Resurrecting Janis - Creating the indestructible KLR

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by Parepin, Nov 25, 2012.

  1. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
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    That's... a tough one to answer
    I'm gonna throw this on here in hopes that this whole experience I've been going through over the past year or so might help or inspire my fellow KLR owners to improve on what is already a fairly solid machine. I've owned my KLR, affectionately known as "Janis", for several years now. She's surprised me more than once on what this pig of a dirtbike can do, where she can ride, and just how much of a beating she can take while thanking me and asking for another serving. However, I reached a point in my travels when she just couldn't take it any more. "Enough is enough" she told me. I didn't listen. And so she sent a message that I hard a hard time ignoring.

    "I quit"
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    So, yeah. Kinda hard to coax the old steed back to life when you're thrown clean off into the thorny desert landscape. The backbone had broken in half just in front of the upper engine mount, and the downtube sheared off between the two radiator mounts.

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    I still can't figure out what led to this, or how I hadn't noticed anything up until the moment of self destruction. I had heard of a few frame issues here and there through the forums. Cracks forming along various factory joints, a cracked backbone here and there. Well, I've now dealt with them all, plus a few. The only thing I can figure is, simply enough, she's lived a hard life. I flipped 'er end over end a few summers ago, destroying everything from the seat up, amongst many other unnecessary get-offs, not to mention I simply keep this bike loaded down. Fully loaded and with me in the saddle, we rang in at damn near 760lbs. This weight doesn't seem to slow me down, however. I find myself crossing boulder strewn creek crossings, flying up and down embankments, and getting airborn much more often than I really should be.

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    So I guess it's no real surprise that, after nearly a hundred thousand miles, Janis would throw her hypothetical hands in the air, scream at the heavens as I pound on the bars before dropping to her knees and throwing me into the desert, some 14 miles from camp. Alright, Janis, I get the message.

    And with that, I began formulating a plan. One that wouldn't come to pass for nearly another year. I hitchhiked back into town and found a man with a truck. Several days later, I would pay him to cart me back out into the desert to pick up the pieces that a local farmer was nice enough to store for me in a shed out behind the goat pasture. We grabbed every bit of Janis, tucked her away neatly in a four foot truck bed and meandered through the mountains and back into town. By the next afternoon, she would be suspended from a steel I-beam by chain and stitched back together with sliced chunks of scrap sewage line. I really wanted to be there for the reassembly, and insisted that the mechanic wait for me, but he did what he wanted to. In the end, I got a rideable machine, but the frame was far from straight and the engine never went back in quite the same way again.

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    I even managed to find a man to weld my radiator back together, which I thought was absolutely amazing. The crash had shredded the bottom of the radiator clean off, leaving a two inch hole. The man was able to fill it in, spending entirely too much time and effort making sure that it was water tight. I truly appreciate the effort put into this, seeing as I had few alternatives.

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    #1
  2. Myfuture_yourdebt

    Myfuture_yourdebt Banned

    Joined:
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    Front Range, CO
    How many miles on the bike when this happened?
    #2
  3. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
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    That's... a tough one to answer
    The bike handled fine on the road, despite the crooked backbone. You wouldn't even know it was tweaked except for a few factors. With my hands off the bars, it liked to drift a bit. The engine REALLY didn't want to line up with the engine mounts, and apparently when riding behind me, you could see the front wheel offset from the rear pretty obviously. This didn't really slow me down much, as I was still able to drag pegs through corners and maintain high speed travel without too much instability. As the months continued on, however, the stress on the frame was becoming increasingly evident. In Lewiston, Idaho, I noticed that my upper engine mounting plates had broken in two. I remade them with much thicker steel and wedged everything back into alignment. I also noticed a few cracks in the powdercoat where the two rear vertical members hooked up with the tail end of the backbone. Now these were just cracks in the powdercoat, as far as I could tell, but this surely signified some movement in the frame. So I took this chance to go in and add some welds to the frame here and there. I called it good.

