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Krazy Rare: 1989 Kawasaki KR-1

When it comes to quarter liter two stroke imports, the usual suspects are in (relatively) plentiful supply. While never officially available in the US, all sorts of fine, Japanese and Italian hardware make it to our shores thanks to creative individuals, and of course, our friends up in Canada. We usually don't go a month on RSBFS without highlighting a Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha or Aprilia smoker. What we do not see very often - as in maybe once a year - is Kawasaki's entry to the two-stroke wars: The KR-1. The KR-1 was developed with a familiar set of blueprints and without graphics could resemble any number of Japanese imports, both visually and in the performance department. But the KR-1 is a very rare little machine (not only in the US), and one that you should pay attention to when an example shows up.

1989 Kawasaki KR-1 for sale on eBay

With weight in the 270 pound range (dry), and a claimed 55hp when new, the KR-1 was good for a 130+ MPH terminal velocity. A six speed cassette tranny and triple disks all around put the KR-1 in the same competitive class as the NSRs, RGs and TZRs of the day, although the higher spec KR-1S was the real performer of the bunch. Performance aside, reliability is rumored to be slightly compromised with the Kawasaki; reports indicate that these motors tend to be less robust than those of its peers. Something to consider as parts availability raises its ugly head....

From the seller:
This bike is very clean. The motor has never been opened up. I have had this KR SINCE 1999. It comes with Jolly Moto pipes and has had the fork brace changed. Runs very strong. Looks good. It does have a few blemishes , at 6,850 mi not bad.This bike would be a great edition to your 2 stroke collection.

Given the rarity of this model, I long for more pictures and far more detail. The seller notes that the engine has not been opened up, so figure on a rebuild before riding in anger. Two strokes are notorious for air leaks at high RPM (i.e. air entering the engine other than through the carb), which creates a lean running condition which vastly increases internal temperatures while at the same time reducing the amount of lubricating oil. The end result is usually loud, messy, expensive, and potentially catastrophic to the rider (lesson #1: don't seize the motor mid-corner).

This bike is located in California. There is no mention or picture of a license plate, so no idea in which state this bike is titled - if at all. That would be a key question to the seller. Otherwise, should all else be copacetic, this KR-1 could be a real steal for your collection. There is no doubt that it looks quite clean. The price is set at $8k for this Buy It Now classified, although the seller is open to offers. This seller appears to have a few other bikes by the looks of the big Gamma and NSR400 parked alongside - maybe we'll see a couple more bikes available in time. If you ARE the seller, jump over to the Comments section and share some details with a KR hungry audience. Good Luck!!

MI

9 Comments

  • I’ve ridden one many times my friend owns one fun bike.

  • Your article is right on. This bike is a fun bike to ride. In fact, it is very responsive and handles good. The engine runs great. There are no air or oil leaks and the engine will come to life with one or two kicks. The carbs have been cleaned and the boots have been replaced with NOS PARTS. There is no corrosion on the bike. This bike has current California plates.
    So, is this bike worn out ? As the seller I would say no. The bike has 6050 mi on it or 11030 km. It has been rode very conservative while in my possession. I know of one TZ250 that went 22,000 miles before expiring and was rode very hard.

    • Welcome to RSBFS William! Thanks for the additional info. The CA plates definitely help with the sales potential – you might want to update your eBay auction with that info.

      That is one clean KR-1 – good luck with the sale!

      -Mike

  • Beautiful bike.

    It isn’t just high mileage that is the enemy of 2 strokes. It is also time and lack of use. Both contribute to drying and cracking of crank seals and cracked crank seal lips are the source of air leaks, as Mike has mentioned. A 2 stroke that is ridden regularly and has higher mileage will be less susceptible to crank seal leaks than a 2 stroke that is stored or rarely ridden. I had an RGV and TZR both suffer crank seal failures due to lack of use. Both were low mileage bikes. I have higher mileage 2 strokes that are ridden regularly and the crank seals are fine. Regular pressure and vacuum testing is the only way to verify crank seal condition. Crank seals do seal both ways.

    • Very true. These old smokers need to be lit up on a regular basis if there is any hope of just throwing a leg over and riding them without major surgery.

      My 1988 RS250 NF5 arrived from Japan as a long time display bike that was filled with fluids and regularly started and regularly run gently after it was parked in 1991 at the end of its racing career as a backup bike – the result is a very close to 100% original bike that still holds 6psi for 2 hours and starts within 10 feet of rolling and runs well.

      My 1987 TZ250 2KM arrived from Japan after “dry” storage since being retired in 1989 as a backup bike and was only ever started and run waaaaaaaaaaay back in mid 1990’s – the result is an amazingly preserved 100% original TZ250 with disintegrating rubber/seals and whatnot.

  • It’s a shame these never came here.

  • Now as for the price and bike – this is a very attractive price. And even if it ends up being a mostly static display its a freeking KR-1 for goodness sakes 🙂

    A rare sight even back in the day. The top end meant the guy (or gal) with the KR-1 was going to be the 250 King of the Hill – much the same way the big Kawasakis of the day always seemed to rule the top speed charts.

  • The KR1-S is well known to be the fastest 250 cc street bike of the time. With a top speed of 135 MPH, it easily outpaced its competition.

    Great bikes, the KR1 and KR1-S, but fragile KIPS valves and generally unobtanium parts means it isn’t necessarily an easy ownership experience for the uninitiated.

  • Auction closed early. Looks like someone picked this up outside of eBay. Congratulations to the seller and the new (lucky) owner!

    -Mike

Comment rules: Add something useful and constructive, and don't be a jerk. Comments that don't add value will be deleted. Comments will automatically close after 30 days. Thank you. -dc

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