On September 15, 2005, I bought a lime green, 2006, Kawasaki KLR650.
One month later I packed everything I owned into four black nylon bags and set out to see America.
Between October 16 and December 2, 2005, I covered 6556 miles, or 10,550 km.
Maybe you're thinking about making a similar trip.
I know that I wasn't the first person to ride away from the past - searching for some future as yet unknown.
As written below: "...almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings,"
And then share your story.
I hope that you find something helpful in these pages.
Moby Dick, Chapter One, first paragraph:
"Call me Ishmael.
Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation.
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
This is my substitute for pistol and ball.
With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.
There is nothing surprising in this.
If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me."
The Kawasaki KLR650 is a tall, single-cylinder, dual-purpose motorcycle. It has been in production - almost unchanged - for nearly 20 years.
It might well be the most "practical" motorcycle currently available in the United States: it's affordable, durable, reliable and usuable in most conditions.
It is the choice of both the U.S. Army and also the Marine Corps.
Nevertheless, precisely because it is a tall, single-cylinder, dual-purpose motorcycle, it does not have a universal appeal:
(1) the KLR650 might challenge short, or short-limbed, riders; (2) the KLR650 does produce "healthy" vibrations; (3) the KLR650 is not "off the line" an exceptionally fast motorcycle; (4) the KLR650 is not beautiful to look at; it lacks large amounts of paint and chrome - to uplift one's ego.
At the time this is being written, I am 37 years old. I am not a wealthy man. I am six feet tall, broad and long-limbed.
I like going fast; but I prefer going well. The worst of my antics are behind me - along with my desire to participate in worshipful rubbing and buffing.
And while I do want a motorcycle to ride 24/7/365 in the City of Chicago, I also want a motorcycle for touring.
The KLR650 is the best choice, for me, now. Do what is right for yourself.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd: Founded by Shozo Kawasaki. Established on October 15, 1896.
Headquartered in both Minato-ku, Tokyo, and Kobe, Japan.
A producer of motorcycles, ATVs, tractors, trains, industrial robots,
and aerospace equipment including military aircraft.
An oil drum on stilts?
As the following technical specifications indicate, the KLR650 is something odd:
It is, overall, a fairly light (~ 400 pounds wet) motorcycle; but when its large gas tank is full, a noticeable percentage of that weight rides high.
It has a 21 inch front wheel, and very long fork tubes.
Its engine is said to produce roughly 40 horsepower, and significant vibration.
Yet, the bike's large gas tank affords the motorcycle operator a safe 200 mile range between fillings - in most conditions.
I hit the reserve at 235 miles.
And the engine, coupled with the light body, provides 50-60 m.p.g. - while turning fairly smoothly between 2000 - 5000 revolutions per minute.
(3900 r.p.m. seems to translate to about 60 m.p.h., on a fairly level surface, without too much wind.)
It is an easy bike to work on.
And, because the simple, reliable, durable design of the KLR650 has not changed significantly since its introduction in 1987, parts and service are readily available.
Year 2006, Model KL650A6F:
Engine: Four-stroke, four-valve, DOHC single
Displacement: 651cc - 39.7 cu in.
Bore x stroke: 100.0 x 83.0mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Cooling: Liquid - 1.3 L coolant capacity
Carburetion: Keihin CVK40
Ignition: Electronic CDI
Transmission: Five-speed - constant mesh, return shift
Final drive: Chain
Frame: Semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel
Rake-trail: 28 degrees / 4.4 in.
Front suspension-wheel travel: 38mm leading axle, air-adjustable preload / 9.1 in.
Rear suspension-wheel travel: UNI-TRAKŪ single-shock system with 5-way preload and 4-way rebound damping / 9.1 in.
Front tire: 90/90x21 - 54S
Rear tire: 130/80x17 - 65S
Front brake-rear brake: Hydraulic disc / Disc
Overall length: 86.8 in. - 2,205 mm
Overall width: 37.0 in. - 940 mm
Overall height: 53.0 in. - 1,345 mm
Ground clearance: 9.4 in. - 240 mm
Turning radius: 94.5 in. - 2.4 m minimum
Seat height: 35.0 in.
Dry weight: 337 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 6.1 gal. - 23 L
Wheelbase: 58.9 in.
Body colors: Kawasaki Lime Green, Aztec Red
The 2006 Kawasaki KLR650 has a list price of $5199.00 (U.S.D.).
The new motorcycle is being sold for $4800 by most factory-authorized dealers, circa September 2005, in the Chicago area.
