Sunday, July 9, 2017

Valve Clearances

The maintenance interval for valve clearances on the 2016 KLR650 is 15,000 miles. However, prior to taking delivery back in November 2015, I got into a discussion with some owners who indicated that checking the clearances around 6,000-7,000 is a good idea. Apparently, the spec used to be around 6,000 miles and with no changes in engine design the interval was pushed way out to 15K. Indications were that the valves got tight around the lower mileage.

So today I had some time to take a peek at the clearances and see how we were doing at 6,700 miles. I'll spare you the details of the procedures. There are plenty of youtube vids and other instructional materials. I have the Service Manual, so I followed that.

Here's what I found (closest feeler gauge in mm):

Exhaust (spec 0.15mm to 0.25mm)
  • Left 0.152mm
  • Right 0.152mm

Intake (spec 0.10mm to 0.20mm)
  • Left 0.102mm
  • Right 0.127mm

As warned, clearances were tight even at 6,700 miles.

My plan is to open up the clearances to the upper end of the range. To do so I needed to pull the shims. Here's what I had in there in terms of shims. Two 2.40 shims on the Exhaust Valves. One 2.50 and one 2.45 on the Intakes. These were marked numbers that I checked to my micrometer.

It's interesting that the two Intake shims were different (2.50 vs 2.45). That difference actually showed up in the clearances (0.102 vs 0.127). Why on earth would the factory have used two different shims there when the clearances would have been the same with either the 2.50 or the 2.45?


Okay, so the way this works out is there's a formula:

Current Shim Size + Current Clearance - Desired Clearance = New Shim Size.
  • I'll run 2.30s on the Exhaust as follows: (2.40 + 0.15 - 0.25 = 2.30). 
  • I'll run 2.40s on Intakes as follows: (L = 250 + 0.10 - 020 = 2.40) and (R = 2.45 + 0.13 - 0.20 = 2.38...rounded to nearest shim size of 2.40). 

The way this will work is I'll only have to buy the two 2.30 shims and move the current 2.40s to the Intake. That will save me about $24 since the shims run about $12 each.

Anyway, I guess the point is that it may make sense to have a look at the clearances sooner than spec. Even though I was technically in spec, my valves were not at the optimum median clearances for proper performance. The KLR will be breathing a little better when I get the new shims installed.


The shims were $14.75 each. Crikey! The damn things are only the size of like a quarter.


Having completed the re-shim (after the disaster discussed below) the motorcycle really sounded different; not bad in any way, just different. I took it out for a test ride and it rode fine. However it just seems smoother. Hard to describe and I'll stop here and keep riding to see if I can articulate better what I'm talking about.


Bad things happen when you're impatient!

When I was reinstalling the cams I lost one of the bolt dowels down the cam chain slot and into the bottom end. It's all open, I had a towel covering it, but it got past. I was able to get a replacement down at my dealer, but I didn't go after the one that I lost hoping it just made its way to the sump.

Well, it didn't make to the sump. The minute I started to turn the crank I could tell something wasn't right. I tried a little harder hoping to knock it out, but it didn't work. So off came the left case, flywheel starter wheel to go find where it was bound in.

Old dowel, new dowel. The dowel is a very thin tube that is used to align the cam clamps, two each for four clamps. So there are eight dowels. Should you take them out? Should you leave them in? Obvious I took them out and then got caught up in the tight working space.

As advice, whether you leave them in or take them out, I think I really should have done a better job covering up the gaps. I just stuffed them with paper towels. The other advice is keep your Eagle Mike doohicky tools!

Fortunately I retained all my Eagle Mike doohickey tools to get back there and fix this.

The good news was that there was no damage. I should have just gone after it in the first place though.

Of course, that threw off the timing so I had to reset all that. What was a couple hours work turned into the better part of a day. Yikes! I was sweatin' it.

Typical... post for the KLR.

And the FB KLR650 Group. :)

Thursday, July 6, 2017


I did an inventory of my son and my current fleet. Actually I pulled them all out so I could clean the garage. Here's what we have...

