Monday, December 28, 2015

Dirt Racks Side Bars

I'd previously reviewed crash bars and landed on a set of Nomads for the front and a set of Dirt Rack Side Crash Bars for the rear/sides. Not sure where the Nomads are in transit (if they're in transit), but I got the Dirt Rack Bars today.

The Dirt Racks bars listed for $99, but I got a 20% discount for being a forums member. Tack on $29 for freight and the whole deal came to $108.

Once out of the box, I put the bars on the scale and they were right at 4 pounds. The package included four bolts to replace factory bolts at attachment points. Each side has two mounting points.

I should be able to toss a saddle bag over the back of the seat and not worry about scrapping the panels or burning up the baggage on the exhaust. Plus the bar makes a good handle for a passenger.

As for the side panels, I've determined that the left panel can be removed with the side crash bar in place. You unbolt it and slide it "backwards" out from under the guard. I can not get the right side panel off with the guard installed. However, unbolting the side panel and dropping it down slightly allows you to get to the seat bolt to remove the seat.

Overall, the guards seem fairly sturdy. I'm happy with them. Sweet deal!

UPDATE (01/01/16):

Two up teams may want to take note that the front of the side bar interferes slightly with the use of the passenger foot pegs. It doesn't take them out of use, but you're going to hear about it from your passenger. On the other hand, they do offer the passenger some secure points to hold.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Free Tee

In performing my first oil change, I followed the Service Manual that provided torque specs. I noted that it provided two different torque specs in two different sections for the two bolts that hold the oil filter cover. No big deal, but I sent Kawasaki an email advising them of the difference...

... and, in return, they sent me a Tee Shirt! Woo Hoo! An early X-Mas present.

Friday, December 18, 2015

KLR650 Crash Bar Options

I was hoping to avoid purchasing heavy and expensive fairing and engine guards for my 2016 Kawasaki KLR650. I plan considerable adventure and off-road work, but we mostly operate in sand and soft terrain. However, after a couple weeks of careful inspection and a recent paranormal part break, I've concluded guards are necessary for even the tamest of off-road riding.

The biggest problem as I see it is on the left side. Not that the right is much better, but the entire left front structure is supported by the ... are you ready for this ... RADIATOR. That's crazy! What this means is that in a left fall, a great deal of the motorcycle's weight (most of it engine weight) is going to be placed on the radiator under extreme pressure and it's not going to hold up. Check out the two mount points in the photo below:

Replacement cost of the radiator ... $870. But it doesn't end there. There is actually a fairly significant part missing in the photo above ... the fan. The reason that my KLR is all in pieces is that the fan suspiciously broke!

Specifically, the fan blade broke from the fan motor assembly as shown in the photo below. I don't know how that happened. To save some $90/hour dealer shop time and all the unknown shop supplies tacked on the bill, I removed it myself and provided it to my dealer who is treating it as warranty issue. 

However, back to a potential drop or fall ... in a fall (certainly a non-warranty issue) that fan is going to get damaged and require replacement. No, not just the fan blade, because Kawasaki DOES NOT sell the blade separately. Nope, rather the entire assembly must be purchased and that's another $370. So a simple and common drop out in the forest is at least a $1,240 repair ... and that doesn't include possible fairing damage! The whole damn bike was only $7,000 OTD, making this issue cost 18% of total cost. Crikey! Where can I get some fucking side guards?

Engine/Side Crash/Side Guards

Well,  I put in some research time and I've found a number of solutions for KLR650 side/engine guards to consider. I've outlined them in lowest-to-highest, pre-shipping (to Florida) cost order. I'm not a guarantor of prices so shop these things thoroughly if you're looking to buy. Even in my shopping experience, I found differences as high as $100 between retailers for the same set of bars. I also found some retailers who offered free shipping and some who didn't for the same product. Shop it! Oh,  I'm going to make you wait 'till the end to see which ones I got.

Here's the list, details to follow:

Tusk Crash Engine Guards -- $159.99
DirtRacks Engine Crash Guards -- $169.00
T-Rex Racing Engine Guards -- $179.95
Mastech Side Engine/Crash Bars -- $185.00
Givi TN421 Engine Guards -- $198.80
Outback MotorTEK Crash Bars -- $199.00
Hepco Becker -- $209.95
Nomad Rider -- $209.99
Dirtracks Full Body Guards -- $219.99 (update, guards released after initial post)
SW Motech Crash Guards -- $239.95
Happy Trails PD Nerf Bars -- $289.95
Moose Racing Engine Guards -- $349.95
R&G Adventure Bars -- $499.95

These prices were listed at the time of the post. They're set by the retailer and manufacture, so are likely subject to change. The prices above don't include shipping. Some retailers had free shipping options on the bars. I've added notes on my observations about shipping below.

