KLR650 Adventure Tourer – 4

Words: Rob Harris. Pictures: Rob Harris unless otherwise specified

Okay, so what’s up for this month’s update? Ah yes, suspension.


Anyone who’s ridden an older KLR, especially in the dirt, will likely agree that the stock suspension is a little … vague. Thankfully there are options out there to stiffen her up a bit and at not too much financial damage either. A few hours search on the technoweb showed up a couple of likely suspension upgrade providers – Progressive Suspension and Elka.

Now Elka has a pretty good reputation and best of all, it’s also a Canadian company – based out of Montreal. Although they only make a rear shock and not fork springs (which the KLR desperately needs) I thought they would the obvious first port of call. Trouble is (sad to say, this goes for most Canadian companies, from my experience) they didn’t want to play ball.

Sure, they’d happily sell us a unit for the project but we simply don’t have the kind of spare cash to throw at something like this. Besides, it’s a mutual relationship, they get their product highlighted, we get much-needed product to do our project with and all is happy-happy. Well, unless it doesn’t do what it is supposed to and gets a rightful bashing … then it’s more happy-sad, but them’s the risks and dat’s the deal that we can offer.

The new Vs the old. Of all the mods I’m doing, I’m most interested to see how this effects the overall handling.

As if to amplify the Canadian/U.S. chasm, after a quick call to Progressive Suspension, within a week I had both a rear shock and a pair of progressively wound fork springs in my grubby hands. As much as American culture makes me wonder, their business attitude is amazing. That doesn’t mean they throw stuff at anyone who asks, but if it’s a no, then chances are you’ll know about it within the day.


The Progressive fork springs are progressively wound at one end to give a progressively stiffer action as the spring is compressed. Don’t forget the preload spacer/curtain rod too!

Now I’ve used the Progressive front springs on a KLR before, so I know what I’m getting – they simply transform the wet blanket factory front end to something usable. The KLR A model’s factory forks are just too spindly which is a tough thing to fix, but by putting in decent springs at least they bounce properly. Adding a fork brace helps make them more rigid too, and we managed to get an Eagle Mike jobbie to try out.

Fitting the springs is a pretty simple job and can be done with the forks in place; just undo the caps at the top, pull out the old ones and insert the new. Progressive recommends adding 2”spacers for preload, but I went for 2 1/2” as I’m 240 lbs and so could likely do with a little more … er, firmness. I just hope the wife doesn’t need those curtain rods in basement, which are now 5” shorter than before.

Even with the fork brace mounted through the fender, it’s still too close to the wheel. Time to get some longer spacers.

You should drain the oil and replace with new too while you’re at it; just be sure to do that before removing the caps. I’m taking the opportunity to replace the fork seals at the same time so it was a complete disassembly for me (which also allows me to replace the garish blue gaiters with a pair of black units from Dual Sport Plus).

The Eagle Mike fork brace is really well made.

I’m also interested in mounting a low front fender. I’ve seen this done a few times on the internet and since the KLR will no longer be used for serious dirt (this is an Adventure Tourer project remember) I think a wheel hugging fender will remove the lifting effect and subsequent light front handling at speed of the original unit. But if not, conversion back to stock is a very easy option.

Thankfully, the Eagle Mike fork brace not only looks the part, but it also has handy holes pre-drilled for attaching a fender. Unfortunately the Acerbis fender that Dual Sport Plus provided does not bolt right on but needs cutting at the sides to make it fit.

They also sent me a style I wasn’t thinking of (my fault, I didn’t specify). Acerbis do make a rather trick looking Universal Supermoto fender and in white too (all my bodywork is white, and the supplied fender is black) which might do the job better. Since I’ve somewhat butchered the supplied one, I may buy the other and make it fit real pretty like.

It’s not bad. I may try the Universal Supermoto version, but let’s see how it looks when the bike is completed.

Having no template to follow, I guesstimated where the cut outs needed to be and made four drill holes in the corners and then went through five hacksaw blades trying to cut them out (the blades catch, bend and break as you have to use them without the saw part to get them into the holes).

Although it makes the rest of the bike look shite, the Progressive shock is a thing of beauty.

In order to get any kind of clearance I realised the fender needed to mount on top of the brace, but even then it’s too tight. Since I want to be able to use knobbyish adventure tires I’ll need at least another inch or so of clearance, so will look into options to either raise the fender or the brace. More on that in the next update.


