by Elden Carl
As you may know, Top Gun is doing a study of the 2008 KLR650. We had made many
improvements on our 2008 before we confirmed that we had an oil guzzler on our hands.
We attempted to get Kawasaki to fix the problem within the one year warranty period only
to be told that using 1 liter of oil in less than 1,000 miles was normal for a KLR650. Bull
We decided to employ the services of master engine builder Vey de la Cruz in an effort
to correct the problem and at the same time professionally document the process.
What we discovered confirmed what I have known for years. The problem is a crappy
cylinder liner and not the rings as Kawasaki has claimed. After all, round rings don’t seal
well in an oval cylinders.
Our KLR650 was not the only oil guzzler in Vey’s shop. Keeping our 2008 company was
a pre-2008 owned by Phil R. with the identical problem and diagnosis.
Todd Vosper will put all the developing details up on Top Gun’s website as they occur.
I can tell you this, the permanent cure for this 20+ year KLR650 oil consumption problem
has been accomplished with our 2008.
- An MMP forged stock bore and stock compression piston and rings.
- An “LA Sleeve” ductile-iron, spun-cast cylinder liner and careful set-up and
assembly by Vey de la Cruz.
The Fuel Crisis and Motorcycles
Since I buy most of my fuel for cars and motorcycles in Baja Mexico near my home, I
haven’t been affected much by gas prices. Regular gas at the border is $2.80 per
gallon. The price drops to $2.60 about 50 miles south of the border (Ensenada etc.)
Motorcycle dealers are selling scooters and small bikes as fast as they can get them. A
record number of inexperienced riders are hitting the roads just as traffic is becoming
more and more dangerous with which to cope. We shouldn’t be surprised to see
motorcycle injury and death rates climb dramatically.
If you are a new rider, for the sake of your continued good health, take a motorcycle
safety course or two and better yet, don’t hit the road until you are a competent rider.
If you are in the market for two wheels, shun small wheeled scooters in favor of light,
agile motorcycles like the Honda 250 Nighthawk which, according to “Cycle World”, gets
90 mpg. The 250 Nighthawk is easy to service and has a top speed of 77 mph. If you
buy or own a high revving air-cooled motorcycle, do yourself and your engine a favor
and keep it lubed it with top quality full-synthetic motorcycle specific oil (Mobil 1, Spectro
Platinum 4 etc.).
Remember, low quality oil results in shorter engine life.
You Can’t Win Them All
The roads and highways of the U.S. of A. have become increasingly dangerous since I
started riding in 1953. I bought my first M/C after completing my Korean War military
service, so I’ve had plenty of years to witness the changes. The coming of SUVs and
electronic gadgets have combined with dramatically growing numbers of 4 to 18-
wheelers resulting in ever increasing dangers for the unprotected motorcyclist.
In my own case I have had a half dozen miraculous escapes from collisions. I began
riding almost a million miles and 53 years ago without an accident. That record ended on
September 2nd, 2007, when a reckless 17 year old came rapidly out of a partially
obscured driveway on a curve, backwards across two lanes of traffic and a double yellow
line (she wanted to go east, I was going west). I’m able to write this only because I
avoided colliding with the side of her vehicle by throwing my KLR650 hard left and again
right in an effort to escape around the backside of her car. I thought I had made it, but
hadn’t realized that she was arcing toward me and increasing her speed. The corner of
her car contacted the last 4 feet of my KLR damaging my right foot and totaling my
engine (and motorcycle). The impact from landing on my head and shoulder at around 3
mph broke 4 ribs and punctured a lung, but the “Arai” helmet and padded jacket saved
the day and lots of skin.
The teenager seemed uninterested in the damage she had caused and only one of
three men present offered help; the other two just bent over me and asked me about my
speed as I was going into shock. Thankfully the ambulance relieved me of their
company. My hope is that the six-figure hit her dad’s insurance company took will keep
Miss R. out of her car for awhile.
What did I learn from my 1st collision with a car?
- If I had been on my 45 lb lighter 19″/18″ street wheeled and lowered DR650, I
might have made up the 4 foot/.20 second deficit and escaped without contacting
the corner of the car.
- I will ride only my lighter, quicker turning DR650 in the increasingly dangerous
urban environment until I can improve on it with an even more agile, lighter weight,
and quicker accelerating motorcycle.
By the way, I want to thank Dr. Anthony Sanzone and his team at the Scripps Trauma
Center for two great surgeries on my right foot. Their alignment and repair of three
broken toes, some tendons and nerves was spectacular resulting in what will be, in
another few months, almost 100% recovery (the limp is already gone). The best part is
that Pauline isn’t demanding that I quit riding motorcycles nor does she want to get off
the back of the KLR as long as we are rural MSM riding. My wonderful “smarter than
me” wife gave up riding in the urban jungle quite some time ago. My first thought after
hitting the ground on September 2, 2007 was, “thank God Pauline wasn’t on the back”. I
have already replaced my totaled 2005 KLR650 with a 2004 low-mileage KLR. Pauline,
however, as anyone who knows her can tell you is literally an irreplaceable, one-of-a-
kind. She’s a heck of a nurse too.