Tusk Crash/Engine Guards -- $159.99 (free shipping at Rocky Mountain ATV/MC)

If you've been following this blog, Tusk is not a name that's high on our list. Tusk, we've recently determined, is the manufacturing arm of Rocky Mountain ATV/MC and the manufacturer of the $11.90 low-profile magnetic drain bolt that fractured during the second oil change allowing oil to leak all over. Hardened steel fracturing the way it did is most likely an indication of problems in the manufacturing process. So why give them a shot at the crash bars?

Well, for one thing, they're the cheapest of all the bars I found. For another thing, there are no real bad reviews or experiences that I found sifting through the forums. Its design is 1" power-coated steel with a 3-point mounting system.

Among bar choices, I'm leaning to bars that cover as much of the susceptible damage area as possible. The Tusks seem to offer some pretty good protection from an overall size protection.
Some really good pictures from several angles of the installed Tusks HERE (Post 98).

Dirtracks Engine Crashbars -- $169.00 (flat rate $29 shipping)

I actually had a 20% off discount coupon with DirtRacks that would reduce the total price from $198.00 to $164.20. However, the coverage area gives me pause. Comparing the DirtRack Bars to the Tusks and some of the others, the Dirt Racks appears to address only the lower part of the sides. That's fine for a crash on a flat surface, but there are many other things to fall onto out in the forests and deserts. I note in the description that this bar is compatible with the oversized IMS tank, which may have something to do with the styling. 

Similar to the Tusk above, the bar is made of 1" powder-coated steel. It has a 3 point mount, but the rear mount is to the lower sub-frame bolt. That's a bolt (and therefore a point) that's a known weakpoint on the KLR. Would a laydown be an automatic sub frame break? Not sure I want to find out.

One thing that I did like about DirtRacks is that they also offer a rear situated crash solution. It runs $99, plus $29 shipping AND my 20% off discount coupon could be applied. These are 7/8" powder coated steel with two mounting points. I was not looking for rear crash protection, but looking at these get me thinking. A little extra protection with an unobtrusive design and some soft saddle support if I go that route gets me thinking. I like 'em.

T-Rex Engine Guards Crash Cages -- $179.95 

The T-Rex has a couple interesting features. First, it is designed with replaceable skid plates. So a low side scrape damage can be conveniently replaced. Second, it extends the protection down to the engine cases. It's kind of like a cage for the skid plate. I'm not too sure why that is necessary as a skid plate would still be a require protection feature. In other words why put a cage around the skid plate. Also, I'd be interested in knowing what that whole thing weighs.

Looking over the guards themselves, there's one observation that gives me pause; or maybe two. On the tube where the main guard connects to that lower cage, there appears to be some type of adjustment/fitment adapter (it has two bolts/screws). That to me looks like a weak spot in a place you'd want some serious strength. The second is the lower mount with those clamps. Most bars mount more securely by bolting into the foot rest. A clamp opens up the possibility for twisting on the bar.

Otherwise, I'm not too keen on the protective side design as it doesn't protect the side faring openings. These would probably be more suitable for KLRs owned by road warriors and I note that most of the T-Rex products are sport and sport touring bike related.

Mastech Crashbars Side Engine Guards -- $185 (flat rate $14 shipping from Accessories International)

Carbon steel and electrostatic painting differentiate the Mastech from other alternatives. Does that make them better than regular steel and powder coating? Some quick research indicates that carbon steel is a reference to all steel other than stainless steel. Electrostatic painting is powder coating without the need for an oven. So maybe there are no differences.

What I am liking about the Mastechs is the overall design. It's got the same high profile as the Tusk that I think is important, but the bars run down and along the bottom seemingly making for some additional protection on the engine case from angular impacts from the sides. Yeah, aside from trying to confuse me with big words, I really like this bar.

Givi TN421 Engine Guards -- 198.80 (free ship from Revzilla)

Of all the bars we've looked at so far, Givi is probably the most popular brand name. However, you're going to take one look at the Givi bars and know what I think about 'em. I already found issues with the low protection coverage on the front fairings and sub-frame bolting solutions of the DirtRacks. These are designed almost identical. Even reviews by people who purchased these bars echo that they really need to be higher. Onward...

