The KLR Baja Transformo

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by Mondo-Hondo, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. Mondo-Hondo

    Mondo-Hondo Delusional, but very excited

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    So about a month ago, I bought a 2004 KLR 650 to use primarily for Baja trips. I've got this inflatable, roll-up surfboard thing and a friend in San Diego with ample motorcycle storage, so I figured having a bike for fly-in Baja surf trips would be a very practical thing to have access to in the winter (I live in Montana). I'll be riding the bike down to San Diego at the end of the month, so now is the time to prep it for all things Baja. This thread is just my log of said preparations...So I give you the KLR Baja Transformo:

    Standard Beginnings
    [​IMG]
    Here is the bike as I got it. Almost 10,000 miles on the odometer. Front fairing a bit bent but otherwise in good shape. No worries, the fairing and stock headlight will not make the cut.

    Breaking It All Down
    [​IMG]
    The bike as it sits now. Most of the parts will be in this coming week. Here's a list of the upcoming mods:
    • Cogent Dynamics Moab Shock
    • Cogent Dynamics dual-rate fork springs and cartridge emulators
    • IMS 6-gallon tank (natural translucent)
    • Baja Designs 8" HID headlight
    • Some kind of front brake upgrade
    • custom-by-me rear rack to hold inflatable surfboard
    • USB power plugs (with some sort of machined-by-me aluminum bracket thingy)

    Fork Teardown
    [​IMG]
    The guts of the very underwhelming KLR front forks. Hopefully some stiffer springs and better valving (and new oil) will help here. On my 300-mile shakedown ride last weekend these things bottomed out a lot, and I'm not sure if the springs are just worn or what, but more than half the travel was used up just supporting my weight (6'4" 180lbs.) Felt like I was riding a lowrider for crying out loud. By far I am most excited about the Cogent suspension upgrades.

    Stuff already taken care of:
    • Doohickey with torsion spring
    • Valve adjustment
    • IMS footpegs and shifter
    • Giant Loop Great Basin luggage
    • JNS Skidplate

    So that's the plan. I realize it's still no dirtbike, but should be good for quick dirt-road blasts down the coast in search of surf. I'll keep this thread updated as the project progresses and offer my thoughts on the effectiveness of all this tinkering.
    #1
  2. kubiak

    kubiak Long timer

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    im watching!
    #2
  3. Mondo-Hondo

    Mondo-Hondo Delusional, but very excited

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    #3
  4. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    KLR forks are never serviced properly from the dealer... they are always low. even the spec setting in the manual is minimal for reducing the dive. more oil makes it better but the Cogents up front will make it much better... a huge difference. I have the Ricor valves & love them. also the Moab on the back... totally different bike in the rough.

    needs a good bash plate & radiator protection

    consider a fork brace so you can lower the fender... better airflow to the radiator.... the Eagle Mike on is already drilled
    #4
  5. Mondo-Hondo

    Mondo-Hondo Delusional, but very excited

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    That's good to hear. I toyed with the idea of doing a fork swap but in the end it didn't seem worth the trouble given the KLR will always be heavy and people say the fork mods will make a big difference. I actually thought I'd broken a spring on steep downhills...the forks stayed so compressed.

    I have the JNS skidplate on it now. And I'm hoping the IMS tank will provide enough radiator protection. if not, I'll weld something up.

    More airflow would be nice but I'm a bit wary of a low fender. Too much sticky mud down south, I worry about wadding it up.
    #5
  6. Mondo-Hondo

    Mondo-Hondo Delusional, but very excited

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    So for the front brakes I've decided to start with just a stainless brake line and some green Galfer pads at the suggestion of a member here. Depending on how that works, might consider the larger rotor.

    Have been doing a fair bit of research trying to figure out the navigation puzzle. I have an etrex that's a pain to use on a motorcycle (side buttons and tiny screen). So right now my plan is to use a combination of an iphone and my ipad in the map pocket of a tank bag, with the Gaia GPS app and a bad elf GPS receiver. I'll make some kind of aluminized flip-up cover to keep the ipad from overheating in the sun in the clear greenhouse of the map pocket.

