Here is my list of "common new KLR owner mistakes to avoid"
1) Oil drain plug overtightening: it is relatively common for people to overtighten the oil drain plug.....usually to stop a leak after the gasket/washer has inadvertently fallen into the used oil or left stuck to the bottom of the engine! best case is stripped threads, worst is a cracked case. Make sure the washer is in place and use a torque wrench Note; my manual says 17 ft lbs, Eaglemike recommends 15 ft lbs with his low profile drain plug which is what I use. Some Gen2 manuals specify 21 ft lbs but there has been no change in the plug or case which would affect the drain plug torque and people have stripped their drain plugs at this setting: beware!
- 2) Chain tension: many owners and some shops overtighten the KLR's drive chain; due to the long travel suspension and geometry the KLR needs more slack than other bikes people may be used to. If the chain is too tight you risk damaging the countershaft seal and bearing as well as possibly the wheel bearings along with premature wear of the drive chain and sprockets. Quick check; with the bike on the sidestand, you should be able to touch the chain to the bottom rearmost portion of the chain slipper but not the metal swingarm itself.
- 3) Speedo drive: it is common for people to post problems with their speedo after they've had the front wheel off. If you don't make sure the drive slots in the hub are aligned with the speedo drive tangs you risk bending the drive tangs and worse, breaking the hub. Time consuming to repair, expensive to replace, easy to avoid!
- 4) Oil Level: the factory KLR oil level sight glass is arguably too low....additionally some KLR's burn oil at various rates so it is imperative that the oil level is constantly checked. Luckily the sight glass makes this very easy to do. My suggestion is to keep the oil level at the very top of the sight glass with the bike level and to check it before every ride and at every fuel stop. The first failure from low oil levels is likely to be the cam bores in the head......and used KLR heads are getting difficult to find and are expensive. Keep an eye on that oil level!
- 5) Overtightening of other fasteners; similar to the oil drain plug there are a few other fasteners that cause significant problems if overtightened; the valve cover bolts are one such fastener - the manual calls up 69 inch lbs (NOT ft. lbs!) but Eaglemike suggests 55 in lbs which is a safer value. Another problem fastener is the footpeg mounting bolts; the factory nuts welded in the frame box are very thin with only 3 or 4 threads catching......these often strip out necessitating a repair. To avoid the problem, consider not using accessories that bolt to the bike using these bolts (i.e. centerstands) and torque them properly. I've heard that some manuals show 45NM (33 ft lbs) and some versions show 25 Nm (18 ft lbs)......I will suggest that the 33 ft lbs is a mistake and too much; I go with the 18 to avoid stripping the nuts and because this value falls in line with the recommended torque for generic 8mm fasteners in the manual. Safety wiring the bolt heads is also a wise precaution as loose bolts take the threads out quickly.
- 6) Throwing away the tube when changing the oil filter. People often mistakenly toss the metal tube that is inserted in the oil filter when they throw the old filter in the trash....make sure it's there and put it back in the right way.
- 7) attempting a counterbalance lever (doohickey) adjusting bolt adjustment without first ensuring the lever and spring are both intact and the spring has tension. Failure to do so can introduce a catastrophic amount of play into the counterbalance chain system.
-8) Not checking fasteners for proper torque at least at every oil change. Especially foot pegs and sub-frame bolts. The fasteners that Kawasaki put in place are adequate, but once torque falls below spec vibration can loosen the fastener. A loose fastener will quickly fail if it is under load.
If you are wondering about 'which KLR to buy' you may find the following useful:
Here's some info on Gen1's.....basically all very similar up until 2008 with some notable changes on the '96 and up bikes compared to earlier ones. KLR650 FAQ
Short version is that the most desirable Gen1's are the '96 - 2007 bikes with colors being the only major difference. Colors are a bit nicer 2000 - 2007. 2007's got a revised shift lever. production shifted from Japan to Thailand in 2002 so there is some thought that the earlier Japanese bikes were put together a bit better (all parts came from Japan regardless) but I personally don't think it's a big concern. Pre-96 bikes can be upgraded with the balancer sprockets, thinner cylinder and the countershaft sprocket retention system being the main changes.
Basically, the Gen2 was modified to change the marketing focus towards "adventure riding" from "Dual Purpose".
- better brakes
- better headlights
- more wind protection
- slightly larger forks
- increased wattage for aux. gear
- and a number of minor items like larger spokes, better chain adjusters, etc.
Early Gen2's unfortunately had a host of issues; bad rings, cylinder bores, deep hole issue, deteriorating rubber bits, wiring harness rub through. Mostly resolved by 2010.
- the weight also increased (17 - 24 lbs) and suspension travel decreased (from 9.1 front and rear to 7.9 front and 7.3 rear)
- in 2014.5 the suspension received a welcome increase in both spring rates and dampening....though it is still the 1980 tech budget stuff that Kawi used on these bikes since 1987.
Other than the suspension stiffness upgrade, it's basically been BNG's for the past 5 years thought there's been a clutch change (possibly not for the better) and they've changed the forged alum brake lever to a stamped steel one along the way.....cheaper I guess.
With regards to Gen2's; again some early issues as mentioned in the previous posts. 2008's were the worst offenders with 2009's following close behind......starting to get better in mid 2010. If you buy an early Gen2 I'd budget for an Eaglemike 685 kit.....should run you about $500 - $600 if you do the work yourself and around $1,000 - 1,200 if you have a shop do it. 2014.5+ bikes have a welcome increase in spring and dampening rates though if you don't mind used, a Cogent suspension upgrade is head and shoulders better than the "updated" Gen2 stock stuff and should be around $800.00 - $1,000.00.
Best? well that depends..... best stock KLR? I'd give the nod to the 2014.5+ bike. Basically if your use is pavement biased and/or you intend to keep the mods to a minimum then the Gen2 will appeal to you. ....If you ride more offroad and plan on changes, then the Gen1 starts to look better for the longer travel suspension, lighter weight, more robust bodywork and the ability to run with a completely dead battery.