OutBack MotorTek Crash Bars -- $199

Here are the MotorTek Crash Bars. These bars look remarkably close to the Givi Bars just above, except they're flat across the top where the Givi is a little rounded. Two point mounting and a 1.06" diameter tubing. Powder coated.

Hepco & Becker -- $209.95 (free shipping at Moto Machines)

Careful if you fall in love with the Hepco & Becker bars. I encountered the widest range of pricing on the Internet for these bars. They were as high as $300.70 on Accessories International. I found it on Moto Machines for the $209.95. 

The Hepco & Becker set up is very similar to the Mastech Crash Bars so I won't go into a lot of detail about them. What I will say is that I found more derogatory reviews and experiences with the H&B bars than any of the others. Bottom line, there are too many good alternatives to spend much time on something everyone else has largely discounted. Onward...

Nomad Rider Crash Bars -- $209.99 ($43.10 Shipping from Nomad Rider.Com)

I've been riding and wrenching bikes for like over four decades and I never heard of Nomad Rider before. I'd have probably missed them all together if not found in some posts on the KLR forums. Apparently these bars had some issues with cracking in the past, but it appears that the manufacturer corrected the problem by increasing the bar thickness from 1.8 mm to 2.5 mm. 

Anyway, weighing in at only 10 pounds, the Nomad Rider Bars are the thickest bars in terms of total diameter and bar material thickness (slightly more than SWM). They have a nice height for fuller protection and, like the Mastechs, provide bars and mounting points along the bottom frame runners to help protect from potential angular sideswipes of the engine case.

One thing that differentiates these bars from the Mastech (other than size) is that they also have a center post structure within the side guard. That's a positive characteristic because it'll help keep crap from finding its way through the fairing openings to the operating engine components. On the left side, the fan is right on the other side of that opening!

All mounting points are to the frame which is positive. Some of the previous solutions were bolted to the subframe which, as mentioned, is supposedly a known weak point on KLRs.

Finally, if you look closely at the bars, they've inserted mounts for auxiliary lighting. That's a big savings over having to buy auxiliary light clamps (although the Nomad mounts are fixed in their places).

Interestingly, the Nomads were the only bar set that stated that they sell sides individually should one side or the other get damaged beyond use. I never thought about that before. I'd rather that they just work, but I suppose it's something to think about.
Subsequent to posting, DirtRacks began offering a "full-body," unpainted crash guard for $219.99. Accordingly it was not considered in my selection process. Click on this LINK for more information.


SW Motech Crash Bars Engine Guards -- $239.95 (free shipping from Twisted Throttle)

SW Motech is a very popular brand that has a good reputation. Second perhaps to Givi, but a good name just the same. The Motech Bars claim a little thicker bar (1.06") than most and a structure that would seem to provide considerable protection. It also has vibration isolation bushings on the front; that's a good characteristic.

Otherwise, the Motech bars are powder coated and have a 3 point mounting solution with all points on the main frame. The size and structure are right on point.

Happy Trails PD Nerf Bars -- $289.95 (flat rate $14 shipping from Accessories International)

Hmmm...what's the difference between a crash bar and a nerf bar. Well if not looking as meaty as all the crash bars described in this post is the answer then these are definitely nerfs. 

What I really don't like about this set up is I don't think that it looks right or comes together right without the Happy Trail bash plate (additional $90) shown in each of the above and below photos. Plus, as you can see in the photo below, while the sides appear somewhat protected, the radiator is TOTALLY EXPOSED. I mean, I hate the factory radiator protector, but to take it off all together? Yikes.

Anyway, I don't have a photo of the Happy Trails crash bars ... I mean Nerfs! ... alone on a KLR650, but here's a photo of the Nerf structure that will give you an idea of what I'm talking about when I say it's not right unless the Nerf and Bash Plate are installed together. 

Moose Racing Engine Guards -- $349.95

These are the Moose Racing Guards that interestingly do not show up on the Moose Racing Website. I found them on They look "exactly" like the Happy Trail, above. Note that each the Moose and Happy Trail are of an identical design and each have highway pegs in the same location. Moose is probably just private labeling the HT ... or maybe HT is private labeling the Moose. The Moose runs $349.95 on the linked site.

R&G Adventure Bars -- $499.99 (free shipping at Twisted Throttle)

Crikey! Why are these fucking bars so expensive? Three point contact and 1 inch steel like the others. 

Oh, made in Germany. There you go. We have a BMW something or other car that my wife drives. Fucking thing doesn't have a dipstick to check the oil. It has an electronic dipstick. Wonder why things cost more? Wonder why we bought that? First question answered; second question ducked. Onward...

