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1978 Kawasaki KE-125 I.S.D.T. Replica

     The KE-125 began in 1976 and ran until the mid 1980's and was the direct decendant of the F6-125 of the early 70's and the KS-125. When Kawasaki began changing their model codes in 1975, they took the KS-125 and re branded  it KE-125. This was the practise with most of the line up, to update it and release it as a new KE model. 
    The KE-125 was built around Kawasakis' rotary disk valve induction two stroke engine. It was a six speed, with oil injection, points and condensor, and a 6 volt electrical system. Bare nuts reliable would be an accurate way of describing this, and the entire KE series. That little rotary two stroke would smoke the doors off any of it competition hands down, and while being a little wider and heavier than a piston port engine due to the rotary chamber, the power advantage was worth it. It was also a bit  mechanically noisy as compared to other bikes, but really, when you are miles ahead of the competition, whats a little noise?? 
    For me, having a KE in the stable was an absolute but finding one was the problem. I was looking for a 175 model and had advertised for one many times with no luck. It seemed like they had all disappeared which was strange since there was a time when i was literally tripping over them. Time went on and then one was advertised for sale, but it was a 125 and was located four and a half hours away. The negociations began and i was informed that while the bike does run, it's hard to start, has little compression, and smokes like a dragon. What this all means is that the engine is worn out and will need a rebuild. A deal was struck and with the help of Rick, my riding buddy and brother from another mother, the bike is here.
    Next thing is to decide if this will be a factory original restoration, or something a little different. The original plan was to build an SR-125 works replica out of this bike, but Rick mentioned that it would be difficult to see after dark with no lights, as the SR bikes were motocrossers. Then the idea of building an I.S.D.T. replica came to mind. The I.S.D.T. in an acrynom for International Six Day Trials, a cross country race that takes place every year in a different country. This race draws teams from across the world, the best of the best, and is sanctioned by the F.I.M. and the A.M.A . This event has been going on for decades, so it would be possible to build a period correct bike from this KE, and it would probably be the only one in this part of the world, so why not. While i have obtained a lot of the parts required to do this restoration, the work has yet to begin due to work commitments. Stay tuned to this page for updates. In the meantime, the picture below center is close to what i have in mind, and the rest are of the actual bike as purchased.
The above picture, found on the web, was the basis of this whole build.....except I went a few steps farther
 The below four pictures are of the bike as purchased..November 2011. 
     Since this page was originally posted a lot of work has been done to this bike. It was stripped to the bare frame, sanded, and repainted gloss black. any bracketry not required has been removed to reduce weight. the fuel tank, seat, both fenders, shocks, forks, handle bars, rear wheel, and some of the controls have been replaced, but are not yet installed. The fuel tank chosen is from a 1978 kawasaki ke- 175, as is the rear wheel. The seat is from a 1976 kawasaki ks-125. The rear fender is from a 77 suzuki ts-185, and the front is a preston petty fender from a 1978 hodaka thunder dog 250. The sprockets, chain, and brakes are also new. All of these parts combined were replaced for one of two reasons, one, they were worn out beyond service, or two, they were replaced because the originals didn't fit the design I had in mind of an I.S.D.T. replica. 
    Onto the was completely trashed. The original owners lack of maintenance allowed a lot of sand to enter the engine through the rotary valve, which took out the connecting rod, piston, rings, rotary valve, crank bearings and crank seals. I decided to completely rebuild the engine using oem kawasaki parts, and have replaced every bearing, seal, gasket, connecting rod kit, fourty thou oversized piston and rings, clutch plates, clutch push rod, ect. Due to work commitments, the engine is being built by Thug Engine Works, who are well known for building top notch power units. Below are a few updated pictures of the bike as it is today.  The replacement forks I chose are from a 1974 kawasaki kx-125. They are soon to be rebuilt and installed as well . hopefully by fall there will be a complete, wired rolling chassis. 
    At this point perhaps a bit of a synopsis on this motorcycle is in order. The only evidence I could find of a factory Kawasaki I.S.D.T. bike being built dated to the mid 70's. The engine was a modified KX450 cc, the chassis was a factory one off, and it featured disc brakes. It was also one of the ugliest motorcycles i have ever seen. The pic below is of M.r. Ugly.

