Saturday, January 16, 2016

Ricochet Skid Plate Installation

I have to hand it to the UPS Service for delivering the Ricochet Bash Plate for my 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 as scheduled yesterday. We had one of the worst winter storms that blew threw here in a long time. It was more like a summer tropical storm with lots of rain fall over a long periods. Nonetheless, UPS showed up at 9PM with the bash plate and a bunch of other stuff we'd had scheduled for delivery. Props.

So, let's get to the bash plate.

The Ricochet's part number is 290M for the 2008-2016 model KLR650. MSRP is $109 and I noted that it was $129.99 on Twisted Throttle. I landed it for $98 with free shipping from an eBay Vendor.

Construction is 5 mm brushed aluminum and has 5 frame-based mounting points: one u-clamp on the down tube and four brackets on lower frame.

The lower bracket bolts have T40 Torx heads, which I was aware of when I purchased the plate, and knew I'd be replacing. I try and minimize the types of tools that I  carry and Torx heads ain't making the cut. The bolt size is M8-20 with a 1.25 thread pitch.

The hardware provided also includes new front motor mounts (the triangular plates) so that the stock mounts with the butterfly wings for mounting the stock skid plate can be removed.

The bash plate alone weighed in at 4 pounds and the hardware was another 1.25 pounds, for a total of 5.25 pounds. The stock skid plate and the stock motor mounts that are removed weighed 2.25 pounds, so the net increase was 3 pounds.

Installation of the bash plate itself is as easy as 4 bolts on the base and 2 nuts on the u-clamp. However, the installation was complicated by my previous Nomad Crash Guard installation and it exposed a problem I had with the fitment of the Ricochet plate.

On the Nomads, the Ricochet package provides new front motor mounts to replace the factory mounts that have butterfly wings to which the factory skid plate attaches. That's where the Nomads connect as well so I had to loosen all Nomad points, and that involved removing side panels and lifting the tank. That was an issue that was caused by the Nomads, not the skid plate.

Here are some photos of the installed bash plate after I got the engine mounts installed:

As to the design (fitment) issue, while the Ricochet plate provides for some left-right adjustment, in its farthest left position it was far too close to the left engine case. So close, in fact, that you couldn't get a business card between the plate and the case. That's a problem as a sudden shift in the plate could cause damage to the engine case.

On some advice by other KLR owners, I drilled out the forward slots in the plate to provide for another 4-5 mm of adjustment to the left. There was plenty of room on the right side to accommodate this additional adjustment.

Even at that I could only get about another 3 mm of gap/clearance, but it's about 5 mm now and I'm okay with that.

Another bit of advice I followed was to insert some rubber strips between the lower clamps and the u-clamp to buffer vibration. Good tip. Done.

Lastly, I wanted to provide a photo of the skid plate oil drain hole as installed. I have an Eagle Mike low profile drain bolt that comes down to the top of the skid plate. The factory oil drain bolt would poke through, which would be a big problemo!

Lastly, lastly, as mentioned above the Torx bolts were replaced with some allen heads. The bolt size is M8-20 with 1.25 thread pitch.

Overall, the Ricochet is probably going to do the job. However, there were two problem areas:

  • Torx bolts shouldn't be used to mount the plate. It's not that they're bad; rather, using them would result in having to carry another tool to remove the plate if that became necessary. The number of tools carried is something serious riders work hard on "minimizing." To do that, I spent some more money and replaced the torx with allen heads.
  • The plate didn't fit and required modification. I reported this to the manufacturer along with pictures as can be seen below. The manufacturer's advice was to do what I did. drill out the slots. That may work for me, but I can tell you that the vast number of consumers expect $100+ accessories to fit and have no interest in modifying them to make them fit.

Communication with Ricochet:

I'd separately sent a note into the manufacturer on the tight left side issue along with photos. They also wanted and I provided measurements. After drilling the slots yesterday, I got a response back from them suggesting ...

"My suggestion if you are not comfortable with how close it is, and you have some room on the right side you could dremel or die grind those slots up front a little longer so the plate will come left a little more."

... there you go!

Additional photos for comments below:

These photos show clearances between the Ricochet Skid Plate and Nomad Rider Crash Bars from the front (first photo) and from the sides (second photo).

Maintenance Comments:

The plate provides a hole for accessing the oil drain plug.

