Aug 31 2008

How’s this for a return route?


I’ve been looking at this trip report on ADVrider by atgreg, who rode his Africa Twin from Sydney to Lorella Springs for the OCR (Off Centre Rally). The route he’s taken could be adapted take us from Lake Evella back to Melbourne… though it might just be crazy. I’ve roughed up a map of the route, though it’s in reverse.

Something to think about, anyway. Support-Driver-Andy has been saying he’d like to look at an alternative route home, so we’re not just riding on blacktop for thousands of kays, and I think that would be a great idea.

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Aug 30 2008

First tank report


I found out the other day that I can’t change gears on the KLR with my dirt bike boots on. This morning I adjusted the gear lever up one notch and tested the theory again: much better. The other problem I find with the boots is that they push my knees up just enough to touch on the ridge of the side fairing. I haven’t swapped out the rubber foot pegs for metal dirt bike pegs, so that might help when the time comes. I’ll try to get some lower (or at least lower profile) pegs, and I might even be able to move the gear lever back down. I’d still rather ride in regular shoes, but after riding for a while in the boots today, I pretty much forgot about them.

I’ve been checking out the options for a bigger windscreen for the KLR. The stock screen isn’t bad, but the turbulence hits right on the visor line, and also tends to hit the tops of my shoulders, which is not so good on a cold night. There are a number of suppliers who make screens and spoilers for the KLR, but so far the choices seem pretty subjective, and I’m loth to spend over a hundred dollars on a piece of plastic that doesn’t do the job (for that matter, not keen on spending $100+ on any piece of plastic). I’d also read that the screen is a cause of turbulence itself, and that removing it can make a difference. I tested that today, and while the overall buffeting is not as intense, the wind hits the whole front of you, and hits hardest just below the helmet line. I’ve put the screen back on…

I still like the idea of the Laminar Lip or the MRA Vario Touring Screen. The former is a spoiler for the existing screen (or a taller one), and the latter is a spoiler and screen combination, with a range of positions to deflect the wind to best suit the height and riding position of the rider. Most reports are good, particularly of the Vario screen. It’s not much taller than the stock one, but apparently does an amazing job of deflecting the wind over the rider’s head. While a taller screen is still an option, the truth is I’d rather a short screen and spoiler that can do near enough to the same job. If only there was somewhere I could try them all out…

The crash bars are doing their job, and feel fine on the road. I tightened them up today.

I also bought a pair of Panasonic earphones this morning. The include a neck lanyard which keeps the ear buds suspended when they’re not in my ears, and also attaches to the case of my iPod nano. They’re a little toppy, but they block out a lot of external sound, which is great. The lead and lanyard are just long enough to reach the top pocket I use for the iPod.

I hit reserve for the first time today, as well, after 345km. I’m pretty impressed with the range of the 22l tank. It appears that the reserve is about 3 or 4l.

Nearly had a spill on the way to the servo this afternoon, though. I approached (downhill) a roundabout a little fast, and decided too late not to take the gap I was looking at. I hit the back brake too hard and locked the wheel, and black-patched all the way to the line. I couldn’t stop myself from hitting the back brake, but eventually managed to ease off it and apply more of the front. It was a stupid mistake, but fortunately I managed to keep the bike upright and stopped just over the line.

Forgot to mention that the Wolfman Beta has also finally arrived. It’s a nice bag (which it would want to be for the money), and it mounts really well to the bike, with plenty of pressure straps for the bag’s contents as well. All the straps have plenty of length in them, and it’s very simple to attach and remove it. Saddle bags would still be better (required) for two-up riding, but for a solo ride the Beta is great. And big.

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Aug 21 2008

New front guard


Yesterday I bought a new KTM SuperMoto front guard for the KLR. The standard one (pictured in the masthead at the top of the page) is not the prettiest thing in the world, and from certain angles looks like a broken nose or a duck bill. I’d seen a few posts on suggesting that the KTM guard was an almost perfect fit, and the photos (like the one you see here) looked great.

The guard went on easily enough. I needed to drill out the two rear mounting holes a little – back, and diagonally out to the sides – but apart from that it went straight on with the original bolts.

