Durability Upgrades for a KLR-650?
I am planning on spending a few years riding the world on my (2005) KLR 650 (inspired in no small part by this site! ) and am looking to pick the brains of all you who have picked this same bike for similar trips.
I'm finding more ideas on what can be upgraded than I can shake a stick at...but mostly from pre-trip planning (Such as this post, it occurs to me ). I'm hoping mostly for feedback from those who have been on a KLR for long who can give input on what was a good idea to upgrade, what was a waste of money/weight, and what was missed that should have been changed.
Last edited by othalan; 24 Sep 2007 at 06:04.
Between three and two years ago I went through the same process you are beginning - equipping a KLR 650 for a rtw trip, although my trip was not nearly as extensive as the one you are planning. I currently have about 27K miles on my 2004 KLR and it's been totally reliable. Although some disagree, I believe these bikes are excellent choices for extended adventure riding. I did many of the modifications you list in your post but not all. A complete list of what i did to my bike is on my website, www.rtwrider. net. FWIW, some comments relating to your list of proposed modifications/upgrades follows, and some suggestions for things you didn't list. Btw, I'm assuming you will be riding a pre-2008 model KLR - I have no experience with the 2008 model.
Your Vital Changes:
Radiator Fan Blade (metal): Somewhere I read of problems relating to the metal fan, something to do with the fan coming loose and the metal blades piercing the radiator, if I recall correctly (which I may not). I left the stock fan on and had no problems with it, even though I have crashed the bike and bent the fan housing (the plastic blades did not break).
Acerbis Rally Pro hand guards: I would put hand guards in the vital category, but Acerbis would not be my choice. I prefer the Factory 909 Masher (or similar) guards which have an articulaled mounting system and are easier to install and equally protective.
Sealed Bearings: I didn't do this and had no problems that would have been avoided by sealed bearings, but have no experience with the sealed bearings. They may well be an excellent idea for a journey as long as the one you plan.
Progressive Springs (rear): I'm not sure if you mean just a shock spring or the entire shock - spring combination. I strongly recommend replacing the entire stock shock. My Progressive shock has about 19000 miles on it and still functions extremely well.
I did everything else you list in this category and agree they are all excellent improvements.
I did all of these except the speed bleeders and LED turn signals. I'm sure there is nothing wrong with doing both of these but I didn't think it was necessary.
I did use a centerstand and do recommend it unless ground clearance will frequently be vital to you. The convenience it provides for fixing flats, changing tires, lubeing the chain, etc. was very valuable, IMO. The weight is carried very low and I did not notice any effect from it. Ground clearance is reduced somewhat, however.
Drive Chain: Mine had a master link. I would suggest putting on the best, strongest chain you can get but I'm influenced because this was the only mechanical problem I had, unless two flats and crash related problems are counted. I strongly recommend against Krause Sidewinder chains - that's what I used and it broke three times.
HID Headlight: I have no experience with these. I simply installed a higher wattage H4 bulb and took a spare. Probably an excellent idea, if for no other reason than because of less electrical current draw.
Heated Grips: Depends on the climates you will be traveling in. These don't need to cost a lot (Dualstar sells a set for not much over $25 that work surprisingly well - I don't have them on my KLR but on another bike). If in doubt, get them since you don't need to turn them on unless you want to, and they can make a huge difference if it's really cold (there was a time or two in Siberia I wished I'd had them, even in August!!).
IMS Tank: I really like mine (which holds more than the advertised capacity - a measured 7.5 gallons). The protection for the fan, radiator, and coolant tank are better than any other method, and the plastic used in these tanks is really tough, tougher than the steel stock tank I believe.
Nerf Bars: Good if you don't get the IMS tank, but the tank is more protective. These aren't as heavy as they look; they're hollow and actually quite light (I had a set on my KLR until I bought the IMS tank).
Radiator/Reservoir and Water Pump Guards: I didn't get them and never regretted not having them.
Fork Brace: I like mine (Happy Trails), feeling it gives a bit more stability both on and off pavement. OTOH, a friend felt his caused binding of the fork and took it off his KLR. Not essential.
