Gary's Kawasaki ZX-11D

A 1993 Sport Tourer For an Empty Nester

Gary Brawley and ZX-11D
Gary Brawley and his 1993 Kawasaki ZX-11DPhoto provided by Gary Brawley

NAME: Gary Brawley
AGE: 62
HOME: Hilliard, Ohio
OCCUPATION: Retired Research Engineer

My Uncle taught me to ride his 80cc Yamaha when I was twelve, and I have been riding ever since. I rode OPB (other people's bikes) until I was 16 and could buy my first bike – a 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead for $475. It had been sitting in a northern Michigan barn for a while but ran fine. I stripped it and rebuilt it into a radical minimalist style chopper in 1971. With my part-time burger-flipper income, I was pleased to find that 'racing/performance' engine parts were cheaper than vintage stock replacements. After a somewhat brief pause for college and marriage, I bought an '82 Yamaha 920 Virago V-twin. When Yamaha introduced the V-Max in 1985, I just had to trade in the V-Min. I enjoyed the great Mr. Max until I bought this ZX-11 new in 1993 when Kawasaki introduced the 'D' model. While the V-Max was a very snappy street bike, the big Ninja was really a kick. This bike was an occasional sport tourer with the addition of a set of soft-sided nylon saddle bags and a tank bag. But, with 2 young children, the bike was used mostly for commuting so I wouldn't feel guilty leaving the family home for some extended rides.

I was a believer that to stay safe, it wasn’t how many miles I could log, but how often I rode, to keep reflexes crisp and accurate. Street riding and urban freeways were plenty challenging in keeping up riding skills. Commuting in weather from 5°F (I had no idea when I started out that day – pray for stop lights) to over 100°F gave me a wide range of riding experiences. While I tried to avoid getting wet riding into work, there were many days when I got very wet riding home – where a dry change was handy.

Gary Brawley and 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead
Gary and his first ride, a 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead, which he bought for $475.Photo courtesy of Gary Brawley

As the years went by, the big sport bikes got smaller and more race ready with none of the features that made the ZX-11 as a great two-up sport touring bike – long wheelbase, large fuel tank, long soft seat, cargo hooks, and lots of horsepower. The next thing I knew, the bike was over 20 years old and the kids were out of the house. Now empty-nesters, my wife and I enjoy traveling together. We found many great roads in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. One of the best tours was the Circle Tour of Lake Superior.

Aside from the obvious performance of this ride, which was kept stock, the really great thing is the reliability. Aside from consumables, only two repairs were needed on this 23-year-old bike: one fork seal a few years ago and a recent replacement of an original fuel line that had cracked. Even the batteries lasted about 11 or 12 years on this bike - the third battery was installed this spring. I’ve recently added a used Concours 14 bike for touring, but am keeping the old ZX-11 for riding solo. I’ll probably keep this bike for a while; I doubt it would bring a price that matches its value.