by Elden Carl
When I first started having my competition and Baja dirt bike wheels built by Buchanan’s
it was the 1970s and the current President and General Manager Robert Buchanan was
about 10 years old. At the time, Buchanan’s featured D.I.D dimpled rims with their fine
stainless steel spokes and nipples.
Since that time, Takasago has taken the spoked-rim world by storm, much to my
sadness. Over time I have had to replace a number of Takasago XL rims due to cracks
in the area where the spoke nipples exit the dimpled rim. That never happened with my
A few years ago I sold an old 1.85×21″ front D.I.D. rim to Rod Morris because it wasn’t a
perfect color match to my rear Takasago XL; huge mistake. That rim, which had been
through all types of terrain including rocks, didn’t have a single ding or crack in it.
Unfortunately, Rod won’t swap it back for even two of my Takasago rims.
What’s the solution ? When and if you decide to put a proper size rim on the front of
your 1987- 2008 KLR (1.60 is too narrow), be sure and install either a “Sun” or a “non-
dimpled Takasago XL”. According to Robert Buchanan the non-dimpled rims suffer far
fewer cracks. Of course if you don’t ride aggressively off-road and two-up on harder,
rocky surfaces, you may not have a problem. When in doubt – inspect for cracks.
Technical Note: Top Gun and H.D.T., the U.S Marine KLR-650 builders, do not use fork
braces Even on pre-2008 KLRs. Top Gun stiffens their KLR front ends by:
- Proper triple clamp bearing adjustment (on the tight side).
- Careful torquing of all triple clamp and axle bolts.
- A stiffer front rim, either 1.85 or 2.15 depending on the tire application.
Be smart, use your fork brace money to buy a proper fitting rim. Buchanan’s will drill your
rim for the stock nipples or sell you a set of their fine stainless spokes and nipples.
Remember, by world standards the stock 1.60 rim on the KLR650 is too narrow (and
a 90/90X21 front tire.
Contact Top Gun for proper rim to tire recommendations. We also sell Buchanan
Harley and the Handicapped, by Elden Carl
Every Thursday Pauline and I go to dinner to show off her weekly, fresh hair-do. We call
it “hairnite dinner”.
Upon leaving the restaurant we noted that there was a Harley in one of several
handicapped parking spaces. I commented to Pauline that the guy was taking a chance
on big fine thinking he must be an illegal parker. As we walked around the rear of the
large heavy dresser we discovered much to our surprise that it was equipped with a
handicapped license plate. We wondered aloud how a handicapped person could push
around a motorcycle that heavy. I’m sure if we asked our doctor for a handicapped
motorcycle plate she would refuse saying that in no way do truly handicapped people
and motorcycles go together.
I have since seen another Harley with a handicapped plate and still wonder about the
rationale that permits such a thing. Maybe picking a heavy two-wheeler off the sidestand
and rolling it backwards into a driveway is less strenuous than parking a car and then
walking across a parking lot.
Anyone have any ideas on this subject?
A “WOW” Baja Test for the DR650
While others spend their time making the DR650 (and some KLR650s) less reliable by
over tuning, we at Top Gun prefer to concentrate on chassis, wheels, tires, suspension,
and gearing. We have several configurations for the DR650 which range from a lowered
canyon scratcher to a long travel, cartridge forked dirt model.
The other day I decided to try something different in Baja where our favorite road, the El
Compadre, has recently been damaged by summer storms and flash floods.
I took the street bike and replaced the 18″/19″ street wheels with 17″/21″ fresh
Trailwings. I also increased the rake and trail slightly with a longer rear link.
The results were very satisfying for the 255 miles of varied types of roads including a
rather challenging 80 miles of dirt in the rain-ravaged mountains east of Ensenada.
Despite losing approximately 1-1/2 inches of overall suspension travel during the
lowering process, the bike worked better than any DR650 I’ve ridden off road (except for
the cartridge front forks on our dirt model). If I had to guess I would say that the
increased over-lap on the front forks and a swing arm running more parallel to the
surface were mostly responsible for the improvement. Don’t sell the lower center of
gravity short; the thing handled like a flat tracker, being very easy to steer with the rear
There are only a couple of negatives to our new lower Baja DR650:
- It steers a little slower on the pavement than we would like (the 21″ front wheel is
more the problem than the slightly increased rake and trail).
- Folks who think the DR650 is a dirt bike (it’s not) and would prefer to slam into Z-
outs and jump off of ledges will not like the loss of 1-1/2 inches of suspension
As an added benefit, having the seat closer to the ground will not be a handicap for the
inseam challenged guys.
Despite having erred by not using full knobbies for this trip, I’m very happy with the
overall results. So much so that I plan on talking to Todd Vosper about the possibility of
making these modifications available to the public through Top Gun. Stay tuned.
Deadly Highway 94, by Rod Morris
Just about any motorcyclist in the San Diego area knows that rural Hwy 94 is one of the
best motorcycle roads around. The fun parts start at Honey Springs Rd. and Otay Lakes
Rd. in the southeast part of San Diego County and ends in the Boulevard area, some
45+ miles later. It’s a two lane paved road with a great mix of straight stretches. sweeping
curves, and lots of fast twisties.
I feel very lucky to reside at the far east end of this great road with the opportunity to
ride it on a regular basis over the past 22 years. Elden would come east and I would
come west to meet for breakfast two or three times a week at several of the restaurants
along the route, or run into Tecate, Mexico to our favorite breakfast spot, “La Fogata”
(the fire pit).
In the earlier years we had much of the road to ourselves with very little traffic except for
the morning stampede coming through the border crossing in the morning which we
avoided like the plague. That’s all changed in the past few years as more and more
people (bikes and cars) have discovered the beauty and quaintness of the backcountry.
Now the weekends especially are flooded with large groups of every type bike sold,
Sunday drivers, and slow moving rigs of all sorts.
There’s a group of 20-30 sport bike riders that frequent Highway 94 almost every
Sunday. They come east from Otay lakes Rd. at about 0900 and end up at the Potrero
Cafe. The Cafe is run by Edith, who used to operate out of the Twin Lakes Cafe which
was off the beaten track and not everyone knew where it was. Since moving to the
Potrero Cafe right on Hwy 94, business has tripled on the weekends with motorcycles.
The food is still good and Edith is certainly not hard to look at.
Elden and I have encountered this group going to and from the Cafe on several
occasions and although we like to sometimes mix it up with other bikes, our encounters
with this group have been dangerous and scary at times. We’ve seen some pretty hairy
passes on blind curves and on-the-edge corners everywhere. With us being on little old
singles, they seem to take great delight in buzzing past us in the straight-a-ways and that
often gets our adrenaline flowing; if we can be with them in the curvy stuff, horsepower
doesn’t always matter. We like riding fast but that stops when things become too
While this all might sound like a thrilling adventure (it is to a point), this group has
suffered 3 fatalities in the past year and that still hasn’t slowed them down. One time a
bike passed me as we came upon a slow moving truck and trailer, and as the truck
started around a blind right hand turn, he passed. I let off the gas and put the brakes on
so I wouldn’t be hit by flying debris. Well, he made it that time (just as a car came the
other way). Elden experienced a similar event except that rider did it with a passenger.
The Highway Patrol works Hwy 94 on the ground and by air on the weekends now
because of all the complaints and number of motorcycle crashes and fatalities, so if you
want to ride this great motorcycle road, do it safely and don’t become one of the