About The Bike



Kawasaki KLR 650 Decision and The Phoenix

Reading blogs and talking to other RTW travelers, it is clear that the ability of a motorcycle to survive a RTW trip with minimal repairs is directly related to the quality of the maintenance performed while on the trip. Taking this into consideration I am using a pre-2007 Kawasaki KLR650 for the following reasons:

  1. I already know how to do all maintenance and almost any possible repair as I already own a KLR650.
  2. The motorcycle is simple and easy to maintain and repair. I can perform almost any necessary repair myself.
  3. With 20 year history, parts should be easily available or sometimes easily fabricated / cludged. At worst, easily shipped from a different location.
  4. The engine is powerful enough for highway conditions but overall bike size is small enough to easily handle bad roads in third-world countries (off-road conditions).
  5. The cost is low, even after modifications (about 1/3 the cost of a BMW F800GS!)
  6. Low cost and simple design mean that when necessary the engine can be rebuilt en-route or at worst a replacement obtained (and still save money over a GS!)

The bike I am using is The Phoenix, a 2005 KLR650 with 25,000 miles on it as of 3 July 2010. The Phoenix has seen a few hardships over in the past five years as have I, but we both have been carefully restored to health. I am taking this bike rather than hunting down a low mileage old model (pre-2008) because (a) I know its history, (b) it remains highly reliable, (c) I have already made several of the planned modifications, and (d) I have been convinced by others on the klr650.net forum that the gain of a newer bike would be minimal.

I have no doubt there will be times when I will regret choosing the KLR650. However I also know there would also be times I would regret a BWM F800GS, or a Suzuki DL650.

Introduction to KLR 650 Modifications

For modification details and discussion, see the thread at klr650.net I am using to track and discuss modifications I am making.

All modifications will need to satisfy one of the following requirements:

  • Maintenance: Ease of maintenance is critical to a well functioning bike on an RTW trip.
  • Durability: Repairs are inevitable on an RTW trip. The goal is to reduce the frequency and severity of required repairs.
  • Safety: Anything which increases my own safety is a mandatory change.
  • Comfort: I will be living on this KLR for the next two years, possibly longer.

Photo Log

The gallery below contains a photographic log of the changes I have made since preparing for this trip.

2012/02/21: Enduristan Monsoon Soft Luggage
2012/03/19: Luggage rack for new soft luggage: wings up
2012/03/19: Luggage rack for new soft luggage: wings down
2012/03/19: Luggage rack for new soft luggage, rear view
2012/03/19: New fairing bracket construction, stage #1
2012/03/19: New fairing bracket construction, stage #2
2012/03/19: New fairing bracket construction, stage #3
2012/03/19: New fairing bracket construction, stage #4
2012/03/19: New fairing bracket construction, stage #5
2012/03/19: New fairing bracket, cockpit view
2010/08/28: Right side without luggage
2010/08/28: Right side
2010/08/28: Left side
2010/10/17: Current state of the KLR
2010/10/17: Center-stand clearance
2010/10/17: New dash
2010/11/05: Radiator Grill, old and new
2010/11/05: New radiator grill installed showing bolts
2010/11/05: New radiator grill
2010/11/05: Old voltmeter
2010/11/05: New voltmeter
2010/11/05: Dash, back side wiring
2010/11/05: HID and Halogen headlight connectors.
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List of Modifications

The modifications I will make or already have made are listed below. Uncommon modifications have a link to the source of the part. I have also included links to installation instructions by users if I have found any (typically at KLR650.net).

Items prefixed by a star (*) have been made after the trip began.

