2004 Kawasaki KLR-650

This was a new 2004 bike purchased in 2005, as a trade from my ZX-6R.

I went with a KLR for a number of reasons. I’ve done many other kinds of riding and am ready to settle back into something easier, more relaxed, and less costly. The KLR promises to be reliable, cheap to own and operate, and is already proving to be very fun to ride. And, with this “all-terrain vehicle bike”, I’m also looking forward to going down all those poor-quality gravel roads that I have been passing, and that have been too intimidating for the Concours or the ‘6R.

Update, 2010: Sold the KLR

The KLR was a fun and reliable bike but, in the spring of 2010, I finally admitted to myself that it wasn’t exciting me in the way my ZX-6R had done. The KLR is many things, but sexy is not one of them. Call me shallow, but I discovered I cared about that. If I could keep multiple bikes, I’d certainly have kept the KLR for those things it does well, but I can really only manage one bike. And a really good offer came along for a new last-year ZX-6R, so I sold the KLR and went back to a 2009 ‘6R.

Modifications

Having had quite a few bikes before this one, I’ve developed some habits and preferences on modifications I like to make on bikes. The poor KLR fell prey to tinkering and mods as soon as I brought it home. Here are some of the things I’ve done:

Givi top box mounting plate, allowing a Givi bag to be used as a top box..
Givi panniers, mounted on a Happy Trails SU-rack..
Relocate helmet lock to rear of bike..
ScottOiler automatic chain oiler.

Maintenance

Get a good service manual before doing any servicingDoing minor maintenance on your own bike has several advantages

  • It’s very satisfying, and a big ego boost. Every time I tackle a new maintenance chore, I feel proud (after fixing any screw-ups), and find myself bragging about it to friends who have no idea what I’m talking about.
  • You develop a much better understanding of what’s going on in your bike, which builds confidence and removes some of the mystery.
  • After some investment in tools, it can save you money. Although you pay more for parts than dealers’ internal costs, most maintenance charges are labour and, if you consider doing it yourself a hobby, your labour is free.

I am not a mechanic, but started with a basic tool collection, bought the service manual for my bike, and can follow instructions. I’ve been tackling various maintenance chores of gradually increasing complexity. If I can do these things, you certainly can.

The following photo-journals are my way of getting myself out of trouble if I take something apart and can’t remember what it is supposed to look like reassembled. If they help you decide to tackle a maintenance task, I’m pleased. Use these journals and photos as inspiration, not as instructions — follow the instructions in your maintenance manual.

I’m sure that, in almost every case, there are more efficient ways to do these things. I tend to take a step-by-step approach with no shortcuts, as I’m doing this for fun not for profit.

Basic Tools

Some of the tasks below require specialized tools. But there are certain tools common to almost all maintenance tasks, including a few that, while “optional”, I’ve found to be indispensable and highly recommend. Note: some of these tools are included in the tool kit that came with your bike — you should inspect those and see if you’re satisfied with them (I wasn’t).

Here’s the basic list.

Neighbours in non-metric countries: Japanese bikes use metric fastener sizes. Don’t try to make your imperial tools do the job — you’ll round off bolt heads and cause yourself grief. Get metric tools.

Maintenance Suggestions

Here are some feasible home maintenance chores. These are roughly in order of increasing difficulty, but all are things I have done successfully — so you can too.

These pages are permanently under construction and tend to get attention mainly outside the riding season. Links will be filled in as the appropriate page is ready.

Plan in advance and save time

Take a few minutes to plan your tasks before starting. There are a number of maintenance tasks that it makes sense to do at the same time, based on where you have to go in the bike to do the work. For example, if you have to take off the gas tank to check your valve clearances, that would be a good time to service your spark plugs too. That would make much more sense than having to go through all the effort of taking off the tank and carburetors two times because you didn’t plan to do those chores together.

Minimal disassembly required

Simple to do with only basic tools, saves you money, and improves the health of your bike. A great starter project.
Easy to do and, in dusty or dirty environments, improves performance noticeably.
Easy to do and keeps the engine’s internal counter-balancer in good form, preventing more serious problems. The manual recommends doing this at 5000 km intervals.
Drain sludge and moisture that may have built up in your carburetor bowl. Recommended after long storage.
Called for at the 10,000 km service. Straight forward, but time consuming and more care required.

Things requiring more disassembly

The following chores take somewhat longer because they require access to the engine, which means at least taking off the gas tank, and possibly other disassembly. Don’t let this intimidate you, but do allow lots of time and don’t attempt these when you’re in a hurry.

Remove and inspect plug. Clean and gap, or replace, it.
Simple to do, but very time consuming because the parts you need to access are deep inside, much disassembly required.

One Comment

  1. Great info Richard!
    Thanks for taking the time to post this.

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