Several months ago, Jay Bass, Rod Morris, and I were north bound in Baja near Punta
Prieta when we passed three north bound KLR650s which we later found out were piloted
by Phillip Orth of Sierra Vista, Arizona and two female companions.
Meredith, one of the two ladies, phoned me the other day from Mexico near Cancun to
discuss transmission problems in her pre-2008 KLR650. Meredith informed me that her
stock shift lever had broken and was being welded. If you have a pre-2007 KLR650, one of
the first things you should do is replace the crummy stock shift lever with one from MMP. I
broke three shifters in the early 90’s before eventually convincing Chuck MacDonald of
“MacDonald Products” that he should be the first one to make a reliable replacement part.
Chuck agreed and presented me with a copy of the first run with my name stamped on it.
That lever is still doing duty on my main KLR after more than a decade of being moved up
The other problem Meredith reported was that her transmission would not stay in second
gear, popping into neutral unless held in position with the shift lever. This condition sounds
like a shift fork and/or gear problem which would probably mean splitting the cases, unless
there is some mitigating circumstance that Meredith is not aware of. Hopefully, since she
still has 3rd, 4th and 5th working, she’ll head for the nearest authorized shop that can do
the repairs. We’ll report any further contacts with Meredith.
Our KLR650 group with over 1/2 million KLR miles has never had a transmission problem;
but we do know of two failures, the first of which destroyed the crankcases. That engine
was murdered with 16/43 gearing and huge increases in two-up weight and wind drag
caused by big metal boxes etc.
If you have to carry big weight, push a big fairing and drag large boxes with your KLR650,
do yourself a favor and change gearing.
Two-up and running off road Pauline and I use 15/47. We never get higher than 15/45. In
over 215,000 miles on several KLRs I’ve never had a mechanical failure other than
Thailand valve seals and a poor valve job on our 2005 at 11,000 miles (thankfully I was
only 30 miles from home).
Remember, your KLR650 single comes equipped with one spark plug and it only fires once
every 720 degrees. If you want it to live, don’t lug it; let it spin.
Big Jim Bellach, by Elden Carl
I’ve lost interest in the around-the-world crowd a long time ago. I realized early on that you
can’t go around the world unless your vehicle is amphibious. The long distance folks I’m
most interested in are the ones who travel from near the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego
like Avi Fischali and his two Israeli buddies.
Melvyn Clark for example has put 90,000 miles on an 03′ KLR650 traveling and living all
over North America.
Big Jim Bellach who’s head touches low hanging clouds blew his balancer system and
engine just weeks after I had warned him and Kurt Grife about KLR balancer problems.
Kurt’s engine blew for the same reason about the same time. The remains of Jim’s KLR
now reside in my shed. Mr. Bellach decided that since he was going to travel all over North
and South America for years to come he’d better get a powerful, long-lived, two wheeler.
Fast forward several years and Jim has just purchased his second Suzuki V-Strom 1000.
The first one has passed 100,000 miles without major problems. If you are a really big guy
like Jim and carry lots of gear on you motorcycle, a long travel sports-tourer like the Suzuki
V-Strom should be considered. They aren’t multisurface motorcycles but for most of the
main roads in North and South America, you don’t really need that capability. Long legs
can carry you a long way.