My KLR story
I am new owner of an 09 KLR650 and have been using this site among others for some much needed advice and opinions when it came to purchasing/acquiring/modifying and maintaining my new purchase. This article/essay as it has turned out to be is simply my way of repaying the site for its info. Perhaps, there is something that I can add to it from my own experiences. If nothing less, let this be a huge thumbs up and green light to anyone looking for a GEN2 KLR650. This is what I have experienced so far, summed up into one post. This is my personal opinion and experience and perhaps some irrelevant information as well. I just happened to have a bunch of downtime with a computer in front of me.
The KLR650 concept came to be when my regular riding circle began selling their more trail oriented dual sports in favour of a KTM 990, 950 and 640 and doing some more street style longer distance rides on pavement and dirt. We have planned a late August 2013 trip to do the Washington Back Country Discovery Route. My fully modified and set up street insured KLX400R, despite15/38 gearing, and custom windscreen, just did not seem like the bike for extended freeway and saddle time compared to the other bikes...that much was pretty obvious. We have an approximate 1500mile route planned over 6 days.
My roots still bring me to the dirt and I am very fortunate to live in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and can say that our riding area is simply fantastic. I am looking forward to expanding our rides with this style of Adventure Riding. I have been riding for 24 years (40 years old now) and have personally owned more than 30 bikes. I have raced offroad, crotch rocketed and Cruiser toured with wifey on the back. Biking has, and is a large part of my life. But now, things have become more about comfort, versatility, and exploring rather than just a way of life and a form of meditation. Actually, I find that meditation (I choose to call it that) becomes more important as life goes on. How many of us build relationships with our machinery and spend hours and hours in the garage sometimes simply just looking and petting the bike, perhaps a form of release and unwinding from life’s busy and hectic schedules? Many of you out there can likely relate, and for me a most favorable pastime.
Being an automotive import mechanic by trade, I have always been loyal to the Japanese bikes. I am not particularly brand loyal; I have owned many of them: Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Kawi, one KTM experience was all I needed and the rest is history. The bottom line here is the KLR 650 WAS the obvious choice for me at this stage of the game, price range, and riding style for what the next few years would bring. “You won’t like the vibration” “Too small a motor” “Terrible suspension” “Waay to Heavy” “Why wouldn’t you buy a KTM?” These were all the things that I was being told prior to my mind already being made up mind on the KLR. Approximately 3 years ago I happened to be able to test ride an 04 KLR 650 back to back with an 08. No disrespect to those of you with a GEN1, but in terms of my street test ride at the time, I immediately preferred the GEN2 ergos and wind coverage.
For the first time in many years I sold my current bike, “before” buying my next bike. Call it guilt, or simply trying to feel like a responsible husband/father blah blah, but in that time I totally missed out on a great local deal for an 08 with some decent mods. My KLX sold within a week of missing out on the local deal, and I was immediately cruising all over “craigslist” with $4K literally burning a hole in my pocket.....The BC market was light on available bikes at the time and I wasn’t able to replicate the deal that I had missed out on earlier that week, and certainly did not have the patience to wait for the right deal to come along, sigh.
Low and behold: 2009 KLR650 11K miles, Happy Trails: Crash bars, skid plate, highway pegs, panniers, fork brace. Ricor Intimidators front / shock rear. Galfer Braided front brake line, Galfer pads. Tank protector. AGM Battery. New Shinko tires. LED taillight. FMF Q4. JD Jet kit. Agreed price $4K US and I had to do my first import into Canada from Portland.
The fellow I bought the bike from was a super solid guy. From the first phone call with him, he and I were on the same page: Long time riders with a mutual respect. We spoke on price, and I was prepared to send a deposit, but he agreed to take it off the list until he had the title in hand, and we could work out a convenient completion of the deal. I began looking into just what kind of deal I had to go through to get a bike into Canada. I was very skeptical at first about the import process and this 72 hour wait period? Recall letter? What? RIV fee and inspection? What kind of headache was I getting myself into...Oh yeah, a tastfully well modded KLR 650 for a great price, that’s why!