    I continued on for a few more days, making a run from Lewiston, Idaho to visit my buddy in Vernal, Utah. Slab nearly the entire way, I ended up pushing through on one of the hottest days I've experienced. 860 miles in one day, and I was absolutely fried. As was my rear tire.

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    As I sat on the curb at a rest area, pondering my predicament, I took the opportunity to drain my airbox hose of the remainder of it's collected blow-by, which had been dripping for several miles now and coated my rear brake disk, essentially disabling my rear brake. It's here that I noticed a few more cracks along the welds just below the footpegs, where several framing members joined together and were reinforced with a crudely stamped gusset. The crack extended along the weld and up around the upper frame member. Well... shit. I pushed on into Vernal and stopped by a local welding shop the next morning for a quick $10 fix.

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    Several weeks later I would find myself riding the mountain passes of Silverton, Colorado with my good buddy Jettin Jim. The RMAR rally had just packed up and I was left in the far corner of a nearly vacant campground. With the traffic greatly reduced on the high altitude trails, we took this opportunity to thrash. We crossed several passes, sometimes four in one run. I attacked terrain I had never seen before, and chased high mountain sheep through alpine territory. I railed as hard as I dare, and then even harder still. 'If things aren't failing, I can ride harder' is the mentality I seemed to take in.

    Back at camp, I borrowed some shop time from the owners of the camp ground to address some electrical issues. That's when I made a discovery.

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    Yup
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    So I managed to pull Janis apart just enough to get some solid access to the broken member. The subframe came off in one piece, with the exhaust and airbox included. And then I see this...

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    The owner of the Campground happened to be a retired structural welder, and gave me a lesson on the thought behind how he was going to attack this problem. How he would tack it, then fill, and extend some welds across any existing fractures to keep them from expanding further. Ugly welds, but appearance isn't exactly what I'm going for.... in case you couldn't tell. The more I searched, the more I found cracks in nearly every weld and joint.

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    Some of these were just cracks in the powdercoat, while others were obviously a separation of the welds. Either way, some preventative measures were needed and so I simply went to town with the welder. Well... I didn't.... the dude did (Jim?)

    A day spent in the garage and I was back on the road while the fumes of burnt powdercoat were still dancing in the rafters above. We're good for now, but I'm gonna hafta keep tabs on this. A plan was formulating. A plan of attack. I would just need the right time and the right place.
    #3
  4. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
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    1,140
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    That's... a tough one to answer
    I would have to estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60K
    #4
  5. GAS GUY

    GAS GUY MILE EATER

    Joined:
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    3,723
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    Garden City, Michigan
    Awsome, interesting thread.Keep it going.
    I counted 14 teeth on your front sprocket, tell me your not pounding out big slab miles with the 14 tooth sprocket ?
    Anyway, keep it up, this is what the Klr is all about.
    #5
  6. what broke now

    what broke now Petroleum Brother

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2011
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    1,502
    Location:
    seattle
    No weld that works and stays stuck is ugly, it's just not pretty. :deal
    #6
  7. RalphyDo

    RalphyDo Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2012
    Oddometer:
    308
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    Colorado


    Wow!! I did that to my old XR600r. Still dont know how it happened as I didnt hit that hard but the bike buckled under me, sending me off into the cactus! Nothing feels as bad as that moment when you stand back up and start to walk back to you bike and see that!:eek1

    I'll give you one thing, you dont give up. That is a truely unique trait that alot of people, no matter how long they try, can not gain. Keep it up man, good travels.
    #7
  8. Reposado1800

    Reposado1800 Juicy J fan!

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    Dec 8, 2006
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    5th and Main
    Are you the guy in that famous pic walking his front end down atrail in Baja? It looks like the same bike.
    #8
  9. Treadless

    Treadless seeking adventure

    Joined:
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    5,402
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    Santa Barbara Ca
    Yes and the one taken in the bathroom at a motel. :poser







    :lurk
    #9
  10. Poacher Bob

    Poacher Bob Persona non grata

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    White Mts. NH
    Fucking doo hickeys!


