This document was prepared on January 18, 2008,
after 28 months and 18,000 miles of life with a 2006 Kawasaki KLR650.
I've made an honest effort to provide accurate information
for the purpose of assisting other riders to evaluate their own needs
and compare the products that are found in the market today.
Material, price and dimensions listed are those advertised by the product's manufacturer and/or distributor circa January 2008.
Call or e-mail for the current/best price, and any recent modification of material or dimension.
The KLR650 rolls out of the factory with a wonderful cargo rack.
That rack, in combination with the tie-down points available in the form of the passenger hand holds,
can usually be made to suffice on a run to/from the hardware or grocery store.
But, sooner or later, the 10kg/22lbs capacity of the cargo rack isn't adequate.
Or the motorcycle's handling is upset as a result of a mass that's carried so high, and so far aft.
Heavy items needs to travel lower than the stock rear carrier allows.
The more ground you cover in a day, the more quickly this becomes clear.
Pictured below is my solution to the problem of carrying cargo on a motorcycle: Ortlieb Thin Dry Saddlebags.
Two broad, thin hook-and-loop straps (1) distribute the weight of the bags across the motorcycle's saddle.
These Ortlieb bags utilize a unique, watertight roll-top closure that's held fast by a clasp (2) at either end.
That same clasp can be passed through the KLR650's passenger hand holds to further secure the bag.
At the rear of the bags is another strap (3) that wraps around the rear of the KLR's saddle, preventing forward travel.
Facing the front of the bag
-- fuel tank petcock (1) above --
as it's mounted on the bike, the final strap (2) is shown secured to the passenger foot peg support bracket.
All told, there are 7 points of connection between the saddlebags and the motorcycle.
The bags don't move.
The strap system might seem intimidating to some.
It was to me!
But it's simple, reliable and effective.
Learning to roll and close the bags, and to mount and unmount them, is time well-spent.
I'm asked, frequently, about the necessity of a rack for mounting saddlebags on a KLR650.
Chiefly, people wonder about the heat produced by the exhaust system - and whether soft saddlebags can survive.
There is more under the right saddlebag than one might imagine:
(1) muffler -
(2) air space -
(3) metal heat shield -
(4) air space -
(5) plastic side panel.
When mounted fore of the grab rails the saddlebags sits in the pillion position,
enjoying the same protection from heat that is afforded to any other passenger.
The system works because of the pocket of air around the metal heat shield.
Note, below, the closed-cell foam backing plate that stiffens the "inside" of the saddlebag.
Seen from the rear it's obvious how closely the saddlebags conform to the lines of the bike.
In fact, given the placement of the rider's knees on the motorcycle's fuel tank,
the 4" Thin Dry Saddlebags present no real increase in surface area exposed to the wind.
And that's crucial in reducing drag and maximizing fuel efficiency.
Based upon the quality and that I associated with the names "Ortlieb" and "Aerostich" I made the decision to order these saddlebags.
But, too, I was encouraged by the reports that had made by other KLR riders.
Nevertheless, as much as I love the Ortlieb bags shown here, I can't promise that they'll be the right choice for everyone.
Soft saddlebags offer:
Hard saddlebags, or panniers, offer:
- lower-price; also, in most cases,
- less drag; and,
- better crash protection for the motorcycle rider.
- higher security than soft bags;
- theoretically, a longer service life than fabric products; and,
- better aesthetics: they look "cool" to many people; too,
- hard bags can usually be opened and closed faster, and with less effort, than soft bags.
- Caveats -
I suggest - strongly - that you consider the following before making a choice for yourself and your motorcycle:
- Whether to purchase a new or used item?
- How your chosen bag - and its contents - will behave in a crash?
- The heat produced by your motorycle's exhaust, and whether you have modified your exhaust or its path of travel?
- The cornering clearance available after mounting your bags - especially if you have a "lowered" KLR 650?
- The GVWR of your motorcycle - including yourself, your bags and rack (if any) along with all cargo?
- The effect of aerodynamic forces upon your loaded bike?
- Additional -
- Most of your motorcycle engine's HP is consumed by drag.
Aftermarket Luggage FAQ
- The f650.com guide to bags; heavily illustrated.
- "Dirt Bagz" saddlebags installed by a KLR650 owner. A good "how to" page.
- GIVI luggage being fitted to a KLR650. A good "how to" page.
Jesse Odyssey Bags
- Jesse bags reviewed by the BMW motorcycle owner's association.
- Additional information on the Ortlieb bag's construction.
- Since 1976. Pelican cases are the core of the Caribou Luggage System.
These motorcycle pages reflect their author's personal experience.
Information presented on this website ought not to substitute for any 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.
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.
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.
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.