I tired of push-starting the FZR. Even after a thorough going over of the carburetors, replacing of the spark plugs (whereupon two spark plug boots were found to be barely attached to their wires) and general tune-up, the machine was a bear to start, and should the ambient temperatures drop below 60 degrees F, nearly impossible. It would putt putt putt on one cylinder, sometimes two for a few seconds before becoming flooded. Rumors that a cover and electric heater underneath the motorcycle are required before attempting to start on cold days were confirmed by another FZR racer I will be competing against. It was reassuring to know I wasn't alone..
Under optimum conditions, push-starting a motorcycle is a pain in the ass. Doing it in full leathers in 100 degree Road Atlanta heat five minutes before a race seemed like pure sado-masochism, not to mention risky. The modified crankshaft on this particular 400 could no longer accept a starter gear. It seemed the only option was to push. Or roll.....
|My Blake Perry Roller Starter|
Roller starters have been popular with the well-heeled vintage crowd for years. Many a reluctant British single has been coaxed into life on the small steel drums of these machines, usually run by a car battery attached to one or two car starters driving rollers hooked together via gears and chain. They are not cheap, running in the neighborhood of $1,200 to $1,500 when all's said and done.
The cost is a tough pill to swallow for the budget racer, hell, that's three sets of race tires! Experience was whispering quietly in my ear that the starting problem would not skulk in the corner long, likely to show its nasty teeth moments before a race start. It was time to dig in, pony up and solve the issue instead of ignoring it. Exhaustive research led me to Blake Perry, a vintage flat-track racer in Texas who built his own starter and then started offering them for sale (see YouTube Video) Perry Roller Starter. After purchasing the battery, all-in cost including shipping was just under $1,000. Six months of use later, I can say it was truly worth it. Instead of dreading the ol' run and bump I simply had to back the FZR up the short diamond plate ramp and onto the rollers, step on the pedal and ignition!
One problem down, 9,999 to go.