Locking Axle and alignment nuts: I have both and they do make work on these areas easier. Mine have held up so far (again, about 19K miles). I especially prefer the locking alignment nut over the stock double nut system.
Rather than just a stainless steel front brake line I would recommend an entire front brake upgrade kit, including the larger rotor. The stock front brake on the pre-2008 KLRs is so woefully inadequate for pavement riding that I don't feel just a stainless line is adequate, at least for my riding. Dual Star brought out a kit for about $200 awhile back, a considerably better price than what was previously available.
Headlight protection of some sort. I have a robust metal protector made by Big Cee engineering. However Big Cee is apparently no longer in business (although he has a great FAQ section about the KLR on his website, www.bigcee.com. I highly recommend you read that if you haven't already). Arrowhead Motorsports still markets a metal guard, last I knew. Even the stick on vinyl covering (by Dual Star I think) would add some protection.
Happy Trails engine guard - highway peg combination. I really like this unit. I'm not sure how much protection it actually provides the lower motor area, but for my money just the highway pegs are worth the cost. When one is riding substantial distances day after day after day, having a second foot position is invaluable, IMHO.
Bypass the side stand lockout. Sooner or later the contacts on this become corroded and then the engine dies when the rider starts the bike moving since it "thinks" the side stand is still down.. At one time Totally Wired Cycles sold a plug and play kit that bypassed the side stand and clutch lockouts, and this was switched so the rider could choose the bypass (either or both) if they desired, such as when a problem started. But, I don't see this on the TWC website any longer. Tammy (the owner) may have discontinued selling this because of liability issues. Alternatively, it's simple to bypass the side stand lockout by altering the wiring.
Supposedly the fan relay has been known to fail on KLRs, rendering the fan inoperative, although I've never heard of this actually happening to anyone's bike. Totally Wired Cycles sells a bypass kit for the fan relay so the fan can be operated via a switch if the fan fails. I do have this on my bike and occasionally have turned on the fan and operated it continuously when riding off-pavement in difficult conditions at very slow speeds in hot weather. This avoids the repeated on and off cycling of the fan that occurs in this situation.
I have rim locks on my bike, but am not sure how important they really are for a KLR. They do make tire or tube changing more difficult and the tires more difficult to balance, although it still can be done. I do recommend ultra heavy duty tubes for this type of travelilng. Not everything advertised as a heavy duty tube is the maximum 4 mm thickness. Bridgestone and Fly Racing are two companies that do sell real 4 mm tubes.
Skidplate. Yes, I think they are worth the extra weight, which is carried very low on the bike and not noticeable. With a skidplate and low profile oil drain plug the plug is totally protected. There have been times when I've "banged, for lack of a better word," over large imbedded rocks, or in one case a tree trunk, and been very grateful I had a skidplate.
A billet aluminum mount for the left side mirror. The stock arrangement is for the mirror to mount directly to the switch housing on the left side and in a crash this plastic unit may be easily broken.
A stronger, lighter handlebar. I like the Protaper SE Atv High bar. It also vibrates less.
I've never met anyone who likes the stock seat. I have a Mr. Ed's Moto aftermarket seat and like it.
Dual Star sells a stronger, billet aluminum, mounting bracket for the rear brake lever. I have it, but am not sure how important it is (there are probably much more important things to spend money on).
I have a lockable storage compartment that fits underneath the license plate and used it to hold spare copies of my important documents. The idea here is that the unit is somewhat hidden and would be missed by thieves. I don't recall who sells it - probably Rider Warehouse or Whitehorse Press.
Speaking of security, for a trip like this I would recommend metal or hard plastic panniers and rear top box. I was able to fit everything I took in these three boxes so nothing was exposed and enticing to thieves. This is also preferred for weather protection. However, rigid panniers do create an increased risk of a lower leg fracture if there is a crash and a leg gets caught between the pannier and ground, so keep those legs forward!
I also installed a Nady remotely triggered motion alarm on my bike which also signals the remote switch that the user carries with him/her and strongly recommend one of these. It was interesting that in Russia most vehicles have these.
Tim at Happy Trails recommends aftermarket fork gaiters that drain better than stock. I have them, am not sure how valuable they really are.
