Some last questions about getting a KLR as a student

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by jayareus, May 11, 2013.

  1. jayareus

    jayareus n00b

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    So I'm a complete beginner looking to get my first bike, and I think I've settled on a KLR, but I want to get some questions out of the way first.

    I was thinking a used '08 or '09. How reliable are those for someone who knows nothing about bike maintenance (and doesn't really have the time to learn in the next year or two. I want something trouble free that will start when I need it to)

    I'm a medical student who would be using the bike mainly to commute from my apartment to school and to hospitals (mostly a few miles apart and without highways), but would occasionally need to keep up on the freeway (maybe 70ish mph?).

    I need a bike that has a way to transport a briefcase and medical supplies in waterproof fashion (I thought of getting a side case big enough for this? and keeping a rain suit in the other one? is this realistic?)

    I need a bike that will be reliable in the cold of winter, when there is maybe some ice on the ground (since I don't have a long commute I was hoping I could use this as my main form of transportation... is this a really dumb idea?)

    It seems like a great beginner bike from all I've read, I just need to make sure it fits my needs before I commit. I'm 6'2 so I think I'm tall enough, and love the option to take it on fire roads and camping trips.

    Is this the right bike for me? Is there a better one out there? The only other very beginner-friendly bike I've seen suggested as much would be the tu250x, and my fear with that bike is weighing it down with a suitcase and books in panniers would make it too slow on the highway, and that it wouldn't preform as well in the winter as a dual sport would on ice. Am I sorely mistaken?

    Thanks for any and all the help!
    #1
  2. Powderaddict

    Powderaddict Been here awhile

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    The KLR would be a fine choice. I dont know about riding on ice though. Slick conditions can be negotiated if you take your time, but I don't recommend it. Especially with other traffic to think about.

    The KLR will do 70 easily, and can handle a heavy load. It gets great mileage as well - I put a 16T front sprocket on my old KLR, and it got 60 mpg.
    #2
  3. flyaway

    flyaway chwelve

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    KLR is a good choice. Find one that looks as close to stock as possible so you don't have to diagnose someone else's handy work if something goes wrong. You don't have to limit yourself to the 2nd gen either, the 1st gen models are great, but perhaps less highway-worthy. I had one that did fine up to 65 or so, then it was a little precarious, but that's a combination of a lot of different factors. Invest in some crash bars and beefy handguards, because you'll probably drop it. Most people drop their first bike in parking lots or their driveway.
    #3
  4. phoenixdoglover

    phoenixdoglover Where to next?

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    Sure, a KLR650 as a first bike is doable, and certainly it is a practical pig, good for your intended purposes.

    Just one question regarding your height, since the KLR is pretty tall. Have you sat on one? I have no problems with a 34 inch inseam. But some short guys will do mods to lower the seat or suspension to get more of their feet on the ground.

    And riding on ice? :huh I would have a backup transportation plan for those conditions.
    #4
  5. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

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    There are many bikes that could do what you ask, but I'd stick with a dualsport for riding in winter. Also have a look at the DR-Z400S, the DR650SE, and WR250R.

    The air/oil-cooled DR650SE would be my choice. It's simpler than the KLR. It's slightly lower and lighter. Parts and upgrades are cheap. It's not prone to drinking oil, being vibey on the interstate, or overheating in summer traffic. Throw on a used IMS 5gal tank and a Seat Concepts seat, then make your own $10 windscreen.
    #5
  6. XDragRacer

    XDragRacer Long timer

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    Ah, Kommando!

    You validate the scripture, "Yea, as the night follows the day, whenever one inquires about acquiring a KLR, the admonition, 'Get a DR!' swiftly follows."
    #6
  7. greer

    greer Long timer

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    But the DR does offer easier maintenance since it's as simple as it gets, and isn't it nearly 70lb lighter than the KLR? Not knocking the KLR, but in this case the DR might be the ticket.