  1. Maintenance Modifications
    1. [complete] DATEL Digital volt meter – to monitor battery health. Resolution is 1/10 volt.
    2. [complete] Centerstand – Makes maintenance easier, and regular maintenance is the key to reliability. Currently experimenting with a “Quick-Jack” from Eagle Mike
    3. 12V cigar lighter socket, waterproof (2?) – Many uses, including jump-starting, battery charging, charging of electronic devices, etc.
    4. [complete] Oddessy Sealed battery
    5. [complete] Bark Busters – Protects shift/brake levers better
    6. [complete] Choke/mirror relocation bracket – Less likely to break
    7. [complete] Extra cables pre-routed next to existing cables
    8. [complete] Fuse relocation and ATO replacement – ATO fuses are less likely to break because of vibration, relocation makes replacing them easier, and allows easier addition of accessory fuses
    9. [rejected] Tool Tube – store tools – Agriculture Manual Tubes. PVC Pipe used instead
    10. [complete] Tool Tube – store tools – PVC pipe custom created to fit in front of the bash plate, behind the rear wheel.
    11. [complete] Sink-No-Bob – Sidestand footprint enlarger for stability on soft surfaces
    12. [complete] LoobMan chain oiler РAutomatic chain oiler which only applies oil when I want it to (so that it doesn’t cause problems in dusty offroad conditions)
    13. [rejected] Reusable oil filter – In case oil filters are hard to come by in some locations. Decided to just use normal paper filters.
    14. [rejected] Metal tire valve stem cap with built-in valve-core remover – I’ve lost lots of valve stem caps. Not worth it. Put a valve stem remover in the toolkit instead.
    15. [complete] Moose Spring-style fule-line wire hose clamps – For easier removal of the tank
  2. Durability Modifications
    1. [complete] Folding shift lever – stock shift lever is a weak design
    2. [complete] Eagle Doohikey
    3. [rejected] Eagle Torsion Spring for Doohikey — Not worth the trouble of getting to the spring. It can be replaced at a later date if needed or if I am in there for another reason.
    4. [complete] Moose Offset Footpegs
    5. [complete] LED Turn Signals – Front only because I had to replace them after a crash.
    6. [complete] LED Dash Lights – same plug as stock lights. Source: Super Bright LEDs
    7. [complete] IMS Gas Tank – increased capacity and radiator protection
    8. [complete] Locking cap for the IMS Tank – because I am paranoid….
    9. [rejected] Radiator Guard – helps IMS tank protect the radiator on crash – Rejected because it was decided the IMS tank provides sufficient protection
    10. [complete] Thermo-Bob (install)- better engine temperature regulation
    11. [complete] Cogent Dynamics rear shock – better than stock and rebuildable
    12. [complete] Cogent Dynamics front springs
    13. [complete] Braided Steel front brake line – improved stopping power
    14. [rejected] Braided steel rear brake line – I have always found the rear brake plenty powerful (It will lock up easily)
    15. [complete] Metal bash plate (skid plate)
    16. [complete] Low profile magnetic drain plug
    17. Replace phillips head bolts with hex-head bolts (either traditional hex heads for use with sockets, or socket head cap screws for use with allen keys. – Many existing bolts are too easily stripped, especially carb bolts
      1. [complete] Front brake fluid resivoir
      2. [complete] Carb Top/Bottom bolts
      3. [complete] XS Twin fairing bottom bolts (3)
      4. [complete] Side panel bolts
    18. Replace bolts with harder bolts in stress areas
      1. [complete] Subframe Bolt Upgrade (drill-through variety from Eagle Mike)
      2. [rejected] Footpeg bolt upgrade: Comment by several people is don’t risk making it worse, you can always find someone to do some welding on the road!
    19. [complete] Carb T-Mod – To prevent stalling in water crossings and heavy rain
    20. [rejected] Sealed Bearings on front and rear wheels. Never got around to this. I will replace bearings if/when they fail on the road.
    21. [rejected] Excel Wheels (stock size) – Stronger than stock. Far too expensive for minimal gain.
    22. [rejected] 18″ rear wheel (2.50 width) (lacing) – better sand/mud performance, more stable on street, same size as rear tire (with 18″ mod) for convenience and only one spare tube. Rejected as too expensive to be worth it.
    23. [rejected] 18″ rear wheel (2.50 width) (lacing) – Slightly easier to find than 17″. If also using 18″ front, this gives one tire and tube to look for that fits both wheels. Rejected as too expensive to be worth it.
    24. [complete] 685cc Bore Kit. Little bit more power, lots less vibration.
    25. [rejected] Auxiliary driving lights – A backup in case the main headlight fails and better night lighting. XS Twin fairing has two H9 headlamps which provides sufficient light and redundancy.
    26. [rejected] Heavy duty wiring harness – XSTwin fairing already has improvide headlight wiring.
    27. [rejected] Grease Nipples on swingarm / suspension links — Rejected because they do not sufficiently grease the joints.
    28. [complete] Adjustable fuel screw (Recommendation from Sgt Marty). Buy a T-handle version, or Do-It-Yourself version
    29. [rejected] drill out the carb slide’s vacuum hole and put a thin shim under the needle (instructions? (Recommendation from Sgt Marty). Rejected out of laziness and lack of any real problem it solves.
    30. [rejected] metal connector from the choke (enricher) cable to the carb. Will worry about this if it fails.