    Any recommendations for a tank bag that fits an ipad? I was looking at the Giant Loop Diablo tank bag, but not sure of the map pocket dimensions.
    #6
  7. LVCJT

    LVCJT Been here awhile

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    #7
  8. DPelletier

    DPelletier Been here awhile

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    cool thread. I've ridden KLR's in Baja and am currently planning on finishing up my '01 with very similar mods.

    I have one observation: you need decent bars. I believe my Renthals are CR High bend or Desert bars.

    ...and one question; why the Cogent stuff over the Ricor stuff? I'm curious as I'm planning on doing the suspension this winter an I'm leaning towards the Ricor as the intiminator install takes less work than the emulators and the stock straight rate springs stay (I've never been a fan of progressive rate springs). There is very little information out there that compares the two, but anything I've found seems to suggest that the Ricor stuff works at least as good and perhaps better. Any thoughts?

    cheers,
    Dave
    #8
  9. DPelletier

    DPelletier Been here awhile

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    My thoughts exactly.

    Dave
    #9
  10. Mondo-Hondo

    Mondo-Hondo Delusional, but very excited

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    I agree. I am thinking the pro-taper ATV hi bend. But I happen to have a tube bender and might bend up my own. This will be time dependent more than anything. I am trying to avoid bar risers if I can.

    Thoughts? I got plenty of those. :) Keeping in mind I'm no expert, here's what I was thinking. I went with the Cogent stuff for two reasons: one, because I too run a small manufacturing business and I like to support and interact with other folks doing the same. I've heard nothing but good from Cogent customers and when I spoke with Joyce on the phone, they seemed knowledgeable and helpful. Two, I liked the fact that they set up spring rates based on weight and intended use.

    For the forks, I went with the Cogent-made Drop-in Damper Cartridges. They don't require any drilling. It all gets here Thursday, so I can't give any sort of evaluation at the moment.

    The fork springs I'm getting from Cogent aren't progressively wound, they're dual-rate, which isn't the same. The theory is that progressively-wound springs can have unpredictable crossover points and are affected more by sag adjustments whereas dual-rate springs can be set up to work better because the cross-over point is tune-able (though not by the user in the case of these fork springs). That's the generalized version of what I've read on the subject.
    #10
  11. DPelletier

    DPelletier Been here awhile

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    I don't know about bending your own; depends on the material you use, I guess. I do know that the stock steel bars are useless in the sense that they bend very easily in a crash. I spent 30 years racing offroad and the difference between a decent alum bar vs. steel is tremendous...and that difference becomes even more important on a KLR....especially one far from home.

    As far as the suspension stuff goes, I am intrigued. I've searched out and read almost every KLR650 suspension related thread on the 'net and I have to say I'm very surprised that there isn't a "shock shootout" or something similar. VERY little info considering the 4.5 billion KLR's on the road. I'm far from a suspension expert, but I know my KLR suspension sucks (far worse than my old 1982 RM250) and my KTM 300XCW suspension rocks. I don't need or expect KTM300 level performance on my dualsport/adventure bike, but it needs help for me to be happy.

    Without any real data or unbiased comparisons, I'm leaning to the Ricor stuff for cost vs. performance vs. ease of install. I have heard only good things about CD and especially their customer service and I'd certainly be interested in hearing your thoughts as you move forward.

    Cheers,
    Dave
    #11
  12. Mondo-Hondo

    Mondo-Hondo Delusional, but very excited

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    If I make some, I'll use steel. Can't bend Aluminum in T-6 and I have not the time for sending off to heat-treat. I agree, aluminum bars resist bending better since they're heat treated and stiffer. However, once bent, you can't really bend them back. I've snapped my share of Renthals in the past. When it comes down to it, I'm not really worried about it either way, but if I have the time I'd enjoy making some, so I'll stick to my "repairable-in-the-field" justification :D Probably won't have quite as much pullback as the last set of bars I made (nor will they be brazed):
    [​IMG]

