The KLR650 Commuter

There’s been a motorcycle shaped hole in my life ever since I sold my Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird three years ago. It was the last of a string of Hondas, starting with a CL 175, a Nighthawk 450, a CB 750 Custom, a Valkyrie Interstate,

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and the CBR1100XX Super Blackbird.

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I gave up the Blackbird after I snapped off my right biceps tendon, which happened about a year after I snapped off the left one. The Bird was spending more time in the garage than on the road while I was recovering, and somehow I came under the spell of some crazy notion that I was done with motorcycles.

So I turned my attention to overlanding. Built a Montero,

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and an H3,

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and have been enjoying the adventure ever since. But at 16mpg in the little Hummer, adventuring on my own was overkill and having it as my daily driver was gouging the budget, so about six months ago I started my research on ADVenture motorcycles. And as fate would have, I’m now commuting through North America’s most scenic backroads from Salt Lake City to St. George, Utah, something I want to do on a dual sport.

The search was narrowed by a low budget and availability. I got to a point of considering the BMW R1150/1100GS and the post-2008 Kawasaki KLR. They’re in similar price points on the used market, but the KLR is much more ubiquitous. I’ve wanted a BMW GS forever, but the KLR’s simplicity was more attractive to my pragmatic side. I like to do all my own wrenching and if I’m far from home in the middle of the Parashant, I want to be able to fix what breaks. At least on my ADV bike.

So, this 2008 KLR 650 was added to our adventure vehicle fleet a few weeks ago. The deal-clincher on this ride was the Pelican case panniers (it’s a film production geek thing). A cursory inspection with the seller looked like everything was still in the right place, and at just under 7600 miles, it couldn’t be too worse for wear. It’s initial tear down this afternoon revealed a bit more scar tissue than the plastic cladding had revealed – it’s been down hard a number of times – one of which shifted the radiator frame a little to the port side, about a quarter inch. And the Pelican panniers’ mounting system has been ripped off a few times too many, requiring some new hardware to better adjust their fitment.

It’s previous owner was a bit shorter than I, by five or six inches, and included in the sale was a pair of lowering dog bones that never got mounted. So I can imagine there were some issues for him, especially since he must have had a hard time stabilizing the bike.

And that’s alright. The frame’s okay, it tracks straight, the engine’s torquey and eager, the suspension is, well, stock, and I love it.

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