Scott Oiler - I'm ambivalent about this. I don't think this is the best way to lube a chain when riding in dirt, and I was never able to get mine set so that the chain seemed adequately lubed without throwing lots of oil. As mentioned earlier, I had chain breakage problems but I don't believe this related to the Scott Oiler. It also quit working about the time I finished crossing Russia because a small hole devieloped in a tube; I had never used one of these before my rtw trip and took it off when I got home, never using it since. If you want mine you may have it for the cost of shipping (it has the larger expedition reservoir).
Anything on your list I haven't specifically mentioned I do have on my bike and am happy with it. Doing all of this may seem a huge expenditure of time and money, but KLR's are so inexpensive to purchase they are still reasonably priced even after all the modifications. And some of us, myself included, greatly enjoy doing improvements and making a bike better for it's intended use. I certainly enjoyed working on mine.
That's all I can think of at the moment. If you have any questions send me an email (the address is on my website). I hope all of this is of some help. Good luck and enjoy what should be the ride of a lifetime.
Wow that's a LOT of upgrades...
I'm coming to the US in December to buy a KLR and ride it south, but it seems I will have to spend a month in a garage first (-:
Well you guys seem to have spent a long time looking into these things, so if you only had limited funds and very limited workspace/poor work conditions what would you do?
What are the vitals?
I am not an expert mechanic, so I may have to pay a someone to do the difficult stuff for me. And I can't wait for 8 weeks for some obscure part.
Any input for the poor europeans? (-:
Very nice post by the way, I felt enlightened after reading it.
South East Asia, USA, Central and South America and Scandinavia.
I have a 2000 KLR 650 , which I have owned since new. It currently has 50,000 miles on it, and has had no major reapirs, and it still runs as well as it always did. It is a veteran of several trips from the US to Mexico, ! to Panama, and 1 to Argentina.
doohikey: No need to elaborate here
I chnaged mine to one of the Eagle Mfg. units at 20,000 miles, but the original was in fine shape.
Stainless Steel Break Line (Front): Increases safety in emergency stops
Didn't do it, didn't feel the omprovement justified the trouble/expense.
Rear Master-Cylinder Guard: Protect the cheap plastic from a crash
I got one off a parts bike cheap so I installed it. I don't consider it essential.
Wiring Hardness Upgrade: Increased headlight output
Didn't do it, didn't feel the improvement justified the trouble/expense.
Carb Vent Kit: Needed for water crossings
Didn't do it, no problems in numerous water crossings.
Low-profile magnetic oil drain plug: In case of narrow misses with a rock & trapping engine debris.
Didn't do it.
Subframe Bolt Upgrade: Don't want these to sheer off from vibration!
I drilled and tapped the upper bolts from 8 to 10mm, as I had these fail on a different KLR in the past.
Radiator Fan Blade (metal): Stock plastic blade is too easily damaged
Didn't do it, no problems.
Serrated foot pegs: For water & mud. Dual Star or IMS?
I bought some generic ones on ebay for $15
Enlarged side-stand foot: Stock is too small for soft surfaces
Didn't do it, would have been nice a few times, but no biggie.
Folding Shift Lever: Less chance it'll break. MSR or IMS brand?
My original lever broke while street riding at about 20k miles. I have a aftermarket one now, forogt what brand.
Acerbis Rally Pro hand guards & spoilers: Better protection for controls than stock
Didn't do it, no problems
Sealed Bearings: Increases longevity
Don't know which bearings you are talking about, but I have met 3 KLR riders in my travels who were stranded due to rear wheel bearings failing. I replacer mine at about 47,000 miles and on of the rears felt notchy.
LED flashing break light: Type that only flashes for a short time. Increases visibility & decreases power use & eliminates bulb use.
Didn't do it no problems
Progressive Springs (rear): Stock is insufficient for long-term heavy loads.
I machined a spacer to increase the preload on the stock spring. not the ideal solution, but it was free. Had no problems.
ATO fuse upgrade/relocation kit: More durable & easier to reach
Didn't do it. One of the few failures I had on my S.AM. trip was an intermittent fuse contact. probably worth it.
