by Elden Carl
Nestled in the eastern San Diego County mountains on 40 acres of high desert is a two
building facility dedicated to multisurface motorcycles.
Despite the seriousness of what goes on there, Mark Behling dubbed the place Area 51
1/2 and the name stuck. The humor expressed in the moniker infected all of us so we
decided MSM Squadron One would operate out of Area 51 1/2. Since we had a retired
Marine fighter pilot (AV-8) in our group who is at present contracted to help engineer the
USA’s latest fighter plane the F-35, it was a no brainer to elect Major Todd Vosper our
Commanding Officer. Since I had the most riding,
racing and bike building background (near a million MSM miles since 1955) I was named
Crew Chief. For obvious reasons, Rod Morris of MMP became our Logistics and Supply
Officer. Captain Tom Hawkins (U.S.N. retired) became our Area 51 1/2 Base
Commander. Having been the Commanding Officer of the atomic attack submarine USS
Pogy we figured he could
easily handle the job from Hawaii where he’s involved in atomic submarine research.
The only serious requirement we have in our group is that all who participate are
dedicated MSM riders who not only ride on a variety of surfaces, but who also help with
R&D and testing.
As this is written, Ed Runnells, a retired California Prison Guard who has just signed on
to be our Facilities Manager (and more) is preparing Area 51 1/2 for an active summer.
More on Ed and Area 51 1/2 later.
DR650SE or KLR650A, that is the MSM Question, by Elden Carl
If you were planning a 7 day 1,555 mile multi-surface motorcycle trip into Baja Mexico
and were given the choice, would you take a DR650SE or KLR650A?
When Mike Henshaw called to invite me on just such a trip I decided to take my MSM
equipped DR650SE knowing that Mike would be on his Ohlins equipped 2006 KLR650A.
I thought it a good time to compare the two heavyweight MSMs. I had previously done a
1400 mile Baja trip on my DR650 with Rod Morris and Jay Bass who were both on
KLR650s. With no tank bag and no room for side bags I was forced to carry 10 pounds
on my rear rack and 14 pounds in my backpack.
Rod and Jay of course had their wonderful factory KLR tank bags and soft side bags on
racks. Not only were they able to carry more stuff, but they didn’t have to turn
themselves into beasts of burden.
I decided at the end of the ride with that in the future I would opt for the KLR on any ride
of more than two or three days. Now here it was March 2009 and I’m headed south on
my 2009 DR650 with Mike Henshaw riding his well-equipped and properly set-up
KLR650 A model. The only difference this time for me was that I had my backpack weight
down to between 9 and 11 pounds depending on the ambient temperature and whether
clothing layers were on me or in the backpack.
By going light on the clothing I got into trouble on the way north. As we crossed the
Vizcaino desert a windy cold front came in and we were riding in wind chill conditions of
35 to 45 degrees most of the time for two days. Since I had packed light I had to borrow
heavier gloves from Mike who came better prepared.
Having to suffer the effects of hypothermia for most of two days cured me of taking my
DR on anymore long trips despite the fact it’s a much better engineered and more
This summer we’ll build our first Top Gun “KLassic Model A” MSM with numerous
upgraded components. With proper maintenance, we expect the engine to go 100,000
miles plus. Once the bike is completed I will have the confidence to go anywhere in the
world without fear of breakdown and will no longer be tempted to take my very reliable
DR650 on long rides. That kind of peace of mind doesn’t come with a factory built
KLR650 of any year.
Information Please, by Rod Morris
We never seem to get bored with receiving compliments on products, service or
information. We wish to pass on our own compliments to all the customers that have
asked for assistance no matter how trivial they think their question might seem. I’ve said
it before that the only dumb question is the one that isn’t asked.
I recently received a question about a speed wobble and which rear spring to use and
ended up returning a very long answer about how to check and adjust the steering. I got
back a nice response I would like to share.
“Wow Rod, that was very informative. I’ve been on the forums and the reviews about
your company have been outstanding. And by the response I received, they’re all
correct, you guys are great. Thank you very much.” – Andy in Canada