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2004 Kawasaki KLR650

With life being so busy, especially work being so consuming, I didn't know how much I'd actually ride. I also have a road bike, so I didn't want to go out and dump a bunch of money on a high-dollar KTM or BMW GS that I wouldn't use much, so I decided on a KLR650 as a good all around and affordable dual-sport bike. I've had quite a few dirt bikes and know that this time around, and now in my late 50s, I wouldn't be catching any air. This side of the Cascade mountains is more about dirt roads than knarly single-track anyway. I also wanted a bike I could ride to the trails rather than a dirt-only bike, so this narrowed the choices.

The KLR seemed the obvious choice: it works reasonably well on both road and dirt, is widely available, is affordable, and with lots of aftermarket parts available so I could configure it a number of different ways. I started surfing craigslist all over the state and took my time sorting through them. I finally found a low mileage 2004 in the Seattle area so I borrowed the old company pickup and made the drive with cash in wallet. With the basic bike now acquired it was time to get started.

Fellow motorcyclists know this phenomena: a new bike is just a blank slate to begin configuration for your own "mission profile" and personal preferences. The mission profile I've identified for the KLR is "Adventure Touring Lite". The idea is to keep it light for optimum handling, used primarily for extended day trips. I therefore don't plan to add hard bags or some of the things folks add for extended adventure touring. Knowing it's a heavy underpowered bike to start with I want to do what I can to perk up the power, but especially the handling, so as to optimize it for speedy transit of dirt roads and trails.

One of the great things about the KLR is the HUGE selection of aftermarket parts/upgrades/accessories. Fellow KLR owners may be interested in what I've done so I've detailed most of the mods, accessories, and settings below.




  • Relocated license plate to outer fender below tail light, eliminated most of inner fender
  • Bypassed and eliminated kickstand ignition cutout switch, removed associated mechanism and mounting brackets
  • Bypassed and eliminated clutch cutout switch


  • Eagle Mfg. balancer chain tensioner upgrade (aka "doohickey") using the torsion spring version
  • Eagle Mfg. rear subframe upgrade kit (drill-thru version)
  • Eagle Mfg. choke and mirror relocation bracket
  • Eagle Mfg. manual fuel petcock (Yamaha part, eliminates vacuum system)
  • Themo-Bob thermostat relocation/bypass system
  • Pro Taper SE "KX High" handlebars
  • Eagle Mfg. 1.5" handlebar risers
  • gel grips
  • Maier ATV Pro handguards
  • Pivot Pegs footpegs
  • FMF PowerBomb stainless steel header
  • Lexx muffler & mid-pipe
  • DynoJet kit (see below for latest settings)
  • Uni air filter
  • NGK Iridum spark plug
  • Magnetic drain plug
  • Baja Designs turn signals front & rear
  • Aluminum skid plate
  • Brakes: full front/rear Galfer kit from including their new wave rotors, front caliper adapter braket, SS lines, and green pads front and rear
  • Rear suspension: Cogent Moab rear shock, see below for further comments
  • Front suspension: stock fork springs with Race Tech cartridge emulators, 10w oil, see below for further comments
  • Tires: Continental TKC80 TwinDuros
  • GPS: Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx, RAM mount, hardwired to bike power
  • Luggage: Wolfman Enduro tank bag, 1.5 gallon fuel jug strapped on rear rack if needed
  • Jetting: 140 main, idle screw out 2.5 turns, DynoJet needle on 3rd notch from top. NOTES: I live at 1200' msl and typically head up into the mountains to ride. If I was a sea level I might need to richen things up a bit. Note that this is with aftermarket header and exhaust and Uni air filter. All told these settings seem perfect.
  • Gearing: stock is 15/43, currently running 14/43. The KLR really needs either wider gear spacing or a 6th gear. Owners will need to make a compromise decision on gearing and must bias it toward trail or road. I've found the 14 tooth countershaft sprocket (15 stock) lowers 1st gear enough to work adequately on trails and or semi-steep hill climbs yet it still does ok at 60-65, or even 70mph, on the hiway.
  • Suspension:
    Before reviewing my suspension settings it should be noted that I am setting the KLR up for 90% offroad use. I ride on the roads only to get to the offroad environment. That can be anywhere from 10 to 60 miles, any farther and I'll put it in the truck. So compliance over rocks and such, and getting full travel, is the priority. If setting it up for the road I would likely want the damping a big stiffer: higher viscosity oil in the forks and a different setting on the rear shock. So, here's what I found...
    • Forks: Stock fork springs (since I weigh only 170), Race Tech cartridge emulators with blue springs and 3 turns of preload, 10w fluid, level at 165mm. Tried the yellow springs and high speed compression damping was just too stiff on rocky terrain.
    • Shock: Cogent Dynamics Moab shock, 400 lbs spring (280 lb stock) which I found too stiff for my weight given that I don't carry a passenger or luggage. The good folks at Cogent sent 300 and 350 lb springs to try and I kept the 300. If you were heaver or rode two up then the 350s would be right. If you were really heavy AND carried lots of gear then the 400 would be right. I backed off the damping settings they suggested adjusted to 22 clicks out and it is damping nicely.


Every motorcyclist has their own prefernce on consumable things like oil, tires, and how to clean/lube a chain which are the subject of endless conversation and debate. Below are mine...

Engine oil — Mobil 1 10w-40 Racing 4T

Tires — Currently running Continental TKC80 TwinDuros in the stock sizes.

Chain — I have found that WD40 and a brush works well for claining the chain, and after trying many of the commercial chain lubs on the market I've settled on Dupont Teflon Chain Saver as my lube of preference. Nothing seems to stick to it so it keeps the chain cleaner than anything else I've tried. Click here for a review if you're curious.

The result

After a few minor tweaks to the jetting and suspension as mentioned above the bike is now "tweaked". It runs great and handles about as good as a KLR possibly can. The suspension improvement is phenomemal, it really transforms the bike. Though still a bit heavy for a dualsport bike you can ride briskly down jeep roads and singletrack the suspension will just absorb most of it.

(click on a small pic to see the large version)






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