I know this section is supposed to be about the bikes but first I have to preface it with a little background that Spice conveniently
left out. This is the one section I get to do. For years I have dreamed of taking a big BMW GS into the jungles of Brazil,
the deserts of Africa and the villages of Tibet. I managed to track down a few books authored by otherwise normal everyday
folks that had done this very thing. Everyone was doing it and I had to too. I didn't know how or when but I knew it was going
to happen. That was about five years ago. The books were the inspiration but I knew nothing about the actual execution. I
had ridden for years but no real touring experience to speak of and certainly nothing even remotely close to this. Oh did
I have a lot to learn.
There are a few more things that we did to the bikes that I felt were essential but don't really fit anywhere: The stock footpegs
are pretty crummy, especialy when they get wet. Dual Star sells a really trick set of serrated motocross pegs that do the
job just fine even in the nastiest mud. You can't ride if you can't keep your feet on the pegs. One other item I cannot over
stress is the importance of upgrading the subframe to a beefier setup. Dual Star again sells a kit that comes with drill bits
and much heavier-duty stainless bolts. Much needed. Our plan was to carry a lot of weight in some really rough conditions.
After some of the trails across country I felt sure we had really overstressed the subframe and I continued to check it day
after day. Every crash and getoff I just knew I had cracked something. Nothing. Good stuff. Another little thing we opted
for was the billet oil filler cap. Apparantly in some places in the world it is kind of cool to open peoples oil fillers and
put foreign objects in there, sand, sugar or whatever. It comes with a key take on and off. At the end of our cross country
trip it was time for sprockets and chain. We had planned all along to replace these but not until we were about to leave the
country. Both of our front sprockets were pretty worn and did not look as though they would last. I thought I would replace
everything while we had the chance. Jeff up at Dual Star had 2 RK x-ring chains, AFAM rear sprockets and PIB front sprockets
sent down to Vegas where Spice and I had planned to get a major service on the bikes. They arrived before we did. In that
same shipment I also had them include some tank panniers but that's for the packing section. Greg Frazier installed a Scottoiler
on his bike and I thought I would too. These little resevoirs feed a constant stream of chain oil to the chain right above
the rear sprocket. The rate of feed is fully adjustable depending on your conditions with only the turn of a knob. It took
me a while to figure out the whole flow thing. Sometimes the entire rear of the bikes would be covered in oil and other times
the thing would be dry as a bone. I tried to keep an eye on both bikes and WD-40 them to clean when I had a chance. The jury
is still out on the Oilers. I'll keep you posted.
So now the bikes are built but now how are you going to carry everything? I have had Touratech bags in the past and had no
reason to think there was anything better. The only problem with Touratech and Cycoactive, the importers, is that they don't
actually make a rack to hold the panniers for KLRs. The only way to make the whole system work is to buy a rack made by Happy
Trails, the same people as the fork brace. I figured if the rack is of the same quality as the brace then everything would
be fine. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. I had some problems mounting everything up. Unlike other Touratech units,
they don't come premounted so you are left on your own to figure out what is going to be the best setup as far as front-to-back
and up-and-down. Nothing seemed to lineup so a little bit of force was needed. Mounting the second set was a little easier
since I had already made most of the mistakes. I like the panniers a lot but the mounting could be better. A couple of low-speed
tipovers revealed some more weak points. The reason we chose aluminum bags was mostly for security. If I were only doing domestic
dual-sporting I would opt for soft bags if only for their resiliency in a crash. I hit a very immobile rock at around 15mph
and literally pretzeled the rack. It cracked at the mounting points and twisted to the point where I couldn't bend it back.
I banged on it and bent it every way my ax would let me but it was not going to happen. I had hoped it wouldn't be so easy
to put a $100 rack(for one side) out of comission. I ordered a new to be delivered in Vegas. The other one I tossed in the
The last couple bits of luggage were the addition of a topcase and some drybags. I ordered a topcase from Cycoactive, the same folks as the panniers, and when it arrrived it was of the same stunning quality I expected. It was made clear to me when I talked to Lynn at Cycoactive that is was not made for the KLR so I was going to have to do some custom modification to mate it to the KLR rear rack. I think she is the resident KLR expert there and proved to be a great help in making some decisions about our luggage. I had an idea for the topcase. I needed a safe place to carry our laptop and video camera. I was going to try to rig up a little battery charging station complete with an inverter in the topcase. I glued high density foam all around inside the thing, screwed it down into the stock mounting points for the rear rack and set about to make a charging station. Everything seems to have worked okay so far and even in the roughest conditions the laptop and camera show no signs of abnormal wear. My drybag came from Dual Star. It is an Ortlieb XL and basically just a big bag. I ordered yellow bag which I wouldn't do again. Anything that comes in contact with aluminum turns black and as a result my bag look about 9 years old. I think the thing even has a little leak in it somewhere but I can't trace it. Spice is using a bag that I have had for a while now and seems to be working great. It holds her sleeping bag, sleep pad and most of her clothes. In hindsight I would have bought another bag like Spice's. I think it came from Aerostitch but I can't be sure. There isn't a single label on it.
Most of the decisions we made prior to leaving Atlanta about the bikes have proven to be right on target. There are very few things we would have changed except for starting earlier than a month before leaving. We were fortunate enough to cross paths with the folks at Dual-Star.com early on. Had we not who knows what we would have ended up with. We may still be in Fort Smith, Arkansas waiting for constrruction on the State Park to be completed so we had a place to camp for the night.