Progressive Springs (front): Better overall performance & longevity
Got some of these off a parts bike, so I instaled them. IMO they are too stiff, would cut down spacer if I did it again.
Billet Oil Filler Cap: Needs wrench to open - prevents people from putting in things they shouldn't. For peace of mind mostly.
For conspriracy theorists only.
Break system speed bleeders: For ease of maintenance
didn't do it.
ScottOiler Dual Injector: Improved chain life & ease of maintenance
didn't do it, old fashioned can of chain lube got me 19,000+ miles on my last set.
LED Turn Signals: More durable than standard bulbs.
I still have the original indicator bulbs in mine and they still work. I just replaced the original tail/brake bulb about a month ago.
Stainless Steel Oil Filter: Because a non-reusable filter may be hard to find.
In Latin America, wouldn't be a problem, but I don't know hwere you are going.
REJECTED FOR WEIGHT, EXPENSE, ETC.
Stainless Steel Break Line (Rear): I can already lock up the rear break at will
Centerstand: Not worth the weight. Use a length of tube to raise either tire & double as other uses.
I find a centerstand well worth the trouble.
UNKNOWN - FEEDBACK ON USEFULNESS?
Drive Chain with a Master Link: Am I correct that the stock chain has no master link? Should I use an X-ring or O-ring chain? Clip or Rivet style master link?
I used a DID x ring gold and went 19,000 miles through the Americas, and the sprockets wore out first. I think the chain could have been reused in a pinch.
HID Headlight: Need to find either a full HID headlight replacement (not just bulb) or HID driving lights.
I used a faux HID fron AutoZone. Noticeably brighter.
Heated Grips: Is there enough need to justify the cost & power usage?
I was leary of overloading a marginal alternator. Would ahve been nice e few times.
IMS Fuel Tank: Provides longer range & radiator protection, however cap does not lock.
I never used reserve on my trips with the stock tank, so feel no need for more capacity, but more is better than less.
Happy-Trails Nerf Bars: Protection worth the weight? Not for use with IMS tank.
Didn't use them no problems
Radiator & Reservoir Guards: Alternative to Nerf Bars for less weight (or if using IMS tank).
I have these, nice for peace of mind.
Fork Brace: I've never felt the need. What benefit would it provide?
I didn't do it, but it does provide a firmer feel to the steering.
Water Pump Guard: Is this worth the cost?
Skid Plate: Is the added protection really worth the extra weight?
I used an aluminum skid plate for peace of mind, but I think the stock plastic one is toughere than people give it credit for.
Locking Axel Nuts: Will the self-locking mechanism hold up throughout the trip? If so, better than cotter pins or hitch pins.
I used hitch pin clips
Locking rear-axle alignment nuts: Undecided if better or worse than stock dual-nut system
I like the nylock nuts here, but not essential.
I carried a bunch of stuff I never used, like clutch plates and brake pads, but would take them again,, just because. I used standard thickness tubes, no slime and never had a puncture from Texas to Tierra del Fuego. (I know I'm lucky) The only significant problem I had was my speedo drive locked up and ripped the drive tangs out of the hub, so I had no speedometer for the last 4-5,000 miles, a major pain for figuring distance to the next fuel.
Everything else I am changing fulfills two purposes:
1) Increases my personal safety.
2) Decreases the chance of damage when (not if) I go down. If I were planning a less ambitious trip (e.g. South America only) I might not bother with many of the changes I'm considering.
That said, here is the short list of what I personally would upgrade with minimal funds:
Doohickey, Seat, SS front break line, foot pegs, and the carb vent kit (my theory is AndyT is a lucky SOB for never having problems ).
For the seat, I like my corbin seat. Some people are happy with something as simple as changing out the foam for something more comfortable.
You note that you are not mechanically inclined. A fantastic way to get around this is to find a "Tech Day" in your local area where KLR riders get together and all work on their bikes at the same time. Header over to KLR650.NET - Your Kawasaki KLR650 Resource! Forums, Photos, Tech and search the regional forums to find one in your area. We're all also a very friendly lot. Around here, at least, people will gladly help out a fellow KLR rider in need for no more than the cost of a pizza to munch on.
