The Bike

 After deciding where to go, the next most obvious and important decision to be made is what motorcycle to take. The most popular type of motorcycles for adventure travel are called dual-sports and they are the Jeeps and SUV’s of the motorcycle world….on-road legal…off-road capable. Dual-spots range in size from very lightweight 200cc trail bikes up to 1200cc heavyweight behemoths. To me, a mid-weight dual-sport bike around 650cc struck the right balance between power, weight and load carrying capacity. Bikes that I considered were the BMW F650GS Dakar, Suzuki DL650 V-Strom, Suzuki DR650 and Kawasaki KLR650 among others. I already owned a 2005 KLR650 so that was a known entity and a solid contender.  I was also considering a 2008+ KLR as it was significantly updated in that model year compared to my ’05. 

2005 KLR650

 

The other bike I was heavily considering and even purchased to “test” was a 2007 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom. I immediately liked this bike and it did almost everything better than the ‘05 KLR. It was much faster with 50% more horsepower, smoother running, much more comfortable, had better brakes, better weather protection, better gas mileage and was an absolute joy to ride long distances(unlike the KLR).      

2007 DL650 V-Strom

 

In the end though, I decided on a 2009 KLR650, which of course begs the question…why choose the KLR over the V-Strom?  Well, there were many reasons, but if I were to sum it up in two words….they would be “rugged simplicity”. If the KLR650 were reincarnated as a 4 wheeled vehicle, it would be an old open top Jeep CJ5 with a lift kit and 35” mud tires. The KLR’s engine design has not changed much since the Regan administration and was far from state of the art even then. It is built on good old fashioned enduro technology….a gravity fed mechanical carburetor, one spark plug and one cylinder. In other words, easy to maintain and repair, especially in West Nowheresville by a mechanical simpleton like me. It is also lighter than the V-Strom, and being an off-road bike at heart it is much more capable off-road with a longer travel suspension and more ground clearance. Parts new and used are also plentiful and the KLR is supported by a very large and loyal on-line community with a vast knowledge base covering every aspect of the bike.      

2009 KLR650

 

The single biggest drawback, to me anyway, is that the KLR is not at all comfortable to ride at highway speeds for any length of time. Being a single cylinder motorcycle, there is but one massive piston being driven up and down and were it not for the counter balancers within the engine, it might just shake itself to pieces. I’ve been asked what it’s like to ride a KLR650 at speed on the highway, to which I say…take a very thin and uncomfortable English riding saddle and strap it over a portable cement mixer filled with bowling balls.      

List of modifications:       

SW-Motech engine guards
SW-Motech center stand
Barkbuster VPS hand guards
Renthal desert handlebars
Zero Gravity touring windscreen
Dual-Star heavy-duty shifter
Eagle Manufacturing drill trough sub-frame bolt upgrade.
Eagle Manufacturing engine balancer adjuster upgrade. (The Doohickey!)
Eagle Manufacturing rear brake/master cylinder bracket
Happy Trails rear master cylinder guard.
Happy Trails SU side racks with 7.5” Teton aluminum side panniers
Sylvania SilverStar headlight bulbs
LED rear brake/taillight bulb
FIAAM Freeway Blaster horn w/relay
Sawed off brake and clutch levers. (Who uses 4 fingers?)       

Other Accessories:
Touratech locking GPS mount for Garmin Zumo 660
Wolfman Expedition dry duffle bag
Wolfman Enduro tankbag      

2009 KLR650

 

2009 KLR650

 

2009 KLR650

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8 Responses to The Bike

  1. Jilly says:

    So excited for you to take this long awaited epic adventure!! I know the feeling and it is a huge rush for sure to do something like this and that so many people would never ever do! So enjoy every moment and I’ll be cheering for you and wishing you many great times and adventure from NJ! hugs and kisses!

  2. Erik says:

    I think that the KLR 650 is a good model to choose, but have some serious reservations about the oil consumption of your particular bike at high RPM. But hey, I made a big trip on a leaky ole Norton Commando, so be sure to keep your oil tank topped Off. !!!! Check it every gas stop… I am sure that you will have a great adventure! Good luck Lenny…

  3. Erik says:

    Hey Bro, I am glad that you made it through your first tire change. Great Blog/pics!….How is the oil consumption going? Are you going to check your vlave clearances along the way. Do you want me to send that tire out? I could send it to Jerry’s in WA or to my friend Tony in San Diego. Both would be good places to hang out and do some maintenance. Give me a call 609-847-2820, or answer on your site. Keep up the good work…Oh yea, Triumph is coming out with a tiger 800 ADV bike. One model is dirt oriented and one is more street oriented. Iam gonna check them out this winter…Take it easy,

    Erik

  4. Chris MacPhee says:

    Lenny this is so Rad ! I wish I knew about this sooner than today ! John at JP in Brick just told me about your adventure. Enjoy Yourself, Now I gotta go catch up on reading your Blog !!

    Chris MacPhee

  5. juan says:

    how many miles did your klr end up with.?

  6. Danny says:

    Lenny. I agree on the KLR’s comfort issue. Gonna have to do something about my seat. I didn’t see a saddle upgrade in your list of mode. What did you end up doing to make the seat more bearable on the long distance portions? Great blog! Dan

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