I am able to get to the chain tensioner bolt on the left side with an 8mm open end wrench.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Bash Plate Options

Now that I have some decent side guards (Nomad front/DirtRacks rear) installed on the 2016 Kawasaki KLR650, I need to turn my attention to some protection on the bottom. The KLR650 comes with a factory plastic bash/skid plate that would be fine skidding along on top of sugar sand, but not rocks or stumps. The former (rocks) are not that plentiful here in Florida, certainly not big ones; the later (stumps) are a'plenty. Plus, who knows, I may want to take it to some adventure work in a rocky terrains somewhere, someday.

I found nine (9) options for bash plates surfing around the web that range from $90.20 to $207, unshipped, at the time I did my search. Obviously, these aren't reviews as there's much info that I couldn't get my hands on. I read the manufacture's listings and, where available, reviews and made my decision based on that information. I'll tell you which one I got at the end. Here's a summary of the nine plates.

  • Happy Trail Skid Plate -- $90.20
  • Ricochette Skid Plate -- $98.95
  • Mastech Skid Plate -- $125.00
  • Nomad Rider Skid Plate -- $129.00
  • Moose Racing Skid Plate -- $133.00
  • JNS Skid Plate -- $140.00 ($170 with replacement engine mounts)
  • SW Motech -- $155.00
  • Outback MotorTrek -- $179.00
  • AltRider -- $207.00

Happy Trail Skid Plate-- $90.20

Good thick, 5mm aluminum grade material. Ugh, comes only in black hammertone. 5 mounting points. Supposedly it has a doohicky port and a bottle opener on it someplace. LOL. Damn good price. Doesn't look bad. Quoted 6.2 pounds seems a little high for what I'm seeing. I sure wish it came in a lighter color though.

Ricochet Aluminum Skid Plate -- $98.95 ($109 on the Ricochet Webside, found elsewhere for $98.95 with free ship)

Very simple design of 4.7 mm thick, H-32 (anodized) aluminum. Comes in 9 different anodized colors. Has a cutout for oil drain. Seemingly smaller in size than many other models, but I'm kind of liking that. Where I want the coverage is flat on the bottom and not too far up the front (or sides) so as to interfere with my Nomad front guards. Smaller should be a little lighter too.

One downer I note is that the install hardware includes 4 T-40 Torx. Probably would need to replace those out with a 5.0 mm allen head or some other tool that I already have in my tool kit. You can only carry so many freaking tools and the skid plate is one of those things you want to be able to remove in the field.

One other thing is I know the Ricochet will definitely fit with the Nomads, because the KLR650 that Nomad Rider used in their installation video on YouTube has a Ricochet installed.

MASTECH Aluminum Skid Plate -- $125

Just like their bars, Mastech offers up a damn good looking piece of equipment here. This bash plate is way high up on the short list!

Nomad Rider Skid Plate -- $129

Honestly, I missed this offering and didn't know that Nomad had a skid plate offering at the time I made my decision. Would I have bought it? No, but I'd have liked to have considered it. Anyway, the Nomad boasts a three inch longer base plate and "the highest side coverage of any KLR650 skid plate on the market." Hmmm, that's the highest side coverage of any plate on the market? Take a look at the other options in this post and you decide.

The lower mounting points appear to be two clamp type mounts. The front mounting point is shown in the photo below as the lower engine mount bolt on the down tube; that's a good place to mount the front. Two sole mounts on the bottom seems a little on the skimped side, but overall I'll bet the thing hangs on pretty good.

My most important observation about the Nomad Skid Plate is that, unlike the other options, it retains the stock front motor mounts that have the...using their words..."flimsy wing mounts" that the stock skid plate attached to. Other options replace or make use of the so-called flimsy wing mounts. Leaving them just hanging out like that is really kind of goofy looking if you ask me.

Overall, it's a good looking plate, it has a decent mount base, and would likely be sturdy enough to do the job. However, I'd prefer a lighter contrasting color and I really couldn't have those bat-wings sticking out like that. Too bad.

Moose Racing Aluminum Skid Plate -- $133

Light weight aircraft aluminum. Thickness? I can't seem to find it. Looks remarkably like the Ricochett skid plate...I mean like identical. I've found elsewhere that Moose private labels some other manufacturer's products and tacks on a premium for their name. In another case, I found Moose private labeling TCI Borrego luggage racks and taking on $20. I got it from TCI for the lower amount and, in this case, I'd save $33 and go with the Ricochet.

