Saturday, 12 January 2008
The necessary hero - The bike
There has never been any doubt in my mind as to which motorcycle would take me through this adventure, even when confidence and imagation took over and i dreamt of riding the route on something ridiculous like a pink 50cc monkey bike or C90 pizza step through. Or even doing a Nick Sanders and chase the horizon on an R1, But i`ll leave those fruit cake dreams to the really, really adventurous, for now anyway...The Kawasaki KLR650. A cult classic dual-sport machine. A bike the massive Japanese manufacturer hasn`t altered, as their rivals where altering their machines year after year. The Kwak has stayed the same, maybe a few stickers here and there, since the mid eighties upto last year. It seems like that wasnt a wrong move, as the KLR has been right up there in sales to the adventurous North American global munching motorcycle adventurers, commuters, local trail riders, beginners and general bike lovers, state side. But over here on our little Island the KLR has been sitting despondent in the shadows of all other species of bikes. I think we love our silly accleration and top end madness to much and without to much legal off road availability, the Kwak has no hope here. I have only seen one in the past year, parked up in the car park of the sinister white swan pub in Stepney (wonder what his story is ?). The bike is no high performance motocrosser, or quick off the lights fireblade humiliator, like some KTM`s have been known to be. Its built to eat miles on all sorts of terrain, even though its a mass produced machine, which the japanese are known to mass produce using cheaper materials. If the US marine corp use them, with only a few modifications (including a diesel conversion, done for logistical reasons) it must be a monster for high mileage and rough treatment. A heart beat 651cc, watercooled calmly vibing single cylinder, weighing in at around 155 kilos, humble horsepower, with a grunty low-mid range, fed by a 40mm carb, this bike is a basic as they come, which to me says : low running costs, enough grunt to get out of panic spots, accessible parts in obscure places and simple maintenance (mind you i could be very wrong as i am not mechanicaly minded, without lots of effort). The fuel tank holds around 6.1 US gallons, that i remember let me squeeze around 250-ish miles from. Its a tall bike, that i have to prepare myself for when mounting, instead of just jumping on, but once up there in the clouds feel absolutly at home on, it fits. On dirt i havent found the height a problem. I have used a lower BMW F650 also and didnt find my basic off road skills any different from that of riding the KLR..... There a few obvious other choices of adventure bikes out there, like the humungous Beamers and the gorgeous KTM adventure series, but these bikes cost an arm and a leg to initialy buy, so they are out of the question for me, let alone they are just to show offy and to much to handle on the dirt for myself. I owned a Yamaha XT660X supermoto last year and was very tempted to have a go on the americas with that, (haven`t heard of a supermoto doing the route) but after getting sensible again and seeing its such a cheaper option to buy the bike in the states than to ship my own, the XT was filed away in my mind, shame really coz that was a fun machine.Aprilia, suzuki and even MZ produce dual sports aswell, but after looking into and past experiences, the KLR just gives me no choice..... the wide handle bars give superb leverage when on dirt and on the tarmac, where Counter stearing into the twisties on the KLR is a right grin, even if not at missile speeds. After saying all this, i have to mention that i have never owned a KLR. I have only ridden approximatly 4000 miles around South Africa and Alaska on one, thats where i draw my judgement from. In those miles i have trouble finding any complaints, infact i have non !.... looks of a bike are irrelevant for a trip like this, apart from the fact that discretion is probably a large point, in not showing off on a shiny, brand new, custom sprayed "ive got money" machine ,in those wonderful less fortunate countries. Saying that though, i love the Mad Max, battlefield looks of the KLR, which definatly sits on the lower dirtier end of the Obvious "have money" stick.
The plan is to buy the KLR in Anchorage, Alaska with the help of a good friend, Phil Freeman, who runs the superb Alaska Rider Tours outfit up there. I have ridden with Phil on a number of occasions and completly trust his knowledge, experience and large adventuristc tendancies, which are infectious. He has a legion of bikes including some wise old KLR`s which one of, has my name and rear size written all over it. I cant wait to meet the machine that will take me out there !
Posted by siggsi at 08:57