From Atomic Submarine to a MSM DR650

by Elden Carl

In the middle of June we got a phone call from Tom Hawkins, our Hawaiian MSM
Squadron One member who opened by saying, “Hey Elden, I have a conference of
several days in San Diego.  Do you and Pauline have time for dinner before I return to
Hawaii?” I of course answered, “yes” and we set a date for our get together. A week later
Tom, Pauline and I were enjoying a good “all you can eat” dinner when it was revealed
that Tom had one free day during his conference. Since he had never ridden a DR650, I
invited him to ride my” tricked out” and lowered DR650. The day before our ride Tom
called me to report that his schedule had changed and he was left with only two hours
for our ride. I said, “let’s do it”, and set about prepping the DR and KLR. On ride day
Tom arrived ready to go, but reminded me again that he had to be back in his car and
headed west in exactly two hours.

Now the interesting part. I’ve known Tom for quite awhile and Pauline and I had the
honor of attending a ceremony on the day a few years ago when CAPT Tom Hawkins
added “USN retired  to his title.

What I didn’t know was exactly what pace he could keep riding a strange bike for 100
miles over 30 miles of freeway, 55 miles of twisty mountain roads and 15 miles of narrow
bumpy U.S. Forestry roads. Tom’s in great physical condition and younger than my
youngest son, but being an “in shape” former atomic submarine commander (USS Pogy)
didn’t necessarily qualify him to average better than 50 mph (including potty stops) for
almost two hours over mostly challenging roads. So how did we fare? Well, we arrived
back at the house at 10:43 with just 7 minutes to spare.

In retrospect, planning a ride without full knowledge of your co-riders capabilities is no
guarantee for success, but in this case we got lucky. I was not surprised when MSM
Squadron One’s skipper and former fighter pilot, Major Todd Vosper (USMC retired),
displayed a learning curve similar to the take off of an AV-8 but apparently standing at
the helm of an atomic submarine is no handicap if you are equipped with what it takes to
ride a MSM well. As they say, “practice makes perfect”.  By the way, Tom loved my
DR650.

Spring Into Action, by Rod Morris

Elden Carl had worked for a long time (starting in 1990) figuring out the best spring rate
for the stock KLR650 rear shock. He contacted some of the top motorcycle suspension
experts for answers. Among the experts he spoke with were Stig Pettersson of Petersson
Pro Suspension,  Tom Moen of KTM, Charles Curnutt – father of long travel suspension,
and Bob Bell of Team Honda.

Research and testing revealed that for a 170 to 225 pound rider not carrying a heavy load
a 6.6 kg (yellow) straight wound spring gave the best results for ride height and usable
piston stroke. The problem is many KLR650 riders weigh more than 200 lbs and carry
heavy loads. It became obvious that Top Gun would have to produce a more than a 6.6 kg
spring for the KLR650. A next generation spring at 7.4kgs (white) was added to the mix
and we thought all bases were covered upto about 280lbs. We then started hearing
from the really big guys of 280 to 325lbs. The latest new spring is now at 8.0 kg (gray).

Top Gun Spring Selection Left to right, 6.6kg, 7.4kg, 8.0kg.

Top Gun Spring Selection
Left to right, 6.6kg, 7.4kg, 8.0kg.

These three springs are manufactured to Top Guns specifications from the highest
quality materials, and designed specifically for the KLR650. It’s unlikely that we will offer
a spring heavier than the 8.0 due to limited space and the inherent limits caused by the
design of the stock shock.

Customer Comments

We always like to share comments from customers about our products and here are two
by satisfied riders.

“The heavy duty spring (6.6kg) replacement for my rear shock that you guys put on for
me is holding up great. Given my weight, 220 lbs, it makes a huge difference.  It’s been
the best upgrade I’ve done to my KLR. Thanks again!!!”

“I wanted to give you an update on the Top Gun spring I installed on my KLR650 last
week. I was concerned that the ride would be too harsh, not the case at all. In fact I have
the pre-load as low as it will go and have sufficient height for a correct sag. The ride is
as smooth as before with more competent feeling while running curves. I have not ridden
the bike with fully load side bags, but I do feel more than confident with the heavier
spring. I would recommend the MMP/Top Gun spring. As you know I purchased the 8.0
kg heavier spring.”

– Mike H

Should we ever receive a negative comment on any of our products, we will also gladly
share that with you.