...And the Winner is...

Well, we actually have two winners. 

First, on the front engine/crash guards I've picked the Nomad Rider Crash Bars. The Nomads offered the meatiest of all bars and all mounting points are all on the main frame for the best security. Given my recent "fan" experience, I'm worried (perhaps a little paranoid, knowing $1,200 of part are at stake) that something could get into the fairing opening and cause damage to the fan/radiator. The Nomad has a cross bar that will at least provide a little extra protection. I like the low frame runner bars on all that had that configuration and I'm looking forward to installing some kick-ass accessory lighting in the mounts that are provided in the Nomad. Finally, couldn't find a bad review...hope I'm not the first, LOL!

The Nomads that I purchased in December 2015 DID NOT work out. See my post entitled Nomad Rider Crash Guards on February 11, 2017. Effective January 7, 2017, I now use Tusk Crash Guards.

Second, I was not considering rear crash protection, but became interested in the DirtRacks Rear Side Bars. Many people buy KLRs to ride on paved roads. I've purchased mine to ride on paved roads to get to and ride gnarly off-road riding terrains. I got to thinking that the additional protection may be of value and would also provide a little extra protection for saddlebags. I do not plan on installing big, clunky, heavy panniers. I also had my 20% off discount coupon to apply. So, where the cost+shipping would have been $128, I'm going to pick them up for $108. If it doesn't work out, I'll sell them and probably recover a bunch of that ... but, I think it's going to work out. 

There you go!



Click for > Nomad Rider Guard Installation Post.

Click for > Nomad Rider Crash Bars Cracked Broke

Click for > Summary of Nomad Rider Experience

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tusk Drain Bolt Failure

Item: Tusk Low-Profile Magnetic Drain Plug
Part No.: 1541220001

As previously reported, I'd purchased a Tusk Low Profile Magnetic Drain Bolt for my 2016 Kawasaki KLR650. "Tusk" is a manufacturing brand name for Rocky Mountain ATV. After two oil changes during the running in, the Tusk Bolt fractured allowing oil to leak. Yes, this is just a broken bolt, but if not detected, it could have resulted in permanent damage to or the loss of my engine. The KLR does not have an oil/engine light or an oil pressure gauge. So this is rather serious!

A low profile drain plug is one of the upgrades that are considered mandatory for off-road use of the KLR650. The factory drain plug projects too low and is susceptible to becoming hung up on a rock or stump and doing catastrophic damage to the sump case. Below are photos of the factory drain bolt and the Tusk Drain Bolt as installed on my KLR650.

I installed the Tusk Low Profile Magnetic Drain Bolt during my interim oil change at 283 miles. The Bolt came with a 1 mm crush washer, but I used a fresh factory 2 mm crush washer. At 644 miles I performed the final running in oil change using the Tusk and a new factory crush washer. Each installation was performed using a torque wrench at the motorcycle's torque spec, which is 21 ft-lb. Shortly after the change, oil started to collect on the floor beneath the engine. 

The Tusk fractured in three seemingly equidistant places on the bolt cap. 

In each case, the fracture runs down the thread shaft from 2 to 4 mm. The largest can be easily seen in the photo below. 

In addition, the fractures scared the crush washer indicating to me that they may have occurred when torquing the bolt down. The second oil change crush washer is on the left and clearly shows the scars. The first oil change crush washer is on the right and appears that there may be one scar line indicating the fracture was starting, but I can not be certain of that. I did not remember seeing torque guidance on the packaging and, when I called,  Tusk Tech Support indicated that there was no specific recommended torque for their bolt. So using the Kawa factory torque of 21 ft-lb would seem to be appropriate ... and, btw, if you use a torque wrench as much as I do you know that's not a lot of torque! Certainly not enough to fracture "hardened steel" which the Tusk description claims its made out of. 

During the running in period to date, I've kept the KLR out of any gnarly off-road conditions to be able to maintain the running in RPMs (4000-5000 up to 1,000 miles). We've been on some forest roads, but there is no indication of any external damage that may have caused the fracturing. I'm ruling that totally out.

I've searched two prominent KLR Forums for other cases of this fracture and have found no cases. 

It would seem that there may be a metallurgic defect present with the product as opposed to something I did and/or need to be worried about. I've sent a thorough description and photos to Tusk Tech and Warranty Service after discussing the experience with them on the phone. Perhaps they'll come back with a reason for the failure. Irrespective, things like this will have a natural effect on one's confidence, so I'll be looking around for another option for the low profile drain plug.


