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  #1  
Old 28 Aug 2006
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My opinion of a KLR after 8000K

This is my honest opinion.After 8000 miles the bike is up for sale.It isn't a bad bike although Kawasaki could easily make it a superb bike.My reasons follow.Good luck,ride safe.

I recently rode 8000 miles on a KLR 650.The trip started in
San Diego,went the length of Baja around the tip at Cabo
then in to Lapaz.From La Paz I took the ferry to Mazatlan
and continued to the Gautemalan border. I then went to a few
places in the Yucatan and returned up the East coast to
Brownsville Tx. and back to San Diego. A total distance of
8000 miles!

I am writing today to talk about the KLR and after market
items I put on the bike. The good , The bad , and the
useless.

Let us begin with the KLR itself.On a positive note I have
to say upfront that the bike performed flawlessly from a
mechanical point of view.The only time it faltered was when
I got some bad gas, Certainly not the bikes fault.

Stock Items that performed poorly are the front and rear
shocks,the rear shock especially.Constantly bottomed out.The
front shock bottomed but not as much and is weak and mushy.

Brakes:My God how Kawasaki a manufacture of fine motorcycles
allows this bike to leave the factory with such poor
brakes is beyond me.The rear brake on this bike is virtually useless.The
front somewhat better as the trip progressed I found that I
relied more and more on the front brake and planned well
ahead for foreseen stops.During one panic stop the rear
brake was useless and was very much a factor in a contact
collision with a Taxi.It was during the collision that some
of my after market items came in to play and saved the bike.
Most significant was a a crash bar foot rest, this absorbed
80 percent of the the bike being dropped on the right side.
Bar ends! I was amazed at how much force the right bar end
absorbed,no damage to the handle bars. Finally an after
market top luggage rack took a bit of the impact as well as the passenger
foot pegs.There was a little little cosmetic damage and after lifting the bike and dusting myself of I was up and riding.

The Ride

The stock seat suited me well, however I shaved of an inch to
help lower my at rest ability to touch the tarmac!
I also
lowered the front forks a half inch and ran the rear shock
at the #2 setting.This really improved handling.

After market items I installed from top to bottom.

Mirror dampeners------GOOD

Bar end dampeners-----very good

Crash bar/foot pegs--very good

Fork brace-----------good

hardened sub frame bolts-very good-

How Kawasaki gets away without improving these is again beyond my comprehension.I ran into a KLR rider in lower Baja.We were chatting I mentioned the sub frame bolts,we checked his and sure enough the upper right had sheared of!!!

skid plate----------useless use the stock one!

after market knockoff exhaust--Poor quality,lots of
problems.Not sure if it increased HP or not.I have gone back to the stock exhaust.

(however the stock one is very heavy)Perhaps
a genuine super trap would be the way to go.I got what I
paid for,Beware the knock of super trap on Ebay it is a
piece of crap!!!

Side panel Luggage rack-good

Top luggage rack---very good

Wolf man luggage bag-The bag is good but puts the center of gravity to high on a bike with an already high center, saddle bags would
be better,they have a lower center of gravity.

This brings up an inherent problem with the KLR.The bike is
super heavy,has a high center of gravity and runs very hot,even being water cooled.I
also found that after 250 to 300 miles I was toast,because
of the vibration.If I ever make another trip thru mexico it
will be on a light multi cylinder bike,with modern brakes
and suspension.As I did very little dirt road riding the
heavy dual purpose single cylinder bike was not the way to
go for me( I never used any toll roads)

My recommendation is if you want to tour on a dual purpose
bike go with the lightest model you can ride.The guy that
rode with me was on a Suzuki DR350.He had no issues got 30%
better gas milage and had a really simple machine compared
to the water cooled KLR.His overall ride wasn’t much better
but his brakes and suspension were better and a simple light bike made for
an easier time in the towns and villiages.No problems with
power in the mountains(he had a real super trap and carb
kit).

As a result of this trip the KLR is up for sale.

I hope that this helps many of you in your decision making
process, I am happy to answer any questions I also realize I will
be bombarded with abuse from die hard KLR owners.All I can
say is each to his own the bike is not for me!Feel free to respond and ask questions.