TW200--This is my son's bike. He absolutely loves it; says it's the most fun motorcycle he's ever owned. He just had it in NC and TN at the Blue Ridge Run and will be taking it back in September for the Tour d' Pisgah Rally.

DR650--This is my motorcycle. It's my dual sport rally bike. It's lighter and easier for me to get around on at the dual sport rallys. It's a rugged ass bike!

KLR650--The KLR is actually owned 50/50 between my son and I. My son uses this for road riding and some rallies. He had it at Devil's Creek earlier this year. However, he really seems to pull the TW out more often these days.

FZ09--The FZ is my street bike. I've had it since early January and it only has 1,300 miles. It needs some attention. I'm really not interested in a long trip, but it is a really nice bike that deserves a good long trip from time to time.

All cleaned up. Everyone is back in the stable.

As you can see we spend a lot of time on the waterways and bicycle trails too. We like our toys here. :)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Ironhorse Motorcycle Lodge (Facility Rating)

Overall Facility Rating: A

We spent a week in the North Carolina/Tennessee Smoky Mountains while attending the Blue Ridge Run Dual Sport Rally. See our Rally Post in Devils Creek DR.

The three day rally was held in Cruso, NC; afterward, we packed up and relocated to the Ironhorse Motorcycle Lodge in Stecoah to ride the forest roads around the Cherohalla Skyway in east Tennessee.

I honestly don't think that one can find a nicer motorcycle lodge in the Smoky Mountains...if not anywhere for that matter. They accommodate everything from primitive camping to full size, multi-occupant houses. They also have a rare bunkhouse concept.

While we were hauling our toy hauler, we opted for the two bed cabin. There was, in fact, four cabins in this building with two cabins sharing a nice, clean bath on each side.

I camped in the camping area in April 2016, with electric for my electric blanky.

There's a nice little stream rolling right through the middle of the lodge.

The lodge offers some pre-order meals. It is not a restaurant that you can walk in and order. Rather, you're orders need to be provided the night before by 9PM.

Bathrooms are plentiful and their are six nice, clean showers.

Overall, it's just a real comfortable place run by super nice people. Yes, it's pricy, but compared to other options the prices are totally reasonable.

Check out their website, Ironhorse Motorcycle Lodge, for more information.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Two Wheels of Suches (Facility Rating)

Overall Rally Facility Rating: B

I'm just back for the two day Hooch Rally (short for Chattahoochee National Forest) up in the North Georgia Mountains. It was a two day weekend rally on June 10 and 11, but I rolled in a day early on June 8 and got a great 90 mile warm up in with some good guys on Friday. I checked out on Monday, June 12.

The Hooch was based at the Two Wheels of Suches Campground and Lodge in Suches, Georgia ("TWS"). TWS offers primitive camping, connected camping, cabins and a few lodge rooms. See the linked website for more details and a map.

I had my toy hauler set up for primitive camping at $15/day.

While I called well in advance, they advised that I would not need to make reservations unless I was staying in a supported camp site, cabin or lodge.

The overall facility is quite large, but unorganized particularly for those who have never been there before (and this includes having the campsite map in hand). When I arrived Thursday, late afternoon, the lodge was closed and there was no one to give me any guidance on where to park and set up. There were two entrances...wasn't sure which one to use and some of the camping areas were only accessible by foot or motorcycle. I parked in the trailer parking area which really wasn't where I would have liked to be...but it worked okay.

The campgrounds have a quite time of 10 PM. The area roads did not contribute enough noise to wake me in the middle of the night. The hooligan level for this rally was pretty low.

One of the most important amenities that I consider at rally facilities is the bathroom and shower. I like to take a hot shower every day and I do not like to either walk a long way or stand in line to use a bathroom. A short wait for shower use is reasonable considering that the whole rally group is rolling in off the trails at about the same time.

TWS had an outstanding shower and bathroom facility. Very clean. There were also two bathrooms at the lodge so bathroom facilities were reasonably spread out. Half a dozen shower stalls and each shower was private. That was nice!