    Sarah
    #7
  8. jayareus

    jayareus n00b

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    Thanks for all the help so far! How does the dual sport handle wet roads? I've heard conflicting things about tires, etc.
    And would it be possible to get waterproof hard side luggage cases that are big enough to hold a suitcase?
    Lastly -- I've heard things about burning oil. I'm not too sure what this means or how big of a problem it is. In general, what year models should I be looking for? Anything I should keep an eye out for when checking used bikes? (I've seen 08, 09, and 10 in my price range on craigslist.)
    Thanks again!
    #8
  9. EvilClown

    EvilClown Reality show stunt double Super Moderator

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    What year to look for? Any year. FWIW, I never heard of this oil thing until the updated version arrived.:dunno

    The early version appears to be more crash worthy in terms of less damage in a simple tipover. As a new rider a tipover is likely. Embrace it.

    Wet roads affect every bike/tire. Ease into it until you get a feel for where the limits are of your particular combination. My own experience was TKCs scared the bejesus out of me in the rain. 606s not so much. Gripsters gave me the most mileage and worked just fine on dirt roads.

    With your stated intended purpose and your height I can't think of a better bike to start with. If you were thinking of immediately getting into off road riding with it I would think again.

    Oh, one more thing. Best part of a KLR is you could bolt on suitcases as luggage and it would be right at home. I've seen everything from ammo boxes to coolers hung off the sides. Whatever works.:1drink

    Good luck in your journey.


    :photog

    KLR comes with a ginormous tank.:deal The rest is just foo foo at this stage of the game.
    #9
  10. Argus16

    Argus16 ThReAd KiLleR

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    I lurked at your profile/posts and noticed the other bikes you were/are considering.
    Since you're broke (student), the Triumph could give you unexpected expenses.
    For right now... the KLR will give you the best bang for your buck. Cheap, plentiful parts, and you can strap anything from high-end luggage to complete DIY bags. Anything goes. Sell it in a pinch if something unexpected happens.

    Once you graduate fill your garage with the exotics... and by the time you're my age you can be another middle-aged, overweight, balding, ATGATT-wearing trust-fund baby know-it-all, riding a Touretech-riddled BMW GS.

    Just don't forget where you came from. :eek1
    #10
  11. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

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    :D 'Too funny. Did I ever say,"Get a DR." though? I think I said,"Have a look at...", or "X would be MY choice.".

    Seriously though, if we speak the truth, the problem with this is...? :ear

    Besides, why would one consider it "admonishing"? Did the OP ask for advice, or agreement?

    It seemed to go unnoticed that checking out some other models of dualsports was also suggested, to find the best fit FOR THE OP. So...I have to wonder if there is some insecurity involved on the part of the KLR Kool-Aid Krowd if they refuse to think outside the box.

    I can mount a huge fueltank and a comfortable seat to a '70s Pinto :eek1. Does that make it the best touring car for everybody on a budget?

    Wait. Maybe that's a poor comparative example.

    :lol3


    OP, try on a few different models, in person, before you buy anything. We all might be biased, and it's your money being spent. Not ours.

    BTW, anybody who touts the KLR's liquid-cooling and DOHC-actuated shimmed valves as an advantage over SACS and screw/locknut valves has no idea what they're talking about. Ditto if they refer to a DR650 as "air-cooled". A DR isn't a Honda XR650L. Run away and consult a knowledgeable source of why other liquid-cooled DOHC bikes take better advantage of the added complexity of a radiator, waterpump, hoses, possible thermostat, possible fan, and multiple camshafts with shimmed valves than a KLR does. Simple? :lol3 Somehow, the simpler DR is still generally peppier, and it hardly ever has heat issues, even when modded to 50+WHP. Do your research. The truth is out there, and not in some marketing/cult hype.

