KLR650 Blowing in the Wind

A couple of weeks ago, my first KLR650 highway ride gave me a good scare. On a two lane country road, I was approaching  50mph, heading into a 15mph wind, when suddenly the front wheel wobbled. A vision of going down and sliding on the asphalt flashed through my mind, but I kept going. After a couple more wobbles caused by the gusty winds, I changed my mind and headed home.

I was very disappointed with the bike's handling at low highway speed in a relatively mild wind. Many people ride KLRs on long distance touring trips without this problem, so there had to be a solution.. I began researching and I learned that many KLR riders experience front wheel wobbles in the wind. The large front fender is usually blamed for this, but there are other possibilities. It was time to adjust the stock setup to gain control over this beast in the wind.

First, I removed the hand guards, which look cool, but clearly catch a lot of wind. I was unsure about leaving  the hand guards off, but quickly decided that I liked the cleaner look. Next, I adjusted the pre-load setting on the shock absorber. The KLR owner's manual says that setting "1" will handle a 150 pound rider, without a passenger or luggage. A 200 pound rider on soft rear suspension will have control issues without sufficient load on the front tire. I increased  the pre-load adjustment to "4" which was very simple with a 12mm socket.

Several days later I headed out again, down the same road with almost the same gusty winds. I slowly accelerated to 60mph, waiting for the wobble to start. The suspense was killing me! Then a solid gust of wind hit the bike and the front wheel remained straight and firmly in contact with the road. Between the hand guards, and the shock pre-load, the wind-wobble problem seems to be controlled.

If you are having similar problem with control in high wind, keep working with the bike until you find a solution. The KLR can do many things well, but will need some setup and adjustment first.