    As for the fork valves, there's some more info with replies from Rick at Cogent about his Drop-in Damper Cartridge in a thread over on drriders. In the end, I figure all of them will improve the forks. And I'd be happy with any of them since I'm not going to be trying them all in search of that extra tenth of a second off my KLR lap times :) However, i will say that after speaking with Joyce at Cogent, and reading through the how-it-works on the Ricor and RaceTech sites, I had the most confidence in the Cogent and racetech stuff and less in the Ricor due to the smoke and mirrors explanations they give. I get how they work, but their marketing puts me off. Call it a pet peeve. If anyone near Bozeman, Montana or San Diego, California has a KLR with the Ricor or Racetechs, I'd be game for doing a comparison ride. Of course, spring rates might be different. Still a good excuse for a ride, though.
    #12
  13. Aussie Johnno

    Aussie Johnno Adventurer

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    I just have to ask, now don't get me wrong I love my KLR's as well, owning a 2008 as well as a 92 Tengai.

    But with all the money you have spent on upgrading this bike, could you not have bought a bike better suited to this work

    Again don't shoot me, just asking

    Aussie Johnno
    #13
  14. Mondo-Hondo

    Mondo-Hondo Delusional, but very excited

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    No, that's a really good question...one my inner MX rider struggled with as well. To answer it straight, I'd say no. I've got about $5000 into the bike in total at this point. Doesn't seem like too much for a bike that will be sprung for my weight and intended use, has good amounts of light, more than 6 gallons of fuel, easy to work on, etc. My plan was to buy good condition used and spend up to the amount a new one would have been on upgrades.

    That said, I don't mind having a discussion about the bikes that could have been :) I cast a wide net when I decided to stop dreaming about it and actually get a bike. I had the following conundrum: I'm more of an 90% dirt, 10% pavement rider. However, some of those dirt rides I want to do are more than 1000 miles away. For some dumb reason I'm completely in love with the concept of leaving my front door, riding some nutball trail in the middle of nowhere, then returning to my front door, all on the same machine. It's a compromise waiting to happen, I realize. So here's a quick rundown on my reasoning toward a KLR:
    • The BMWs got cut because they're heavy and expensive. Even the thumpers (the ones I'm interested in) start at $6000 in my area and wouldn't have any suspension or lighting upgrades. The cost of parts is also higher.
    • The KTMs got the axe because, as awesome as they are, I can't afford them, and if I could, the 990 is too big for what I want, and the others, like the 690 Enduro, I couldn't find used for less than $8000. I'd love to hear from any 690 owners whether this is a bike that could be ridden RTW if one wanted.
    • I looked hard at the XR650L but read bad things about extended highway use and valves. All that were available near me were very beat. Still heavy. I still look at them and wonder, though.
    • The bike I came closest to getting instead of the KLR was a Yamaha WR250R. Supposedly very reliable, decent suspension, lighter. Yeah it's a 250, but they say it will do the highway. Good fuel mileage. I have a friend in San Diego who just got one, so we'll see how it does. We'll be doing a lot of Baja rides together.

    Based on my limited information, the KLR seemed to have the right mix of attributes. In the end I wanted a motorcycle I could take anywhere, and get there at least a bit faster than I could in my old 4x4 truck. It's an experiment, so we'll see :) I'd love for others to chime in...this thread is not a justification for my purchase. Perhaps I made a huge mistake. Worst case it will be lots of fun and dirty smiles figuring that out.
    #14
  15. DPelletier

    DPelletier Been here awhile

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    Good post. I could afford any bike I want and recently sold my KTM. I kept the KLR because I believe that it is the most reliable and longest lived dual sport out there REGARDLESS of price. Sure it needs some upgrades and yes, there is a danger in runaway "farkling" trying to make it into something it's not, but really a nice 1st gen KLR and $1500 gets you to my ideal dualsport/adventure bike; a bike with decent on and offroad manners and unmatched reliability and simplicity.

    Dave
    #15
  16. DPelletier

    DPelletier Been here awhile

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    On the bars; you have a valid point and I have snapped a set of Renthals too...but I've been racing for 30 years and bending a high quality bar like a Renthal is rare. Back when all we had were steel bars, we bent them all the time. Even my kids bikes get decent bars and the stockers go in the trailer for spares. With a heavy bike like a KLR, I just wouldn't use steel bars off road. Just my opinion.