     At the same time, a privateer riding this event would have likely modified a stock, production model for this purpose. Ideas began to form of what such a bike would look like, and then to figure out what components fit within the design. oddly, the vast majority of this motorcycle is made up of o.e.m. Kawasaki parts from different models produced throughout the 1970's, but not completely as there are also some after market parts, a few custom "skunk works" items made of aluminum, and at least one part, compliments of Suzuki. They say a motorcycle, or any machine is the sum of it's parts, well, the recipe is as follows. 
    From the original bike, the only remaining parts are the swing arm, chassis, front wheel, air box, and the oil tank. the rear wheel is from a 1978 Kawasaki KE-175, the forks from a 1974 KX-125, shocks from a 1974 G4TR-E, fuel tank and side cover are from a 1978 KE-175, seat from a 1976 KD-175, and the engine is a totally rebuilt 1978 KE-125, but overbored to fourty thou oversize. After market parts include the handle bars, throttle, kill switch, grips, tires, chain, sprockets, brake shoes, front fender, and head light/ number plate combo. A special note on the fender and light are in order. Back in the day, the largest supplier of motorcycle plastics was Preston Petty Products. They basically invented these items when dirt bikes were still being produced with steel of fiberglass components, which were heavy and brittle. As time rolled on, and manufacturer's began producing motorcycles with these types of fenders and body work, Preston Petty dissappeared from the scene. Paul Stannard of Strictly Hodaka stepped up to the plate, contacted Preston Petty himself, and put these period items back into production, for use on Hodaka motorcycles. Fortunately, they not only fit into the design I had in mind, but they look quite at home on the Kawasaki. They are of top quality, and i will be using these products in all future builds. You can get them from .
    The one and only part on this bike, manufactured by a competitor of Kawasaki is the rear fender, which is an o.e.m. part from a 1977 Suzuki TS-185. The design called for a rear fender, white in colour, with a rounded curve, much like that found on many dirt bikes of the early 70's. I used the stock inner fender and cut the Suzuki outer fender to fit....and it looks like it left the factory that way. 
    This bike will also have some custom graphics created and applied. These will include the original Kawasaki symbol with Kawasaki written in Japanese for the fork legs. The number 374 on the number plate, along with a special I.S.D.T. Replica decal based on the one used at the 53rd running of the event in Sweden in 1978.
    Soon I will add some more updated pictures as the project takes shape, frankly I'm really pleased with how this is turning out. While I love a bike restored to original, every once in a while the creative side takes over, and I get the urge to build something special. The most gifted builder in the world cannot do it all by himself, and sometimes needs a bit of help from others to "make it happen" . Saying that, I need to mention some people and companies who helped make this happen. They are DCP Kawasaki (oem parts), Rocks Recreation (after marked parts), R-O (my ebay broker..more oem parts), Allan Millican aka Thug Engine Works (new engine),  Bobcat (graphics), and last but not least Strictly Hodaka (Petty Products). 

     Dateline November 4, 2012.  All work on motorcycles has stopped for the winter and they have been tucked in for the next five months or so. In the meantime the engine has been installed .


     As soon as it warmed up enough, work recommenced on the KE-125. Remaining work included rebuilding/ installing the fuel system, exhaust system, intake system, most control cables, brakes, and a new electrical system. This work took about three weeks when time permitted. through this process only one surprise was found, and that was that someone took a file to the jet needle, so i ordered a carb kit to fix that. The bike is complete with the exception of graphics and perhaps some fine tuning. I am very pleased with the finished product and had a great time building it. 
    A few days after the completion of the project I received the sad news that Joseph O'Kane had passed away. Without his help this project wouldn't have been. Therefore, this motorcycle is dedicated to the memory of Joseph O'Kane of Napan, N.B.
    The picture below are of the finished bike........which i'm really proud of. Cheers!!