(This is the seventh part in a series exclusively for Motorcycle USA of a long term test of a Kawasaki KLR650)
The 40,000 mile KLR650 Globe Killer report concluded with the 2009 KLR going into hibernation over the winter. When it was returned to service in the late spring, timing and location did not find it in a Kawasaki dealer for a check-up until the 45,000 mile mark.
Ninety-percent of the last 5000 miles were on pavement to and from adventure riding points in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The remaining 10% was a mix of good quality gravel roads and mining roads, none requiring more than load lightening and tire pressure reduction to 20 pounds front and back. While the KLR650 project motorcycle was entered in the Big Dog Adventure Ride, it stayed on B and C class level routes.
Back on the road after a winter of resting. Amazingly the KLR started easily after sitting for six months, with no battery tender attached. The Odyssey battery had again proved itself worth the investment, suggested by Happy Trails (www.happy-trail.com); this having been the sixth winter the motorcycle and battery had sat unattended.
FINDINGS AND MAINTENANCE BETWEEN 40,000 AND 45,000 MILES
I maintained the combination of the Gripster AM 24 for the front and Distanzia for the rear. While the front Gripster was approaching replacement after 15,000 miles, the rear Distanzia had many miles left after 9000 miles. Both are slated for replacement with the new TrailRider tires from Avon when the KLR650 is brought back into service in 2016.
Air Cleaner and Oil changes:
At the 43,000 mile point, and again at the 45,000 mile mark, the re-usable air cleaner was cleaned as was the re-usable wire mesh oil filter and new oil replaced the old.
Balance Chain Tensioner:
During the same 43,000 mile and 45,000 mile points the torsion-type spring was again allowed to take up any slack in the cam chain by loosening the adjustment bolt and then carefully retightening it.
When the KLR was taken out of storage after sitting for six months, the Odyssey battery was strong enough to start the motorcycle and carry it throughout the next 5000 miles. Originally installed when the Happy Trails Motorcycle Product Company set up the project motorcycle in 2009, the battery has proved itself a wise investment over the last six years.
Routine maintenance at 42,386 miles included an oil change, chain oiling and adjustment, and checking all fluids, only shade tree mechanic tools and skills being needed.
While doing routine maintenance at 43,000 miles, the rear brake pads were discovered to have reached their limits. The Galfer pads, installed by Happy Trails, had lasted over 42,000 miles.
The Clearview windscreen has been used exclusively over the last 5000 miles, except for those times doing off-road pursuits, like the Big Dog Adventure Ride. The Clearview windscreen is ideal for endless miles of highway driving, providing wide and tall wind and water protection. It is quickly and easily removed when wanting to do off-pavement riding. Once removed the original KLR650 small screen remains in place.
MAJOR CHECK-UP – 45,000 miles
It had been over 25,000 miles since the KLR project bike saw the inside of a Kawasaki dealership. Routine maintenance had been done, and as needed, shade tree mechanical skills kept the motorcycle seemingly in good form. However, those 25,000 miles had been hard ones, and it was time to let a professional look at the machine, especially the valves clearances, for which shade tree tools, skills and possible parts were lacking.
Lander Marine and Kawasaki, located in Lander, Wyoming, the oldest Kawasaki dealership in the USA, scheduled a time slot that coincided with an adventure through Wyoming and the KLR650 was turned over to their trained mechanic for a check-up and any required maintenance at the 45,000 mile mark.
The major work was to check valve clearances. Surprisingly, after 25,000 miles, all clearances were still within factory specifications. However, some shims were changed for the exhaust valves to fine tune those clearances. Interestingly, although the exhaust clearances were still within specifications of .006-.010, bringing them both to .009 increased compression from 68 PSI to 76 PSI.
Far from the shade of trees, the KLR650 found itself in the hands of professional mechanic Paul Westman while it was being looked over and tested at Lander Marine and Kawasaki.
While the valve tappets were being checked and adjusted, the spark plug was changed to a new one. The older one, which had not been touched for the last 25,000 miles, still looked good and was performing well.
Some of the hoses for emissions circulation were re-routed to insure the smooth flow of dirty engine gases and one wire was found to have been crimped, but not broken, likely more the result of severe ground pounding or prior shade tree mechanical skills.
The 2009 KLR650 was prepared for its seventh annual half-year hibernation and locked away. With fresh oil, gas additive and some trepidation, the key was turned off, wondering if the Odyssey battery would be alive and strong six months later to bring it back to life.
SOME THOUGHTS AFTER SIX YEARS
The KLR650, a 2009 model, was set up by the Happy Trails company “for a long tough ride,” in part to test some new aftermarket accessories, and to prepare it for travel to places where Kawasaki parts and dealer pit stops would not be easily found. While some routine maintenance was expected over the projected miles, it was prepped to be able to be worked on by an owner with limited skills and tools.
Given the weight of the pilot and luggage over those miles, changes were made to both the front and rear suspension to accommodate that anticipated weight. Kawasaki, with their 2015 models, made similar factory changes. 2015 front springs were 40% stiffer with a reported increased rebound damping of 25%. On the back end the rear spring was firmed up by 60% and rebound upped by 80%.
An additional 2015 change was made to the seat to make it more comfortable for long highway miles. Although for those riders who are not the toughest in the world, additional butt buffers may still be an option for those 200-300 mile sections between gas stops possible on American interstate highways.
- At a photo stop on the 38th Parallel the side stand slowly sank into the soft sand, letting the KLR and 150 pounds of camping gear and books on the back rest most ungracefully on its side.
- Mr. Snake was no match for the heavily loaded KLR on the pavement. In a sand track off the pavement a different ending might have unfolded.
- The oldest Kawasaki dealership in the USA, Lander Marine and Kawasaki, in Lander, Wyoming, scheduled the KLR650 for its 45,000 mile check-up.
- At 45,000 miles a professional pit stop was scheduled to check valves, compression and overall owner maintenance.
- For highway life the KLR650, with camping gear and considerable wind protection was still able to hold 75-80 mph on the flats and consume about a gallon of gas every 40 miles.
- Stripping off the highway windscreen, luggage and emptying the aluminum panniers makes dual sport riding of fire or dirt roads more fun than trying to do the same fully loaded.
- The loaded KLR650 with camping gear became a hand full when in wet slippery grass like this, the weight and tires being better suited for pavement riding.
This particular KLR650 project bike has seen a tough 45,000 miles, whether it’s been with the throttle pegged into the head winds of Wyoming or over single tracks better done with a 250cc dirt bike. It has been down on both sides, to the point of almost being upside down. An errant deer in Montana acted like an RPG from the left side and tried to stick its head between the front wheel and the engine case while the motorcycle was moving. An attempt at a deep stream crossing gave the KLR650 and its luggage a free bike wash in the Colorado Rockies. Several times, before the side stand was shortened by one inch, it entertained audiences when it seemingly lay down on its own at gas stations. Law enforcement officers with deadly accurate speed detection devices have verified it could meet or exceed the highest posted limits on American highways.
Overall, it has proven to be a most reliable utility motorcycle, and one which requires little technical training or tools to maintain.
Before leaving Lander Marine and Kawasaki owners Paul and Eric Westman suggested when the KLR650 should be brought back for the next professional maintenance. The brothers Westman looked at each other, possibly computing lost revenue from customer service, and then Paul said, “It has been ridden nearly the equivalent of twice around the world. Bring it back after another 25,000 miles, maybe having ridden it through Burma. There’s a Burma Road a few miles up the road, a good place to start.”