really," Gaines said. "Well let me get the sidepod. I put the sidepod up to the nosecone and Jimmy was looking at it real funny and said, 'I think this is just like the one I used to have.' And I said, "You think so? What are the chances of that happening?' Then after showing him the seat section, Knipp said, "This is the seat from my old bike. Look here where I had two holes for the oil cooler!" Eventually Gaines led Knipp out to his truck where he uncov- ered the rest of the bike, which was in crates, from the tarp. Knipp immediately recognized the frame and other pieces of his old race bike, which he'd last seen over 35 years earlier. Gaines said the reaction Knipp had wasn't quite what he'd expected. "I thought he'd be jumping for joy, but he was pretty quiet. I asked him about it the next day and he said, 'It's bittersweet. It's great to see the bike again, but to see it in this condition was tough. When I gave that bike up it was 100 percent and spotless and run- ning great. It kind of hurts to see my baby like that.' I said, 'Jimmy, that is your baby and it's not go- ing to be like that for long. We're going to do a ground-up, just like we did with my Z1." That was a year ago and Knipp wanted it to be as original as possible, which meant try- ing to chase down parts that in many cases, hadn't been avail- able since the early 1980s. For instance: "We looked all over kingdom come for the original German-made Magura clip-ons but couldn't find them," Gaines said. "Then I found a guy out of Vermont who'd bought a ware- house out of old British bikes and he had a set of them in the original package. It seemed like everything went like that." As raced back in the early '80s, Knipp said the modifica- tions weren't as extensive as the competitors on 750 and 1000cc bikes he used to drive nuts figured. "It was not anything really extravagant," Knipp explained. "We took so much weight off it and ran total loss electrical. The 29mm smoothbores were pretty big for a 650. It always had stock pistons, but it had some fairly healthy cams, valves and springs. It had a hand-bent Yoshimura pipe and a Yoshimura ported head, so that's where it got a lot of its power." Today the bike is much as it was when Knipp raced it to the '81 WERA National title, with a few notable exceptions. "The wheels are different from when I had it," he said. "The rear shocks, obviously Avon Tires because nobody makes 18-inch slicks anymore and haven't for 20 years. But other than that, a lot of it is basically the same. The results of a year of work can be seen in this photo from last weekend's Brickyard Vin- tage Racing Invitational at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where the restored bike made its debut. Greg Sickmeier, who was teammates with Knipp on the old Superbike Factory squad, rode the bike around the IMS road course. Knipp admits the old KZ650 has a special place in his heart. After all, he'd spent his first three seasons of road racing on the bike. "Not only for the race wins and the championship," he said. "But I was able to do things on this bike that I couldn't on oth- ers. I had so much seat time on the thing." Judging by the reaction photos of the bike got on social media, Knipp is not the only one thrilled to see the old Kawasaki back in racing shape. CN This Cycle News Archives Col- umn is reprinted from the June 27, 2017, issue. CN has hundreds of past Archives columns in our files, too many destined to be archives themselves. So, to pre- vent that from happening, in the future, we will be revisiting past Archives articles while still plan- ning to keep fresh ones coming down the road. -Editor. CN III ARCHIVES P114 Subscribe to nearly 50 years of Cycle News Archive issues:

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