As for the rear, the Progressive 465 Series shock is a thing of beauty. It simply seems wrong to put it on my old dog of a KLR, but it will be well hidden so I can live with it. Although the original unit still worked (as in it went up and down and didn’t leak), it was pretty soft, easy to bottom out and added to an overall ponderous feel.

Fitting the Progressive unit is quite easy – well, with the whole rear of the bike removed, though I’m not quite sure why I removed it now. I think it was part of a new and foolish attitude that says while I’m at it I should strip, clean, grease and repair all parts. It’s not a bad way to do things, but when you have a keeping-it-all-on-track record like mine, adding extra work is only going to slow down the project even more.

As a result the suspension linkage has been cleaned and regreased and my new fancy basement shelving is now full with the rear brake assembly, swingarm, subframe, wheel, fender, airbox and whole load of bolts that I suspect may not all find their rightful homes again. Sigh.

Pressure valve (red) is supposed to go forward, but it hits the frame cross member.

The only issue I found when fitting was putting the shock in the instructed way. The instructions say to put the pressure valve (at the top of the shock) forwards and the rebound adjuster facing out to the right. Trouble is, that means that the valve hits against the frame and the shock cannot be mounted. So I turned it the other way and it fit no problem. I’m sure this will come back to haunt me somehow, but at least the shock fits now. Odd.

Oh yeah, now I remember why I took the bloody subframe off – to install the stronger subframe bolt kit. Apparently (though I have not had this happen to me), the upper two bolts can sheer and allow the whole subframe to drop backwards, disconnecting the pipe and airbox and causing all kinds of mayhem. The kit seems to be good insurance against such horrors, and the original bolts do look awfully feeble, so why not?

The kits are made by Eagle Mike and come in various options: with just tougher replacement bolts ($5.99), with two tougher bolts for the lower mounts and one big beefy one for the top ($20.99) or the same but with two drill bits to drill out the hole for the top mount ($27.95).

The picture on the left more than aptly illustrates what can happen while the cutout on the right shows the drilled out hole with a long single bolt. Apologies but I seem to have lost appropriate credits for the pics.

I went for the $20.99 kit (sans drill bits) as I figured I had enough drill bits anyway, but of course my set stopped one short of the rather large 13/32 bit required (which ended up costing me another $12).

There’s a lot of metal to be removed and it’s not so easy to keep it all straight either.

The instructions (consisting of a very long single paragraph) are not the easiest to follow, but recommend drilling out the top mount from both sides (to meet in the middle) with the subframe still in position. Since I had the subframe off I figured I’d do it my way and just drill through the frame, all the way … from one side.

The single top bolt means you have to drill a rather long hole through the back of the main frame and through a solid cross brace part. As a result I found I needed to use five different sized smaller bits just to bring the hole progressively up to size.

And of course, I thought I was doing it like a pro, and all from one side to boot! Well until I looked at the slightly off centre hole form the other side. Let’s just hope there’s enough wiggle room and I don’t end up with a wonky subframe that nothing lines up with. Bugger.

Job done. Maybe not well, but definitely done.

With hindsight, I think the standard but beefier kit is the best option if you’re not a 100% sure of your drilling skills.


The dangers of touching things up. Valve and alternator cover were painted (albeit poorly), only to emphasize the flaking paint on the cylinder and head. Sigh.

I originally had no intention to touch up the bike, just fit the bits and write about the process. In an act of sudden foolishness I actually listened to the comments that followed previous updates asking why I would do the work and still have a bike that looks like shit at the end of it?

So I went out and brought me some spray cans.

Well the last time I used spray cans was about twenty years ago and the results were terrible. But how bad can I make the flaky painted engine covers look anyway?

Surprisingly the answer is not too bad and I do now have a much better looking valve and alternator cover, though looking closely I see that I can still do orange peel very well. The trouble is, it now makes the rest of the motor look utter shit. And no way am I going to strip the thing down just to make it look less shit.

On the other hand, the header pipe took well to a few coats of high temperature matt black though I neglected to read the instructions and am now in the awkward position of trying to sneak it into the family oven for an hour at 450F to cure.