VinnyT
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  #2  
Old 14 Sep 2006
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KLR improved

IMHO the KLR can be very easily improved:
Front forks: Replace the 41mm air supported (=useless) KL650A fork legs with those of the KL650C. No further modifications needed. The KL650A (i can only speak for 2004 / 5 models) fork is squashy and feels funny on hard braking although still comfortable and safe under normal circumstances.
The KL650C's (twin piston) brake caliper is also waaaaay better than the single piston on the KL650A. They both use the same brake rotor.
These modifications could have been done by the factory and I think it is very disappointing that they have not been effected. Esp. looking at the KL650C being sold here in SA 1995 - 2002 and the unmodified KL650A being reintroduced in 2004 marking a step back in technology.

The positive of the big tank of the KL650A has to be paid with high center of gravity and weight.

I found the KL650A (2004 / 2005) adjustable rear shock adequate for solo with luggage as well as two up with light luggage. Might be a problem with two big okes and a lot of stuff though. Same for the non adj. KL650C rear shock.

Please use high tensile bolts (ideally 12.9) to attach the rear subframe assembly, not hardened! (This is probably what you meant)

If you have a problem with the KLR's vibrations you should not buy ANY single.
(had XT500 & SR500 and think KLR is as smooth as a single can be without being a DR :-)

The KLR is a good choice if you look for a bike cheap to buy and cheap to run on bad roads tar and gravel. Too slow for the highway. Too weak in brakes and suspensions to be a supermoto. Too heavy on deep, soft sand. But still near ideal for many many tours.
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  #3  
Old 22 Sep 2006
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Huh. Guess one man’s junk is another man’s treasure! I never had any problems with vibration. I’ve ridden my KLR more than 33,000 miles and it should be good for 33,000 more with some TLC. I love that bike.

A 350cc is good for off-road, but what about the small fuel capacity, or riding distance on pavement? KLR has a large 6-gallon tank and does superslab capably enough. I’d call it light at 337 lbs, especially compared to the much heavier Beemer 650s.

To me the KLR is the best dual-sport bike available for touring abroad, e.g. South America / Asia / Africa. Kawasaki could (should) address the well-known issues, but actually I enjoyed doing the work myself – subframe upgrade, doohickey, steel brake lines, Progressive shock, etc. Taught me a lot about the bike, and that came in handy multiple times in BFE.

Just my two cents. Ride safe.
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  #4  
Old 3 Oct 2006
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Posts: 25
Some tips for future travellers

In the interests of providing accurate information to future travellers, here's some tips for dealing with issues that Vinny brought up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vinnyt
Stock Items that performed poorly are the front and rear
shocks,the rear shock especially.Constantly bottomed out.The
front shock bottomed but not as much and is weak and mushy.
Vinny later goes on to mention that he has the preload set to "2". With any load on the rear of the KLR, the preload must be set all the way up (on "5"). Rebound should remain on "2" though because the stock shock spring is too weak and will "pack" and bottom on rough roads. Even on "5", the rear spring is too weak to handle big loads. I purchased an aftermarket rear spring from an outfit called 'MSM.com' and now the back end of my bike is fine, I can set it at "1" if it's me, at "5" if I have a full load. The rear spring cost me around $80 including installation, and now allows usage of higher rebound damping settings without the shock "packing" and bottoming out.

The front shock has a similar problem. First, it is inadequately damped. I solved this by draining out the stock fork oil and replacing it with 15wt fork oil. This fork oil was a little harsh for the first few hundred miles, but my first dirt road travel sheared it down to around a 12.5wt oil and it was okay after that, albeit with a little less rebound damping than is necessary for comfort with stronger springing. Secondly, it is inadequately sprung. There are two solutions for that, both very cheap. When prepping the bike, pop it up on a lift and remove the stock fork spring spacers. Go to your local plumbing supply store and get a length of Schedule 40 PVC which is roughly the same diameter. Using a hacksaw, cut new spacers that are roughly 1/2" longer. This will improve performance with the stock springs. Do NOT go longer than this, because the stock springs are relatively short and can experience coil binding with too long of spacers. Progressive Suspensions has aftermarket springs which work better for around $100 and which will tolerate more preload due to being longer, but the stock spring was okay with the amount of preload I mention. Secondly, when I carry a load, I put 10 pounds of air into the forks using one of those small bicycle tire pumps ($15 from a bike shop) and using a $1 Wal-Mart tire gauge (whose cheapness is a benefit here -- it takes less air to extend than a "good" tire gauge).


Quote:
Brakes:My God how Kawasaki a manufacture of fine motorcycles
allows this bike to leave the factory with such poor
brakes is beyond me.The rear brake on this bike is virtually useless.The
This statement puzzled me for some time, because I have the stock rear brake and can lock it up at will. Then it hit me: *HE NEVER ADJUSTED HIS BACK BRAKE!*. There is an adjustment for pedal height under the master cylinder. This should be adjusted to bring the pedal height up to the point where you can just barely start locking the back on pavement. Don't expect the dealer to do this. Kawasaki dealers are useless.

