My bike, which is the one you see in the header, is an old (1990 and 130,000 kilometres) Kawasaki KLR 650. Is it the right bike for the trip? Who knows – there seem to be more opinions on this than there are riders doing trips. However my reasons for choosing to use it are:
- I already own it and am comfortable on it and it is at least reasonably suitable for the route I plan. (Dirt roads but not serious off-roading).
- I’ve owned for two years and 70,000 kms and have been doing all my own maintenance on it throughout this time. So I know my way around it.
- It is basically very simple, which suits my do it yourself maintenance philosophy.
- Has a decent fuel range (up to about 450km)
- Its not worth a lot which, to me, has all sorts of side benefits including:
- When it falls over and gets smashed up (which happens to me regularly on dirt roads) I don’t get worried by it,
- If it breaks down and I decide it is unrepairable I can walk away from that without too much pain (I wouldn’t fancy doing that with $20,000 worth of bike),
- Ditto fear of theft is much reduced (and since there is no insurance available that can be a major issue).
Preparing the bike for the trip has been a bit of an ongoing project over the last year. In reality I probably should have spent less time on this and more time on more serious route planning, language learning and the like, but I enjoy ‘tinkering’ so thats where I’ve put most focus. Other than general servicing over the year the preparation has consisted of:
- Making racks for pannier bags
- Wiring the bike with 12v socket and connection for small electric compressor (for tyre inflation)
- Reinforcing the original flimsy bash-plate (a couple of layers of fibreglass fixed that – thanks Steve I)
- Suspension rebuild (nothing fancy; new springs and oil in the forks and a service of the original Kawasaki shock on the rear).
- Dealing with the known KLR weak points (balancer adjuster, sub frame bolts and carburettor breather).
- An engine strip about two months before the trip because it had started to rattle and vibrate a bit more than I remembered or thought was healthy. This ended up with the following work being done:
- Re-truing the crankshaft to bring run-out back to spec – I think this was the major cause of the extra vibration. The engine has been a lot smoother since the re-build.
- Replacing the original balance shaft weights which included well worn damper springs with later model solid damper weights (which seems to suggest even Kawasaki had decided these springs were more trouble than their worth) which removed most of the rattles from the engine.
- Light hone of cylinder bore – it still measured in spec so I chose not to re-bore.
- Valve grind and reset of clearances.
- New clutch plates (because I thought I should – even though the original plates measured as unworn after 130k).
- New radiator hoses (I thought as the originals were now 21 years old this might be wise!)
- Replacement of all the consumable bits and pieces in the last month before the off:
- Oil and filter
- Chain and sprockets
- Brake pads and fluid
- Wheel bearings.
- Mounting all my various spares inside the fairing so I wouldn’t forget them.
Probably the most important bits of the preparation were however:
- Trying to remember to ride on the dirt as much as possible in an attempt to lift my poor dirt skills (thanks Jack and Steve L for encouraging me to get out and do it).
- Doing all the servicing over the last year with the tools I plan to carry to make sure I don’t forget anything critical.