Beware Internet Information

The other day I was motorcycling on a gnarly forestry road in the Laguna Mountains east of San Diego when I encountered a guy standing near a parked 2013 KLR650. The bike was one of the most poorly set-up KLR’s I have seen, and it showed a lot of crash damage. The owner/rider of the KL-E told me that he had made the following changes after gathering information from a “popular” KLR web site:

  • He installed raising links which decreased rake and trail, thereby making the motorcycle quicker steering and less stable off-road especially on soft sandy surfaces. Remember the famous old saying: less trail, more flail!
  • As a result of suffering an increasing number of off-road fall downs, he installed a set of heavy protective crash bars up front, thereby exacerbating the off-road instability problems caused partly by the raising links and extra weight added to the front of the motorcycle (Todd’s note – the E models already have about 13 lbs more on the front end compared to the A models).
  • Engine-wise he had done the following: – Installed a big bore kit in an engine that has a poor cylinder liner prone to warpage, and ultimately increased oil consumption. Remember a stock KLR comes with a 100 mm bore and a single spark plug, while other top quality big bore singles like the DR650SE come equipped with two spark plugs resulting in far better combustion.
    – Removed and replaced the perfectly good factory “doohickey” and spring (named by the late Jake Jakeman who built the first aftermarket balancer adjustment lever for the KLR650 in the “bad old days.”) Remember – if you have a failure of any aftermarket parts you install in your engine, say like a tightly wound “doohickey” torsion spring, the factory will void your warranty.
    – Had failed to replace his chain and sprockets, which were in very poor, worn out condition, as well as being adjusted much too tightly, thereby risking counter-shaft and/or output bearing failure.

I have 279,000 miles on KL650A models since 1990 and I lately have seen far too many poorly set-up KLR’s caused mostly by questionable information posted on various web sites. I have been developing and improving KLR’s for more than 27 years, and I was relieved and happy when Kawasaki fixed some things that I (and others) had been complaining about: the seat, rear shock and “doohickey.” Since 2008, KLR’s have had a tough bullet-proof “doohicky” and a good extension spring, which will adjust for twenty or so thousand miles.

Around here we install an inspection hole that engineer Scott Wexman helped me develop. When the engine and factory spring have about 20,000 miles on them, we install the inspection hole and an “adjustable” bullet-proof extension spring. Remember, a failed KLR650 balancer system can blow your engine, possibly causing you to crash due to a locked up rear wheel.

The moral of the story is trusting some of the greedy amateurs on the internet can shorten the life of your motorcycle and put you in grave danger. In the process you will have unnecessarily spent lots of your hard earned money.

I’m so lucky that I learned what I know before the internet began to allow folks with very little experience to present themselves as experts. I learned directly from people I knew and could talk to in person. My information came from icons like:

  • Charles Curnutt who invented long travel suspension
  • Don Vesco, the motorcycle land speed record racer and master engine builder
  • Vey de la Cruz, builder of world class jet ski and motorcycle engines
  • Stig Pettersson of Pettersson Pro Suspension, an Ohlins shock specialist
  • Robert Buchanan of Buchanan’s Spokes and Wheels
  • Rob North and Jeff Cole, pioneering motorcycle frame builders
  • Jim Hackl of Millennium Technologies, the N.S.C. people
  • Chuck MacDonald of MacDonald Products, a designer and builder of great foot pegs and shifters among other things

I could go on, but my point is that the most important thing I’ve done over the past 62 years is to accurately identify the smartest folks available in any given field, and then be able to obtain the most vital information needed to solve the problem at hand. Anyone who chooses to rely completely on “boob tube II” (boob tube I being television) is bound to get into trouble. If the site your expert is on is a commercial site with things for sale, be extra careful. Make them prove every claim, and double check with independent reliable sources, if you are capable of finding them. Good luck!