13 August 2010

Motorcycle Tech: 2005 FZ1--"Baby" Touring Edition

Samuel, 1993 Suzuki VX800
My life with the FZ1 began at the intersection of un-balanced carbs and no mechanic who could correctly diagnose/fix the problem.  After I returned to GA, My VX800 (Sam) stopped being the reliable bike I'd fallen in love with in California.  He reeked of gas and after spending too much money on mechanics with worsening results, I was fed up.  Enter Providence and the quest for a new steed.

The Search:
On my cross country trip in 2004, I decided my next bike would be a sport-tourer.  I wanted a bike with more wind protection, luggage, and maybe a little more oomph.  I didn't know anything about better handling but I did know I didn't want another bike with a floppy front end like the VX.  On a stop in Wyoming (I think) I was looking for a front brace bolt to replace the one that'd shaken out when we crossed Southern Colorado, I saw a beautiful blue Kawasaki ZZR1200 and fell in love.  I was a little concerned about the jump in CCs, but that was the bike I wanted.  They had a great deal on it and if I hadn't been happy with Sam or had more money, I may have bought it on my way back.

Fast forward three years.  I'm bike shopping and the ZZR stayed in my mind.  In the interim, Kawasaki came out with the ZZR600.  Better step, but it didn't move me like it's big brother did.  efjaxx, an old friend, had always been my guide when it came to motorcycles--even though we didn't always agree.  It was because of him that I got Sam.  He gave me good advice on what I should be looking for so I knew exactly what NOT to do.  This time around, efjaxx was not in the picture.  theWolf ran him away, along with many others, so I was on my own.  From visiting bike shops with efjaxx, I had a short list of bikes I wanted to look at.  I'd grown fond of the Honda 919 on looks alone.  Oddly, other than the ZZR1200, they were all the same kinds of bikes and none of them were sport tourers.

I had a few criteria for my new to me used bike.  First, I wanted an inline four with more than 800cc's.  Second, I wanted a bike with a good reputation and following, similar to that of the VX800.  Third, it had to be a relatively new model and still in production.  Finally, it needed to be under $7K.

After some internet searching and remembering visits efjaxx and I'd made to local bike shops the previous summers, the first bike was the Kawasaki Z1000.  The first time I saw it, I thought it looked like a bug and it still did but it met my meager criteria.  Second, the FZ1.  I'd seen it a few months before I got sick sitting on the showroom floor and efjaxx said it was too big for me, as was the 919.  He had a point, they were kind of tall but I don't think he meant their height.  Finally, the ZZR1200.

At the time, I was having trouble talking to people.  I'd lost my filter and had a bad habit of telling people the harshest truths.  I did not want to do a private party deal so I went back to WOW International hoping to find the guy I dealt with when I bought Sam.  They'd made that transaction smooth and I needed another one just like it.

After checking KBB and their inventory, my brother (theWolfGuardian) and I decided to take our bikes up there on the way to his mechanic so he could look at Sam and see what was wrong with him.  The night before, the ZZR fell out of the running because the bike shop put it above my $7K threshold.  I still looked at it even though the price they had it for and the price I'd seen years before were about the same but this time the bike was well used.  The Bug just didn't feel right, but all the FZ1s did.  I chose the newest, least molested bike they had before going to see what the mechanic said about Sam.

He said he could fix it, but he didn't know when because he was recovering from his own illness.  All right.  The next morning, I called and put a deposit on the FZ1.  By that Saturday afternoon, theWolfGuardian and I were at the dealership picking him up.

This is what he looked like a week later after I bought him some new shoes:
My 2005 FZ1 a week after purchase (he didn't have a name yet!)

Luggage.  I bought Baby at the end of August 2007 and after putting Sam's luggage on him I knew I needed different soft luggage if I was going to use soft luggage.  The TourMaster tank bag looked out of place as did the Nelson Rigg Tail and Saddlebags.  They just did not fit the bike's lines, not to mention they were well used and faded.  After looking at all of the options, I decided on a Fieldsheer* Access Tank magnetic mount bag and the Expander tail bag.  I'd wait to get the matching saddlebags since I had no real touring plans.