    :D
    #10
  11. Matified

    Matified been there done that

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
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    Utah
    Wow, what an adventure, Once those frames get brittle, they are telling you it is time for a replacement. I would bet that you will soon start to see fractures right next to each or most of the welds.

    I have had a number of kawasaki products that have broken their frames , and after repairing them is was like clockwork that another crack or break would pop up.
    #11
  12. grizzzly

    grizzzly The Pre-Banned Version

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    socorro NM 505-five five zero-2583
    If you don’t get it strait it will continue to tear its self apart
    #12
  13. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,140
    Location:
    That's... a tough one to answer
    You, sir, impress me with your powers of observation. NORMALLY, I bounce between a 16 and 14 tooth. This was, indeed, a 14 tooth used in the mountains around Silverton, Co. Currently, I'm using a 15 tooth as it's all I had available to me at the time. It works out well, though. Revs a little higher than I'd like, but I'm comfortable with it. Just a few days ago I made a 6 hr run along I-10. I just set the throttle lock at 5500 RPM/ 70ish and lounged for a while.


    Heh, thanks. I guess I don't know how to give up in some instances. It can be a good and a bad thing.


    Yeah... that's me. That's gotta be my second most popular photo...


    Second only to this one.

    You know, I've done other things with my life. Great things. Fantastic things. I'm drawing a blank right now, but things were done. Awesome things......

    Stay tuned...
    #13
  14. GoNOW

    GoNOW Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,588
    That frame is done for. Vibration, stress, and time will weaken it and it will keep cracking and breaking. No amount of welding and patching will keep it fixed. Time to swap the frame out.

    Or weld up your own out of appropriate steel. This looks about right for a KLR.
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    #14
  15. orangebear

    orangebear Long timer

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    dumfrie scotland
    with the weight of the bikes i thought the frames would be solid. would it not be a good idea to get a new frame and then brace it.
    #15
  16. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    That's... a tough one to answer
    From Silverton, I continued on my way. I was extremely hesitant to get rid of the frame as I saw the welds and repairs as scars, history. Each one was a different ride and had a story to tell. Much like Janis's rider and trail mate we were imperfect beings, marked with time and experience. Truly one of a kind, and in it's own twisted way, this made Janis more real to me. She had been around, and seen things few KLRs would see. It only seemed to add depth to her character, this entity, Janis.

    I continued north towards Wyoming, passing through Crested Butte before blowing out my bottom end crossing the mountains into Marble, Colorado. I waved Jim down the road and told him not to worry, I'd figure something out. More details can be found here: http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=816454

    Anyway, it was during my time spent in Colorado, working construction for parts money, that a member of the forum here got ahold of me. DaFoole, out of central California, sent me a PM and offered up some assistance. As chance would have it, he had a 94 KLR that his father had purchased some time ago. It was parked up on his property in Oregon and hadn't been run in the better part of a decade. He seemed to appreciate my Ride Report, which he used to burn time and avoid his responsibilities if only for a few hours. He laid before me an offer, one I had a hard time refusing. "Come over to my place", he said. "I've got a few bikes here that need some work. You clean some carbs, replace some tires and bearings, and get everything running and I'll give you the barbie bike."

    Fuck yeah.

    And so I continued on my way, from Colorado to Reno for a few weeks worth of work, before high-tailing it south and into Phoenix where my buddy Rust (Dan) lived. We partied for a weekend and I laid an idea before him. I had a second bike, and I would like to make some mods to it. Some extensive mods, and bring Janis back to life. To make her safe again. A smirk crept across his stubbled mug as the extensiveness of the rebuild sank in. "I've got the shop and a welder. But we're gonna need more beer. This'll be fun...."

