Dr. Frazier’s Globe Killer KLR650 Part 4

February 14, 2013
Dr. Gregory Frazier
Dr. Gregory Frazier
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

Having made multiple runs across the globe, round-the-world adventurer Dr. Frazier imparts some of his motorcycle traveling wisdom in his monthly Dr. Frazier Rides column.

At the 20,000 mile mark I opined “The Globe Killer Project Bike is not going to be parked or sold. Plans are for future product testing and possibly a serious expedition off the continent. Given where the Kawasaki KLR650 has taken me to this point and how it has done so, I see many miles over the horizon towards future adventures.”

Time and the overly expensive prospect of shipping the KLR650 off the continent to Asia, Africa, South America or Europe found me parking it for six months and using the money saved to bag another 10,000 miles on the North American continent upon my return. Those miles were hard miles, ranging from 75 mph on high-speed interstates, to serious off-road adventure riding in the 2012 Big Dog Adventure Ride. In between I crisscrossed the Continental Divide from Montana to Mexico numerous times, broke my leg performing a deep sugar-sand, slow-speed get-off in a remote area of the Navajo Indian Reservation, and later was nearly run over by Indians (the pre-1930 motorized cycle brand) in the 2012 Cannonball Endurance Run as they passed through Wyoming. I found another 10,000 KLR650 miles filled with adventure within the horizons of the western United States.

In an effort to remain true to the spirit of the original concept of The Globe Killer Project Bike, (that someday it might find itself in some remote third world country at the 30,000 mile mark with no qualified mechanics or Kawasaki spare parts), I did as much of a shade tree mechanical 30,000 mile check-up as I could self perform. Possibly, when I find some future adventure near the Happy Trails Motorcycle Products Company in Boise, Idaho, the birth place of the project, I will let principal Tim Bernard give me and the motorcycle another inspection for lack of proper and certified maintenance.

More Bumps In The Road – Some Farkle and Bling

Reaching 30,000 miles was not without a few more bumps in the road, some softened by farkle and possible bling. An estimated 75% of the 10,000 miles were done on pavement, the remaining 25% off-pavement over ground that ranged from easy, high-speed gravel or hard pan roads to ugly single track sections better suited for horses or bicycle riders carrying their bikes. In the latter sections I often found myself and the KLR650 in horizontal positions, twice with the KLR650 being on top of the pilot. Some of the get-offs were the result of serious pilot error, like zigging with a fully loaded motorcycle when the decision should have been zagging. Other times could only be attributed to the pilot being an avid follower of St. Fermin, the Patron Saint of Fools, in pursuit of foolish motorcycle adventure.

Wind and Water Protection

An experimental combination of a Laminar-Lip windscreen had previously been attached to a product from Happy Trails, The Rally Windscreen. Another R & D product from Happy Trails, bat-wing side pieces, were also added.

After several thousand miles I was back to using the old motorcycle helmet face shield that bolted to the top of the Laminar-Lip with five easily installed or removed plastic nuts and bolts for high-speed pavement travel. At high speed the wind, water and bugs were vectored over or around my helmet. An inspection of the self-made combination after one 550-mile trip found the attached face shield covered with the smashed bugs and dirt that would have been on the front of my riding jacket, helmet face shield or in my teeth had I been smiling with my helmeted face shield up.

This previously described “field-fix” had become a more permanent fix. When I knowingly went off pavement and wanted to see more directly in front of the front wheel, or worried about my helmet or face bouncing into the taller screen, I simply removed the taller addition and stored it in the tank bag.

The dashboard of the Rally Windscreen was a tempting place to mount anything, from a GPS to a five-dollar digital watch. I had not graduated to the GPS and the need to know the time of day was satisfied by looking at my wristwatch or the level of the sun, so the dashboard, although functionally needed for mounting The Rally Windscreen, qualified as quasi-bling.

One add-on, or farkle, was the Happy Trails KLR650 Lift Handle. This hand-grab bolted on to the mid-frame of the KLR650 and made rolling the motorcycle backwards onto the center stand measurably easier. While it could have been called farkle, I classified it as a strained-back-or-muscle-saver. If I purchased another KLR650, any year, and added a center stand, the Lift Handle would also be purchased.

