2008 Kawasaki KLR650

Big Green Monster

The Kawasaki KLR650 is one of the best value for money, ready to roll, out of the crate Adventure Bikes on the market. With just a few bolt on goodies to big green monster can be totally kitted out for the long haul.

Photos by Trail Zone Magazine and Lance Turnley

Taller Screen

KLRScreenEven though you don't feel like you're doing much, long stints on the open road getting continuously buffeted at 80-100 kilometres per hour can be pretty exhausting. Even though the KLR has a reasonably effect fairing it can be improved. Kawasaki have their own aftermarket windscreen that fits within minutes. The new screen is 10cm taller than the standard item and is an absolute must for the taller rider. Retail price of $145.45.

KLR Tank Bag

For any adventure rider a tank bag is mandatory. They're great for storage of essential items that you need to access instead of dragging them out of the back pack. There's a heap of options available and Kawasaki have created their own that fits in seconds. The lid of the bag is fitted with a map holder with a waterproof zip. Inside the lid is storage for smaller items and a mobile phone. A zip around the base when released increases capacity by giving the bag an extra the depth of 50cm. The bag is attached to a tank cover that clips on to the standard 22litre steel tank and allows access to the fuel filler cap without removal. Retail price of $116.40.

Kawasaki Rear Bag

KLR_TailBagThe KLR has one of the biggest and strongest carry racks available on the market. Kawasaki has taken advantage of it by designing a purpose built rear bag to suit. The bag easily fits to the rack with a couple of Velcro straps and two straps with clips for extra security. The unit has a moulded zip top lid giving easy access and a zip around the base when released, increases carrying capacity. Retail price of $212.70.

KLR Saddle Bags

KLR_PanniersTo compliment the rear bag Kawasaki has also introduced tailor made KLR pannier bags. The stylish moulded units are lightweight and contoured for Adventure riders that want to take a passenger along. Like most universal panniers the two bags are linked by a large Velcro strap and hang across the rear of the seat. This allows you to adjust the height of the bags quickly and easily. They are secured to the rack and the loops on the passenger pegs for easy fitting. Retail price of $313.15.

TAG Bars

Tag_BarsOne of the areas the Kawasaki saves money is by fitting stock steel bars and on the long haul they are far from impressive. Fortunately we've easily resolved the situation and increased the comfort by fitting a pair of TAG metals X5 bars with cross bar and pads.

TAG Grips

Tag_GripsYou can't have TAG bars with TAG custom grips. TAG grips use a synthetic rubber designed to give optimum tackiness and improved vibration dampening and is available in two compounds, soft/medium and medium/hard.

VPS Barkbusters

BarkbustersOne thing we plan not to do on our project bike is to spear off into any solid objects at speed. Unlike enduro riders we don't spend our time blasting along narrow trails. When it comes to hand guards, adventure riders are more interested in protection from the elements than impacting objects. The standard KLR hand guards do a very good job of protecting your hands from wind and rain but we did find that these big buggers are hard top stop when they start to topple over and that's when you realise that something more substantial to protect the levers is important. The Aussie made Barkbuster VPS Handguards provide a solution with an alloy reinforced plastic guard with an adjustable wind deflector. Check out www.barkbusters.net for more details.

Standard Hand Guards

While riding through the rain on our Barrington odessey I was dreaming about KLR's stock handguards that are the size of half 10 litre buckets and kept your hands dry. Underneath my DriRider RallyCross and my Fox condom I was dry as a bone but my hands were soaked. Crashing on the causway between Singleton and Scone proved that the Barkbusters are worth their weight in gold. Well actually, they're worth more because they're very light. However, they don't offer the weather protection of the standard plastic guards. We spoke to Barkbusters about it and they gave us a sneak preview of there new road/adventure bike handguard that is spot on the money but won't be available till September 2008. So we decided to try and combine the standard handguard with the VPS backbone. Untidy as it may look it provides protection for your levers and a much needed barrier from the cold weather.

