Bike Selection


Which bike to take?

I had learned to ride on a Suzuki DR200se, and had also learned how to crash on it.  Hey, everyone has a learning curve, and I tended to push mine to the limit on a regular basis.

I outgrew the DR200 pretty quickly, and wanted both a big road bike and a dual sport bike that could do streets or dirt trails.  I ended up with a Honda Valkyrie and a Kawasaki KLR650 in the same month.  Two good choices, I think.

I had already settled on the KLR650 as the bike for my round-the-world (RTW) journey.  People where I worked have ridden them, and I asked them lot of questions.  I had made myself aware of the various choices in the mid-sized dual sport motorcycle class.  KTMs were nice bikes, expensive, intended more for off-road, and could be problematic getting parts and service.  BMWs were an obvious choice since they are the most common RTW motorcycle.  Lots of parts and service everywhere.  Still, they were more expensive, and with some models, they were harder to work on.  The Suzuki DR650 was a possibility, but had a smaller frame and gas tank than the KLR.  The Honda XR650 was much more oriented to off-road fun.  Several other choices in the field, but the KLR stood out, and it was among the least expensive.  Greg Frazier had ridden one around the world, and was routinely seen riding around Alaska on a KLR.  Glen Heggsted's book had a (sleepy) KLR650 on the cover, too.

The KLR enjoys a very wide and loyal customer base, it's been largely unchanged for 20 years (until several modifications in 2008), is very easy to work on, has a huge aftermarket supply of parts and modifications, and is very versatile.  I scored a lightly-used 1999 KLR650 from a college student who had done little to it, and had never had it off road.  I got the bike home, accumulated parts and plans over the winter of 2003-2004, and in the Spring of 2004, I basically rebuilt the bike, using it as a test bed for every modification (mod) and accessory I could find.  I thought at the time that I would ride the bike for a couple years and rebuild it again, keeping or removing mods as needed.  That plan changed after a couple years of hard riding on that bike.  It has been repaired so often (see the dirt ride reports), that the engine is balky and the frame has been, um... let's say the frame has been "stressed" several times.  The wiring job I had originally done for accessories now seems like a Gordian knot, requiring a sword to undo.  Some of the mods are now quite beyond repair.  The faithful steed is now a rat bike, worthy only of further abuse, which I intend to see to upon my return from South America.

The next KLR was another good deal.  The first owner of the 2005 model did lots of mods and upgrades to it and rode it for a few thousand miles around New England.  He sold it in nearly pristine condition to a guy in Atlanta, who maintained it very well but only rode it a little.  After getting the bike home in September, 2007, there were still some things to do to it, but plenty of time.  Again, time runs out when you aren't looking.  Now, the bike is still undergoing electrical and other mods, and has another week to go before it's done.

This is pretty much how it looked when I got it.  The rear inner fender is already gone, so that is one less thing for me to do.  Nicely set up already.  It still kinda looks like this.  I'll add a larger IMS gas tank, remove the crash guards, add metal luggage boxes and a tail box.  You'll see plenty of pics of it in the ride report.


<< Link to PREVIOUS report:  Pre-Planning >>

<< Link to NEXT report: Bike Preparation >>


[ ERRANT-RONIN HOME ]     [ Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia Home Page ]     [ Ride Reports Home Page ]    

PayPal Donations Welcome!

(helps pay for gas, REPAIRS!, CAMERAS!, this web site, photo hosting, etc.)