For years some KLR650 owners have been installing a fork brace for the wrong reason
and we’ve been writing about why not to install a fork brace on a KLR650 at any time.
Lots of KLR650 owners have complained over the years about the KLR being unstable
during windy conditions and cornering. Somewhere along the way the aftermarket
picked up on this and decided that the KLR needed a fork brace to fix the problem and
also to stiffen the spindly forks. In the latter case, Kawasaki came out with larger forks
in 2008 that were supposed to fix that problem but in the process they shortened travel
by 1″ (1″ shorter travel in the rear shock also). The 1″ was probably done to get the
rather tall KLR to sit lower so owners could get their feet on the ground.
Our KLR650 expert Elden Carl, along with Joe Carpenter and I have been riding KLRs
both on and off road in a very aggressive manner for years and have never felt the
need for a fork brace in the dirt or on the street. In fact, Johnny Campbell, Honda Race
Team Member (ret.) and multi-winner of the Baja 1000 once tried a fork brace on his
race bike. After one trial ride he came back and told his mechanics to take it off and
throw it away because it was too dangerous to use and wouldn’t let the forks flex the
way they should. “But that was in Baja race conditions you say and I mostly ride on
pavement with an occasional ride off-road on Forestry roads” – and you are right to a
point. A fork brace does have its place which I’ll get into later.
Over the years we’ve helped many KLR owners get their bikes set-up correctly and
safely, but one in particular sticks in my mind. He (I’ll call him Tom) had purchased a
used bike from a rather unscrupulous person that pasted this bike together after a
crash and never said a word about it – just got the money and ran.
Take my word for it; this bike needed some serious help from front to back. One of the
owner’s complaints was the way the bike handled and he asked if he needed a fork
brace. We said, NO. Once the bike was back in shape the owner and his lovely wife
came to give it a test ride before taking it home. Elden and I suggested going to
Tecate, Mexico for breakfast up one of the best motorcycle roads in San Diego County,
Hwy 94. So off we went with the two-up couple for what was a very windy ride. At
breakfast Tom commented that he had gotten a little nervous being two-up with so
much wind but that the bike handled like a dream – what did we do to make it handle so
well? There was a very simple answer; we adjusted the steering bearings (which were
very loose). Tom said that he doesn’t think he could have ridden that road with all that
wind before we worked on his bike. We had been extolling the importance of proper
steering adjustment for years to fix the sometimes unruly steering on the KLR and that
a fork brace will not fix loose bearings. If you run them loose, you’ll be changing both
bearings and races (not an easy or fun job).
Now, when is the time to consider a fork brace for a KLR650? There’s only one time
and that’s for the very aggressive street rider where hard braking into corners can be
improved with a fork brace. For years, the only fork braces available for the KLR650
were big bulky heavy units that didn’t fit well and actually hindered good steering.
Elden remembered years ago that there was a company that made an excellent
fitting, light brace and he wondered if they were still around. He found that they were
still in business and had a fork brace for the KLR650. The name of the fork brace
is Telefix and they’re made in Germany. Elden ordered two and I ordered one. It
was one of the easiest pieces to install and the result on the street was amazing.
The front end felt planted under hard braking and the front never wavered
during fast cornering – what an improvement.
With any aftermarket product a person buys there seems to be some sort of
downside and the Telefix has two. First, it’s somewhat expensive and second, you
have to deal directly with the company in Germany so shipping takes a little long
and you can’t enjoy the brace immediately!
So you see, there is a time for a fork brace on a KLR650. Now the question is –
do you need a fork brace? For about 99% of KLR owners the answer is “no”. Ask
yourself: “Am I an aggressive street rider? Do I use street only tires? Do I use a 19″
front wheel? Do I want to spend several hundred dollars?”
For years now Elden and I have not said many good things about fork braces and now
we both use them, but only for the street, we would never consider using a brace on
our dirt KLRs.
If you only remember one thing out of this whole article, let it be this: you don’t use a
fork brace to correct poor handling. Adjust those steering bearings. If you’re not sure
how to do it, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.