In the meantime, I looked at the hard luggage solution, but in addition to being more than I wanted to pay it made the bike ugly.  So for me, to make Baby TE, I needed a full set of soft luggage.  I chose the Fieldsheer Expander Saddlebags and Tailbag to complement the Access Tank Bag.
*Looks like Fieldsheer isn't make luggage any more.

While researching luggage solutions, I came across a super deal on a trunk and decided to make the Seat Case.  This wasn't originally apart of my touring solution but I did want to mention it here as I have used it on a trip when I wasn't camping.  I accidentally deleted my camping touring setup pic and I haven't done it since so I don't have a pic of that.

Protection--Sliders.  Knowing me the way I do, I knew I needed some protection for when I dropped the bike.  I didn't expect to drop the bike but if I did, I wanted the fairing and levers to have some protection.  I purchased no less than two brake levers for Sam and needed another since the ball is broken on the one he has now.  One of the first "mods" I did was to buy some T-Rex frame sliders.  I decided on the T-Rex because they are great value for the money.  They are made of the same material as the more expensive ones at a fraction of the cost.

Later, I discovered crash bars but I didn't like the way the looked and they didn't seem to offer more protection than the frame sliders so I scratched them off of my list.

ZG ST screen with Motorax Trim
Protection--Windscreen.  I had to ride the bike for a while before I realized I needed more wind protection than the stock screen offered.  I still wasn't convinced I needed a taller screen after reading comments on the forums, but when I came across a hell of a deal (55% of SRP) on a Zero Gravity Touring Screen, I jumped on it.  Undecided or not I'm not one to miss on an opportunity to try something different.  I got a new windscreen for less the some of the used ones on the Forum and discovered it makes a big difference on the highway without compromising any cooling effects.  I would have liked it to be tinted, but I ain't gonna complain.  Last week, I added some trim because I didn't like the look of the raw edges.  Again, I compromised since I got the trim on clearance and had to go with gray rather than black.

Comfort.  My first real comfort mod was something I already had from Sam, the Throttle Boss.  It's great when on the highway because you can give your hand a break.  The best $10 I've spent on a motorcycle thing.

The next mod, grips, I thought I was doing for bling.  When I finally got Sam to the mechanic, he needed new grips so while I was buying grips for Sam I got some for Baby too.  Baby got Pro Grips Gel 719 in blue.  If I'd known they'd be so much more comfortable than stock, I wouldn't've waited.  The grips seemed to transform the bike as my hands stopped getting numb and I stopped thinking my gloves were the problem.

About the same time that I got the grips, I purchased a lowered stock seat.  I didn't expect much of the lowered seat but it is nominally easier to reach the ground, especially when I'm wearing my Sport Boots.  Unfortunately that thing is as hard as a brick and not nearly as comfortable as the stock seat for long distances.  Since I don't expect to take the seat case when touring, I still need to solve this issue.  I will also mod the seat case so that it is lower while retaining the comfort, just don't ask me how!

Levers are all about comfort, but their bling too.  I decided to get adjustable levers the first time I ever saw them.  They are the solution to the problem of small hands and the levers never really being close enough to be truly comfortable for me.  Stock, the FZ1 has some adjustment, especially the brake, but not enough.  I had so much slack in the clutch lever in an effort to get it closer to me that it wobbled up and down.  I wanted unbreakable levers (remember my history) but I didn't want to spend that kind of money.  I got Pazzo-like levers from eBay seller Fire Dragon Bros.

Great fit and finish!  Here's the bonus:  I now have more feel with these levers.  Braking and clutching, once I got used to the added thickness, is more effortless than with stock.  This is another mod that I wish I'd done sooner!