    Don't get me wrong. There ARE advantages to a KLR over a DR in some cases. More simplicity and more noob-friendly aren't among them.
    #11
  12. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    the klr is tall.... that ok with you?

    wobblyness in the suspension is largely due to improper servicing of the forks (especially) and the rear shock sag setup. the fork oil needs to be measured with the springs removed and the fork collapsed... there is a distance to measure down to the oil from the top of the fork. distance depends on Generation.... older needs 170mm, newer needs 135. Ricor valves make it better.... 5 wt oil is set to 40mm. I drive mine at 75 all day (16 tooth sprocket)... no wobble

    tire choices dictate how they hold the road... same as any other bike. the klr can be driven down right sporty no problem

    08 and early 09s have had problems with piston rings that can make them burn oil. the fix is a piston replacement. there are aftermarket kits to make them 685, 688, and 705cc. all are better than stock.

    the "doohicky" is a problem. even the Gen II bikes , though not as bad.

    theres more.... still interested?
    #12
  13. TexaNate

    TexaNate Been here awhile

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    OP - I'm a noob too! Maybe I can clear some things up.

    If your commute is mostly at speeds upwards of 40mph, you want the KLR. If not, you want a 250. The KLR is scarier to e.g. wheel around a garage but once you get out on the road, it feels plenty light. Any of the bikes mentioned will do the job you describe just fine - just get the best deal you can.

    On "burning oil" - long story short, just glance at your oil level in the sightglass before every ride and you'll be fine. Fill it up and change it as necessary and if it's burning a lot, post up on the forums about it along with any accompanying symptoms.

    On beginner's maintenance - if you're riding it mostly on the street where it isn't as dusty, just follow the regular maintenance regimen prescribed in the owner's manual (which you can download online if need be). Especially with respect to oil and air filter changes. KLRs are mostly bulletproof. Try to get one with the doohickey already sorted out but if not, it's not the hardest job in the world.

    Consider "drop bars" like those from SW-Motech. Don't beat yourself up if it tips over - it's a big bike and it's your first bike. Get the drops out of your system before you pick up your Aprilia post-graduation.

    Prepare yourself for judgment from aforementioned know-it-all trust funds on GSs, as well as flashy hedge managers who have Panigales as their first bikes. You're on a KLR. Haters gonna hate.

    I'm also at school and I sure wish I could have a motorbike here! Alas, no real place to keep it unless I want to Graham Jarvis it up a bunch of stairs after every ride...
    #13
  14. Powderaddict

    Powderaddict Been here awhile

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    KLR's are fine in the rain. Just take it easy.

    People freak out about riding in the rain, but as long as your tires are good it's not a big deal. Get gloves with a squeegee on one of the fingers. Wear a bandana or balaclava and waterproof jacket/pants and riding in the rain is a breeze.
    #14
  15. marc11

    marc11 Been here awhile

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    KLR is the perfect bike for this. Dead easy for maintenance, gas and oil is all it needs for the most part. Slap on some chain lube once in a while and worry about little else.

    Drop it, no problem. Not much to break, ugly anyway is stuff does break and so many parts are out there it is stupid cheap to fix.

    Get 45-55 MPG, 'nuff said.

    Tons of waterproof luggage options.

    Reliable as a mule.

    Tires can last up to 10,000 miles or more and only cost $100 a set depending on which you pick. Chnage them yourself in under an hour with a set of spoons.

    Forgiving and easy to ride. Enough power to get where you need to go, not so much to get you into trouble.

    I use mine almost everyday for commuting 26 miles one way, rain or shine, cold or hot. I do not ride in the snow or after we have had rain/snow melt and a freeze for fear of black ice.

    You can find a KLR in every possible price range in every possible configuration, most are nicely set up for touring/commuting already.

    There are many bikes out there that will do the job better than the KLR, but few if any that can do it as well and do as many things at the rock bottom TCO the KLR has.
    #15
  16. jayareus

    jayareus n00b

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    Thanks for all the help so far guys!

    I guess my hesitation is that I've heard bad things about carbs starting in cold weather vs. fuel injected bikes, but I'm not sure how big a deal this is. I'm looking at an 09 model on craigslist and the guy says he hasn't done the doohicky and hasn't noticed anything weird with the oil yet at 700 miles; I know there's doo guides around, but is there an easy fix if the oil thing becomes a problem? Or do I just need to constantly refill it?