Findings At 30,000 Miles


The Avon Gripster front tire had 15,000 miles on it. Many more miles would have been pushing the safety level. The rear Avon Distanzia had 10,000 miles on it and looked like it could go at least 5000 more miles. While the combination did well on pavement, once in mud, on slippery rocks or grass, or in soft sugar sand, the KLR650 would slip and slide as well as any street-oriented motorcycle with stock tires. Ideally these off-road situations would have been undertaken using knobby tires or a more aggressive dual-sport type. The trade-off came as a result of not wanting to carry and change tires while traveling and being budget conscious about tires and the good value of the Avon products.


While on the center stand the front and rear wheel were spun to check for trueness and were found to be straight. Two spokes on the rear wheel sounded dull when tapping them with a screwdriver. They were tightened until they sounded like the others on the wheel.

Chain and Sprockets:

At 20,000 miles the rear chain and both sprockets had been replaced. At 30,000 miles a slight amount of slack in the chain was taken up, less than one full turn of the adjusting bolts.

Air Cleaner:

I learned my lesson at Happy-Trails during the 20,000 mile check-up and maintenance session of the result of not attending to the air cleaner versus loss of performance and low gas mileage. Cleaning the re-usable air cleaner every 3000 miles has become part of the routine maintenance.

Spark Plug:

The spark plug gap looked fine, but the end was blackish. It was cleaned up, gapped and re-installed.


Not having any shims and noticing no appreciable decline in performance, the valves were left untouched at the 30,000 mile mark.

Balance Chain Tensioner:

At 30,000 miles the adjustment bolt was loosened, allowing the internal Happy Trails installed torsion-type spring to take up any slack in the chain. The adjustment bolt was then carefully retightened.

Oil and Oil Filter:

These items continued to be changed and cleaned religiously at every 3000 mile point, and again at the 30,000 mile inspection. 20-50 weight non-synthetic oil was used based on the hypotheses that the motorcycle would be been taken on a long ride to some distant point where synthetic oil would not be available. A budgetary consideration was also a factor in choice of oil type, the non-synthetic type being more economical. No appreciable metal bits were noticed when cleaning the oil filter (a wire mesh re-usable model) or on the magnetic drain plug.

Swingarm and Dog Bone Bolts:

These bolts were not checked at the 30,000 mark, leaving that to a time when the motorcycle would be in a better equipped shop than my sparsely stocked shade tree garage.

Fuel Filter:

A new plastic fuel filter was installed as a matter of routine maintenance at 30,000 miles, last having been changed at 20,000 miles.

Brake and Water Fluids:

Brake fluid levels were checked and found to be at acceptable levels and the color appeared to be good. No change was made. The radiator coolant and overflow collector were inspected and seemed visually clean. No change was made to the coolant.


The battery was checked when cold and read 13.24 volts. When running it showed 14.3 volts. I noted that the battery was 30,000 miles and three years old and had needed no attention. Three times the motorcycle has been left standing over the 30,000 mile period without a trickle charger for six months at a time.

All other electrical parts were working.

Brake Pads:

A visual inspection of the brake pads, front and back, showed considerable pad material left on all four surfaces. No excessive wear could be seen or felt by finger feel on either front or rear discs.


The clutch, brake and throttle cables were given a good inside bath with WD 40, as was the throttle on the handlebar. Some slack was taken up in all three by the easily accessed adjusters.


After 30,000 miles the KLR650 seemed to have many more miles left of relative low-maintenance riding. Having pushed it to some rather extreme limits, following the suggestion of Happy Trails principal Tim Bernard, to “hammer it,” the KLR650 seems to have fared well other than acquiring some scratches and nicks, most attributed to pilot contributions.

After six months in another restive state it will have fresh gasoline injected, a new front tire and tube installed, the battery charged, and be used to pursue adventures over another six months. During that time it may find the way back to Happy Trails Central in Boise, Idaho for another check-up.

When asked my opinion of the 2009 KLR650 after 30,000 miles, I smile and answer, “Like a best value priced Timex watch, it just keeps on ticking.”