Part Two

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Part Two begins: When it was time for me to get the bike, and pay for it, Roland said, "Bill, you know, I like this bike better than any other I ever had." This was significant coming from a highly-skilled engineer who came up through the British automotive industry apprenticeship system, and had once said he would NEVER buy a Japanese bike: because of the mistreatment of British war prisoners down in Southeast Asia during WWII.

We sat down privately to exchange the money. I had seventeen $100 bills ready for the payment. He counted them out carefully, looked up and said, "It's a hundred short." Then gave me a foxy smile. Just one of his jokes...

Up to this date I had never ridden a 250, apart from some earlier air-cooled Ducati singles; which could not sustain 70 mph cruising speeds in summer temperatures because they would overheat and start to detonate. So I was not expecting too much from this Ninja.

Roland had told me he'd raised the factory gearing to 14-42 sprockets from the original 14-45 which was "too low". He said the natural cruising speed for the bike was 70-75 mph. I didn't question his authority or experience, of course. And I very quickly found that it was exactly as he said. The bike ran the Interstates at that speed, right around 8000 revs, and it was quite happy like that. This and the longevity I've had from these engines are the result of the industry change to water-cooling, together with the development of four-valve dohc technology and small cylinders.

I also found that it gave very good fuel economy, 65-70 mpg of 87 pump gas, year in and year out.

Roland also told me that the redline was 14,000 rpm, "the best torque comes between 9 and 11, so I use that when I want to accelerate hard or pass. But over 11 it will just wear out faster, so I don't go there.

Now the bike has covered 91,600 miles in my hands, and every mile has been a happy one. It has never yet left me stranded on the road, and has always started right up and run well, except for slight ignition problems once. But these resulted merely from excessively wide gaps on the spark plugs because I tried to run them too long. A very trivial matter that I will describe later(it is mentioned in the Rider's manual, but I overlooked that item).

I did replace the original engine at 86,970 miles with a 1,700 mile '01 engine, due only to my decision that the camchain was getting excessively worn, and might break before long. If it did break, it might break the crankcase and ruin the engine. But at 86,970 miles the performance was still normal and the oil consumption was still nil, as it always was. The worn camchain was evidenced by being able to be pulled excessively away from the cam sprockets, and no more adjustment available on the adjuster. Probably the camchain guide strips were also well worn. Had it not been that camchain replacement requires the complete dismantling and reassembly of the engine, I would have replaced the chain and guide strips and continued to run the engine.

As things were, it was more practical to replace the whole engine and plan to recondition the '88 engine at leisure. Since apparently Kawasaki wants about 2/3 the price of the whole motorcycle for a new engine, it seemed more sensible to buy a good low mileage '01 bike for about the same price, and use its parts as spares on the '88 I wish to keep(for sentimental reasons as above). Buying the '01 from a local dealer for $2100 enabled me first to road-test it to ensure that it was in normal good condition. BTW, the '01 engine has proven so far to be absolutely identical to the '88 in every way, from the characteristic mechanical clatter to the performance to the zero oil consumption and fuel economy. All as hoped, of course. I have the '01's bikes wheels on the '88 now, also, to use up the original tires. Of which more later.

Buying a low-mileage '01 to use for spare parts may seem crazy, but you see there were reasons in this case. Kawasaki's retail parts prices are astronomically high, as are those of all other car, truck and bike makers world-wide today. I really hate the companies' policies on this, because up to about twenty years ago, motorcycle manufacturers sold replacement parts over the counter for relatively low prices, that undoubtedly still brought them good profits over cost. The idea historically seemed to be to help their riders maintain their own bikes for low costs, and many many did just that. But at about the date mentioned, it became obvious that this older policy was turned upside down, and prices were jacked up, very high. The only reasons I can think of for this policy shift are (a) to increase profits on parts distribution operations by scalping and gouging the riders and (b) to encourage people to scrap their older bikes and buy new ones, because the older ones are not economically feasible to maintain; i.e., "planned obsolescence". Of course, before you tell me, I understand that "business is business"!

End of Part Two. More parts to follow in due course.