Gear lever

One of the most important changes we'd like to make is the gear shift lever. One of the best improvements on the bike has been the IMS pegs. Comfortable and an absolute god send in the wet. However a combination of motocross boots and wider pegs makes it difficult to get your foot under the lever when seated and when changing adds new meaning to a box full of neutrals. We've been unable to source an existing lever that's the right angle and length. We've lifted the lever two teeth on the spine. You can get the boot underneath it but it reduces leverage. Our last resort will be to weld an extra inch into the length but we still have our eye out for a bolt on replacement.

IMS Foot Pegs

IMS_PegsOne of the first things on the KLR that had to go were the rubber foot pegs. I can't even mention the words I had to describe them when they got wet and muddy out on the trail. IMS has come to the rescue with foot pegs and springs specifically designed for the KLR. This addition alone gives you a better, sure footed feel on the pegs especially when you're in a standing position negotiating tricky sections or rocky creek crossings. Put these puppies high on your must have list.

Uni Filter

UnifilterIn our test of the KLR we made no secret that the air box is too small and after a dusty four day ride it was trying to suck air like an asthma sufferer. Short of drilling holes through the airbox, we went for a new Unifilter Pro Comp2 to improve the air flow. Naturally we treated to foam element with Unifilter Filter Fix oil solution.

Dirt Aggressive Tyre Option

KLR650-Rear-TyreThe KLR has great manners on the road but on the dirt the standard road/trail rubber was looking to step out at the slightest hint of changing direction on the gravel. Fitted with a tank bag its now a little more difficult to get the weight up front to get traction so we decided to go with the maximum off-road grip option. With a 30% road and 70% dirt biase we went for a Cheng Shin C-755 front and rear. The knob pattern is more closed than a typical enduro tyre and should provide a lot more confidence on the dirt.

Heated Grips

HeatedGripsYou never think of it until it gets cold especially after a summer of riding and as I climbed the mountain into Barrington Tops I thought to myself 'Why the hell haven't I fitted heated grips'. So while the pain of frostbitten fingertips (and a torn hamstring for that matter) was still fresh in my mind, I called Brad from Ballards Off Road and he quickly came to the party with Ballards own brand of heated grips. The kit comes complete with a hi and low switch and is easy to install. At only $54.95 they are an absolute must have. Phone Ballards 02 4731 1210.

Carby Mods and Mixtures

We said right from the word go that the KLR felt very restricted at both ends. Bit like a constipated elephant with a stuffy nose but you still rode it anyway. With the Unifilter it started to breath easy and the Staintune pipe really cleared the throat. That's all well and good but how does that effect fuel mixtures and fuel economy from the factory specs. One thing that I like about the KLR is that it's still old technology. Not that that's a bad thing but compared to the latest fuel injected, sensor filled bikes now emerging on the market, the technology is pretty straight forward. We replaced the carby slide with one without holes and noticed an improvement straight away but when we backed off, the KLR farted and backfired louder than a Harley. Obviously it was lean but instead of fiddling with the mixture screws, jets and needle settings we took a more scientific approach. I contacted Clive Ward from MotorcycleBiz, and he offered to test the KLR at Kawasaki Newcastle with the help of dealer Chris Hirst who's been fiddling with green bikes for years. The diagnostic unit basically analyses the Lambda value of the gases coming out the exhaust. Lambda value is the measure used for correct air/fuel mixture ratio, which indicates whether the combustion process is working effectively. The ideal Lambda value is 1.00.

The sensor equipment is attached through a long rubber hose and then the engine is taken up through the revs it continually analyses the exhaust gas. On our first analysis, as expected, the mixture was very lean but above 3500 rpm it was basically spot on. The good news was needle position and jets were exactly where they needed to be which was great because access to the KLR carby is less than ideal. Even to get access to the low speed screw with a special tool the tank had to be removed and the carby turned on an angle. 1 5/8 turns is the recommended low speed setting in the KLR manual and we eventually went to 2 3/4 turns to get it right.

The result was immediate with a smooth idle and easy starting. Even though we haven't dyno tested the engine that's not our priority. As much as we'd like to know the horsepower, the important thing is engine efficiency and economy. For more information you can contact Clive Ward MotorcycleBiz 02 4988 6530  or  0408 943 585 or email clive@motorcyclebiz.com.au.