The front brake is weak but barely adequate unloaded. With a load, it is somewhat scary. I upgraded it with a 320mm EBC brake rotor, and now it's okay even with a load.

Quote:
I also
lowered the front forks a half inch and ran the rear shock
at the #2 setting.This really improved handling.
He is apparently using spring sag as impromptu "lowering links" to get him closer to the ground (then complaining about weak springing LOL!). The "correct" solution here if you need to be lower to the ground is stronger springing combined with "real" lowering links. That is what will prevent you from bottoming out the suspension and will also deal with the "wallowing" feeling and make the bike feel a little less top-heavy. 1" lowering links can make a difference if you're on the edge. I wouldn't recommend more than that unless you intend to stay on paved roads.

Quote:
after market knockoff exhaust--Poor quality,lots of
problems.Not sure if it increased HP or not.I have gone back to the stock exhaust.

(however the stock one is very heavy)Perhaps
a genuine super trap would be the way to go.I got what I
Nothing improves the horsepower of a KLR, it will always be a gutless wonder. The stock exhaust is heavy but durable. None of the aftermarket exhausts are as durable as the stock exhaust, thus for adventure travel, you should stick with the stock exhaust.


Quote:
This brings up an inherent problem with the KLR.The bike is
super heavy,has a high center of gravity
"super heavy" compared to what? A 250cc dirt bike? I haven't found any bike capable of tackling both third world dirt roads and high speed expressways while hauling a full load that is any lighter. The closest I've come is the Suzuki DR650, which is about 20 pounds lighter but also shorter from front to rear and due to lack of physical length has trouble physically accomodating loads that the KLR has no problem with.

I do agree that the KLR650 is top-heavy and there's not much to be done about it. It's a tall bike. Even with lowering links, it's still a big tall bike.

Quote:
and runs very hot,even being water cooled.I
I dealt with this by draining the stock coolant and replacing it with a mixture of 20% antifreeze, 80% distilled water, and some stuff called "Water Wetter". My KLR never gets above halfway on the dial now. Replace with 50/50 antifreeze/distilled water when going into areas where the temperature falls below around 20F. But yes, the stock cooling system on the KLR is rather... inadequate, and requires some work-arounds.

Quote:
also found that after 250 to 300 miles I was toast,because
of the vibration.If I ever make another trip thru mexico it
will be on a light multi cylinder bike,with modern brakes
and suspension.As I did very little dirt road riding the
He is correct that the KLR vibrates. There's not much that can be done about it. Bar-end weights help. Making sure your engine mounts are all tight helps. Gel grips help. Gel-grip gloves help. But the thing still vibrates. Even with all those fixes, it vibrates more than a Suzuki DR650, about the same as a BMW F650GS, and less than a KTM 640.

Regarding light multi-cylinder bikes capable of dirt road riding, probably the Suzuki 650 V-Strom is what you're looking at. However, do note that the V-Strom is approximately 100 pounds heavier than the KLR. Adding cylinders means adding weight. It does carry the weight considerably lower than the KLR, but its suspension is even softer and more inadequate than the KLR's once you hit rough roads. I like the V-Strom, but it definitely isn't a "magic bullet". Too bad we don't get the 500cc twin "adventure bikes" sold elsewhere, those might fit your needs better. But note that they are all as heavy or heavier than the KLR. For example, the KLE500 twin sold in Europe is around 60 pounds heavier than the KLR.

Quote:
My recommendation is if you want to tour on a dual purpose
bike go with the lightest model you can ride.The guy that
rode with me was on a Suzuki DR350.He had no issues got 30%
better gas milage and had a really simple machine compared
to the water cooled KLR.His overall ride wasn’t much better
but his brakes and suspension were better and a simple light bike made for
an easier time in the towns and villiages.No problems with
power in the mountains(he had a real super trap and carb
kit).
Unfortunately Suzuki no longer sells the DR350 in the US. A shame, it was a nice little bike, but when they brought the DRZ400 over there just wasn't room in their lineup for the bike. The DRZ400 is significantly more expensive than the KLR (or DR650), is water-cooled, and only about 40 pounds lighter than the Suzuki DR650 (which is air cooled).

