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2012 KLR650 Change Can Be Good

Ask anyone and they will tell you that I do not like change. I generally prefer things to stay as they are. I will concede that 8 track tapes, Low-D TV, dial-up internet, and That 70's Show were all things that needed to change and the world is a better place for it. But, most change is not so significant and is therefore not needed. You might dismiss my attitude by saying, "Well, those old guys are all that way," and I would agree. Except in my case.

I was never a fan of change, even while looking over my shoulder at Wal-Mart to be sure that nobody noticed me in front of the Just For Men hair color display. Besides, restoring my hair to its youthful, sun bleached, brown was a good change; a needed change...and nobody even knows....

This brings us to the changes on the new 2012 KLR650.

Pictures and specs for the 2012 model are online at the Kawasaki site, with no surprises for the new model year. That's good, because most change is bad; remember that "superman" who replaced Christopher Reeves? The one improvement for 2012 is the blacked out rims, fork, and swing arm. This looks good in pictures and I am excited to see this bike in the flesh. Kawasaki carried forward the varied shades of  Red, Blue, and Black paint and plastics from previous years with one exception.

Last year's "burnt candy orange" is not in the new line up, which surprised me. I seriously considered the Orange 2011 KLR over the Blue model that I finally chose. I finally chose the Blue model because of its performance. The Blue KLRs are much fast than the other colors. Don't take my word for it, ask any Blue KLR rider. But the Red 2012 would be my choice this time around and is probably almost as fast as my Blue bike. I can always tell a fast bike just by observation - it's a gift.

While I enjoy the new Red model as eye candy, I will not be trading in my Blue 2011 for a Red 2012. Although I could understand anyone feeling the pull of that Red model. The blacked out rims and so on, are a great look for the new bikes. A color change like that is sure to add a couple of MPH to top end speed, the same effect that Just For Men had on me!

Baby Motorcycle Ride

This would be great for Halloween and would turn a few heads on the street.

Click here to see a baby on a motorcycle.

1000 Miles On the KLR

This was a beautiful morning and afternoon for Father's Day. I took advantage of the weather and went for a ride around town. This was the big ride that the KLR rolled 1000 miles. This was an important moment for Long Tall Sally, so I pulled over and took a picture with my phone. The city streets are still really  broken and full of potholes. Some of those could swallow a small car. The KLR does just fine on rough roads, but I could see those cruisers having a rough ride. I really doubt the city is going to do too much about the roads with all of the flooding going on this year, but we will see.

KTM Super Moto Fender

As part of my struggle to ride the KLR in strong winds, I ordered a KTM Super Moto front fender. I previously had ordered a fender stiffener for the stock "beak" fender, but did not install it. I was never a fan of the KLR's stock front fender and deided to try the KTM fender to see if I liked the look better. I read a lot of posts on the KLR forums where other liked the KTM fender and the handling improvement that came with it.

This week the new fender arrived and installing it was a breeze. The stock fender comes off by removing 4 - 8mm screws and disconnecting the speedo cable at the front wheel. Thread the cable back through the fender bracket and the old fender is off.

The new fender needs four holes drilled to mount on the bike. Do this carefully to ensure a proper fit. I cut a peice of cardboard from the shipping box and traced the screw holes from the old fender. I then put a couple of peices of masking tape on the new fender and marked the holes from the cardboard template. I double checked the holes by measuring between them and diagonally to ensure they were square. You do not want your new fender pointing off at 11 oclock or 2 oclock when you are driving down the highway!

Once I was sure the holes were spaced correctly and straight, it was a simple matter to drill the holes and mount the fender to the bike with the original mounting screws. My first impression was that I really liked the look of the smaller fender. My apologies to the guys who prefer the stock fender, but that giant "beak" hanging over the front tire did not appeal to me. Next, was the real test, to see how the KLR handed in the wind with the smaller fender.

A couple days later I was on the highway in a strong, gusty, crosswind. I felt the usual side buffeting, but overall the bike was completely stable. The handle bars did not fight me and I was in control of the bike. The front wheel wobble I had previously noted in high winds was no longer a problem. The new front fender did exactly whas I had hoped.

The KTM fender is still on the front of the bike, but I have decided to hang on to the old Beak Fender. The KTM fender is great in the wind, but it is much short on the back side than the stock fender. When trail riding or on gravel roads, the stock fender will provide better protection to the radiator and lower front of the bike. With only four easily accessible screws, swapping fenders will be a peice of cake, and only adds to the KLR's well known versatility.

Thermo-Bob Install

Last week I ordered the Thermo-Bob mod and was very excited to find it in yesterday's mail. Spring temps in our area have not warmed much above 70 degrees so far this year and the KLR's temp needle has barely risen from the "C" when we have been out. I was very curious to see what Thermo-Bob would do for me.

The installation was very simple and straight forward using the instructions printed from the internet. This was my first time removing the gas tank and fairings so that probably took longer than installing the Thermo-Bob. While I had everything apart, I took several pictures of the bike stripped "naked", she looked a lot different.

Two mistakes that you will want to avoid when you Thermo-Bob your KLR. First, run the gas tank to almost empty. My tank was half full which made that monster even more awkward during removal and installation. Second, don't forget to reinstall the coolant drain plug before refilling the cooling system. That oversight on my part created a small mess on the garage floor. But, I had kitty litter on hand to clean it up so it was not really a big deal.

It was nearly dark by the time I finished, but I had to take her out for a ride. It was a cool evening, 51 degrees, but the temp needle stayed solidly in the mid range during the test ride. Two improvements that other guys had noticed from this mod was smoother shifting and better acceleration. I noticed both of these right away and was very happy with how the bike performed.

Overall, the Thermo-Bob mod is easy and well worth the time and trouble. I would recommend this to every KLR rider who is interested in longer engine life without burning oil. The smoother shifts and zippy take offs are also nice. Better gas mileage is another expected benefit, but I have not ridden enough yet to know.

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.