Another important amenity is access to food...seriously. TWS has a restaurant, but it's neither open all the time nor does it offer a complete menu. The restaurant was not open the Thursday night that I arrived or my last night Sunday night. It was open for breakfast, including on Monday morning. It provided the Saturday night group dinner (spaghetti) but nothing else.

Rallies do not generally offer every meal to the participants. No problem...go someplace else. Well, easier said than done in the North Georgia mountains. If you need to go find food, get ready to drive a long way. There is just nothing in the mountains unless you like gas station pizza and microwave things that they try and pass off as burgers.

I'll be better prepared next time I go back to TWS, I'll be taking a cooler of stuff to supplant the rally meal schedule. Suches does have ice and firewood!

Overall, TWS is probably the best place I've ever stayed during a rally. It was the first time I got to use my toy hauler as a camper and that really worked out great. I gave the facility an overall ranking of B. TWS bathhouse facilities are positively off the chart! The lodge is large and extremely comfortable. My only frustrations were being hungry and not have a place to get (decent) food...yes, I did eat one of those pizzas from that joint across the road on Thursday night...and I would have liked to set up some place better

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

8 Best Urban Motorcycles

This is an article from a website called HiConsumption:

Having been a resident of the Metropolitan NY Area from 1981 to 1987 I have some thoughts. Here is the list (in the order presented in the article) and a few of those thoughts:

Honda Grom

A motorcycle in the city is also your means to get out of the city. I would not want to be on this thing in outbound traffic on Friday afternoon or inbound traffic Sunday evening. In fact, I'd probably recommend staying in the bicycle lanes while inside the city on that.

Suzuki TU250X

Suzuiki's retro standard. Interesting, but I just can't get excited about the TU retro styling with the Bonnie in the same list.

Yamaha TW200

There's one of these in my garage...a 2017 owned by my son. It's much bigger than you might think, but I'm still not sure I'd want it in heavy outbound/inbound traffic. However, we have four motorcycles in our garage and my son jumps on the TW200 more for commuting and recreational than the the point I needed to regear for a little better road use. He thinks its "da bomb!"

Kawasaki KLR650

A motorcycle needs to be rugged, because of the higher liklihood of getting bumped and tipped on the street, but the KLR has the soft left side that exposes expensive rad/fan parts. Bar would definitely be in order. Also, the 35" seat height would be most imposing for most. For those not put off buy the seat height, you'll enjoy the better visibility in city traffic.

Harley Street 750

Air-cooled Harley in the city? Well, my city bike from 1981-1987 was a Harley Sportster and I never thought once about it. So, here's the question, do you want to sit in gridlock traffic on a low comfy seat (Harley) with both feet on the ground or on a tall, hard saddle like the KLR? I'll take the Harley.

KTM 690 Duke

Huh? The 690 Duke is a canyon carver...very light and very fast (for a single). It's also a popular track bike. Go to Google images for the Duke and you won't find any city pictures.

Triumph Bonneville

Triumph set the "gold" standard with its styling of the Bonneville decades ago. Believe it or not the first Triumph Bonneville came off the assembly line in 1959...and here in 2017 it's still available (albeit a different ownership group). It's classic, it's recognizable. It's a respectable choice.

Ducati Urban Enduro

What do we have here? Well, of course the enduros are going to catch a little extra attention on a dual sport page, but I hadn't seen this model yet. Slightly lighter than the KLR (wet 423 vs 432) and a 31" seat height make that sucker attractive...I mean, like, aside from the fact that it's very visually attractive. Fuel injected, air cooled, 803 L-Twin. Look at that clearance! Bash plate, fork guards! Yeah, a Duc price tag too at $10,500. Still...very nice bit off work there by Ducati.

   *   *   *   *   *

It doesn't appear that the article ranked these models in any order. Here's how I'd rank their models first to last in terms of Urban Motorcycles.
  1. Triumph Bonneville
  2. Harley Davidson Street 750
  3. Kawasaki KLR650
  4. Ducati Urban Enduro
  5. Suzuki TU250X
  6. KTM 690 Duke
  7. Yamaha TW200
  8. Honda Grom
Since the list is about urban use, the dual-sports need to take a back seat to the Bonnie and the Harley for one primary reason...comfort. You're going to want a good seat. You're going to need both feet on the ground in the city to kick in one direction or the other to move quickly. 