JNS Skid Plate -- $140

Really a massive piece of equipment here. 5mm aluminum plate. Look at those welds, very nice. This brand actually provides models to match up with SWMotech, Givi, Nomad and a number of other engine/side guards. Big honker.

All models on backorder...

The one thing about the JNS is that it attaches to the existing rabbit ear mounts on the down tube. If you're looking for an impact that high up, those rabbit ears are going to flex. JNS offers a better set of rabbit ears for another $30. Your call, it would increase the price to $170 before shipping.

SWMotech Skid Plate -- $155

We're now moving into some real pricy options, but good names behind the products. At 5.0 mm iodized aluminum, the Motek is a solid plate. Good coverage. Good reviews. It's probably one of the most popular. At this price point, though, its moved above cheaper options that I'm comfortable purchasing.

Outback MotorTek Skid Plate -- $179

I'm not that familiar with this outfit, but they sure make a nice looking skid plate! You laugh, but hey, we all want functional AND good looking accessories. I think the JNS and Nomad plates are functional, but they both look a little goofy...the JNS is so dang big and the Nomad retains the goofy bat-wing stock plate brackets. I don't want those looks on my bike.

Anyway, the Outback MotorTrek plate is 4.0 mm laser cut aluminum with air ports much like the Motech. That's a little thinner in the metal area than some other options, but really a good thickness.

One real interesting feature is that this skid plate had ridges on the bottom. The web page claims that the ridges allow the plate to better glide over obstacles and, in fact, adds reinforcement to the base plate without adding weight. I dunno, sounds good!

AltRider Skid Plate -- $207

Nice looking piece of equipment. Hmmm, 3mm tig welded aluminum. That's thinner than most of the others running at 5mm. Reviews recommend replacing provided hardware with longer bolts (22mm vs 16mm). That's not a big deal for a $100 cheaper bash plate, like the Ricochet. I guess looks are more important at AltRider. Onward...

And the winner is...

I'm going with the Ricochet Skid Plate in brushed aluminum to give a little contrast in color to the engine compartment. Simple, lightweight and under a hundred dollars. It'll fit with the Nomads and get the job done.


Ricochet Did Not Fit: Although Ricochet won the battle of the bash plates on paper, it has some design problems that I had to contend with. Here's what happened:

I received my Ricochet skid plate and, while installation, was as simple as four bolts on the base and two nuts on the down-tube U-clamp, it didn't fit properly. The left side of the plate was too close to the engine case; it wasn't touching, but I couldn't get a business card between the case and the plate. That presents an opportunity for the bash plate to damage the engine case.

I sent photos to the manufacturer who agreed that it was too close. They asked me to remove the plate and take some measurements which I did and provided to them. Their ultimate response to the matter was that if I was uncomfortable with the installation to drill out the slots in the front of the skit plate to allow the plate to shift a little left. I drilled out about 8 mm and, while still pretty close, I can live with it.

See my post entitled, Ricochet Skid Plate Installation for details.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Nomad Rider Crash Bars

Back in late December, I reviewed 9 different crash bars for my 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 in my post entitled KLR650 Crash Bar Options. I landed on a set of Nomad Rider Guards for the front protection.

At $209.99 + shipping of $43.10 = $243.09, the Nomad bars were certainly not the cheapest bars that I looked at, but they had some characteristics that made them attractive.

The bars are 1 1/8 inch (28.6mm) in diameter with a metal thickness of 2.5mm. That makes them some of the meatiest available. The other characteristic was that they rise higher than many competing models and have a cross member for better protection.

The bars are powder coated high-gloss black and were packaged well to avoid marring the surface. That's for me to do. :)

The guards came with replacement hardware for each of the three mount points, which are down tube engine mount, foot pegs and upper subframe.

Installation was simple and intuitive. There were no instructions, but there was a good install video on YouTube (Link).

This is a good photo of the total side coverage of the Nomads, one of the positive characteristics that led me to buy them.

Here's a good photo (stock photo) to make a comparison of side coverage between the Nomad and the Givi guards. The Givi's are so much lower; more like street guards for lowsiding. There's so much more to run into out on the trails that I think a little more protection is needed than what the Givi offers.

Below is a photo (stock photo) for comparison of my second choice, the SW Motech Guards. These are very popular bars; perhaps the most popular. They have the height that I was looking for and a great design with the same three-point install, but the Nomads had the height and width, plus a cross member. Again, it just came down to better protection for a few extra bucks.

