Prep Notes on a Used Ride

Forrest Gump would have something to say about buying a used motorcycle, much like a box of chocolates. Unless you’re kicking tires with an 8mm socket in your pocket and the owner’s permission to disrobe the bike, you never know what you’ve got until you’ve got it home and have it unclad. And this is critical, especially for an ADV bike. A tow/retrieval from the Parashant area of the Grand Staircase costs almost as much as a new KLR, so it’s best to know what you’re dealing with.

A couple of notes: Large wood screws are no substitute for proper, specified and engineered hardware. There’s one instance of these beasts force-threaded into the embedded nuts on the rear frame crossmember to which the rack is attached. This kind of quick and dirty fixing gives me the shivers. A trip to the hardware store would have taken care of the problem, even if it were a roadside repair (which, I can’t imagine it was).

Always a good idea not to mix SAE and metric. Standards are used to keep everything accessible with a minimal amount of tools to do so. Also, before taking on a task like this, it’s not a bad idea to have new OEM replacement hardware, especially rubber wellnuts to replace all the disintegrating rubber isolating mounts, not to mention the windscreen, as well as all the slipshod hardware used by PO’s, like wood screws.

That said, establish a maintenance baseline. Work in systems, electrical, brakes, fuel, etc. Inspect the network of each system. For electrical it’s the entire harness, looking for friction wear or heat/weathering deterioration, integrity of factory connectors, seating of lamps, functioning of switches, including the non-obvious like a radiator fan and rear-brake light. Throw a voltmeter on the battery and check your stator output. I like the peace of mind of starting out with a fresh battery.

Inspect brakes from the reservoirs to the calipers; master cylinders (change fluid, check seals), levers hand and foot (adjust to spec), lines (bleed and seal), calipers (pads and caliper movement), and rotors (spec thickness and surface condition.

Check clutch lever play and adjust to spec. Inspect lines and connectors.

Check drive line; chain tension and condition, drive and wheel sprocket conditions. Correct issues.

Flush coolant, inspect hoses, test thermostat and replace and repair.

The KLR’s Achilles’ heel is its suspension. This ride was engineered (and has been for thirty years) for a 150 pound rider, more or less. I’m more. Much more. And then there’s the ADV gear to boot. Stock suspension is going to diminish the experience, and while fork oil can be changed and the rear shock can be adjusted, it’s best to replace these components. I’m going with a Progressive mono-shock and springs. Check and replace seals while you’re at it.

Inspect tires. While tread depth might be acceptable, tire age should be considered as well. Bikes like the KLR, especially those wonderful barn finds, have a tendency to languish behind sheds in the decay of seasons, and rubber is vulnerable to time. Check true of the rims.

Inspect the frame. Overloaded and undersuspended KLRs develop structural sub-frame issues.

And there’s that doohicky thing.

I’m of the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it school of thinking when it comes to fuel systems. If it’s running well, I’ll leave it be. The enemy to seals in any fuel system is ethanol and it’s been my experience that around 50k miles is the limit to O-rings and diaphragms. Time for a rebuild. Outside of the carb, check fuel lines, filter, tank condition and petcock valve.

Of course, change the oil and filter, clean the air filter, and swap out the spark plug, properly gapped. The 2008 KLR has a bit of an oil-burning reputation due to a faulty secondary ring. Some do, some don’t. I’m a thousand miles into sorting mine out and so far no oil consumption.

You can find the build blog for this ride here.


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