Setting Up KLR650 “A” Front Forks

I’m not aware of any conventional forks that function better than those found on the
original 1987 through 2007 KL650 A. The new “E” model forks have (according to our
calculations) 10% greater cross-section area and have a four bolt fork alignment axle
cap, but I like the longer travel and smoother damping characteristics of a properly set-
up “A” model forks.

The biggest problem with the “A” model fork is that it doesn’t matter how much you
improve the springing and damping, you will have fork bind unless the two fork tubes are
stroking perfectly parallel to each other.

Some “A” model forks are O.K., but others come from the factory misaligned as much as .
050” which will create a huge amount of stiction and fork wear.

Checking fork alignment is a must on 1987 – 2007 KL650A forks.

My “A” model fork alignment procedure goes as follows:

 

  1. Securely fasten the rear of the motorcycle so it can’t move or tip over.
  2. Once the rear of the M/C is secured; carefully jack up the front wheel until it’s
    slightly off the surface.
  3. Loosen the (4) upper triple clamp fasteners. (Loosen and re-adjust fork brace
    later).
  4. Remove the fork caps, spacers, washers and springs from the fork tubes.
  5. Slowly push the front wheel upward until it reaches full overlap (bottoms out).
  6. Support the wheel in this position so it will stay put and not slide back down (keep
    it straight).
  7. Remove the brake caliper and hang it out of the way.
  8. Loosen the front axle nut and back it off a couple of turns.
  9. Put your thumbs against the right lower fork tube and using the spokes, gently pull
    the wheel assembly toward the speedo drive side.
  10. Now, using a feeler gauge, measure any space, if it exists, between the left wheel
    spacer and inner fork surface.
  11. If you find a space, install the proper shim or shims on the axle between the
    speedo drive box and its inside fork mating surface.
  12. At this point tighten and torque the axle nut.
  13. Next, carefully remove the front wheel support and slowly stroke the forks from
    open to close a few times to make sure the action is smooth. (NOTE:  If you
    removed and reinstalled the fork springs slowly and stroked the forks
    carefully, you should not have lost a significant amount of fork oil. If you
    got sloppy, you should recheck the oil level.)
  14. Carefully reinstall all the previously removed parts in the reverse order being
    careful to properly torque all fasteners to factory specs.


Once I had discovered and fixed the “A” model fork misalignment and stiction problem in
1991, I was on my way to great front suspension. The details are for another article.

If you have an “A” model of any year, don’t believe the “you gotta have a fork brace
crowd”. The only time we use our light, strong “Telefix” fork brace is with 19” front canyon
scratching street rubbber and oversize E.B.C. floating front discs. I bet that even if KLR’s
go to 50mm forks, someone will still be trying to sell you a fork brace. Buyer beware.
In closing I’ll just repeat: “Proper fork alignment is critical to good front suspension action
on any motorcycle. Proper springs and preload, oil type, oil level and torquing of all
fasteners in the proper sequence and to the proper factory settings is most of the rest of
the story.

If you don’t believe me, ask my wonderful wife and co-rider, Pauline Read who has tens
of thousands of dirt road miles including almost every road in Baja Norte and Sur.
A great “suspension triad”: Brunton, Ramos or Renazco seat, P.P.S./Top Gun anodized
and honed front fork lowers, P.P.S./Ohlins rear suspension and good tires properly aired
down when off road(16psi front, 14psi rear) have prevented many crashes and
backaches.

Our principal riding companion Rod Morris has a nearly identical suspension triad set-up
on his multisurface KL650 A10. We try to keep Rod on rougher surfaces so he doesn’t
get “rocked” (no pun intended) to sleep and disappear over the side when we’re not
looking.

All kidding aside, a properly dialed-in suspension triad is important not only for your
comfort level but more importantly, for your safety. Rod Morris of MMP on this website
can help you get your suspenders set-up with the proper springs and damping.  Good
luck.