Hmmm, I may want to paint my Nomads. Not bright orange like that ^. Maybe the same color green as the stripe on the side fairing.

During my research, I found several comments about welds cracking on the Nomads. Those experiences seemed to be during the early years of development when Nomad apparently used a 1.8mm material thickness. The material thickness of the current bar is 2.5 mm, which is the same as the gold standard SW Motechs. Hopefully, I don't run into any problem. If I do though, I'll just weld it back together.

Each of the sides of the Nomads has a bracket for accessory lighting should I decide to do that. I suppose those brackets could be used for highway pegs, too.

The company's website represents that the bars are 10 pounds. They actually rung up 7.5 pounds per side on my scale, so I have them at 15 pounds. Hardware was a swapout, so I'm not including that.

Now let's see how they do on the trails.


During the Devils Creek Rally in March, the right Nomad side bar cracked at the down tube mount and had to be replaced. See the write up HERE.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Everglades Road Trip

I kicked off the New Year with a road trip down to South Florida. I wasn't planning to do this trip, but my son had some extra vacation days and wanted to make the trip. So he rode my new 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 and I rode my 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000.

The loop was a little over 730 miles and included rides in the Everglades, Big Cypress Preserve and the Fakahtachee Strand Preserve.

Outside of the Everglades National Park, the specif roads we roll through were Loop Road, Turner River Road and Jane's Memorial Scenic Trail.

First stop, though, was on the Port Mayacca Locks on the east side of Lake Okechobee. This is my son on the KLR and his first time at this site. You can ride right up on the dike or along the canal there and get a good look at the lake.

From there, we rolled down to Florida City to spend the night. Florida City is a good launch point into the Everglades and other parks. We started with a ride down to Flamingo in the Everglades National Park.

Flamingo has a shop, boat launch and even a visitors center. It also offers camping for those looking to hike or row into the Everglades Back Country. The Park has a $15 per motorcycle fee. Camping would be a little more.

On our way up to the Big Cypress Preserve, we stopped into the Redland Cafe, in Redland, Florida. The place had a Cuban twist to it. Sam, my son, got a burger and it was the biggest burger we've ever seen. It had to have been near a pound of meat. I got some outstanding pressed Cuban Sandwiches. Never been there before, but definitely will stop in again.

The place had a real weird palm tree out front.

After lunch, we rode Loop Road that runs 24 miles down into the Everglades back country. This road can easily get washed out, but it was perfectly fine on our trip.

 The entrance to the Fakahtachee Strand Preserve has a big pile of rocks. Not sure how they got there, but they're definitely more sturdy than they look.

The real attraction in the Fakahatchee is Jane's Memorial Scenic Drive. It's a 14 mile gravel and dirt road that can get pretty rough. It's narrow, terribly rutted and prone to flooding. Cars drive in there and, after a mile or so, can't put up with all the ruts and potholes and back all the way out. I once read that TripAdvisor listed it as the worst scenic drive in America. LOL.

Let the ruts begin!

I wasn't too concerned. The Versys is a good adventure(ish) bike, but not with those Bridgestone Battlax sport-touring tires!

We didn't run into any flooding until about 8 miles in. This is technically still part of the Everglades so it is naturally wet, plus the water moves around a lot. However, the road surface itself is fairly solid with no super large rocks, so the real issue simply comes down to, "how deep?" Unless we can actually see the bottom, we need to stop and check closely ... and that takes a lot of extra time.

The KLR obviously did well in the water crossings with my son at the helm...

...but you can still only go so deep.

Same for the Big Versys. This is about as deep as I'd go.

So after that first water crossing, they started coming one right after another. Some we could circumnavigate, some we had to cross.

We did that for about 2 miles, then came onto a water crossing that we couldn't even see the end of. Right when we were about to walk it, a big mud truck came through and rolled on in. He stopped for a few minutes sizing up the situation (you can see his brake lights in the next photo) and then rolled in. The water came over his 35s and that's way too deep for either the KLR or Versys.

So we turned tail and rode out of the Fakahatchee the way we came, in the dark!

I've always known that Jane's is a hit-or-miss road, so I wasn't surprised. It was still a great time and we'll get through it next time. Actually, the whole trip was a hit and a great way to kick off 2016.