23 April 2011 – The Plan Revised (Again) – Kawasaki KLR 650
Hey there everyone It’s been another positively joyful week with continued dental work and I’ve been tired from a few things. But I still haven’t lost sight of my goal – being up on two wheels that will carry me over the roads and continuing on when the pavement ends
After much discussion with quite a few people I’ve come to the conclusion that while a KLX250s would work, it really wouldn’t be the best tool for the job. Kind of like when you use a fork to cut things with when you’re eating – it will work on most things, but a knife works better on the vast majority of them. I’d be putting quite a strain on the brakes, clutch, and all the rest. It’s rated for about 400 pounds and I’m about 75% of that, but it was really made for someone around 180 pounds and I’ve got quite a bit more to lose if I’m going to get that thin! No, a 650cc bike would be better for me. Usually a 650 is considered a bit big for a brand new rider, but then again new riders weigh less than I do
I’d had two problems with the 650cc class of bikes before now and both have been overcome. One was the cost of insurance which was remedied by shopping around a bit. The other was the 35″ or higher seat that seems to come as a standard feature in these bikes. The BMW G650GS and F650GS are both lower than that and are no problem for me. The F800GS is about that high and I can do OK on it. My real seat height problem came when I tried to dismount from a KLX250s a couple of weeks ago and ended up on the floor along with the bike. Mike down at Carter Powersports was great in helping me get that figured out and now a 35″ seat is no problem
I headed on down to Carter Powersports again today to look into two different motorcycles which had been very highly recommended by different members over at advrider.com. Those bikes were the Suzuki DR650SE, Suzuki DR-Z400S, and the Kawasaki KLR 650. The KLR 650 and DR650SE both cost about the same and both have 35″ seats. The DR-Z400S is higher and costs more. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and I had to figure out which one would work best for me. I’d called ahead and Mike was more than happy to help me out even on a Saturday afternoon
Here’s the bike I was looking at for quite a few reasons, but which ultimately fell short. It’s the Suzuki DR650SE and it’s a great bike The problems for me are the lack of any sort of wind protection, a three gallon fuel tank, and a seat that just wasn’t comfortable at all even in the showroom. Sure, it’s lighter, quicker, and better off road than the Kawasaki, but I didn’t want a bike with the downsides this one presents.
I didn’t get any pictures of the DR-Z400S and I didn’t bother getting up on the seat either. The DR-Z is taller with a 37″ seat and that seat looks the same as the one on the DR650. Add to that a higher price tag and less power and I’m willing to pass on it. Yes, it’s a better dirt bike in many regards but it’s just not for me.
So here’s the bike I’ve got my heart set on right now. It’s the Kawasaki KLR 650 and it’s just about perfect for what I’m hoping to do
The KLR has been around for a long time, but it got some major updates in 2008. See that fairing? Yep, that’s one of the updates. The fairing, windshield, and the hand guards are pretty good at keeping the wind and weather off you from what I’ve read. Kawasaki also beefed up the wheels, made the suspension better, and upgraded a few things in the engine during the update.
Even without riding it or any other motorcycle I can already tell this is going to be the better bike for me and the riding I want to do. The seat is much more comfortable for one thing, its wind and weather protection is far superior to the Suzuki, and the gas tank holds almost twice as much as the DR650’s – 5.8 gallons Now that’s what I call range! Sure, the Kawasaki is more of a street oriented bike, but that’s OK with me. I’m looking to go out and ride back roads, trails, and see the sights of the desert southwest. I’m not looking to run the Baja 1000 just yet
The KLR 650 is still a fairly basic machine. This is the dash with its analog instruments and a few lights. You get a tach (something not found on the Suzuki bikes), speedometer, main odometer, trip odometer, temp gauge (again not found on the Suzuki bikes), a neutral gear indicator light, high beam indicator light, and turn signal indicator light and that’s it. Notice there’s no gas gauge? Yeah, well we can’t seem to have it all and that’s where that trip odometer comes in handy Actually the more I think of it, the more I’ve come to realize it has everything I want from a Vapor Gauge aside from a second trip odometer, clock, and outside air temperature reading. I can get the mileage I want and the time from my Garmin Vista Cx GPS receiver I bought a couple of years ago for geocaching and I’m sure I can find a suitable thermometer for the outside air temp reading for not a lot of money. That should save a few dollars!
The controls on the handle bars are just as basic and conventional with the exception of including a choke lever on the left side. Yes, this bike has a carburetor instead of fuel injection but that’s OK with me too. I’m still a fan of old technology when it comes to something that has the potential to strand me many miles from home in the middle of nowhere Getting back to the controls (sorry for the lack of photos), there’s your standard starter and kill switches on the right handlebar while the horn, conventional turn signal lever/button arrangement, high/low headlight switch, and horn are on the left. There are no emergency flashers, heated grips, fuel injection (yeah, I know I’m repeating myself here), or ABS like the BMWs have but then again this bike has an MSRP that’s $2500 less (about half the price of the KLR!) than the G650GS. It really is a question of what you’re willing to live without and how much you can spend.
I got these pictures of this pre-1988 KLR 650 for a couple of reasons. First was to show just what the differences in appearance are between the old and the new. The second reason was to show some of what I’m planning on doing to the new bike as soon as possible after I get it. See those engine & radiator guard bars? Yep, those will be priority one. They’ll protect radiators (very important) when (notice I didn’t say if) I manage to drop my bike. The new guard bars I’ve seen actually have highway pegs up front for more comfortable cruising
Priority two will be a center stand for the bike. That allows quite a few things to be done to the bike without having to have a jack or lift. Things like changing a flat tire. Oh yeah – that’s going to be an interesting skill to learn as well. I’m going to make sure I know what the hell I’m doing before I go somewhere like Death Valley by myself!
The last piece of gotta have modifications is going to be a good skid plate. I’m sure the factory one’s OK, but I want something a bit more robust. This is me we’re talking about here and I’m not known for being the easiest person in the world when it comes to how I use my gear.
A few of the other farkles I’m planning on adding include panniers and the racks to carry them, a tank bag, and possibly some driving lights. I might also add a new seat down the road, but not before I’ve got some miles on the bike and I’ve confirmed that the stock seat really won’t work for me. I’m not going to go farkle crazy just for the sake of adding another useless farkle, but there are some things that would really help down the road
You’re probably awfully confused by the inclusion of these Rebel 250s in this post No, I’m not planning on getting a Rebel, but I wanted to show ’em off a bit because they’re just really cool If I weren’t planning on going where I’d need a dual sport I’d probably get one of these. Hell, they’re only $4,000 MSRP and you know there’s going to be deals on ’em! They’re great beginner bikes and could be much more than that depending on what you’re planning on using them for. Just think of the gas mileage you’d get with a 250cc parallel twin engine and a light bike like this
Well, that’s all for this post. I’ve already got another one in the works about my new helmet
Have fun everyone
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