    Thanks!
    #16
  17. nigelcorn

    nigelcorn Wannabe.

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    The doo is easy to do yourself with all the guides out there. You'll probably be able to find somebody local who could help you.

    As far as the oil, I assume you're talking about it burning oil at high speeds? That was more a problem for the '08's, but if it turns out that yours is burning oil it also isn't that hard to put in a 685 kit. Not something you would want to do for fun, but I didn't have any problem doing it following the online instructions, and before I bought my first motorcycle 6 years ago I had never even changed the oil before. These are really pretty simple bikes.

    As far as using the KLR to commute, I had a couple. No problems at all. Rain--I commuted for a year in Portland. Cold--mine started in Iowa no problem down in the single digits. I don't think any bike you get is going to be the limiting factor in whether you use it to commute or not, I'm guessing you will be.
    #17
  18. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    the problem with the rings on some 08-09s is that if you have a bad one, it will drink oil sometimes to the point of starvation. if you run too low, the exhaust cam starves (last place to get oil).... if that happens the head is shot. there has been more than a few of these (but remember they made thousands). Kawi was doing warrantee work on some but now we're talkin 4-5 years ago.

    at the first sign of high oil consumption it's time to change the piston because it will get worse, not better. in fact, I'd change the piston given any excuse since the bike runs smoother & stronger. the 1st generation piston rings are no longer available, so when the older bike needs rings you need a piston too. the aftermarket ones are better

    700 miles you say..... total miles??? weren't near as many 09s with bad rings, but a few early ones

    the carb is ok down to anything you care to drive in.... I've run mine at temps below zero F
    #18
  19. ram1000

    ram1000 Long timer

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    I have both the KLR (2009) and a DR650 (2008). I have also owned about 60+- other bikes over the years. If you rode both bikes back to back you would notice the DR to be an easier bike to manuever in the parking lot and much more so in the dirt. The DR has literally no problems while the KLR in the Model year 2008 and 2009 have recurring oil consumption problems on a seemingly significant portion of those bikes. My KLR has had the piston replaced with an after market piston increasing the power and eliminating the oil consumption problem. Both bikes are completely comfortable at freeway speeds although the extra physical size of the KLR frame lends itself better to long distance riding. Realize that many of the people on this web site have taken both to Alaska and back. The rule of thumb is for dirt chose the DR and for packing up enough stuff to go the distance buy the KLR. Frankly I don't measure the reliability of bikes in my purchasing descisions since almost all bikes have proven themselves reliable these days. Getting more specific I find that stock DR650's have a more powerful feel to them though in a drag race the difference is somewhat insignificant. On the dirt however the DR has a noticably better throttle response at the low end. Both bikes get about 50-55 mpg but the KLR comes with a 6 gallon tank where the DR needs a $250.00 aftermarket tank to get an equal amount. If your bike falls over it will cost you less to make the DR look pretty again than the KLR since it has expensive shrouds around the tank. Lastly the DR has built in factory settings to lower the bike a few inches of your under 5'10", but the KLR can be lowered for about $50.00 +- with after market parts. However, the DR still handles very well when lowered whereas the KLR is quite limited for ground clearance having been lowered. I recently sold my Aprilia DorsoDuro to buy the KLR for my only road touring bike. I have ridden the DD to Texas and back and was tired of stopping for gas every 100 miles. There are many other bikes that will fit the classification of these two bikes as well- like the Husky 650's.
    #19
  20. greer

    greer Long timer

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    Again, I think a DR650 would be a better choice for jayareus and his particular situation. Unless he chooses a pre-08 KLR that's been well-maintained and the doo done. Then I'd say no worries and ride the thing.

    Doug's (my husband) '08 KLR burned oil from the start, and we've been all through the doo fix and 685 kit. We did the work ourselves but I wouldn't call it simple by any means. A big enough pain in the ass and pocket book for sure and we're old established folks, at least for the rednecks we are. It would have been a hard hit and tough to manage back in our starving student days.

    Sarah
    #20