17 years ago, Elden discovered the KLR650 was lacking a very important part – it had no
upper chain control wheel. Every other long-travel bike he had ever owned had some way
of keeping the chain running smoothly without flopping around and hitting things – but not
the KLR. Elden ended up drilling a hole though his sub-frame, installing a welded boss,
and bolting in a wheel to keep the chain under control at or near full bump.
Some 12 years later, when I got my first KLR, I realized how important it was to have that
wheel. I found my airbox vent tube torn by the chain which was hitting it during rear
suspension compression. The vent tube is designed to allow water to exit but still keep dirt
and dust from entering the airbox, which would contaminate the air filter faster than usual.
In one case, we found not only the vent tube missing, but the plastic attaching tube on the
bottom of the airbox worn halfway down from contacting the chain.
When Multisurface Motorcycling Products (MMP) first started, we began selling many of the
upgrades that Elden had developed for his KLR’s. The chain wheel he used seemed like
an important item to offer but we didn’t think many KLR owners would go through the
process of drilling the sub-frame, welding, etc. After many months of badgering him and
time spent in research, he developed a bolt-on solution: the Top Gun Chain Master. The
Chain Master is designed to take advantage of existing frame fittings to place a chain roller
in the proper position to control the upper chain run. It is made with only high quality
components, even the included fasteners are significantly stronger than the factory bolts,
effectively upgrading your lower-left sub-frame bolt in the process.
One major benefit of the Chain Master that I like is that it allows earlier engagement of the
counter sprocket by the chain during rear suspension compression. We think this earlier
engagement, combined with less chain slack, should result in longer chain and sprocket life.
We first tested the Chain Master on Elden’s dirt KLR in Baja and found it worked perfectly
(even better than his original unit due to better placement) in controlling the chain from
flailing around while working the suspension hard. The roller showed tell-tale signs of
contact with the chain and no more marks on the vent tube. I immediately put one on my
But how would it work on the street? Elden, with Pauline on the back, and I took a two-day
mountain ride to Big Bear with a new Chain Master on his KLR. It showed all the same
signs of proper chain control. Todd Vosper reports the same is true with Top Gun’s test
2008 KLR. A Chain Master was given to an experienced rider associated with a major
motorcycle publication for testing. During a pit stop, he ran into another KLR rider. The
conversation soon turned to the new Chain Master and the other rider commented that he
didn’t think the KLR needed a chain roller. After a quick explanation of the benefits by the
test rider, they walked over to the other rider’s KLR only to find the vent tube had already
been torn off. Do we think this is a “neccessory?” You bet.
Another Fork Brace Article
I recently read on a KLR650 site where the fork brace was being “embraced” as a
necessary item for the KLR. We have a differing opinion on this subject. Remember,
“opinions are like ***holes, everyone has one”. Our opinions are derived from over a
hundred years of motorcycle experience, the many opinions of experts in their field that
have been consulted to solve or find out the correct information and personal testing of
many products. We would never only rely on Internet opinions.
There are only two basic problems I’ve heard people talk about that make them think a
fork brace is needed. The KLR650 is unstable in the wind on the highway and not
planted well through corners; neither of which is properly solved with a fork brace.
We think that the notion that the KLR650 forks are spindly came from a comment made
by a well known motorcycle racer that said the forks would bend if you did a “stoppee”.
That might have planted the seed that the forks needed help (even if true, how many of us
do stoppies on a KLR).
Some years ago Elden discovered that the KLR650 steering tended to loosen over time
and even self-destruct if not adjusted. I can attest to that because mine did just that.
Loose steering equates to poor handling in the wind or in cornering and after proper
adjustment these problems disappeared. Elden also found that the triple-clamp bolts (4
per side) were often loose and once tightened to 18 lbs with proper steering adjustment
made steering more solid.
One of the many riders we’ve helped is Dave Waters, who with his girlfriend, rode curvy
Hwy 94 from El Cajon to Tecate Mexico for breakfast on a rather windy day. His only
comment upon arrival was, “I couldn’t have done that ride before you guys adjusted the
Johnny Campbell, the Team Honda Baja Champion, was asked to try a fork brace on
his race bike. After the first test ride he told his mechanic to take it off and throw
it away. He said that the forks needed some flex to operate properly and he never
wanted to see another fork brace on his bike. The KLR is not an XR650R but the same
principal applies. Elden and I have done a lot of hard Baja dirt miles without fork braces
and have never experienced fork problems, nor have any of the other riders that have
been with us – all without braces.
There is one instance where a fork brace might be helpful. If you’re a hard-charging
canyon rider with an oversize rotor and two puck caliper and really brake hard into
corners, then it might help.
We like to pass along comments from customers who use our products. Here’s one from
“Just thought I’d drop you a line to tell you how pleased I am with the 6.6 kg spring I
installed on my KLR650 prior to my trip to Inuvik, NWT, the Yukon, and Alaska this summer.
I got back on 8/5/07 and after over 10K miles this trip, I couldn’t be happier with how the
rear end handled both the loaded bike and the roads – highway, gravel, rotten, and muddy
rain soaked. One wouldn’t think that something this simple would work so well or make that
huge a difference.” Thanks Mike!