Some forum posters also said that they felt greatly reduced buffeting on the handlebars at high speed. I can’t vouch for that, but then again I haven’t had the bike long enough to make any real comparison. From what I can tell it isn’t any worse, but I don’t think it’s significantly better, either. The main wind interference that I get is off the top of the windshield… and that will be the next thing to be replaced on the bike.

Just an update on the crash-bars: the bars themselves don’t seem to amplify vibration back through the bike, but they do vibrate a little, particularly at speed. The only time I’ve noticed it is when I’ve bothered to check by reaching down and touching them (not something I’d normally do) and occasionally when my left leg has touched the bar near where is comes out from the subframe under the seat, when I’m changing gear. Sill, I’m more than happy with how they’ve gone on.

My Wolfman Beta bag still hasn’t arrived. After about two weeks of waiting, no one seems to know where it is. The dealer tells me it has left the warehouse, but that’s all he knows. I’m not in any great rush, but it would be nice to get the bag and try it out.

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Aug 17 2008

Crash Bars are ON!

SW Motech Crash Bars

SW Motech Crash Bars

Well, the deed is done. Mod number 1 has been made to the bike. They probably constitute the most expensive add-on I will ever make to the bike, and I have every hope that they’ll be a complete waste of money. And if that makes no sense, I’m not explaining it to you.

Took it out for spin today to try out the bars, and I’m pretty happy. There’s no hint of vibration at any speed, any revs or any load, and though the bars themselves are pretty solid, there’s no sense of added weight at all.

The install was simple enough. The kit comes with clear instructions. Not so much step-by-step, but a detailed diagram showing the fixing points, the parts required and a few extra notes. The kit also comes with a collection of extra bits to allow the bars to fit with a centre stand and/or an aluminium bash plate. The bash plate’s a very likely future addition, and the centre stand holds some appeal as well (not least because it makes the rear rack a reasonably straight table at a campsite… though that probably isn’t the smartest reason for fitting it). I managed to break 2 pieces of my crappy socket set in the process, but a quick trip to Bunnings got that sorted.

It has got me thinking about the adequacy of the tool kit. For starters, the included screwdriver is too fat for the fairing screws, and the allen key doesn’t fit the subframe bolts (too small, but they’ve been replaced now anyway) or the rear rack bolts (too big). The tube spanners are OK, though my time with the KLX taught me that they have a pretty limited life. Also, the crash bar kit introduces a new size bolt to the collection (13mm) which the tool kit doesn’t allow for. At this point I’m thinking that I’ll extend the basic kit a little, so that it still fits in its box, and I’ll look at a more comprehensive kit for longer trips. There are plenty of tool kit posts on the forums, so that shouldn’t be too hard to work out.

I am loving how the bike goes… not that I really have any idea what I’m talking about. My prior experience is limited to a gutless 250, and that’s it. Anything was going to feel as though it was a rocket after that. Still, after a longish ride through 100kph straights and uphill twisties with a pillion passenger, I can safely say it suits me just fine. If there’s stuff it can’t do, it’s probably beyond my abilities anyway.

Now if the weather would just improve…

UPDATE: Added picture at the request of Jackal, below. The bars were purchased from Motorrad Garage, and cost about $260, though they’ve gone up considerably since then.

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Aug 7 2008

More than just sight-seeing


It’s amazing the difference in perspective you get when you have a guide. I spent a couple of weeks in the Solomon Islands with a group of friends last month, and I was surprised at how someone with local knowledge (and language skills) could open the place up in new ways. It was great to meet people, rather than just see places. And once you start to hear people’s stories you get a new perspective not only of the place you’re visiting but also of the place you come from.

Last night I listened to some friends talk about the successes and challenges of the education system amongst the indigenous people of Northern Territory. It was great to hear about tribal elders making significant plans and decisions that would help protect their communities and educate their children and grandchildren… exciting stuff.

But it also got me thinking about The Trip, and how easily it could turn out to be a view of the world from the saddle of a bike as it zoomed past… and how desperately I don’t want it to be that. I’ll be following up the stories my friends told, and seeking out the stories of other friends who live and work up north. I hope that by the time we set off we’ll have a long list of contacts and stories – people we can meet along the way, who can open up the places we see and help us to understand what life is like for them.

On a completely different topic, I ordered my crash bars today.

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