The number one thing that needs attention on every KLR650 is replacing the rear shock spring with the correct spring rate for the total load weight that’s carried every time you ride. That’s the rider with normal riding gear (usually 15 – 20 lbs) and any other added weight like boxes, bags, bars, guards, braces, food, clothing etc. Never include occasional loads like a passenger, camping or trip gear.
The stock spring is made of poor quality material and is longer than industry standards in order to make up for the weak spring rate of about 5.1kg. If the total load weight is 150 lbs or less the stock spring might be passable, but still not meet industry standards. According to an expert in motorcycle suspensions, the only correct way to fix static and ride height is with the proper shock spring rate for the load.
Top Gun Motorcycles offers three different spring rates (6.6, 7.4, 8.0) that can handle total load weight up to about 350 lbs.
The stock weak shock spring can also let the shock get beat into submission at very low mileage. Even light loads will wear out the shock, it only takes a little longer.
The only long term fix is to rebuild the shock and use the proper spring rate. We’ve seen several shocks with about 3000 miles that needed rebuilding and very few that make it past 10,000 miles. If you get the correct spring installed by 5000 or fewer miles, the service and or rebuild life is greatly extended.
If you’ve already reached needing a rebuild and decide to give it a try yourself – please don’t. It’s not that you don’t have the ability to disassemble (not an easy task) the shock, it’s because you can’t get the proper replacement parts from Kayaba unless you have a business account.
The aftermarket does offer a replacement seal head (main part that wears out) but it’s made of alloy, not steel, and can ruin the shock. We’ve had a number of shocks that had the aftermarket seal head and most had ruined the shock beyond repair. Another part we replace is the bump rubber because the poor quality stock one will fall apart. Our rebuild also includes your choice of shock spring, oil, nitrogen, clean and lube the preload adjuster.
We even received a shock that had been rebuilt by a shop and besides using the alloy seal head, they had incorrectly installed the shim stack on the piston which didn’t let the shock work correctly. With only a few more shocks to go to reach 200 rebuilds, we’re sure you won’t be disappointed to let us do the job.
If your shock is beyond repair there are always used shocks being sold on Ebay. Just put in KLR Used Parts and a multipage list comes up with a huge selection of parts for both the “A” model (1987 2007) and “E” model (2008 – present).
We found that the “E” model shock works a little better than the ”A” model due to a better shim stack on the piston. The “E” model also uses a needle adjuster for the dampening and the “A” model uses a wheel with 5 settings listed on the wheel. If you don’t get the wheel exactly on the number, the dampening won’t work and you’ll just be bouncing off the spring.
According to our suspension experts it’s best to leave either model damping on the factory setting. The “A” model wheel should be on #1 setting. The “E” should have the screw head just sticking out so you can feel it with your finger. Once set – don’t mess with either again.