The "out-the-door" price that one actually pays includes additional charges for: freight; prep; doc; license and title.
Used, 2 - 10 year old, KLR650s seem to be sold, as is, no warranty, by private parties for $3000 - $4000, circa September 2005, in the Chicago area.
DGY MOTORSPORTS KAWASAKI
216 OGDEN AVE
DOWNERS GROVE, IL 60515-3143
(630) 971-2602 Phone
(630) 971-8991 Fax
Not in stock; one month to obtain; out-the-door: $5700.
Salesman: Jeremy (helpful).
DES PLAINES KAWASAKI
1529 RAND RD
DES PLAINES, IL 60016-3488
(847) 298-3322 Phone
(847) 298-4784 Fax
Red 2006 in stock; out-the-door: $5400. Owner: (?) James.
WOODFIELD MOTORSPORTS KAWASAKI
85 E GOLF RD
HOFFMAN ESTATES, IL 60173-3703
(847) 885-7525 Phone
(847) 885-1973 Fax
Not in stock; not helpful.
THE ZONE KAWASAKI
4520 W 63RD ST
CHICAGO, IL 60629-5533
(773) 767-7280 Phone
(773) 767-4296 Fax
Red 2006 in stock; out-the-door: $5700. Salesman: Carlos.
CHAMPION CYCLE CENTER
3625 N WESTERN AVE
CHICAGO, IL 60618-4779
(773) 528-6500 Phone
(773) 528-6613 Fax
Red 2006 in remote storage; out-the-door: $5700. Salesman: Julio (helpful).
B & B KAWASAKI
222 DUNDEE AVE
ELGIN, IL 60120-4236
(847) 697-2250 Phone
(847) 695-1994 Fax
Single-line Kawasaki shop -
Vintage bike specialists.
Green 2006 in stock; out-the-door: $5600. Salesman: Jennifer. No "charge back" for use of MC (3%) or Amex (4%) - unlike other dealerships.
B & B is a single-line Kawasaki shop, with what seems to be a good service department. I bought the motorcycle here.
14723 PULASKI RD
MIDLOTHIAN, IL 60445-3410
(708) 371-2200 Phone
(708) 371-6487 Fax
Red 2006 in stock; refused to quote price over the telephone. Salesman: Kevin.
KAWASAKI OF MONTGOMERY
111 S LAKE ST
MONTGOMERY, IL 60538-1441
(630) 966-9600 Phone
(630) 906-9615 Fax
Green 2006 in stock; out-the-door $5500. Salesman: Ernie. An auto dealership, selling motorcycles for one year.
660 E NORTH AVE
LOMBARD, IL 60148-1363
(630) 495-0440 Phone
(630) 495-1590 Fax
Closed: out of business. Seemed like nice guys, too...
Kawasaki's "Dealer Locator" @ http://www.kawasaki.com.
(Distance given is from the center of the Chicago-Metro area.)
Again, I am 37 years old; I have a good driving record; the KLR650 is not the most expensive motorcycle to insure.
After paying roughly $400, I obtained the following 12-month coverages from Geico Indemnity Company:
Bodily Injury Liability: $25,000 / $50,000
Property Damage Liability: $15,000
Uninsured Motorists: $25,000 / $50,000
Underinsured Motorist: $25,000 / $50,000
Comprehensive: $1,000 deductible
The "comprehensive" coverage accounts for one half of the total insurance premium, i.e., $200.
Living in the Chicago-Metro area, and having purchased a new motorcycle, I have increased the rate that I pay - and the necessity of the coverage.
Circa 2007, said cost has fallen to roughly $260.
My shop has been almost exclusively SAE - in spite of my metric loving grandfather.
At the time I bought the vehicle, I also purchased the following tools and accessories:
Wrenches: 7-18 mm set, 19 mm, 24 mm
3/8 Drive Sockets: 10-18 mm set
T-Handle Allen Wrenches: 2.5-10 mm set
100 Nitrile Gloves
Bell "Foot Pumper" air pump
A toothbrush, used
The wrenches, sockets and allens are Sears Craftsman tools: mid-grade, and the lowest quality that I would consider.
It seems to be the case that a good value can still be obtained on sets, sold at "sale" prices.
The fasteners on the KLR650 will vibrate loose; this is not a joke.
And the 19 mm and 24 mm wrenches included in the motorcycle's tool kit simply do not provide adequate leverage.
Buy the tools; keep them with the bike.
The air pump was bought at a local Sports Authority; its built-in guage is easy to read, and it effortlessly inflates the motorcycle's tires.