To be honest I don’t have the time to pull the clutch cover off to paint it. Maybe touch it up with a brush, but then I know how bad that’ll look too …

I have found that SWMBO does tend to frown on such activities and little children probably shouldn’t eat chicken strips baked in paint fumes, but she is taking a trip to Ottawa at the weekend and I can feed the kids via a frying pan until the fumes have fully burnt off and the boss lady returns.

See the frame tube. Left side is sparkly paint, right is standard. Oh, and yes, I meant to do it that way. Really…

But perhaps the least successful DaVinci moment was the frame paint. For the life of me I couldn’t find any of the multitude of interweb recommended matching KLR silvers, then in my local NAPA Autoparts, there one was!

Great, now I can touch up one of the frame rails where my left boot has rubbed the frame down to the metal leaving a very stylish rust patch.

Despite my best efforts it does actually look good but what’s with the metallic paint sparkly bits? Maybe if the whole frame was painted like this I’d be laughing but no way am I stripping this thing down to the frame otherwise I’ll never get this project finished. Sparkly sections and rusty sections may just have to learn to get along.


Okay, with the suspension mods done, the next thing to tackle is braking and electrical. If all goes well, that’ll be posted before the end of April.


Progressive fork springs – $89.99

Progressive 465 Series shock – $499.95

Eagle Mike fork brace – $162.99

Arcebis front fender (part # 2040300001 – for their EXC, MXC and SX range) – $29.99

Eagle Mike Subframe bolt kit – $20.99

Paint (Duplicolor CHWP10100 High Performance Silver Wheel paint)– $10 (or thereabouts)

TOTAL SPENT = $813.91

Thanks to ..

Dual Sport Plus for supplying us with all the bits we needed to do this update.



  1. I have been eagerly awaiting this installment!!! I have been looking at a KLR as a second bike for a long time (My main ride is a BMW R1100S)… I like the concept and feel that one doesn’t need to spend $25K on a big GS, all farkled up, to hit the road (paved or dirt) for an extended period of time.

    Nice to see the KLR is easy to work on (if you can do it, well…) and have lot’s of well known fixes and upgrades… Friends have told me they are stone axe simple and can be fixed with duct tape and a hammer if needed (joking of course).

    Despite the “interesting” comments left by certain individuals in previous installments, I have found your approach and methodology straight forward and logical, and the tongue-in-cheek writing style is very humourous!! Keep up the great work!

    I am fortunate that both Dual Sports and a Vicious Cycle are both about an hour away from me so sourcing parts will be easy when i finally pull the trigger on getting a KLR. Just have to convince SWMBO that I NEED another bike…

    Looking forward to part 5!

  2. they say a picture is worth a thousand words. when i saw the bike in half next to the wood pile, i thought my she rest in peace.

    • Yes, I thought the same when I snapped that pic. Starting to come back together nicely now though, but the real test wll be to see how many “spare bolts” I find when she’s completed.

  3. Here are the P/N’s for suspension link bearings which had seized in my case after only 25k km (previous owner). There seemed to be a distinct lack of grease in this area which would make them susceptible to water.

    Needle bearings for shock linkage (2): IKO/Nachi TA2025Z. ID 20mm, OD 27mm, L 25mm (~$10 ea)
    Sleeve for needle bearings: Kawasaki 42036-1205; 15x20x8. Approx $22
    Large bearing seals on shock linkage: Kawasaki 92049-1181; Approx $14

    • Thanks for the info. The bearings were actually in pretty good shape and have been cleaned and regreased with copious amounts of copper grease.

  4. As the risk of causing more disassembly grief, you may want to check your wheel and suspension bearings as well. Decent sealed replacement units are inexpensive (actually, 1/10 the cost of the Kawi OEM versions) and pretty easy to install. They make things feel buttery smooth again. 

    • 🙂 I’m sure they had their reasons. 

      We don’t hide the fact that we get stuff for projects without cost and we don’t tell the supplier that they will get unwarranted praise either. If we don’t like something then we’ll say so and although that means that some suppliers provide product only once, then so be it. However, I think it’s important to question a magazine’s ethics whenever you think they may be compromised and although all magazines stand hand on heart spouting how important these ethics are to them, there are many who really don’t follow through.Having said that, I also believe the reader has a responsibility to not randomly throw mud either. The magazines that allow themselves to be corrupted are not the ones that talk about getting free product or the agreements they have made, but are pretty easy to spot nonetheless. Throwing mud at all only levels the playing field for the less reputable amongst us.

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