10 Year Anniversary Writing about KLR650’s

If you’re reading this article then you already are aware that there have been some recent
site changes. Here’s how it breaks down now:

www.multisurfacemotorcycling.com(MSM) –  MSM will maintain archived FFT articles,
procedures and Multisurface Motorcycle Products (MMP).

www.topgunmotorcycles.com (TGMP) -“Fuel For Thought” (FFT) will appear on this site
monthly with articles by me, Rod Morris. Elden Carl will be writing “Technical Insights” and
Todd Vosper will have “Contact Patch”.

November of this year will mark the tenth anniversary of Elden Carl’s first KLR650 article
that appeared in “Kawasaki 650 Dual Sport News.” Elden’s first article appeared in the
November/December 1997 edition and was called “Carl’s Corner” featuring “Technical
Insights” (now reborn on topgunmotorcycles.com). An interesting aside is that in the same
issue, there is an article by a real KLR650 aftermarket pioneer, David “Jake” Jakeman.

Jake heard about cruiser pegs for the KLR and had a pair to test. There is a photo
showing the new pegs installed and another with Jake on his 1988 KLR650, feet on the
pegs looking suspiciously like Peter Fonda.

There was nothing unusual about the article but the photo of the KLR grabbed my
attention immediately. Why? I now own that very bike with the same pegs still on it.  In fact,
everything on the pictured bike is still on the bike. How did I get the bike you ask?
After Jake passed away the bike was sold to Tore Bonanno from Phoenix. He and some
friends used my house as a starting point for a trip into Baja. Unfortunately, Tore’s engine
gave out at San Quintin and had to be towed back to the Phoenix. The bike ended up at
Elden’s Area 51 ½ for a look-see, but it was too far gone to revive so I bought it for parts.

Because Jake was so instrumental in developing many of the early improvements for the
KLR I had toyed with the idea of trying to resurrect it back to original condition. After seeing
the old photos I really have the bug to go forth with the project. We shall see.

Carl’s Corner – November/December 1997

Ed. Rod’s Note – At the time of Elden’s first article he had owned five KLR650s. The article
covered many of the innovations he had incorporated into his own bikes during the
previous 7 years. Due to the length of the article I will try to only hit the highlights; and
remember these were ideas from ten years ago. The following are excerpts from “Carls
Corner” 1997:

I’m a 62 year old retired guy who started riding motorcycles in 1955. I’ve done some road
racing and lots of off-road and enduro riding. I’ve been maintaining and building
motorcycles for more years than I’d like to admit, but building a couple of the first long-
travel C&J Hondas with Curnutt shocks in the early 1970’s was a great education.

My teachers were two legends in the business, Jeff Cole of C&J Precision Products and
shock genius Charlie Curnutt, the father of long travel suspension. The knowledge I gained
from Jeff and Charlie and other pros in the business has made it possible for me to turn my
KLR650 into the best all-around motorcycle I’ve ever owned.

My 1993 has over 54,000 miles on it and my 1995 is at 10,500. The ’95 is set up with a
bias toward the dirt and the ’93 is more street oriented.

All my front wheels have 1.85 Takasago 21” rims and the rear wheels are stock except for
one hub which is laced to a 2.50 18” Takasago XL rim. All have stainless steel spokes and
nipples. Front forks have hard anodized and Teflon coated lowers. The lowers are from a
Tengai with the fork tubes and internals from a KLR. The front brake caliper is also
Tengai.  Front fork dampening is modified for a smoother more balanced action. Fluid and
dampening mods are by Pettersson Pro Suspensions and Tom Moen. The forks have
special longer fork caps which allow the forks to slide down to provide more rake and trail
for off-roading.

Steering bearings are set on the tight side to reduce “wag” (what-no fork brace) and the
steering head has a zirk grease fitting. The front axle is shimmed to eliminate fork binding.

The plastic panel behind the headlight is spaced back and the plastic strip removed to
prevent buzzing. Handlebars are Jimmy Button renthals. The front master cylinder, clutch
and brake levers, brush guards and all other control pieces are Suzuki DR350. (Ed. note –
these controls are essentially the same as the controls on the new 2008 KLR.)

Remote reservoir Ohlins gas shocks (no longer available) control the rear whees. Both are
“one-offs” built to my specifications. One gives 8 inches of travel while the other gives 9
inches. The stock KLR650 shock gives approximately 7.5”. My swings arms are modified
for spring clearance and a shock shield has been installed to protect the shock from
debris. A chain wheel has been installed to prevent chain slap. (Ed. note – the new 2008
KLR650 incorporates a plastic shield for the shock, and the origins of the Top Gun Chain
Master can be seen with Elden’s incorporation of a chain wheel over a decade ago.)

Modifications have been made to the muffler to better improve breathing, improve sound
and eliminate the “tweet”. I’ve used a Yuasa maintenance free battery for half-a-dozen
years and love the service free feature.

My seats are designed by me and are flat and wide with triple density foam (Ed. Note –
does the 2008 seat come to mind?). My wife Pauline has her own seat which attaches via
Velcro to the rear of the main seat and allows her to ride in comfort all over Baja without a

There was an Editor’s Note that Elden also submitted a comprehensive ‘wish-list” for the
KLR650 for those that might want to build a “Super KLR” too.


  • Install a 1.85 front rim. The stock 1.60 is not recommended for a 90/90 21 tire.
  • Move the oil sight glass up in the clutch cover to give a truer reading
  • Proper size hole in left chain adjuster so rear axle fits properly
  • Improve fork boots to last longer and don’t cost $100.00 a pair
  • Lower price of counter balancer chain ($200.00)
  • Lower gas tank petcock to use all fuel
  • Put 4 bolt axle cap on right fork leg to center forks without shims
  • Better front brake. (Ed. Note – 320 disc now available at MMP)
  • Wider seat
  • Redesign balancer sprockets

There are many other things I’d like improved like fit and finish of shrouds and covers.
Other suggestions would be:


  • Make engine lighter, more powerful with less vibration but retain the steel support
    around the crank and the 48 ft/lbs torque that hold the top-end together.
  • Better brakes and front fork with a true 9” travel
  • Adjustable rear shock with a heavier spring (Ed. Note – now available at MMP)
  • Better valve shim selection and removal
  • Beefed up frame and swing arm.
  • Wide flat seat
  • Roomy ergonomics
  • Make bike light and simple
  • Keep un-sprung weight low
  • Zirk fittings at all pivots and bearings

Editor Rod’s Comment:

Every once in awhile I hear the question: What makes Elden such an expert on the
KLR650? I may just refer people to the 1997 article. Obviously Elden was on top of all
these things well before the article and many of his ideas have been incorporated in the
current models. This 10 year old article is as applicable today as it was then. I don’t know
of any other person that has torn down 30 or so KLR650 engines and completely rebuilt 12
engines. After 30 years of watching Elden work on motorcycles, I’m sure I know who the
expert is.