From the March 2001 issue of Cycle World.
This TZ750 street-racer owes its life to two separate happenings, the first being my maiden voyage to Daytona in 1985, when I came face to fairing with Yamaha’s fierce Formula One racebike. It was love at first sight. Within two years I owned a ’79 example, but it was a basketcase. As a result, the love that blossomed in Daytona Beach cooled, and the sad 750 sat in the back of my garage for nearly a decade.
The second happening evolved slowly, as cross-country friendships often do. In the early ’90s, I met Chris Geiter, a uniquely talented specials-builder whose work combines coverbike looks with ass-hauling performance. Chris heard about my basketcase TZ and admitted to having the same passion for the four-cylinder two-strokes. He grew up reading about guys like Cecotto, Singleton, Romero, Baker, Agostini, Pons, Brauneck, Spencer, Roberts, Lawson…all of whom were allied with Yamaha’s largest stroker. It wasn’t long before my ugly TZ was in Chris’ Allentown, Pennsylvania, basement.
“Man, the first thing I remember about the TZ was how little and primitive things were back then,” reflects Geiter. “One of the biggest challenges was modernizing the bike enough for fun riding, but not ruining the thing’s character. My goal was to get it back to original form, but step it up a little.”
Good plan, but first Geiter had to deal with the problems that had overwhelmed me, things like cracked frame downtubes, crashed bracketry and rotting expansion chambers. “Well, that was about the roughest bike I’d ever seen,” Chris laughs, “and I’ve seen some junk. The only thing to do was a complete teardown and a nut-and-bolt rebuild.”
As the work began, Geiter opened ProFab, and I’m proud to own the shop’s first project. Through his tried-and-true sources, Chris began to turn back the years of neglect, transforming a ratty racer into an amazing streetbike, which included fitting a constant-loss Honda CBR600 battery under the seat to power the lights and horn.
Meanwhile, the inline-Four was sent to Steve Biganski at Extreme Lean, the man who has tuned my TZ250s since 1990. Biganski faced many challenges, the biggest of which were marred crankcase-mating surfaces and improper crank-bearing fit. He dug into his bag of tricks learned from years of racing TZ750s. “I know how strong these engine are,” he said. “I always wanted to put one on the street. They’re surprisingly tractable. Hey, these things went 200 miles flat-out at Daytona, so with air cleaners on Lectron carbs and Motul oil, they’re bulletproof. You’ll love it.”
He was right: I do love it. Yeah, there’s the hassle of mixing fuel and oil, carrying the kickstand in a backpack and push-starting the bike, but for TZ addicts like Geiter, Biganski and myself, that’s part of the fun. Just listening to it run is worth every minute and dollar spent. And the purity of purpose when the power hits feeds my addiction like nothing else on Earth. I will never race F-1 at Daytona, but I frequently revisit the TZ750 legend.