Back in the last century I purchased my first KLR650 in the spring of 1990 with the intention of developing it for serious multisurface riding. Before major work began I installed a set of knobbies on the stock unit and headed into Baja with Bob Kornafel who was riding his XT600 Yamaha.
Our two day ride was long and challenging with lots of difficult terrain to negotiate including deep sand. The ride was not only tiring for Bob and me, but it revealed weaknesses in both so-called dual-sport motorcycles. I’ll go into detail in some future article, but for now let’s focus on just one thing: chain control or lack thereof in the case of the KLR650.
During inspection up on the “Handylift” I discovered a drain spout missing from the bottom of the air box just above the upper run of the drive chain. “Look Ma! No upper chain control!” Not only was the air box and its spout getting beat up, but there was way too much slack in the chain at or near full bump.
I immediately began to design an upper chain control bracket and wheel with some fabricating help from Chuck MacDonald of MacDonald Products, who later at my request produced a bullet proof shift lever to replace the constantly failing stock piece of junk.
The first two KLR Chain Master test units were installed on my KLR and that of “KLR” Kurt’s. We both noticed a significant increase (in Kurt’s case a dramatic increase) in chain life and no more air box damage. Removing 15 or 20 percent of chain slack (at full compression) does have a positive effect on chain life.
For those of you who have an E-model KLR650 (2008 to present), the Top Gun Chain Master is still important because the upper limits of rear wheel movement, despite the E’s shorter travel, is almost the same, thereby putting the bottom of the air box and its spout in danger of being damaged. In short I would not have any KLR650 sans upper chain control.
For those of you who, like me, have a Suzuki DR650SE there is a different problem. The DR has an upper chain wheel but it is poorly located (too far forward) and prone to breakage. Almost 20 years later and Suzuki still hasn’t fixed the problem, but we have.
I have had a DR650SE since the 2002 model but did most of my off-road in tandem with Pauline on the KLR650. In 2009 I began to ride the DR more off road in Baja. Upon returning from a long, mostly off-road ride with Rod Morris, I discovered my chain wheel was ripped out of the frame and probably lying somewhere in Mexico. The chain wheel threaded boss which had been welded into the frame had ripped out, leaving a quarter size hole.
I had Vey de la Cruz machine a plug which was welded into the frame after disconnecting the battery and all the electrics (important). Not wanting any more “bad weld” trouble I invented a bolt-on upper chain control unit. The DR Chain Master was much more difficult to R&D than that for the KLR650, but it flat works
I’ve been testing on and off-road for more than 3 years without a single failure, and I can now announce that the Top Gun Chain Master for the DR650SE is finally available for sale through MMP.
Installation Instructions for the DR Chain Master
- Remove the counter sprocket cover.
- Remove the long cross-frame upper rear engine mount bolt and left spacer.
- Remove the stock upper chain wheel along with its bolt and washers. Retain for use along with stock spacer.
- Install silicon seal in the 8mm hole left in the frame.
- Install the Chain Master followed by the two spacers: one long and one shim. Note: the size of the weld on the frame will determine which side of the long spacer to use the shim washer, but you must use both spacers.
- Reinstall and torque the engine mount cross-bolt while gently pushing upward on the Chain Master so that it contacts the frame cross member. (Don’t forget to install the short right hand stock spacer).
- Reinstall the counter-sprocket cover and its 3 bolts.
Now, go riding!!