Friday, August 15, 2014

The story of Marvin Webber and the World's Best 1994 Kawasaki ZX-7R

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That's Marvin, and his 1994 Kawasaki ZX-7R. For those who love 1990s superbikes (yeah, that's us...), there's nothing else quite like this in the world!

Here at Faster and Faster, we absolutely love 1980s and 1990s Japanese race-replica 750s. These bikes haven't been around for a very long time now, but we still can't stop dreaming of machines like the Honda RC30 and RC45, the Yamaha FZR750R OW-01 and YZF750, the Suzuki GSX-R750 LE and the Kawasaki ZXR750 and ZX-7R.

We've always been huge fans of the original ZXR750. In the late-1980s, nothing else looked like the ZXR, with its hoover-tube air intakes and iconic green-white-and-blue paintjob. And then there was the equally hard-core ZX-7R. We used to watch Doug Chandler and then Scott Russell race the ZX-7R in the early-1990s and absolutely loved the bike to bits. We wanted one back then. We still do. Some dreams just never go away.

We've never actually been able to get the Kawasaki ZX-7R out of our dreams and into our garage, which is maybe why we envy Marvin Webber so much! Based in the United States, born and raised in Sioux Falls, SD, Marvin has the very best ZX-7R that currently exists on the planet. We caught up with him for a quick chat about his Kawasaki and here are some excerpts from what he had to say:

On how he got started with motorcyles

I always thought motorcycles were free-spirited and sexy. I grew up during the 1950s and if you rode a motorcycle you were a bad person, because motorcycles had a bad reputation. I had a part-time job at the local newspaper and I had been saving my money for this 1958 Triumph 200cc scrambler at the local motorcycle dealership. I would hang out there and eventually became friends with the owner, and he would teach me how to work on motorcycles.

On his very first motorcycles

My Mother would never let me have a motorcycle, which was my true love. So I had this plan to buy this bike and keep it at my friends garage, as his father never used the garage. That way I could go over to his house and get the bike and go riding and my Mother would not know I had a motorcycle! However, Sioux Falls is a small town and after only three days owning the bike my mother found out I had it. So on the third day when I came home my Mom was waiting for me and she said, "You go get that motorcycle and take it back and you get all your money back." I said, "What motorcycle Mom?" She said, "Do not 'what motorcycle' me, just do as you are told!" So that was the end of my motorcycling until I graduated from High School and moved to LA.

In LA, I was on my own, living in a small apartment, had a job cleaning swimming pools, and I bought a 1963 BSA 650 Lighting Rocket. The first thing I did was to put a megaphone exhaust on it, had it bored, rejetted the carbs and had some port work done. This bike was my daily driver until I went into the USAF in 1966. I really loved that bike, it was so much fun to ride. After basic training, I was sent to Thailand, so I had to sell my bike.

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This ZX-7R has 145 horsepower at the rear wheel. And to understand just how trick the rest of the bike is, scroll down to the bottom of the page and read the detailed tech specs. It's all truly, deeply impressive...

On getting his first Kawasaki, in Thailand

In Thailand, I met a Thai named Anun who owned a motorcycle repair shop and road raced on the side. We soon became friends and I spent most of my off time at his shop helping him prepare a Kawasaki 350 for racing. I liked it so much, I extended my tour and reenlisted for another four years and received a large bonus. It was 1969, and Kawasaki had just come out with the Mach III H1 500 triple. I bought one, and even though this was the most evil handling bike I ever rode, I started road racing on it. In Thailand, they do not have tracks to race on - they just block off the streets and race!

I raced in the 100cc GP class. There was a young kid (14 years old at that time) by the name of Randy Mamola, who was sponsored by Yamaha and raced 125cc and 250cc GP class. Since they combined the 100cc and 125cc classes, I had the good fortune to be able to say I shared the track with a future MotoGP star. And yes, Randy was already very fast back then.

On when and how he bought this 1994 Kawasaki ZX-7R

Fast forward to the 1990s. I had retired from the USAF and was working at McClellan AFB as a civilian. I still followed road racing with a passion and in 1994, I stepped in to Good Times Kawasaki and sitting on the floor was my future bike - the ZX-7R. It was the most beautiful bike I had ever laid eyes on. It was parked next to the owners office, with a sign on it that read 'Please do not sit on this bike.' That was the beginning of my dream to acquire that bike and turn it into a replica of Scott Russell's and Doug Chandler's superbikes, while still keeping it street-legal.

So I purchased this bike brand new, from Good Times Kawasaki in 1994 and have owned it ever since. To me this is the most beautiful bike in the world. It is pure sex. Since it's been built for me from the ground up, it handles like no other bike.

At the recent WSBK at Laguna Seca, which I attended, it was Kawasaki’s 30th anniversary of the Ninja. They had a bike contest with three categories - Best race replica, Best custom and Best vintage. My bike won the best race replica category.

When riding it, I get lots of looks and thumbs up from other riders. Most of the younger riders do not really know what they are looking at, so they will say, "Cool old school bike." The best reaction I get from younger riders is that they cannot believe that I own and ride this bike at the young age of 73!