The previous owner of the bike was kind enough to ride the bike to Bellingham where he had friends and family, saving me over 7 hours of driving. A funny incident happened the morning of his departure from Portland. I missed a call from him in a panic stating that he had tipped the bike over! I got the message, was able to text only to find that the tip over put the first marks on the crash bars and pannier on the right side. Darn KLR kickstands... I told him to wipe that thought from his mind and enjoy his ride north; I wasn’t concerned about a tip over. He was just as good a guy in person as he was on the phone. The bike was dirty, to my standards, and my test ride was quick. She rode straight and true, and had very little damage and absolute minimal offroad use, which were my main concerns. The oil was dirty and low and he indicated that it may have used a bit of oil on the trip up...oh well, I was prepared for that, and had mentally already purchased the 685kit. He was honest since square one with that. We exchanged cash and paperwork; I loaded her in the trailer for its next resting place at storage near the border for its mandatory US 72 hour wait.
Five long days later, when work was done and time became available, I picked up my bike and headed to the US border with my paperwork. The US border had me wait a mere 15 minutes before clearing me to go the Canadian side. I experienced a similar wait on the Canadian side, followed by a compliment on how my paperwork was in order and complete. They did not even look at the bike. As soon as I crossed into Canada and got to a computer, I had applied and paid the RIV fee, without this you can’t get the inspection or insurance. Miraculously, within 2 days, I had the necessary paperwork, and went to Canadian Tire for the Gov’t insp. Insurance next day....My 3 week ordeal start to finish and I finally get to put some real mileage on the bike!
First impression: What a great bike! Decent power, even though I had gotten used to lofting the front wheel all over the place with the KLX. The suspension felt stable/stiff and responsive, I had no idea about Ricor suspension prior to this bike. The Shinko tires have actually impressed me with the mileage on them now both on and off road. The highway pegs ‘wow’ very impressed with the position and feel of them. Instantly reminded me of my cruiser and I still find myself trying to shift and brake from highway peg position. Windshield ‘terrible’ I knew that going in though. Seat ‘decent’, actually worn in a bit so felt like I had some rearward support.
All of my bikes get a full strip down, detail and complete service. Service wise, the only issue I found was that the front pads had separated from their backing plate and causing excessive drag on the wheel...be aware as these Galfer pads were not sintered which is required on the bikes. EBC pads cured that the next day, caliper service, and fresh fluid. I did an oil change with no filter and then a second oil change with filter 2 days later to give the engine a bit of a clean out so I could monitor my own oil consumption. I run Rotella T oil in all my bikes now and have had great success with it. 700 kms since that service and no oil consumption noted. Bonus! Note: the Happy trails crash bars are a great piece of kit. They are easily moved for servicing and bike tear down. The panniers are on and off in a breeze and fit tightly. Excellent gear from the Happy Trails company and I don’t think I would venture any other direction based on my many years of having to fabricate and modify aftermarket parts for fit and function.
Upgrade and modification time... With 3 weeks of waiting for the paperwork, and all that border BS, I had some time to surf for the upgrades and modifications that I knew I wanted to do. The majority of the big stuff was done, panniers, crash bars, suspension etc. For that I was very fortunate, because I was really trying to not spend much more than what I got for my KLX. (yeah right) But none the less I was going to try.
Thermobob: and doohickey, what the?!? Well, the mechanic in me said those were necessities. I spent lots of time researching and trying to figure out if my GEN2 actually needed these parts. Thermobob, became a no brainer and I found the kit to be of fantastic quality and the fit and finish of the completed job was perfect. The instructions online were clear and accurate, all of the parts supplied were spot on and everything went exactly as it should. Of course the job turned into a little more because I chose to Plasti-coat the entire faring and headlight shroud while she was all apart. The test ride with the Thermobob installed showed a quicker more consistent warm up and slightly higher operating temp. Just knowing that the engine is heated and cooled properly is all that needs to be said on the install, and I recommend this.
Eagle Mike: I purchased the complete doohickey kit from Eagle Mike. I figure rather than mess around hoping that the gaskets would come off, and having to fab up some tools would not be worth the time rather spend the $$$ and get it all. I plan on doing this job when she is due for an oil service, and can report how it all goes with the new kit.