It seems to me that the closest thing you'll find to the DR350 is its big brother the DR650. It is not as big a bike as the KLR650, which is both good and bad. You can't load it down like a mule like the KLR650, but it carries its weight lower than the KLR, makes as much power as the KLR, and is air cooled and thus simpler than the KLR. It is also easily lowered and has better suspension and brakes than the KLR. Think of it as the DR350 on steroids.

Quote:
process, I am happy to answer any questions I also realize I will
be bombarded with abuse from die hard KLR owners.All I can
say is each to his own the bike is not for me!
No, no abuse here. Some of the things you mention (like vibration and top-heaviness) are valid, some are a result of misadjustments or misconceptions on your part (such as not turning up the preload or putting air in the forks to prevent bottoming, and not adjusting the rear brake lever height to get more effective rear brakes), but all is valuable for the person choosing a bike for a long adventure tour. It sounds to me as if you would have been happier with a Suzuki DR650 rather than a KLR, due to what appears to be issues with the height and vibration levels of the KLR, which is indeed a valid issue.

Obviously I don't agree with you about long distance comfortable touring on the KLR, since I sold my large multi-cylinder touring bike and now ride my KLR everywhere, but then I'm apparently taller than you and have trouble with my knees, which means that I need a bike with a more spacious cockpit so that my knees don't end up in a painful position. I actually added a taller Corbin seat to my KLR to get me more distance between my pegs and my buns (then added lowering links to get the bike back to where I could flat-foot it at stops). A smaller bike like the DR350 or DR650 would not work for me because of those physical limitations. Which doesn't make them bad bikes, just means that they won't work for me, much in the same way that the KLR didn't work for you.

One thing I would caution you about, however, is reasonable expectations. A more complicated multi-cylinder bike is smoother than a single-cylinder bike. It is also heavier and has more parts to break. While people have gone around the world on everything from a YT220 Serow to a Harley Sportster (and undoubtedly someone somewhere will now chime in about doing it on a 50cc Vespa scooter ), there is a reason why the majority choose a simple, crude 1-cylinder to do the trip. It's simpler, it's lighter, and it's easier to maintain and to repair if it does break. I like the Suzuki V-Strom 650 twin. It's much smoother than a KLR, more powerful, and a much better street bike. But it's also heavier, has even worse suspension for rough road travel, and is much more complicated. If going around the world, I'd choose the KLR (or similarly simple 1-cylinder) in a heartbeat.

_E
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  #5  
Old 3 Oct 2006
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Excellent post from Elgreen, and smart observation about the rear brake pedal. Definitely want to ratchet it up a notch or two. Can also try using your heel for rear braking vs. toe.

BTW, Kawasaki will debut a new KLR for 2008, which, alas for us, focuses on improving its pavement capabilities vs. offroad / international.

http://www.motorcycledaily.com/23september06_klr650.htm

IMHO a couple of "improvements" may detract from its suitability for extended adv travel. 1) Reduced front and rear suspension clearance. That may be offset by reduced sag ... with a fully loaded adv bike, though, it sounds problematic.

2) The "fairing" doesn't look like it will take abuse very happily. And looks like more weight. Kawi did not specify the weight of the new bike.

Some improvements, too, with (supposedly) better braking, dual-lamp headlite, alternator output increase from 14.5A to 17A, stouter spokes. Eh. We'll see...
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  #6  
Old 4 Oct 2006
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Klr 650

Being the owner of a KLR 650 let me add my two cents worth.
Bought the 2000 model used in 2002 when it was barely run in , under 2000km on it and now it has 59000 km. It came with the higher acccessory windshield and the only mods I made were adding handgrip heaters and building my own centerstand.and relocating the license plate holder .The only repair required thus far was replacing a burnt out rad fan motor. A new battery , brake pads and some headlight bulbs and fuses fall under regular maintenance. I ran the original o-ring chain until the 57000km mark when it and both sprockets were truly worn out.
Other than flat tires the only roadside work needed was tightening the steering head bearing once and a new longer and double nutted bolt for the rear muffler support.
A complaint I do have is that Kawasaki should have made the rear brake with two identical pads so that if one wears down I could at least recycle the good one instead of needing a new set and tossing the one still with 40 % available. Also by now they might have moved their licence plate mount out of danger as they all get chewed into the rear tire once the plastic fender mount gets warm and flexible and waves around like mad, and redesigned the rear light lens to light onto the plate there.Also they should relocate the fuse holder block so it isn't such a job to get to.I did move it so that now I can reach it just by undoing the front side panel retainer only instead of the seat etc etc.
The bike is what it is , I have no illusions of being a rally racer and find I can tour all day in comfort either down the freeways at 140km/h or on gravel roads at a sedate pace which gives over 500km range per tankfull.
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  #7  
Old 16 Nov 2006
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Quote:
skid plate----------useless use the stock one!
Good advice, if you never leave the pavement. If you ride trails and such, then the stock plastic skid plate is worthless.