After the Bonnie and Harley, the KLR rises above the rest rises above the rest. Looking over cars would have been really helpful back in my city navigation days. The Duc is behind the KLR for being three inches lower.

I'm kind of bored by the engine size of the TU and I consider the KTM among sport bikes. The TW200 is a super fun motorcycle. It's just a little on the small side for city visibility and it's low end is not responsive enough for quick maneuvering in intersections. 

The poor Grom...reminds me of the old Harley Shortster. Like I said, stay in the bicycle lanes with that thang.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

KLR650 Triple Tree

Have you ever bent the post/stem in the lower triple any motorcycle? Well, sure enough, we pulled it off on our 2016 Kawasaki KLR650.

The damage arose at the Devils Creek Rally in the beginning of March. My son low sided the KLR when the lead made a sudden turn. While he was able to complete the weekend, it was clear that a new bar and right foot peg needed to be ordered.

Then there's always the tweaking of getting the front back in alignment. After a couple tries, I couldn't get the dang thing aligned. Worried that the problem was a fork (or two) I took it to a shop who came back with the tree problem. Dang! I've never had that happen.

Anyway, I found a used lower tree for a 2016 on eBay for $91 (new OEM is $500). After install, the bike came back into alignment. There ya go, there's a first time for everything.

On the bar replacement, we initially went with a ProTaper Contour with the Henry/Reed Bend. Very cool bar, with a fat bar clamp and I had a set of fat-bar Rox Pivot Risers to use...but once on, the bend really didn't work well with the KLR. No loss since I put it on my DR650 and it's working out fine.

So after some more measurements, we decided on the ProTaper SE ATV High Bend and that bar is working out really well. Measurements of this bar are:

Width 32"
Height 6.3"
Pull 4"

Full ProTaper Bar Specs HERE.


I had Trackside Handguards on both my KLR650 and DR650. The handguards on the KLR needed replacement after the low side...and the guards no longer fit the fat bar on the DR, so I moved them over to the KLR with the new ProTaper SE ATV High Bar. The KLR650 is a tough bike to fit with hand guards because of the big front cowl. However, I got them fit with the new bar.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Devil's Creek

My 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 completed its second year at Devils Creek at the first leg of the 2017 AMA Dual Sport Series, this year ridden by my son. I rode our DR650. The only change we made over last year was to better equip it with a set of Dunlop D606 DOT block knobbies. The TKC80s used last year were pretty good, but the 606s made the deep sand much more manageable.

Toy Hauler

When my son purchased a new trailer for his mobile bicycle repair business, we decided to keep the old trailer (a 5 x 9 Haulmark Enclosed) and convert it into a toy hauler. A real toy hauler is a camper/hauler combination. Some are trailers, some are complete mobile units. Very pricey, indeed.

We can make the old Haulmark work for our needs and continue to advertise the bicycle business by not changing the wrap. The first use of the toy hauler trailer was a dual sport rally in Brooksville, but it will serve to haul or bicycles and, with some special mounts, the kayaks and provide a convenient place to bed down for the night.

The only improvements made were adding a flooring, essentially leftover pieces from the new mobile unit build and a touch of paint. It already had electrical connections and lighting.

The hauler can carry two motorcycles and a lot of equipment. We only hauled the DR650 up to Devil's Creek in Brooksville in it because my son came up a day later on the KLR650, but they both go in facing forward and the other facing backward.

At Devil's Creek we still used two tents but the plan is when I go to rallies on my own, I'll slide my inflatable mattress in the trailer, as shown in the second photo below, and sleep inside. Unfortunately, it only has the ramp-type door, but I'm just going to have to make due.

Next stop, Hohenwald, Tennessee and the Southern Discovery TDSA Spring Rally on March 31-April 2.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Nomad Rider Crash Guards

This post serves to summarize my experience with the Nomad Rider Crash Guards.

