Dr. Frazier’s Globe Killer KLR650 Part 6

January 15, 2015
Dr. Gregory Frazier
Dr. Gregory Frazier
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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.

The 35,000 mile KLR650 Globe Killer report was 5000 miles short of the planned 40,000 mile check-up, and some repairs were necessary during the intervening miles.



At 36,000 miles, the rest of the riding year to the 40,000-mile major service looked to be highway miles rather than off-pavement. In anticipation of needing a new rear Avon Gripster AM24 somewhere between Montana and Mexico in the next 4000 miles, we decided to switch from the Gripster to the preferred high mileage Avon Distanzia tire.


While the motorcycle was off the ground, having a new rear tire and tube installed, the wheels were checked for loose spokes and the brake pads were inspected. Nothing needed replacement or adjustment.

Skid Plate:

Upgrading to new Happy Trails skid plate  left  with impact kit.
New chain  master link and sprockets at 36 000 miles  sprockets starting to show some wear.
(Above) Upgrading to new Happy Trails skid plate (left) with impact kit. (Below) New chain, master link and sprockets at 36,000 miles, sprockets starting to show some wear.

The motorcycle adventure gnomes in the Engineering Department at Happy Trails Motorcycle Product Company had re-designed their skid plate to incorporate an impact kit to fit between the skid plate and the motorcycle frame and engine. Additionally, the new skid plate was slightly lower than the earlier model, which had left a bit of the aftermarket magnetic oil drain plug exposed to possible direct impact. At the 36,000 mile mini-service the newer style skid plate was installed and then tested numerous times during off-road adventures as it made contact with rocks, both flying and fixed.

Chain, Sprockets and Guards:

As previously reported, at 34,219 miles the master link on the rear chain disappeared at 70 mph on a busy interstate and the flaying chain took out the Guide-Chain, Collar, Cover-Assembly-Chain Case, Bracket and RR Guide-Chain.

While replacement Kawasaki parts were collected, we tightened the chain at the 35,000 mile mark since it showed some wear. At 36,000 miles we decided to replace the chain and sprockets while bolting on the new parts and installing the new rear tire. There were miles left in the chain and sprockets, but how many were unknown. They had 16,000 miles on them. The unknown miles, like the life left on the Gripster rear tire, compelled the decision to swap for new parts while the motorcycle was being serviced at 36,000 miles rather than trying to squeeze the final miles out, only to find parts gone on some empty section of road.

Air Cleaner and Oil changes:

At the 36,000 mile point, and again at the 40,000 mile mark, the re-usable air cleaner was cleaned as was the re-usable wire mesh oil filter. At both points new oil replaced the old.

Balance Chain Tensioner:

During the same 36,000 mile mini-service, the torsion-type spring took up any slack in the cam chain by loosening the adjustment bolt and then carefully retightening it. Whether there was any slack in the chain needing to be taken up was unknown as the spring does its work unseen under the engine case cover.

Water Level:

No coolant was added at the 36,000 mile check-up.


Somewhere before the 37,689 mile point the low beam on the H7 headlight died, brought to my attention by a country sheriff passing in the opposite direction. Given a written warning after the high beam proved it was working, the sheriff let me drive to the next town where I was able to replace the lighting element in the parking lot at a local auto parts store. This marked the second time in 37,689 miles that the low beam had expired.



One of the endearing qualities of the Kawasaki KLR650 is its dual-purpose ability, being a solid pavement tourer as well as functional for off-road work, a highly desirable trait for adventuring with only one motorcycle.

Over the last 40,000 miles the compromise for wind protection has been a mix of windscreens.

The original KLR650 windscreen did little to protect the pilot from wind, rain or flying objects, whether at low speeds or high. A Happy Trails solution was a prototype that incorporated a newer dashboard and aftermarket windscreen. A newer “Rallye Windscreen” had been designed and was installed at the 40,000 mile service, which again incorporated the original Kawasaki windscreen, but at a steeper angle. This newer windscreen is better suited for off-pavement use than highway use, but is far superior to the stock windscreen at highway speeds.

A highway speed option has been designed by Clearview Shields. The company’s clear or gray windscreen is available in three heights, 16.5 inches to 19 inches. We selected the tallest of the three options based on a 6’ 3” rider height.

Both the Happy Trails and the Clearview Shields will be tested from the 40,000 mile mark forward.

Tank bag:

We originally installed a Wolfman Enduro tank bag and for the last 40,000 miles it did its job well. We’ve now gone with a newer design, the Blackhawk tank bag, for several reasons, including larger capacity. It also fit the KLR650 tank design more comfortably, therefore moving around less when bouncing over rocks and off-pavement.


The KLR650 was prepared for its sixth annual half-year hibernation and locked away. Before doing so, we called Happy Trails to ask if we should schedule a major service before taking it back out on the road in the spring. The answer was, “If it’s running OK, we’d push on into the summer, or as the old saying goes, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fuss with it.’”

Dr. Frazier’s Globe Killer KLR650 Part 6

More patina for the Happy Trails pannier system  but no major dings or dents  nor frame bending. The panniers are made to take the hits. 40 000 miles and still ticking well like the proverbial Timex watch. Replacement swing arm rubber slider  top   the original being another causality of the master link failure disappearance.
Set up for highway speeds  the KLR650 would easily hold 70mph  although for gas consumption it was happiest in the 50-55 mph where it would suck a gallon every 40 miles. The upgraded Happy Trails skid plate easily installed and removed worries about drain plug impact. Happy Trails new Rallye Wind Screen used the stock KLR650 plastic and their new mounting plate.