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Cali-Titled Two-Stroke: 1990 Kawasaki KR-1S for Sale

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the vibrant quarter-liter two-stroke class saw the NSR, RGV, and TZR go at it with knife-fight-in-a-phone-booth intensity. Notably missing from much of the action was Kawasaki. It didn't help that Kawasaki didn't start building a two-stroke sportbike until 1988 and abandoned the class in 1992, before the other Japanese manufacturers and, as a result, the Kawasaki KR-1S is a bit of a holy grail for two-stroke fans in the USA. They're really nearly impossible to find in any market, as Kawasaki produced less than 10,000 examples in total, and they were obviously never sold here in the US.

If all you've done is glance at the spec sheets of the class competitors, you could be forgiven for thinking the bikes in this class were pretty much the same, with two-cylinder, liquid-cooled two-strokes, aluminum beam frames, six-speed gearboxes, and a suspiciously identical 45hp output. In fact, sometimes only a catchy acronym for the power valve gives the manufacturer away, although KIPS, ATAC, SAPC, and YPVS all performed basically the same basic function. But period road tests and two-stroke enthusiasts claim that each has a distinct character that seems line with corporate sterotypes: Honda's NSR was sophisticated and refined, while Suzuki's RGV was a bit of an unruly wild-child, fast and a bit fragile. But although Kawasaki joined the party late and left early, they left an indelible impression and their KR-1S was claimed to be the fastest, the easiest to tune, and have the hairiest handling of the bunch.

The KR-1S was powered by a liquid-cooled 249cc parallel-twin with a 180° crankshaft that also drove a balance shaft to improve smoothness, and put power to the back wheel through a six-speed gearbox. The "S" model seen here featured wider wheels at the front and rear, and tested top speed of 139mph. An "R" model was also available, but is nearly impossible to find, with fewer than 200 built. Interestingly enough, last month's Practical Sportbikes features an article that discusses the rebuild of a KR-1R in detail.

Like yesterday's ZX-7R, this KR-1S is slathered in green, white, and blue graphics that suit the bike's brash personality. Happily, the seller also includes images of the bike with the fairing removed, as it shows off the very slick aftermarket expansion chambers and another odd detail: the engine sits almost entirely below the frame! That of course keeps the bike relatively narrow, but seems strange that most of the engine is suspended beneath the frame, rather than nestled between the frame spars.

From the original eBay listing: 1990 Kawasaki KR-1S for Sale

1990 Kawasaki KR1S C2. I am relisting and selling another bike out of my prize collection. Journalist called the KR1-S the most exotic and fastest of all the 250 2 stokes of that era. This KR1S is a UK model. Which means UK CDI power box, mile per hour speedo. Non-restrictive. Always been in street bike form. Not a converted back race bike. This is truly a rare bike. Unlike NSR’s, TZR’s and RGV’s and even Aprilia RS’s that come up for sale now and then, you very rarely see one of these for sale. I have owned this bike for over 10 years. I have spent many of thousands of dollars on upgrades. I mean many! I installed a pricy set of Dyna mags magnesium rims. The old KR1S aluminum rims came with a 17” front and an 18” rear. These are 17” front and back. Light weight magnesium and make sporty tires more available. I have put on a set of Michelin pilot sport tires. Green D.I.D.  O-Ring chain with gold aluminum sprocket. Beautiful high end custom steering damper. Then I had made a JMC fully braced swingarm with eccentric adjustment. Beautifully polished. I was told at the time that this was the only top braced swingarm that JMC has ever made for the KR1S. I installed a huge custom made “Pace” radiator made for the KR1S. This radiator is huge, and solves the problem of any overheating. If anything I have to tape of part of the radiator when its cool out. But a nice position to be in. Silicone radiator hose are used. Then I purchased a nice new set of Jolly Moto pipes with Carbon silencers. Bikes sound great and pulls better. I had the rear shock rebuilt and the shock spring powder coated green to match the bike. Front forks have been recently rebuilt with all new bushings, oil and seals. Rebuilt both the front and rear calibers with new stainless pistons, bolts, and seals. I had them powder coated too. Custom made steel braided brakes lines with aluminum fittings. They look like new. I also installed new light weight disks front and back.  Have a fortune in light weight titanium, stainless, and aluminum bolts throughout.  All the lights and switches work. The bike has 16,600 miles on it. So a far as I know the motor has never been touched.  I had plans to rebuild the motor and including all the parts to do it.  I have everything needed to build it included. But now I have gotten old and don’t have time for this project. I have tuned it up, changed all the fluids. Adjusted the power valves, etc. Bike does still run strong but mileage is getting up there for 28 year 2 stroke. The original bodywork on the bike is not too bad for its age but not perfect either. I had a few tabs and small cracks repaired. The tank has a couple tiny little chips, but is in remarkably in good shape for its age. No dents. The tank is clean inside without rust. The body panels have a few scratches and touched up spots.  Still not all that bad for its age either. Please refer to the pictures for more details. I am including the stock rims with a brand new fresh powder coat on them. The stock pipes, radiator, manuals, and various other parts as seen in my list and pictures. Lots of stuff.