I purchased a set of Nomad Rider Crash Guards in December 2015 for installation on my 2016 Kawasaki KLR650. The Nomads have a history of fractures that the company reported had been resolved by using thicker tubing. I specifically discussed this with the salesperson at Nomad before agreeing to purchase the bars. I received and installed the guards in early January 2016. See Nomad Rider Crash Bars.

In early March 2016, the right guard fractured at the frame downtube mount point during the Annual Dixie Dualsport Rally. Nomad Rider Promptly replaced the damaged right side guard. See Nomad Rider Crash Bars Broke/Cracked.

In mid May 2016 I suffered a leg injury in a trail fall and was prevented from riding motorcycles until late July and I was unable to ride serious trail (or rally) for the remainder of 2016.

In late December 2016, I noted that the left Nomad Rider Bar had fractured at the left foot peg mounting point. Similar to the first fracture, it was the mounting plate that fractured rather than the tubing. See More Nomad Woes.

Again, I contacted Nomad Rider (providing photos) regarding the damage. They offered me a choice to (i) replace the left guard with a matte black guard (even though my right guard was gloss black) or (ii) a discounted price on a complete set of gloss black guards. I chose the first choice of free replacement of the left bar.

Going a month and a half later, the left Nomad guard has not been delivered to me as promised. I have purchased and installed a set of Tusk Guards. As we embark upon the 2017 Rally Season (first rally in three weeks) I have much bigger things to deal with than the missing Nomad Rider Bar and do not plan to pursue the promise.

To summarize, the Nomad Rider Crash Guards had acquired a reputation of fracture (see KLR650 forums .com and .net and Facebook Group). Nomad Rider represented on their website and to me via a phone conversation that the defect had been corrected. Yet each of my two guards sustained a fracture. Nomad Rider promised to replace the second damaged bar and they did not replace it causing me to spend money to purchase a replacement set of bars. In all honesty, at this point I'm glad to move onto a set of crash bars that (based on customer reviews) will likely be more reliable to a serious dual sport rider.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Tusk Crash Bars

I've decided to discontinue using the Nomad Rider Crash Bars. Given my experience, I think that they have issues whether inherent or how I'm using them; design, metal, I don't know, but I don't trust them any more. To replace them I have purchased a set of Tusk Guards. These guards have a fairly decent following from watching the boards and they are certainly priced the lowest plus I had credits to apply making them even more attractive. They fit with my Ricochet bash plate.

The new Tusk Guards were purchased from Rocky Mountain ATV. The price was $169.99, but I had over $25 in RMCash credits to apply to the order, plus I picked up another $8.50 in RMCash credits from the guard purchase itself. They are yet to be installed, but I'm starting the post upon delivery and will update with the installation.

Each side (bar only) weighed in at 8 pounds (16 total pounds). I was quite surprised that they weighed more than the clearly beefier Nomads that weighted a combined 15 pounds. The hardware that accompanies the bars was another 1 pound. However, that's probably a net wash or only a small bump against the stock hardware weight.

The product came with two pages of nicely printed installation instructions that seem to be clear and concise, although installation actually looks fairly intuitive.

Stay tuned for an update of the installation...


The Tusk Guard installation is not, in any way, interfered with by my Ricochet bash plate. There are two mounting points on the down tube and another at the upper subframe bolt. I didn't have to remove the bash plate to install the guards.


As mentioned, I had to purchase a new set of crash guards (Tusks) when Nomad Rider lagged in shipping out a replacement guard...which as of this date (March 22, 2017) I have not received and have given prepare the motorcycle for the first of 2017 rally.

Well, the first rally at Devil's Creek put the Tusk Crash Guards to the test, indeed. My son Sam was riding the KLR650, I was on our DR650. On the first day of the three day rally, our group of five making our way between trails on a paved road. Sam was 4th, I was 5th. The leader decided to make an abrupt left turn causing everyone to lockup. The KLR on its D606 knobbies went down at about 25-30 mph on the right side. My son was able to get up with nothing more than a few superficial wounds...due to having good gear on...and the Tusk Bars did their job, took the fall and suffered only minor inward bend that isn't enough to require replacement. We continued the rally and completed it two days later.

There's first hand experience that the Tusk did its job in a lowside.