It seems non-sensical to place a tire pressure guage on the valve, learn the tire is low, and then ride off.
Why not check with the pump, and then inflate as needed?
I have coated every metal part - and especially the exhaust system - with WD-40. I also use it, in conjunction with the toothbrush, to clean the drive chain.
I consider gloves to be a precondition for mechanical work, now. After 22 years of exposure to various chemicals in the workplace, I am sensitive. Protect yourself.
19mm and 24mm wrenches - rear wheel
18mm thin-wall spark plug socket
17mm wrench - oil
14mm, 12mm, 10mm and 8mm wrenches and sockets
6mm t-handle allen wrench
#1, #2, #3 Phillips head screwdrivers
"Mud bucket" stand for the KLR650: it works!
see maintenance procedures illustrated:
model year 2006, new, on September 15, 2005
0-500 miles under 4000 r.p.m. per manufacturer; warmed thoroughly before ridden; no sudden acceleration or deceleration; not held at a constant speed for extended periods of time.
501-1000 miles as above - run under 6000 r.p.m. per manufacturer.
oil level checked
tire pressure checked and adjusted
chain cleaned & lubed, tension checked
general cleaning performed
(WD-40, toothbrush and Husqvarna chainsaw bar oil used on drive chain)
counterbalancer adjustment performed regularly
@ 500 miles:
oil only changed (Valvoline 10-40 motorcycle specific)
clutch cable adjusted (2 - 3 mm play)
chain tensioned, cleaned, lubed
shock dampener & spring tensioner adjusted
speedo cable connections tightened
idle speed adjusted
all hardware tightened
@ 609 miles *Dealer Service*:
initial "500 mile" service performed by B&B Kawasaki, Elgin, Illinois.
as above - adding valve clearance check and counterbalancer adjustment
(Spectro 10-40, Kawi filter and gasket)
@ 807 miles:
battery removed, and checked
@ 2264 miles:
oil, oil filter, gasket changed (Castrol GTX 20-50, Kawi filter and gasket)
@ 4857 miles:
oil only changed (Mobil 1 15-50, full synthetic)
@ 5896 miles *Dealer Service*:
rear tire changed by Kawasaki-Suzuki of Marble Falls, Marble Falls, Texas.
(Dunlop 607, 130/80 17, 65H)
@ 6121 miles:
oil, oil filter, gasket changed (Castrol GTX 10-40, Kawi filter and gasket)
@ 7735 miles:
oil only changed (Mobil 1 10-30, full synthetic)
* third month of ownership, dec 17, 2005.
view full maintenance log here:
cargo - bags - packing
Wonderful aluminum panniers, and mounting racks, are available for the KLR650; they cost several hundred dollars.
I made the decision to spend that money on the Aerostich Roadcrafter Suit, to protect myself, instead of worrying about the cargo.
You will do what seems right in your own eyes.
You can really put a lot of weight on this bike. Don't. I spent 13 hours packing for my trip; haste will kill you. Remember:
(1) Stay light;
(2) Keep the weight low;
(3) Keep the weight in tight;
(4) Keep the weight close to the center;
(5) Watch for heat;
(6) Watch for moving parts;
(7) Fasten everything securely;
(8) Balance your load;
(9) Never exceed the GVWR.
In addition to two black nylon water-resistant bags already in my possession, I purchased the Ortlieb Dry Saddlebags from Aerostich.
Keeping the weight - of the riders and the cargo - as low as possible, and as close to the centerpoint between the axles as possible, is ideal. The best place to keep your luggage is inside your transmission; saddlebags seem like the next best thing.
The saddlebags mounted:
The Ortlieb saddlebags have proven to be wonderful. I don't think that there is anything else on the market that would position my cargo so well. Heat has not been an issue: the bags rest in the pillion's leg position, forward of the rear carrier.
Ortlieb Thin Case Dry Bag Saddlebags #9005
Two "Bunjee" Nets
view more on saddlebags here:
One of the best things about the KLR650
is the fact that thousands of riders have been on-line
sharing their experience with said model for a decade.
Make use of that knowledge.
Find as much relevant information as possible - prior to making your own decision.
- The most encompassing single-page collection of general information that I have found, on-line. Compiled by Chris Krok.
- Elden Carl and company. A great resource for Kawasaki KLR, Suzuki DR/Z and Honda XR/L riders. Maintenance, ride reports, etc.
- BMW F650GS focus, with useful commentary on tires, riding tips, etc; applicable to most 650cc single-cylinder motorcycles.