Experienced KLR owners who have read this post and another I put on KLR Forum recommend reducing the torque from the factory spec of 21 ft-lb to 14-16 ft-lb for ANY drain bolt on a KLR 650; not to suggest that too high of a torque caused the Tusk fracture. Rather, they note that the GEN 1 Torque Spec was 17 ft-lb, with no changes to the GEN 2 engine cases. The consensus of these owners on the Tusk bolt is metal failure likely due to overheating during manufacturing resulting in brittle metal and, ultimately, the massive fracturing.


1-19-2016: I never heard back from Rocky Mountain ATV/MC on the fractured drain bolt and have moved on. Even though I now have a Ricochet bash plate, I still needed a low profile bolt because the stocker pocked through the drain plug aperture in the plate. I purchased the highly recommended Eagle Mike Low Profile Magnetic Oil Drain Plug.

The Eagle Mike has a 17 mm hex head and is about 1 mm thicker than the Tusk. Unlike the Tusk, the Eagle Mike provided torque guidance of 15 ft-lbs, which is lower than the factory spec of 21 ft-lbs and very consistent with what experienced KLR owners suggest.

Here is the Eagle Mike drain bolt under the Ricochet bash plate. It comes to right about the top of the plate and will work fine.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Seat Repair

Well, I was out on the trails on my 2016 Kawasaki KLR 650 this week and I noticed that the seat cover was coming undone on the right side. At the time I couldn't tell if it was a rip or just staples popping. The seat doesn't come off easily; one needs to remove the two side covers and unbolt the seat from the frame. A rip would be a problemo. I can replace staples if that's the case.

So this morning I got a chance to remove the seat and take a peek at the problem. The good news was that a bunch of staples had popped out, as opposed to a tear in the fabric.

Tools for a simple repair like this are a stapler (with 8mm staples), clamps, a few other things and a hair dryer. Why the hair dryer? Cuz you want to be able to stretch the fabric, and heating it up helps. You don't want to stretch it too much; comparing to the other side gives you a sense how much.

Stretch, clamp, staple...

Sometimes if the staple doesn't go in all the way a hammer on a flat pin punch will get it in set well.

Reinstall seat and viola...

I may have to do the whole seat one of these days as I'm currently looking at the Seat Concepts foam and cover as a potential replacement for the stock seat. I have a Seat Concepts seat with special gripper material on my Versys 1000 and like it a lot. That's what I'd like, the gripper material for the KLR650. However, you've got to get the foam too because the KLR650 Seat Concepts seat is a little wider in the saddle area. This will be for a future post for sure if I pull the trigger on a Seat Concepts seat.

Devil's Creek 2016

Devil's Creek 2016

March 4-6, 2016
Brooksville, Florida
Limit 150 Riders

The KamoKLR is all signed up and ready to roll!

Actually, speaking of roll, I need to get a roll chart holder for the navigation.

Richloam+GreenSwamp WMA

It's difficult to get on some of the primo dual sport trails and roads during hunting season, which is usually most all of the Fall. Generally, dual sporters, jeepers, mountain bikers and the like allow hunters undisturbed access to the forests during the fairly short hunting season. I'm a hunter and I, along with other users think it's only fair that they/we get to use these resources too. However, historically the hunters in the Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), such as Richloam WMA and the adjacent GreenSwamp WMA, are done hunting in the morning and we dual sporters can get out on the forest roads in the afternoon. Not the case this week.

The Richloam and GreenSwamp WMAs combine over over 108,000 acres of protected forest with many forest roads running in and out. But every road I tried, had me run into a group of hunters. In respect for it being their time, I turned around and rolled out where I rolled in. I could of rolled up to the Croom WMA, a short jaunt away but decided against it. Bummer, but after this month it's clear sailing until next November! Plus, a little further, but I always have Ocala National Forest to ride.

I did get to pull the camera on a couple occasions out in the forest.

This is the main forest about a mile into the main Green Swamp WMA (east side of SR471). Yup, gets a little wet in there. No way around that either. I absolutely hate riding through flooded areas, especially when you can't see the bottom. This is the swamp and all that implies...

Cold Creek is on the south side of GreenSwamp WMA.

First boo-boo. I noticed my seat cover is coming unstapled or unglued or whatever's holding it down. I'll need to check this weekend. If there's one thing I may hate more than riding in water, it's working on seats.

Hope you enjoyed!