Peter, doing all the modifications I listed is certainly not essential for most uses of a KLR. A friend of mine upgraded the doohickey, increased the shock compression damping and/or preload, and happily put many trouble free miles on his bike (although he did eventually add the front brake kit (larger rotor, stainless steel lines, and Galfer green pads). But he only rides locally and/or always with other riders so his risk isn't nearly as high as is the case with someone riding in remote areas in undeveloped regions of the world, especially if riding alone.
I would personally feel quite confortable with nothing more than the doohickey upgrade and front brake kit for most situations (assuming a pre-2008 model) and possibly a seat for comfort. But, the more remote and isolated the riding areas, the more I would choose to do to make the bike as reliable and crash damage resistant as possible. It all comes down to a matter of you assessing your particular risks and making a judgment as to what you need.
Ride Around the World 2005
Thanks for the fantastic posts liketoride2 & AndyT! I greatly appreciate the information, especially the contrasting views based on experience! I'm going to have to mull it all over a bit before I come up with any questions.
In the meantime, what follows is just a bit of idle musing on the theory of my upgrades and why I agree with you both in spite of the fact that a lot of the advice is contradictory. Mostly its the random babble I'm throwing out there for my own edification.....
A lot of what is driving my list of upgrades is not that I consider them vital to make the trip (even some of those in my "vital" category), nor even that I expect the changes to make a notable difference on a regular basis. Its all basically contingency planning to minimize the severity of the most common risks.
The rear master cylinder guard is a perfect example of this. It is somewhat unlikely the rear master cylinder will be damaged. Even if it is, running with a rear break is not a big problem. However you loose the use of the rear break which in turn means stopping power is decreased by 20% - 30%. Safety is thus decreased significantly. On a shorter trip I might accept the risk of going without for a time. Planning for several years on the road I'd rather pay the $15 to know I have that small extra margin of safety.
Yes, if you might guess by now, I am paranoid. Too many years making contingency plans for the (mission-critical) software I write. On the other hand, its not paranoia if the universe really is out to get you, is it?
And ignoring all of that, one of the original reasons I picked the KLR is that it has fantastic aftermarket parts availability and is inexpensive enough to make it into exactly the bike I want while still costing less than any of the alternatives which are only sort of what I'm looking for.
Part of my philosophy on making minimal upgrades to my bike was that it had nearly 30,000 miles on it before I left on my South America trip. I figured if it wasn't worth shipping back, or it got stolen, I wouldn't be out a couple thousand dollars worth of aftermarket parts too. Also, I have wrenched on bikes for a long time, and have some confidence in my abilty to cobble a repair in the field if needed. The other thing is that a breakdown is only a big deal if you are in a hurry. On a long trip, waiting a week for parts isn't that disruptive in the grand scheme.
mine is a 2000 model
Things i would do again and say as important ,320 mm front rotor ,way better and also makes your pads last longer as there is less effort needed
Scott oiler ,a must for long distance travel ,you hardly touch your chain if you put on a good one with kawa sprockets
My dave built pannier racks ,my happy trails ones broke 3 times with ali panniers ,but just a little warning if you use ali panniers wear motocross boots all the time cause if you fall of those suckers can bite you
Dual star bright and shiney LED tail light as i don´t want any one doing me in the arse
Touring pegs ,they look a bit gay but they give your legs three choices of where to put them ,and beleive me you will want 3 ,they bolted on with a set of tank and radiator protection nerf bars
Formula 1 engineering rear shock ,this will make your bike into a dream machine ,wow factor ,right up there
and last and nearly the best was the corbin flat seat ,amazingly comfortable ,even though you think they look a bit hard when you first see it
my bike has 100,000 km on the clock and running sweet
definately a good choice
now i dont consider any one going on a round the world trip to be on tight budget as the bike is about the cheapest part of the whole equation ,its running and maintaining you and it that cost a whole lot more ,so if you want all these gadgets go for it, you will be still better off and more reliable than a ,lets say bmw 650
Last edited by thecanoeguy; 29 Sep 2007 at 00:02.
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