The following is a list of some of the parts that are included with the bike, but not complete. No much to list. Please refer to pictures.

  • 4 brand new piston sets, including, rings, pins, clips, and small ends
  • Complete set of crank seals and crank bearings, plus new rod sets. Everything needed to completely rebuild the crank like new.
  • 3 gaskets set, plus one extra head gasket
  • New Water pump part set
  • New carb sets including floats
  • Power valve seals
  • New billet aluminum power valves and power valve wheels
  • 1 extra new front disk
  • Numerous new seals and bearing that go into the motor
  • Stock pipes in good condition
  • Stock swingarm with fresh paint and new bearings and seals. Like new
  • Stock radiator in excellent condition
  • Stock wheels with fresh powder coating, sprocket,  and cush drive

All the old wheel bearing, wheel spacers, front and back disks, sprockets, brake lines, and caliber parts. The old original nuts and bolts that were replaced with titanium and stainless, aluminum

Bike comes with a current California registration and title!  Has all the correct serial and engine numbers, but is listed as a 1980 instead of a 1990. You might think that wow I am asking way too much for this bike? I say “find don’t buy it then”. What I can say how often you see one of these for sale in this condition, with all these extras and titled too? Try to find another? These bikes are only going to increase in value as time passes. Plus I am including thousands of dollars in extra parts.

So the $17,500 asking price is big money for a two-stroke sportbike, but I'm betting it will find a buyer: if that California title is valid, I know a couple folks who'd love to snap it up, and it's really not all that far off what folks have been asking for pristine NSR250s recently. It isn't completely stock, but all of the upgrades described by the seller are clearly intended to thoughtfully boost performance and handling. All-in-all, it's one of the coolest bikes we've posted recently.



  • Lovin’ all the Kawasakis recently!

  • Uhm – the KR250A as a street bike has been around since its 1983.

    • The KR250 is really not in the same class as a TZR or NSR or RGV, despite being a 250cc two-stroke. I like their funky styling though. You’re not really trying to argue my basic point, right? Semantics aside, Kawasaki took a break from direct competition with the other Japanese manufacturers, and dropped out early, as stated. And their entry went its entire production run with virtually no changes, while the NSR, RGV, and TZR went through three or more significant updates during the same period.

    • The KR250 is in the same class as the rest of the other 2 stroke 250’s. It grew and changed in response to the changes of the class over time. The KR250A and B where tandem twins just like the racing KR250 and KR350. And I am arguing your point. Kawasaki had a 2 stroke 250 for sale through the 1980s and early 1990s that matched the opposition manufacturers of each period.

    • You’re being pedantic then. I get it, you’re taking issue with the fact that I seem to have dismissed the KR250. Yup, it’s a sportbike. But was produced from 1984-1986, correct? And since the KR-1 was introduced in 1988, that still leaves the two-year gap, unless you happen to have a KR250 or a KR-1 that was built in 1987 lying around. So, as I said in my previous comment, Kawasaki basically opted out of a hotly-contested, prestige market for TWO YEARS. That’s an ETERNITY, considering the pace of development during that era. So Kawasaki did NOT have “a two stroke 250 for sale through the 1980s and early 1990s that matched the opposition manufacturers of each period” as you stated. Because 1986 through 1988 is a significant chunk of time during which Kawasaki did not produce ANY 250 two-stroke sportbikes.