Visibility.  I put xenon bright white bulbs in the bike not too long after I bought him.  They offer much more light than stock and I was quite pleased with them until I saw eFnJustRide's HIDs.  He was blinding me during the daytime!!  He has the same bright white color I have just in HIDs.  After a lot of research, I will get Bi Xenon HIDs with the AC slim ballasts.  Bi Xenon so I can retain the High Beams and AC so there won't be any flicker problems when switching between the two.  These should be on the bike already but supplier issues have prevented their purchase and install.

Next, I recently (last night) decided to compliment the HIDs with LED driving lights.  As is my style, I want the best value for my money.  Thank goodness motorcyclists are obsessed with visibility.  There are many options on the market, some high dollar and worth it and others low dollar and not.  My solution will be a diy high power low wattage kit from PlasmaLED.

After riding some twisty roads at night with the xenon lights, more light on the road was in the back of my mind.  The Bi Xenons should be enough but if they aren't I'll have the driving lights mounted low on the forks for backup.  It should also make me more visible to oblivious drivers.

Performance.  I gotta rant a little bit on this one so bare with me.  If you're not interested in the rant--which you must be if you've gotten this far--then skip down to the next part in black.  When I started reading the FZ1 forums,  I noticed new bike owners' first few post usually included a statement like "what are the best performance mods" or "which performance mods should I do first".  I don't get it.  You just got the bike, newb.  Get to know it first before you start screwing with shit.  You don't know if you need to jet or bore or a full exhaust or a slip on muffler or lower gearing or whatever if you haven't taken the time to get to know the bike you're riding.  That's fine if the bike you just got off of was a full on sport bike.

The performance of a full on sport bike compared to the FZ1 may necessitate such changes.  But half of those guys asking about the best mods or first mods are coming off of smaller bikes or cruisers.  Hell, it took me a year to get used to the difference between my "sporty" twin and the stock inline 4.

I didn't have the words to describe that learning curve until I read a recent post by Norm on FZ1-Forum:
You are experiencing the difference between the twins, which you are very used to, and the inline 4's. The twins, as you say, get rolling simply by just letting off the clutch with virtually no throttle. The 4's require very precise movements as they have, in my experience, a very narrow friction zone. That makes them more difficult to learn on compared to the twins but once your brain locks in on that narrow and precise friction zone you're good to go. Yes, you do have to give some throttle at the appropriate time as you come off the clutch in first gear, unlike the twins which virtually get started on their own as you release the clutch. As an experienced rider you'll adapt quickly to this. You'll also find out that once you've mastered this you'll probably be able to "take off" quicker from a stop.
I think you should get to know a bike before you even think about making performance mods.  So it wasn't until this year that I even entertained the idea of doing anything performance related.  I have been happy with the way Baby performs and if it wasn't for more than a little peer pressure from TopWop1 and eFnJustRide (Thanks Guys!), I wouldn't have the Yoshimura TRS Muffler.  Along with the new muffler, the FZ1 likes jetting.  Well, any carbed bike needs jetting when you change the air/fuel ratio.  I think I've documented my jetting choice somewhere else on this blog so I won't go into it here.

The performance mods I've chosen make the bike smoother and easier to ride.  It's not something I can really put into words.  I know it has something to do with what happens when you twist your wrist and how smoothly the engine feels as the speed and rpms climb.  I know it's a feeling when you reach the speed/rpms you are going to be around for the next while and what happens when you need to get away from the aforementioned oblivious driver so you twist the wrist a little more.  I know it has something to do with applying the throttle as you're coming outta a tight curve or even setting the speed on entry.

Those are the performance mods I've done.  Anything else and I shoulda got a different bike!

I'm going to include tires in performance.  Tires, I've learned, make a huge difference in performance.  The rubber meets the road and allows all the power to either be smooth or scary.  Right now I've got Pirelli Angels and they're better than the BT-021's they replaced in some ways and worse in others.  I'll stick with them though because overall they are better.