- Diesel engine conversion from F1 Engineering.
U.S. Marine Corps KLR650
- YouTube video, including multi-fuel capable segment.
- Five-time KLR650 owner Verle Nelson. A good read.
2001 KLR650: mods, trips, etc.
- Good pictures of Ortlieb dry bags mounted on a KLR650. Mods, etc.
- Mods, tires, etc.
An unhappy owner :(
- The first, and still the largest, KLR-specific forum on-line.
- ADV's Hondo and company; member's rides featured.
- Dual Sport News' Yahoo! Groups KLR650 list. Since 2000. Register to read.
Bob's KLR650 Arctic Adventure: 2005
- Gear reviews and mods, on the road to the Arctic Circle via Alaska (again).
- An old hand's advice on packing, gear, lodging, etc. Good stuff.
- The Archive of Wisdom at Iron Butt.
- An awesome, global, adventure touring website.
- A great forum, and archive, dealing with adventure touring, and motorcycling, generally.
- Crow Indian Tribe, PhD Economics, author, motorcyclist. He's been doing it a long time.
- Racks, bags, etc. Fuel tanks. Washington State.
- Racks, aluminum panniers, guards etc. Made in the U.S.A., at the Happy Trails shop in Idaho.
- Parts, tires, helmets, etc.
- Utah, Moab, "Fred" has a good reputation.
Eagle Mfg. and Engineering
- Most "doohickey" upgrades appear to be "Eagle" Mike's work. And people are pleased.
Schnitz Motorsports, Inc
- In addition to the usual parts, also the 685cc upgrade. Folks have mentioned being happy with their work.
- A compendium of rider's opinions on various tire models culled from the Yahoo! list, and the klr650faq. Check f650.com for additional.
AMA: 2005 model review
- On the road, in Alaska.
Motorsports-Network: 2004 model review
- Up the California Coast.
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly: 2002 model review
- Through the Upper Midwest.
Motorcycle Daily: 2002 review
Epinions.com: 2000 model review
Specs: 87-96 models
When I began looking for a motorcycle on which to take a long ride, I found
Mariola Cichon's "Ride of the Heart" website.
It's gone, living now only in memory and the
But it was because of that Polish lady from Chicago that I wound up on a KLR650.
Help keep me on the road.
Contribute to my Ride America Fund for gas, food, and lodging.
I'll keep rolling till the money runs out...
The King Family
This is a document that reflects its author's personal experience.
The information presented on this page is not a substitute for any factory manual, or professional service.
Go to Kawasaki, the MSF, the SMF and the AMA; they want to help you.
Read the Hurt Report.
Do your own research; formulate a hypothesis; test it.
Read the material linked from this site.
Ride to be alive.
safety - gear
Everyone knows the minimum gear: (1) eye protection; (2) helmet; (3) gloves; (4) over-the-ankle leather boots; (5) long-sleeved shirt; (6) long-legged pants; (7) high-visibility indicators of some kind.
And everyone understands the importance of said gear.
Yet, most riders in the area do not wear it.
Or, they dress head-to-toe in black.
I do want other people to see me.
I do not want to love the concrete, at 70 m.p.h., unprotected.
I am too old to worry about making a fashion statement, and so I've tried to do what works.
I began the first long-distance ride with the following equipment:
Aerostich Roadcrafter One Piece Suit
red suit, with hi-viz yellow ballistics
size 44 regular
(The Roadcrafter was an excellent investment. It has worked. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to be wearing when I fell; this was the answer. The ventilation is superb. I am nagged by the thought that I should have purchased a size 46. It is possible that what little discomfort I do feel is attributable to the suit's six pieces of energy-absorbing body armor.)
KBC Racer-1 Helmet
red, with reflective stickers
(The KBC still wins my praise for comfort and ventilation; but wind noise is a problem - at high speed, over long distances.)
ColdPro 2 Gloves
Alpinestars Light Touring Gloves S-MX6
(These are, still, the most comfortable gloves that I have worn. They allow their wearer to "feel" more than any other model I have tried.)
Hi-Viz Safety Vest
lime/yellow nylon mesh, with 2 inch relfective strips
(The last bag on the motorcycle wears the safety vest, now. It helps me to be seen - day or night.)
Hearing loss resulting from repeated and prolonged exposure to wind and engine noise is a reality.
I picked up a bag that contained 50 pairs of 36db rated, disposable, foam earplugs for about $10.
Do it now, before you lose your hearing.