    31. [rejected] Plunger-style carb enricher from KLX300R, part# 16016-1068. Will worry about changing this if it fails.
    32. [rejected] Carb Choke (enricher) short cable from Harley Davidson Sportster, part# 29229-88C. Mount nearby with an angle bracket. Will worry about changing this if it fails.
    33. [complete] License Plate Relocation with LED “bolt” lights
    34. [complete] Shark fin rear brake protector
    35. [complete] Rear master cylinder guard
    36. [complete] Rear brake pedal bracket from Eagle Mike
    37. [rejected] Water pump guard – skid plate protects the water pump
    38. [rejected] Nerf Bars – The IMS tank with a radiator guard provides sufficient protection and the nerf bars are difficult to modify to fit.
    39. [complete] Fuel Filter – Because a lot of bad stuff will be used. Inline filter with a copper filter element. Added in Bolivia.
    40. [rejected] Accessory Fuse Kit – Not needed, XS Twin Fairing has its own excessory fuse slots
    41. [complete] Radiator Grill made of Expanded Steel Mesh. My OEM radiator grill fell apart. Rather than replace it with something equally wimpy I will install a sheet of expanded steel mesh with 1/2″ holes.
    42. [complete] Maier ATV Handguards. Better protection for controls, better weather protection for the hands.
  3. Safety Modifications
    1. [complete] LED Flashing Brake Light. Flashes only for a short period of time, slowly then fast.
    2. [complete] Oversized front brake rotor
    3. [complete] HID low beam for Brittania Composites XSTwin Fairing. This would provide better light for night riding, however that should generally be avoided. Modification should be backwards compatible with the H9 bulb.
    4. *[complete] XS Twin Fairing new mounting bracket. The OEM bracket (modified for use with the fairing) is too weak for RTW travel. In Medellin, Colombia, a new bracket was created.
  4. Comfort Modifications
    1. [complete] Brittania Composites XSTwin Fairing — Provides dual H9 headlamps and better performance over stock fairing
    2. [TBR] Custom Seat – currently using Corbin Dished, but I am not (quite) satisfied. Still not satisfied. Considering something new.
    3. [complete] Panniers: Caribou Cases (converted pelican cases)
    4. *[complete] Panniers: Enduristan Monsoon soft bags. Replaced the Caribou Cases in Cali, Colombia, because the mounting bracket was insufficient for RTW travel.
    5. *[complete] Soft bag mounting bracket, custom made in Medellin, Colombia. Not necessary for using the Enduristan Monsoon bags for solo travel, but needed for carrying a passenger.
    6. [rejected] Tool box for Caribou Cases left-side case. I have this now and it is only a nuisance. Remove before leaving. May relocate to a more useful location but unlikely.
    7. [rejected] Top box: Caribou Cases. I currently do not see a need for a top box, but will revisit this decision once I have a better idea of how gear will be packed (unlikely to change)
    8. [rejected] Intiminator (cartridge emulator) — Rejected in favor of Race Tech Cartridge Emulators, recommended by Cogent Dynamics
    9. [complete] Race Tech Cartridge Emulators. Recommended by Cogent Dynamics for improved performance and comfort.
    10. Tank Panniers
    11. [complete] Heated Grips
    12. [complete] Aluminum handlebars, taller than stock and different angle (ProTaper ATV SE Mid or High)
    13. [complete] Vibranator – Decreases handlebar vibration, makes long days more comfortable
    14. *[complete] Throttle Lock
    15. [complete] Mirror Vibration Dampeners – Makes using the mirrors easier. NOTE: rubber damping system disintegrated after in Colombia after about 60,000 miles of use and these were removed.
    16. [rejected] Dry bag for supplemental rear storage?
    17. [complete] Dash board for Brittania Composites XS Twin Fairing – Place to mount GPS, switches, lights, etc.
    18. [rejected] 16-tooth sprocket – Offroad is more difficult, better highway performance. Only time I might use it is Canada and parts of the USA. Not worth the cost and drawbacks.
    19. *[complete] Handlebar risers – Rox 2″ risers.
    20. [complete] Widshield – Brittania Composites now makes a larger windshield (2″ taller, 1/2″ wider) which should move the “turbulance” above my head. NOTE: Broke in Colombia, never replaced. Happy with just the XS Twin fairing and no windshield.
    21. [complete] Fork Brace – Supposedly improves stability, undecided if worth adding
    22. GPS – Need to determine which GPS unit will be used. Must accept both free download maps and purchased map sets. Must have permanent mount on fairing dash.
    23. [rejected] Acerbis front fender brace (only if not using Brittania Composites custom fender as per headlight discussion)
    24. [rejected] Heat-Troller – Control the temperature of a heated vest by cycling the power on/off (instead of using a resistor). Decreases power usage. Will decide if one is necessary after a heated vest is obtained. Heated vest was never obtained.
    25. *[completed] Vapor Digital Dash – Switched to this in Colombia when creating a new fairing bracket. Removing the OEM instruments allowed for a better design.
    26. [rejected] Lascar Digital Thermometer – Expensive luxury. I would rather use a $1 coat thermometer glued to the dash.
    27. [rejected] Formotion Clock – Expensive luxury. If I want a clock I’ll find a cheap wristwatch, remove the band, and attach it to the dash.

Maintenance Log

The table below is my maintenance log starting from when I left on the trip. Note that mileages are sometimes approximate but should be accurate to within +/- 500 miles at worst.