KLR650 Rear Shock

MSM – Multisurface Motorcycles/Motorcyclist
MMP – Multisurface Motorcycle Products
TGMP – Top Gun Motorcycle Products

MSM Weight Categories
Lightweight – up to 250lbs
Middleweight – 250lbs – 300lbs
Light-Heavyweight – 300lbs – 350lbs
Heavyweight – 350lbs – 400lbs



One of the biggest complaints made about all stock KLR650’s is the rear suspension being too soft or weak. No truer statement has ever been made. Many people blame the shock as being the problem and end up spending many hundreds of dollars on aftermarket units. The KLR rear shock is actually a very good unit saddled with a poor quality spring that’s rated at about 5.1kg.  The stock spring is made from poor quality steel and doesn’t meet industry standards for built-in pre-load that every spring needs. The spring is also made too long to make up for the poor quality material. That’s the reason for static sag and ride height being wrong to where some loaded down parked bikes have fallen over because the bike stands straight up under the heavy load.


Sometime in the early 1990’s, Top Gun KLR expert Elden Carl spent many hours and a fair amount of money to R&D a proper spring (6.6kg) that was rated for his personal load weight.  When the Top Gun web site was established the 6.6kg spring was the main product offered. It didn’t take long for customers carrying heavier load weights to ask about a spring for them too.  That’s how our 7.4kg and 8.0kg springs came into being. We wanted to go beyond 8.0kg but our suspension experts weren’t sure the pre-load unit could take more pressure without damage, so we stopped at the 8.0kg.


For the proper spring rate we use total load weight that’s on the bike EVERY TIME YOU RIDE.  Every time means a day trip, commuting or just going to the store. We never include an OCCASIONAL passenger, long trip or camping gear.




For many years we were told that the KLR650 Kayaba shock couldn’t be rebuilt. When a number of customers started having their shock blow seals or not work properly we decided to go to Kayaba for some answers. Turns out the shock could be rebuilt and with the help of Kayaba, Top Gun was able to get parts and instructions on how to get the job done. The aftermarket offers a cheap poor quality alloy seal head (Kayaba is steel) that shops or customers use to do their own rebuild. We’ve had a number of rebuilds with the alloy seal head including two shock bodies that were ruined causing the customer to buy another shock. You get what you pay for.

What causes the KLR shock to need rebuilding? The weak shock spring lets the shock get beaten into submission at very low mileage. We’ve had three shocks with only 3000 miles that needed a rebuild because the load weight was very high or an aggressive rider will hit bumps at a high rate of speed. If the proper shock spring is installed by 5000 or fewer miles, the shock service or rebuild miles are greatly extended. Just about every shock we’ve looked at with over 10,000 miles suffers over 50% wear on the seal head inside.


If you blow the oil out of the shock and continue to ride you stand the chance of (rubbing the chrome off the shock shaft and you can’t buy a new shaft. Finding a used shock on Ebay is the best solution, but you should rebuild that one too. The “E” model shock (2008 – present) is better than the “A” model shock (1987 – 2007). The piston inside the “E” shock has a better shim stack than the “A” model and provides a better ride. I use an “E” model shock on my street only 1999 KLR and noticed the improved ride immediately. My 1996 off road only KLR is shod with an Ohlins shock that is even better but they don’t make them anymore and if they did it would be close to $1500. By the way, our expert Elden is the one that convinced Ohlins to build a shock for the KLR way back in the early 1990’s.


Top Gun and MMP (Multisurface Motorcycle Products) are now approaching 200 rebuilds with great success and happy customers. No more spending $600 on an aftermarket shock that often doesn’t fit well and doesn’t have the proper spring rate. The stock KLR shock rebuild works very well, fits properly and greatly extends service life (all shocks and forks need servicing of oil and nitrogen at some point). At this time the rebuild cost is $194.50 which includes choice of spring, new Kayaba seal head, new quality bump rubber (stock will crumble), oil, nitrogen and the pre-load unit is cleaned and lubed. Shipping and insurance is $25.50 for a total of $219.50.   The only other cost is shipping the shock to MMP. One important thing is that turnaround time is often the same day we receive the shock when pre-paid or payment included. California resident tax applies and international shipping is higher.




All shock springs come with some pre-load built-in but will need to use the pre-load adjuster to fine tune the suspension for each individual rider.


The KLR pre-load adjuster bolt is located at the top left of the shock and is adjusted by turning the adjustment bolt with a socket and extension (rear wheel just off the ground). There are 5 pre-load adjustments that can handle various load amounts. We always suggest starting at #1 setting and test ride the bike with a normal load and adjust from there if needed.


The pre-load adjuster unit is the same for the “A” or “E” model but the “E” model has had its own problem at times. Some customers have experienced the adjustment bolt turning freely and not changing the pre-load. The first one we encountered was a puzzle as to what caused the problem and the customer ended up buying an extra adjuster unit sitting on our shelf and the broken one took its place.


After a number on months I stumbled across the broken one still sitting on the shelf and decided to give it a go to see what might be wrong. The pre-load unit comes in two parts where the lower part is like a cap. While examining things I noticed that the brass ring that seems to be holding everything in place was cocked up on one side. I used a screwdriver and tapped the ring down as far as it would go and bingo, the adjuster bolt worked. I could see some tabs around the edge that looked to be bent over to hold the ring in place. I used the screwdriver to tap the tabs down more and all worked normally.


For some reason the tabs on some “E” model pre-load adjusters aren’t bent down enough to hold the ring. What appears to happen is heavier loads on the weak shock spring beats the ring out on one edge causing the pre-load adjuster bolt to be too loose to turn. I now check both model pre-load adjusters when cleaning and lubing the unit to be sure all tabs are bent down enough to hold the ring in place. This is an easy fix that you can do at home and it saves the cost ($375.00) of buying a new pre-load unit.