In my opinion, any clean visored, highly visible, DOT and SMF approved helmet that fits YOUR head properly is a good helmet.
My boots are Hi-Tec Magnum leather and nylon SWAT footgear, left from my time at the Sheriff's Office.
The only strike against them is that they lace; laces and chains do not mix well.
Still, should it be necessary to walk they are far superior to most motorcycle-specific footgear.
Thoughts after the first trip:
My preparation was, on the whole, good. But I underestimated the effects of two conditions:
(1) altitude, and (2) vibration.
In the mountains, I was cold. And on the return trip I invested roughly $150 in long silk underwear, a cotton union suit, glove liners, sock liners, a balaclava, and a skull cap.
As a last resort, I wore two plastic ziplock bags on each of my hands. Even so, my thumbs were nipped by frostbite.
For the sake of your survival, it is always most important to insulate your head.
But on the KLR, the combination of cold temperatures, altitude, wind and vibration will be felt in your fingers.
Idiot's Guide to Motorcycling
by Darwin Holmstrom
by Hunter S. Thompson
Rebuilding the Indian
by Fred Haefele
The Perfect Vehicle
by Melissa Holbrook Pierson
by Herman Melville
by Hermann Hesse
Dirty Old Man
by Charles Bukowski
Beyond Good and Evil
by Friedrich Nietzsche
Had it not been for the women in my life, on-line, and behind the books, I would not have done this - this way.
The best MSF course that I took contained the most female students - including two mother & daughter pairs. (It was taught by the oldest instructors too.)
There are height, weight and strength issues in motorcycling; but there are no gender issues between you and the machine.
Women on bikes, on-line:
And Melissa Holbrook Pierson wrote a really good book:
The Perfect Vehicle.
The ugly truth of the matter is that motorcycling - more precisely: long-distance motorcycle touring - is not cheap:
5600 - Motorcycle
1048 - Gear
400 - Insurance
161 - Bags
135 - Tools
(Critical, today, and unlisted: fuel consumption. I cannot imagine failing to take it into account when purchasing a vehicle - any vehicle. Fuel + Maintenance + Insurance = Cost Over Time. At 50-60 m.p.g. the KLR650 is, again, one of the better choices.)
There are very few new motorcycles that are less expensive than the KLR650 - and there are no motorcycles, at the KLR's price, that will do what the KLR will do.
If you can afford a new BMW F650GS, good for you.
Reliable used motorcycles, in the Chicago area, circa 2005, seem to start at roughly $2000.
If you possess, or have access to: (1) strong mechanical skills; (2) a full set of tools; and (3) shop space, then, again, good for you. You can get a used bike, cheap.
I began my search for a long-distance mount with the hope that I would find a nice, used BMW K75 in the market.
Once upon a time, someone wrote something about the best laid plans of mice and men.
Having no interest in a cruiser, high-end sportbike or full-dress touring motorcycle, the number of options diminished drastically.
For someone coming from the era of the KZ550, CB650 and the like, it was a rude awakening: motorcycles in the U.S.A. have grown - like the cars. I do not intend that to be flattering.
If you plan to do nothing but ride around your city, fine. Recapture your youth - or someone else's youth.
I am still not tempted to ride a 20 year old motorcycle of unknown history through West Texas.
My story is not about the search for an elusive vintage part.
And the difference between $2800 and $4800 is not so great, nor is the trust I have in my fellow man so strong, that I regret my purchase.
You make your choice; you pay your money; you take your chances.
The $7344 amount listed above was all the money that I had.
But, if it keeps me alive, and wanting to live, it was worth every penny...
Read more about the cost of motorcycle ownership.
Paul E. Germanos
478 S. York
Elmhurst, IL, 60126
It seems impossible to discuss what has, and has not, worked - without making reference to particular products.
"What should I get?" "Where should I get it?" "How much should I expect to pay?" "Who has good service?"
People want to know.
Prior to making a major purchase, most savvy consumers attempt to gather as much information as possible.
For most of us, a motorcycle is a major purchase.
Look around. Be informed.
If I write about something, it is only because I have used it.
If I link to something, it is only because I have found it to be helpful.
If I include ads, it is to help to pay for the cost of the website.
And Google's ads seem to supply content that is relevant to this page's purpose.
Again: I don't know how to provide information about the KLR650, accessories and motorcycling generally, without advancing, or inhibiting, someone's commercial agenda.
Be smart: Look; learn; decide; and then get away from the computer - and go ride.
Motorcycling isn't in here; it's out there.