  • Forgive my ignorance, I’m just trying to get a clear understanding of the CA ownership experience.

    I understand that a current California registration and title may make this bike more attractive and valuable to some people, but what happens when CHP stops you and some keen eyed sharp minded officer discovers it is not a 1980 as the registration and title claim it is, but it is actually a 1990? Is that the day it’s hauled away and chopped into very small pieces?

    Isn’t there real risk involved with spending $17K for a bike that is not registered or titled as the bike it actually is? Is the misrepresentation of registering and titling it as a 1980 at some level considered fraud?

    • I didn’t want to address that in my post since I’m not an expert but the short answer: yes. I have a few friends who love these and from what I can gather, it is most definitely a risk, especially with the title showing that incorrect manufacturing date. California is justifiably famous for its strict DMV, and titles for these always exist in a bit of a grey area, so one ornery cop can definitely ruin your day.

  • I wish kawie would have made thier v-twin 2 stroke work they where developing one in the early 90s. There was a B and C versions called the xr09 the B version was like everyone else’s. But the C version the engine was upside down. I have a bunch of cool pics of it. They gave up because it wasn’t getting enough air into the intake and ran better on fairer weather days vs hotter days. Kork bollington was one of the test riders they raced it at Daytona once in 92 the only time it was seen outside of Japan.

    • I’d love to see a technical drawing of that inverted engine. Weird engine configurations are pretty cool, and why I’m a fan of stuff like the NS400R. Is there an advantage? Maybe, maybe not. Is it cool? Yup. For sure.

    • I am currently in Japan, have been coming here off and on for 30 yeats, there are several KR1 for sale here now for 5-8k usd..also NS, NSR, RG, RGv, T/TZ, tzr, H1,to. H4, even a TZ750 or two, Kr500, yada yada..mostly daily drivers. There are some clubs here that specialize in the 2strokes, which are my favorites also..save yourself some money, go to japan and buy your iwn, import it to Arizona outside Maricopa county, no smog check, and eazy bond title..you will be safer and save a lot of money, even with the hotel and airfare…just a thought.

  • It’s the x-09 not xr09

  • I like this little rare 250 with the eye candy Jolly Moto pipes, Dymag magnesium wheel, JMC braced swingarm, and rebuild parts included. I would much rather have a bike set up with the upgraded parts, than a stock garage queen. What I don’t like is the price.

  • To address Tad’s question about engine mounting, and I’m certainly no expert, I suspect the KR1S parallel twin engine is canted forward like that to allow for a shorter wheelbase. It should also position weight lower in the chassis.

  • A different market but these 2 strokes are commanding serious money on the other side of the globe.


  • The absolutely stunning KR1-S. Absolutely in the ‘league’ as the other 250 mini-GPs. This was in fact the fastest of the 4. From a period test is was also the hardest to ride, lots of head-shake and the test rider managed to crash it.. This has been listed before and looks like another testing the waters ebay listing. Could probably coax one of the Truly rare ‘R’s out of the Mickey Mouse collection for only a bit more.

    This is the one to have if you love that paint job and having something totally different in an already fairly exclusive club.

  • I’ve ridden a kr1s it’s not the fastest one or most powerful my friend owns one with lomas pipes. I tried to see how fast it would go max speed That old test from the uk is bunk. It wasn’t any faster then my rgv vj22 or mc21 both fully unrestricted with tyga pipes. It’s also not as sketchy handling as that UK test made it sound.

    It’s a fun bike but seems to have a lot of hype about it love the sound it makes. It has this nice cackle barky sound I wish my v twins sounded like it. If you think a kr1r is gonna blow it away you’ll be even more disappointed cause it won’t. The guys on the kr forum say it doesn’t make more hp just pulls a little better up top cause of the bigger carbs but out right speed isn’t any faster.

    Tad if you want to see the x-09 just Google search kawasaki x-09 and you’ll find some good images to drool on.

  • https://plus.google.com/102199725205039222789/posts/WL2T6EyuGnd

  • No sale at $17,500.

    – Mike


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