    I hear you on the suspension stuff; Ricor's attitude and marketing is a little off-putting and though I've never spoken with Rick or Joyce, they are great people by all accounts. I'm going to use the intiminators over the emulators just because they are way easier to install and seem to get as good of reviews. Not sure about the shock yet. I've never considered the cartridge monotubes before (think that's what they're called). They also look simple to install albeit at twice the cost. Cogents website absolutely sucks BTW. Anyhow, I'll be interested to hear what you think of them.

    Cheers,
    Dave
    #16
  17. Mala Suerte

    Mala Suerte Been here awhile

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    Good post. I'm anxious to follow your build.

    I've wrestled w/ some of the exact things you did. I'm still not sure the KLR is perfect for my needs. I'm balancing the cost of upgrading w/ the possibility of another bike filling my needs and at what expense. I looked hard at the WR250, but don't know that it'd travel well over long distances, especially w/ a load.

    The one constant the KLR has going for it is that it is simple to work on and extremely reliable. Trail side, that means a lot.
    #17
  18. twisted-hog

    twisted-hog Been here awhile

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    I'll be keeping an eye on this thread, I'm taking my modestly farkled 2009 KLR down the Baja all the way to Cabo next April.
    Stock suspension, stock handle bars.
    Biggest mod I have is a rejet with a Vance and Hines slip-on.
    #18
  19. Aussie Johnno

    Aussie Johnno Adventurer

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    Thanks for the answer Mondo, i to will be following this thread.

    I also have a soft spot for the KLR's

    All the best

    Aussie Johnno
    #19
  20. Mondo-Hondo

    Mondo-Hondo Delusional, but very excited

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    So after more reading and speaking with Rick at Cogent for quite awhile, I have some more information about the various fork valve options for the KLR. Again, please keep in mind that most of this is all just research, not first-hand experience. The general breakdown of the three common options are:

    • Racetech - A speed sensitive blow-off valve of sorts (fork shaft speed, not vehicle speed) that uses a coil spring to control the valve. Needs drilling to bypass the existing valving.
    • Ricor - Unusual in the world of forks, it uses in inertial valve (basically just a weighted valve that opens via the inertia of the moving weight) to open or close different damping circuits based on whether the wheel moves or the bike moves. Also uses a shim, I think, for additional speed-sensitive damping. No need to drill since it uses 5wt oil.
    • - Cogent DDC - Similar to the Racetech but uses a shim (or a shim stack in some cases) rather than a coil spring. No need for drilling as these also use 5wt oil, which flows readily enough through the existing damper ports.

    From what I can gather without having ridden anything, is the following:

    Racetech:
    These will improve the fork for off-road use, adding in speed-sensitive damping. The downside, apparently, is that the coil spring system has more mass and is therefore less responsive to high-frequency changes. Basically, that means that your suspension can be moving and reacting faster than the valve can, so you might not be getting the appropriate damping characteristics for a series of fast bumps.

    Ricor:
    The inertial valving is supposedly great at preventing brake dive with soft springs. It's said to be good on the street because it works well during braking and also for individual bumps, such as potholes. Off-road, however, where high-frequency bumps are happening and both the bike and the wheel are all moving, the inertial valving can get confused or overwhelmed by the frequency of bumps and you get inconsistent or inappropriate damping. It has also been mentioned that the brake-dive resistance can be bad sometimes. For instance, when cornering on dirt, it can help to load the front tire going into the turn by front-braking into the corner. Apparently the Ricors can keep the front end high under braking, so much so that the front tire doesn't load up enough to get good traction. This is less of a problem on pavement where the traction is less dependent on loading than on dirt where tire loading is very important for traction.

    Cogent:
    The shims used in this valve have less mass and react faster to high-frequency bumps (a shim is just a washer thin enough to deflect, see pic below). Because multiple shims can be used, the damping curve is more tune-able than the coil-spring-based Racetechs. In fact, Rick is sending me two different shim sets to try. Rick has ridden and tested all three on the shock dyno and began by modifying the Racetechs to use shims before deciding to just make his own product instead of improving someone else'.

    [​IMG]

    So that's the simplified gist. Feel free to correct any errors or ad more detail. I am by no means an expert on this stuff.

    How are you going? If you're taking the road, probably not much need for any mods. Unless you ride at night, then you need more light so as not to hit cows :D
    #20