Raising links and suspension: The bike sits low, I had to modify my bike lift so it could accommodate the KLR and even still had to push and wiggle to get the bike on it. I used to and plan on doing a lot of trail riding and ground clearance is a must. The Eagle Mike links seemed like a no brainer. Install was a breeze, and the finish and quality of the links were top notch. I only noticed maybe a ¼ inch of difference at rest, but did notice that it stiffened up the rear under riding conditions for the better. My sag is out by about 1 inch and I am still waiting for the tool to arrive to perform an adjustment. This will then at least set the bike up the way it is supposed to be and I can fully get the feel for it. I will then try on/off test ride with the links and give accurate feedback on them. I had a great ride the other day in some nasty bowling ball sized rocks, ruts and roots. The suspension is borderline the nicest that I have ever had on any of my offroad bikes and I look forward to possibly working with Ricor to fine tune and see if I can get the ultimate suspension with no complaints. For the time being, she is working very very very well. Specifically, pot holes on the fire roads are barely felt with this Ricor! Another thumbs up to them.
Windshield: decided to go with the Bajaworx. Countless threads, opinions, and pictures all played a factor. My goal was the quietest, smoothest air with max wind coverage (whose isn’t!). But...I still want to go offroad and not feel like I am going to be impailed. I am 5’10, 32inch inseam. The air is much quieter over stock and the wind coverage is fantastic from the actual size of the shield, overall I would recommend this shield if your criteria/size fits what mine was. Fit was 99.9%. I opened up the lower mount holes on the bike a tad for ease of starting the lower screws. The overall quality of the product is great and a decent price. I commute with the bike primarily, and my only complaint is a hint of shiver/buffeting in my visor when it is partially up, for venting. Closed visor, (Shoei RF1000) the air is smooth and no buffeting is felt at all. I think in the end I will opt for running 2 windshields. Not sure which 2nd shield will give me what I am looking for.
Plasti-coat: Oh yeah, imagine being able to paint your bike any colour and then peel it off if it gets chipped up or scratched or simply wanting to change the colour. I basically just cleaned the faring and shrouds, removed the headlight assy so there was no masking tape involved and simply sprayed away with 2 generous coats. I did the side panels as well. Pretty much wanted to dull down the bike, and protect the new like finish for if I ever decide to sell it. Our trails here are overgrown in some cases and we do a lot of bush bashing. Highly recommend this product.
Handlebars and Controls: I happened to have a Pro Taper Pastrana FMX bend in stock from a previous bike and some 2 inch risers. It gave me about ¾ inch rise over the factory bars. The new handlebar position is optimal for me and my arms are very relaxed when riding. I chose to install some Oxford heated grips at the same time. The Oxfords are a slightly thicker grip when compared to the regular grips with the heated elements underneath. I have run both and the Oxford Sport grips are my first choice now based on the overall package with easy wiring and temp control. I chose to run a relay so they automatically turn off when the key goes off.
Misc: I removed the license plate bracket and light and mounted the plate to the rear fender under the taillight. Conveniently, the wiring for the lic plate light acts as a perfect trigger for the relay used for my heated grips when the key is turned on.
In conclusion, I have had a great time in the short ownership of the KLR. It has only been a month since hitting my shop and I can calculate many many hours of massage/install/servicing time on the bike and have loved every minute of it. It’s funny how boys and their toys continue on into the 40’s. I am fortunate to be somewhat financially stable to be able to wisely spend upgrade money on the bike to set it up how it should be right from the start. Why not absolutely maximize the riding pleasure. That said, I have been scrounging like mad selling old parts that have been collecting, the PW50 that has been sitting in a corner, an old boat, helmets, riding gear, yeah, it has been a busy month all surrounding this form of meditation/release we call riding and bike ownership. I am more than happy to provide additional details about the import process, etc for those interested. Also a shout out to you fellas down south for being good natured riders, making a Canadian bike enthusiast find their next toy and source of riding pleasure. I look forward to my Washington Back Country Discovery Route trip planned for this year, but foresee a lot of fun rides leading up to it.