Never has such a frivolous word been used to describe such a dangerous motorcycle
engine part. Yes, indeed the late Jake Jakeman of Sagebrush Engineering had a sense
of humor. Who’s Jake Jakeman you ask? Well, he’s the guy who furnished the KLR650
world with the first good balancer adjustment lever. Hundred thousand mile plus KLR650
rider Kurt Grife has had a Jake lever in his engine since the first good ones came off the
Unfortunately the early Jake lever I received did not fit well so I turned to Eagle
Manufacturing and the rest as they say is history. My role in the Eagle lever was selfish;
my KLR A3 was going to stay parked until I found an unbreakable replacement part. I
provided a factory lever and upon Mike’s request, I mocked up the first pilot part on an
engine I was building. The lever fit well except it needed to be radiused so it would not
come in contact with the back of the spinning rotor. I so advised Mike, the change was
made and production began.
Now, fast forward to 2008. After numerous blown engines and an untold number of
crashes and near crashes, Kawasaki finally trumps the aftermarket with the toughest and
best KLR doohickey available since the first one was installed in the KLR600 in 1984.
Where were your engineers for 24 years Mr. Kawasaki?
The new “E” model lever not only fits all earlier model KLR’s, but the factory made the
adjustment blade 2mm thicker which eliminated the slippery washer.
Kawasaki also addressed the problem of spring breakage by “beefing” up the new one a
bit. The problem is that in order not to over pre-load the spring, the factory made it too
long which means it will reach coil bind (no space between the coils) and not adjust after
20 to 30 thousand miles.
Ever since I saw the first doohickey torsion spring years ago at one of the un-tech
sessions, I knew it was wrong. I didn’t have the guts to tell the old guy who came up with
the idea what I really thought, so I just told him he had an interesting concept.
The problems with the torsion spring are: 1) It can’t be inspected through our inspection
hole from outside the engine. If one of the potentially brittle bends break, you’ll only find
out the hard way. 2) You have to drill a hole near the doohickey to install the spring. 3)
You cannot control the spring pre-load thereby potentially overloading the idler bearing
and shaft. Additionally the front and rear balancer sprockets (teeth and rubber) wear
over time and you may run out of adjustment without knowing.
For the first time in almost 22 years and 270,000 plus miles of multisurface KLR650
riding, I am finally happy with my balancer adjustment system. Thanks to help from ace
mechanical engineer Scott Wexman, I have an easy to install inspection hole so spring
tension can be constantly monitored from outside the engine at each oil change. I also
found a reliable doohickey extension spring inside of an existing engine which I made
adjustable. What that means is that I can set doohickey spring tension at installation time
later when sprocket rubber compaction and tooth wear results in the spring nearing coil
bind, I can retention the spring. When further wear causes the spring to again near coil
bind and it’s time to install new front and rear balancer sprockets.
With the new E-model factory doohickey, Wexman/Carl inspection port adjustable MMP
doohickey spring and maybe one change of front and rear balancer sprockets I see
clear sailing ahead.
Ed Runnels, our engine and suspension guy and I just rebuilt the Joe Carpenter/Rod
Morris 1996 KLR650A which had 55,610 miles on the clock. Despite the fact that Joe
and Rod are the hardest riding and best KLR dirt riders Pauline and I have ever ridden
with, the engines bottom end looked like new (no bent shift forks or chipped gears etc.).
Ed and I installed new front and rear balancer sprockets and returned the special
adjustment spring back to it’s long configuration. Rod’s balancer system complete with
factory “E” model doohickey is good for another 50,000 miles when it can again be
renewed from the left side.
I’ll let Rod report to you on the effects of bullet proofing his top end with an LA Sleeve
and stock bore/compression CP forged piston. Rod reports his A12 has never run as well
as it does today and it ran plenty strong before.
All of us who ride a KLR600, a KLR650B or any of the KLR650A’s from 1987 thru 2007
owe a debt of gratitude to Sagebrush and Eagle for seeing us through the dark years of
exploding doohickeys (R.I.P. Jake).
My best advice to “E” model owners (2008 – Present) is that your bike’s balancer system
comes equipped with the toughest and best doohickey available and it’s spring is fine for
now. It would be an act of foolishness to replace the stock doohickey and even worse to
install a torsion spring; the likes of which I’ve never seen inside an engine in 55 plus year
of building and working on motorcycle power plants.
The best thing you can do for your own safety is to install an inspection port in 2008 –
Present “E” models. When you “see” that your stock doohickey spring is near coil bind,
MMP can furnish you with the adjustable spring set we use and you’re good for a long
time. Remember, if the torsion spring with it’s sharp potentially brittle bends that you
installed in your new “E” model KLR lets go and blows your engine, Kawasaki will void the
warranty. In fact, any after market parts found in your engine at tear down will void your
Hopefully a blown engine caused by a jammed gear box or balancer system failure won’t
lock up the rear wheel and put you down. Ask Kurt Grife and Big Jim Bellach what it’s like
to have your rear wheel suddenly lock-up. It “ain’t” fun!