Other issues-

Front brake- effectiveness and feel can be improved by installing a stainless steel brake line.

Forks- Progressive springs are a big improvement and not expensive. Dive can be reduced by making longer spring spacers out of steel or PVC pipe, an cheap & easy mod.

Rear Shock- it's effectiveness depends on the rider's weight as well as how much gear is loaded onto the bike. Changing the entire shock is more expensive than the just changing out the stock spring with a progressive spring, but either is a good option for heavy riders or those carrying a large load.

CG - more top heavy than other large dual sports, but that's due to the large fuel tank. Outfitted with panniers & racks the cg will lower. IMO, not really an issue unless you are trying to keep up with your dirt bike freinds on serious terrain.

Many of the KLR's shortcommings are due to the fact that the bike was made to fill a niche- it doesn't excell at anything, but does do everything pretty well. A well rounded motorcycle aimed at folks that ride mostly street and occasional dirt.

I love mine.
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  #8  
Old 18 Nov 2006
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If you plan to travel to South America and plan to not want to leave pavement you will still need a skid plate on your KLR. Why? During my trip I don't know how many chunks of cement I broke when riding my KLR upstairs in hotels. Just for that I want a skid plate all the time on my bike.

Pat
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  #9  
Old 19 Dec 2006
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Sjoerd, I have had this same issue w/ the rear brake unevenly. Any word on what causes that?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sjoerd Bakker
Being the owner of a KLR 650 let me add my two cents worth.
Bought the 2000 model used in 2002 when it was barely run in , under 2000km on it and now it has 59000 km. It came with the higher acccessory windshield and the only mods I made were adding handgrip heaters and building my own centerstand.and relocating the license plate holder .The only repair required thus far was replacing a burnt out rad fan motor. A new battery , brake pads and some headlight bulbs and fuses fall under regular maintenance. I ran the original o-ring chain until the 57000km mark when it and both sprockets were truly worn out.
Other than flat tires the only roadside work needed was tightening the steering head bearing once and a new longer and double nutted bolt for the rear muffler support.
A complaint I do have is that Kawasaki should have made the rear brake with two identical pads so that if one wears down I could at least recycle the good one instead of needing a new set and tossing the one still with 40 % available. Also by now they might have moved their licence plate mount out of danger as they all get chewed into the rear tire once the plastic fender mount gets warm and flexible and waves around like mad, and redesigned the rear light lens to light onto the plate there.Also they should relocate the fuse holder block so it isn't such a job to get to.I did move it so that now I can reach it just by undoing the front side panel retainer only instead of the seat etc etc.
The bike is what it is , I have no illusions of being a rally racer and find I can tour all day in comfort either down the freeways at 140km/h or on gravel roads at a sedate pace which gives over 500km range per tankfull.
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  #10  
Old 19 Dec 2006
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One other thought: not many people who have researched the KLR before buying one go into it thinking it will be the bike they want AS IS (unless, maaaybe, it was pre-farkled). This is the Burger King bike; you add what you want to make it what you need. It's the ideal base for many people (not everyone). Whatever you are dissatisfied with you can pretty much address w/ some aftermarket item.

So you don't really get a $2-3k KLR. That is the entry fee. From there you just add what you prefer, which brings the sticker up to, what, another $2k higher at the most?

Cheers,
s
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Old 20 Dec 2006
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KLR after 8000

Hi Clyde,
I think the cause has to do with it being only a single live-side piston pushing the pads together then when brake is released the pads do not slide appart as fast or as far as they should . One supposed half cure is to apply a bit of moly-grease to the sliderpins on which they hang, but then, how often do you have to take them apart just to grease them ?
Saw the "new" KLR 650 at the Toronto bike show and noticed that it has a different Nissin rear brake caliper which does have two pads identical, but the front is still the same asymetric pad design.And the rear fender is a worse design sticking far out the back with the same flimsy style license plate holder deep down beneath tooooooo close to the tire, and the fenders are now painted on a basic black plastic , prone to start chipping off. The display model had already lost a big flake of colour coat from being bumped in the show! At leas t the old-style fender was impregnated colour and not likely to dig in like this new scoop. Other than those changes it still looked like the same KLR 25liter tank below the new (fragile?) fairings
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Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.


Books & DVDs

amazon

All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.


Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!




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