Bling.  Yes it is a Touring Mod.  It is because when you walk back to your bike you just smile because it looks so good despite all the crap you've loaded on it.  The "racing" pegs are pure bling.  They are lighter than stock so I guess I could slip this under performance--you know less weight, yada yada--but I'm too honest not to say I only got them because I liked the way they look.  Period.  The disadvantage is with the Vega boots, I can feel the engine's vibes.  I got new boots.

Next piece of bling is jwhelan65's rad cover.  I didn't need it but I really liked how it looked!  I just stuck it on over the stock piece but if I notice more heat, I'll take the wire out of the frame.  I did this the other day, so my only pics are bad.  You have been warned!

I also painted the rad covers.  Badly.  I may do them again if it really gets on my nerves, until then I got what got.

The best piece of bling is the piece you think you'll never get because it's not made anymore but then learn you can get it and even better than what was made the first time.  Thank you Devilsyam!  Black frame cover plugs:

Devilsyam Frame Plugs and the billet "racing" pegs
photochopped prototype
He's got some other stuff in the works, but I will not look at any more of his posts.  I do not need or want that billet whatever this thing is.  I don't need one.  I don't want one.  I don't want one.  I don't want one.  I don't want one.  I don't want one.  I won't get it.  He says he can make 'em with a ram ball for the gps mount.  But I don't want one.

Electronics and Navigation.  I added a power outlet to the left side panel to power the tank bag.  In the tank bag I have an outlet for my gps, radar detector, and gloves (when it gets cold).  One of the first "mods" I did was have the mechanic install an alarm with the immobilization feature.  The radar detector was an HH Gregg clearance special, the Cobra ESD7400.

Guage of eternal coolness
There is one thing I want that I don't have yet but I am on the waiting list for:  Christian's Multiguage.  It is a gear indicator on steroids that shows gear, fuel level, water temp, air temp, voltage, corrected speed, acceleration (like the 1/4 mile), and a stop watch.  It takes the place of the stock fuel guage.  It's got about 37 different display options since all that stuff can't be shown at the same time.  

For Navigation I went as far away from the herd mentality as I could by not choosing a Garmin of some type.  Instead I'm keeping my pda running iGo8 software mounted to my tank bag.  For back-up, there's a map in the tail case and another somewhere in the tank bag.  There's also the sun and stars.

For me, it'll be simple.  Go west in the early spring across the southern states.  Go North in the mid spring until I get to Washington, stop to visit friends until after my birthday.  Go North to Alaska in late spring/early summer.  Go East outta Alaska across Canada in summer.  Follow the Applachains home in late summer/early fall.

Result -- Baby TE:
Any bike can be a touring bike, as long as the rider is comfortable.  theWolfGuardian is from the buy-what-you-need-already-on-the-bike-from-factory school.  To that end, he has--er wants--a Goldwing.  He's been talking about getting once since I was 18.  I've had two bikes since then, both have been touring bikes when I wanted to tour, canyon carvers when I wanted to hit the twisties, a commuter, and even a grocery-getter.  Both have been great fun.

This is where I'm supposed to post a pic of Baby TE but I'm not going to post a pic of Baby TE just yet.  I'm still waiting on the HIDs and the Driving lights.  When I get them, I'll do a video introduction so look for it.

thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer


  1. Where does one find "Christians Multigage"?

  2. http://cvieth.bplaced.net/ganganzeige_summary.html

    However, as I mentioned in the post, there is a waiting list and it's either very long or he's not making many of these any more. I contacted him via the email at the bottom of that page but there's a thread about it on the FZ1 Owners Association forum that people make requests in too. (link can be found in "My Favorite Places".

  3. Hi I just found your blog and you have some great insights for FZ1. I'm one step away from buying one and i have a question about carbs that you might be able to answer: I'm from Canada and want to ride out west, through the mountains, so my question is about elevation and if it has a significant effect on the bike's power?

  4. I noticed a little bit of power loss but nothing truly significant, especially after I got the jetting right. Go to the fz1oa forum (link is on this page) and you can get more info than you knew you wanted. There's a great thread RavenRider's Gen1 Carb stuff that details the diy setup I used and answers a lot of questions.


Search This Blog