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Briefly, Marvin also had a 2007 Kawasaki ZX-10R, but didn't really like it all that much. He says his ZX-7R handles much better

On how he thinks the ZX-7R stacks up against more modern machinery

I bought a 2007 Kawasaki ZX-10R from the same dealership and trucked it home and replaced the exhaust with a Sato Ty, converted the chain and sprockets to 520, put Sato rearsets, Dynojet quick-shifter and ECU, and Ohlins cartridges in the front forks and Ohlins rear shock. It was lighter than my ZX-7R and faster too, but it did not handle like my ZX-7R, so after a year I sold it. In my experience, I think my ZX-7R handles as good or better than the modern litre bikes of today, just not as fast. However if you were to compare it to an AMA superbike or WSBK superbike, I am sure the handling of those would be far superior to my ZX-7R's. But for stock litre bikes right off the showroom floor, my ZX-7R can hold its own and again that is because it has been set up and built just for me. It has taken me many years to get it where it is today, and I still am working on the bike as I write this story. I love riding it so much!

On some of his other favourite motorcycles

Well, I am partial to Kawasakis of course. It is hard for me to say why I like the Kawasakis so much but to me they always look better. And for me, they have to be green. I have lots of pics of the KR250 and 350s and I think they are very good looking. The older ones were always fast, but bad handlers. But you could always improve the handling. However, the little CB400F Honda I had for a daily driver was also really a sweet riding bike - for a stock bike it really handled nice. It was very good in the corners.

For me, one of the best looking bikes is the MV Agusta. To me, those superbikes were the best looking of all, even better than my ZX-7R. I also love the looks of the Ducati, especially the tubular frames - they are so beautifully put together. I really think the Italian bikes are really the best looking. If my budget could afford it, I would own a Ducati Desmosedici RR. I got to sit on one once, as my neighbor has a friend who owns one and he rode it over, and that’s when I got to swing a leg over it. I love how the exhaust comes out the tail and also the sound - there's nothing else like it!

On what he thinks of all the electronics on modern superbikes

Well, I think that the traction control really takes away from the riding experience. I owned a Honda NSX and I turned off the traction control, except when it was raining or wet. ABS is probably okay, however I have never ridden a bike with ABS. I have a Honda SI that has ABS and I like it in the car.

For World Superbikes and MotoGP, I think traction control stopped all the bad high sides. I have read that the older riders do not trust the traction control like the newer and younger riders, who have only used traction control. I am sure if you put the younger riders on a bike without traction control, they would have a difficult time adjusting, having not ridden a bike without it.

On his love for motorcycle roadracing

I watch both MotoGP and WSBK at my neighbor's house. My neighbor has a mill and a lathe in his garage, and he has made many of the one-off billet parts for my bike. He has 1994 Honda RC45 (serial #2) and we ride together a lot. It would be hard for me to pick between WSBK and MotoGP, because I love roadracing so much. It would be like saying which arm do you like the best! Well, of course, Tom Skyes, Valentio Rossi, Casey Stoner, Nicky Hayden, Ben Spies, John Hopkins, Shinya Nakano, Freddie Spencer, Troy Bayliss, and Carlos Checa - just to mention a few - are some of my favourite racers. To go way back, the roadracers that were my idols were Gary Nixon, Dick 'Buggsy' Mann, Yvon Duhamel, Randy Mamola, Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Eric Bostrom, Doug Chandler and Scott Russell.

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Damn cool, we think. Takes us right back to the 1990s and evokes so many motorcycles-related memories of our misspent youth...

Marvin Webber's 1994 Kawasaki ZX-7R: Tech Specs

Engine: Built by Mike Norman, ZX-9R crank modified to fit ZX-7R cases. ZX-9 cylinder bolts to ZX-7R cases, cylinder heads from a 1994 ZX-7R World Superbike, J.E. pistons, ZX-9R cams, ZX-7R race kit ignition, 41mm Keihin flatslide carbs, ZX-7R race kit airbox, magnesium clutch cover by Muzzy, KLS electronic quick-shifter with reverse race-style shift pattern, Dyno & Jetting by Mike Canfield of Roseville Cycle Performance Center

Exhaust: Muzzy Titanium full exhaust (ceramic coated), Sato Ty GP-style muffler

Power: 145bhp at the rear wheel

Wheels and Tyres: 17-inch Dymag carbonfibre wheels, Pirelli Supercorsa SP tyres, 120/70 (front), 180/55 (rear)

Brakes: JP Racing 6-piston calipers (front), ceramic composite front rotors by Brake Tech, Brembo 4-piston caliper (rear) and full-floating rotor by Kosman, stainless steel brake lines

Chassis: Aluminium twin-spar, Laser-aligned, modified and straightened by Computrack, frame sliders by Larry Lovisone

Suspension: World Superbikes-spec Ohlins 46mm front forks, Computrack channeled and reinforced swingarm, modified Ohlins rear shock with titanium spring

Bodywork: Front faring modded by Hal Whipple, for PIAA lights and centre ram-air scoop, modded front fender, paint by Bike Man – Jody M, fairing and tail by Air Tech, Decals by Infinit Graphx – CJ Fishel, Tank autographed by Scott Russell (left) and Doug Chandler (right), left side faring graphics match Scott Russell’s 1993 ZX-7R World Superbike, right side graphics match Doug Chandler’s 1996-97 AMA Superbikes, rear-view mirrors are from 2005 Ducati 999R

Instrumentation: Digital dashboard by TransLogic, electrical wiring by Robin Webber

Miscellaneous: All billet aluminum work by Larry Lovisone's 'Busy Little Shop' (All faring mounts, kick stand, ignition key switch mount, rear cush drive modified to solid drive, thermostat housing, aluminium front axle, race faring mount modded to fit digital dash)

Wet weight: 181 kilos, 53:47 front:rear weight bias

We can't thank Marvin enough for taking the time to speak to Faster and Faster. What can we say but thank you very, very, VERY much, Marvin, and hope you just keep on riding forever. Best wishes!

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