    And with that I parked Janis in the garage and lined her underside with newspaper to soak up the phantom oil leak that, to this day, completely eludes me. I packed my bag, and flew out to Sacramento. DaFoole's posts can be found here:
    http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=659820&page=50

    So, yeah. I had this bike now. It had a purple seat. This would be a fun ride. I got everything sorted out over a couple of late nights in the garage and was back on the road within a week. I would take Yosemite, then Death Valley down and back towards Phoenix, a ride of 1100 miles. Lots of pics, but that's for another thread, another time.

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    Back in Phoenix, I spent the next day or two brainstorming with Dan over just how we would attack this project, and what we were looking to accomplish. We had a pretty obvious place to start, using my existing frame as a reference to the weak points in your typical KLR. We would sleeve the back bone and the downtube, and gusset nearly everything else the best we could. I also figured that, while we're in there, I might as well install a second radiator. Because... why not?

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    I stripped the barbie bike, previously named "Pattie", of her seat and plastics. I wanted to keep as much still attached to the bike as I could while I made up my templates, just to check for interference with any of the other components. I'd have hated to get in as far as re-assembly only to discover that I couldn't install the engine because of some poorly placed steel.

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    Things seemed to be going smoothly. I picked up a few chunks of plate steel, the dimensions of which completely elude me at the moment. I'll jump back on here later when I've figured some numbers out. The lower front gussets, of which I'd made three, were made of much thicker plate than the remaining gussets. The sleeves were thrown together out of some chunks of 2 inch steel pipe, the characteristics of which I'm also drawing a blank on. Anyhow, a quick trip to a neighbors house where I spent the evening knocking down shitty beer (Bud Lite) and playing around with his plasma cutter. Paul was a cool guy, and gave me the run down on the machine of Harbor Freight quality before setting me loose.

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    ^^Paul

    The next day Dan and I cruised over to his place of employment, a die making and stamping mill, where we trimmed up the gussets and made them look all pretty like.

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    Back in the garage with a new case in the cooler, I set about fine tuning and drilling out the gussets to fit. The pipe was sliced down the middle and notched out where existing welds and mounts on the frame would interfere with it's placement. As I tinkered, Dan sat back and offered up his help. "Got anything I can fuck with?" he casually mentions.

    Sure thing. My header got notoriously hot on this bike and I've got the melted pants to prove it. A heat sheild would be a cool idea. And so he wanders back towards his scrap pile and pulls out some strips of fairly heavy gauge aluminum. He pondered for a moment as he scratched his scruff and smoked a cigarette. Then, he went to town.

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    I was fascinated by the thought process that this took. A thirty year stamping and die engineer by trade, his first instinct seemed to be to turn his vice into a stamping mill. He grabbed some scrap pipe and squished it to the right diameter, then just tossed it in the vice and applied pressure. Some liberal use of a ball peen hammer finished the job. Truly a master at work. I'm sure that whatever idea I would have come up with would have been no where near as professional as this.

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    He spent the rest of the evening stamping out a few more samples which we then cut to shape and cleaned up. As he worked out a way to mount it to my header using just a few hose clamps, I got all sharpie happy before retiring to the back corner for an intense dremel session.

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    Not bad, right?
    #16
  17. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,140
    Location:
    That's... a tough one to answer
    You're good at this game.

    *Places a gold sticker awkwardly on your forehead* :stoned
    #17
  18. High Desert Rider

    High Desert Rider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    124
    Location:
    Fallon, Nevada
    :poser


    I've been waiting for details on the Janis/Barbie mash up since you told me about your "new" bike. Subscribed!

    There's a real beer (i.e. NOT Bud Light) in the fridge for ya if you ever find yourself back up in Nevada. :freaky
    #18
  19. WaywardSon

    WaywardSon Long timer

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    1,424
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    Somewhere East of Omaha....
    Once more with feeling eh?

    Good luck with the build!

    :ear
    #19
  20. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter

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    Mt. Vernon, Illinois
    This is awesome----I've only personally known a couple people that could tear up a KLR.

    So............you can't ride my KLR :D:D:D:D:D:D:D:rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl

    BigDog
    #20