Road Trip: My KLR650 Touring Bike

After several thousand miles on paved and unpaved roads, I can say the KLR650 is a competent touring bike. This post will cover a few modifications that I feel have most improved my KLR's touring ability. This post will also tie together several previous posts and I have linked to those below.

Even on stock suspension, the KLR can haul the gear needed for a long road trip. Here is my bike before starting a week long 1,800 mile road trip. It is loaded down with tools, tent, sleeping bag, camping gear, clothes, and everything I would need. I later discovered that I had forgotten a few items, but that is another post.

I like soft baggage for several reasons. A few of these include, the bags' light weight, no need for additional racks, and if the bike goes down they will not bend or dent. I formerly ran a tail bag but removed in favor of the waterproof, lockable, Pelican case.

The bike's handling on the Interstate was greatly improved when I installed a fork brace. The brace helps to eliminate flex and stabilize the front forks. There is some debate in the KLR community on the effectiveness of the fork brace, but I like what it does for my bike and would buy it again.

For improved handling, especially in strong winds or when stuck behind a semi truck on the highway, I replaced the stock plastic hand guards with a set of Western Power Sports guards. These work fine, but installation was a real pain and I would not buy them again. I also replaced the stock front fender with a smaller fender from Acerbis. Together, these reduced front wheel "wander" in strong, gusty cross winds. I have ridden on many windy days with this setup and the bike handles very well at highway speed.

I normally run a highway speed of  75mph with my tach just under 5k. The bike will go faster, I have gone over 80mph while passing a semi, but try to avoid it. This summer I ran at 75mph for hundreds of miles on Interstate highways and the bike performed perfectly. At this speed I keep up with traffic and pass quite a few other vehicles. I credit this to the 16 tooth drive sprocket , an essential upgrade for touring on the KLR.

Many KLR owners complain that the bike needs a 6th gear and for me, the extra tooth gives you that gear. The gear trades a bit of lower end torque for top end speed, but it works for me.  That extra tooth lets the bike run at highway speeds without pushing the tach beyond my comfort zone. The lower RPMs also reduces vibration on the highway.

Finally to improve comfort I modded the stock seat with a new Seat Concepts kit. This made the seat wider and cushier for improved comfort on long stretches. When my butt gets sore, I can still slide back or forward and keep on riding. 

The KLR is not the best touring bike on the market, but it works for me. Still, there are a few changes I will be making before next year. Those will be covered in a later post. But, I would not hesitate to take the KLR on a cross country touring trip. When properly configured, the bike has the speed and range to take me anywhere I wish to travel.