The 50,001st Kilometre

I rode the 50,001st Kilometer on Phil’s bike.

Last week I drove to Vancouver to see Phil and to pick up several boxes I had shipped from London. We also ended up bringing quite a lot of Phil’s stuff back to my parents’ house as he will be moving out of his current residence in July when we leave on the Ultimate Ride.

It’s a simple route from Calgary to Vancouver – but a very long drive:

There’s only one road in Canada

Riding Phil’s bike was the first time I had ridden another KLR650 and I noticed differences between my bike and his immediately. His is somehow shorter than mine. I can put both feet flat down on the ground when sitting on his, but only the balls of my feet touch down on mine. The only¬†explanation¬†is the aftermarket suspension he has installed on his bike. Also his handlebars are higher (and blue). I liked this height, made it easier to stand on the pegs and still steer the bike with a feeling of control. (Standing on the pegs is important when riding on gravel and dirt.)

Here’s Phil on his bike, note all the luggage he has. I have luggage envy.

Phil and his KLR at 50,000km

Doing a 2000km road trip with my dad was really great. The drive over the Rocky Mountains was stunning and I haven’t had the opportunity for quality time with my dad over the past decade. A side effect of not living on the same continent. I may have driven him slightly mad listening to my Spanish lesson podcasts though.

The weather on the drive out was beautiful, clear and sunny. On the way home however it was very wet and rainy and by the time we got back to Calgary I was pretty much convinced that a heated vest is going to make me a happier motorcyclist. If I had been riding my bike on Thursday I would have been very, very wet. I am making that trip in a month’s time so need to be ready!

When we got home I had to get rid of Phil’s old Suzuki so that there was room in the garage for all our stuff. This is it on the trailer about to be taken away.

Goodbye old bike!

I’ve made a lot of progress on my motorcycle this past couple of weeks. I have bought aluminum panniers (but not yet figured out how I am going to mount them) and got a metal skid plate from another KLR rider who had an old one he didn’t need (thanks Rod!). A rider called Rick who lives in British Columbia is shipping me crash bars to protect my radiator and the side of my bike, and my BarkBusters (handlebar protection) and heated handgrips arrived this morning. Rick has ridden to South America before and sent me some great advice as well. I am so thrilled with the motorcycling community here in Canada – I have met (and corresponded with) so many fantastic people who are very happy to help and share their experience and knowledge.

The guy who sold me the panniers (Dirt Baggs) is called Colin. He replied to a “wanted” ad I put online and invited me to go to a Motorcycle shop in Calgary to see them (City Cycle – my new favourite motorcycle shop). I popped in there one afternoon and Colin happened to be sitting there talking to the owner Terry. They’d sold the set of boxes I had come to see, but I ended up spending a couple of hours in there getting great advice, several stories, and a set of new Heidenau tires for my bike. Colin later got me the boxes I bought, and also introduced me to his friend Craig. Craig owns two KLRs (among other bikes) and has ridden extensively in South America. I spent the day at his house yesterday where he helped me install the Thermo-Bob into my cooling system, and shared hours of stories and tips for our trip. I came away with a new friend, feeling inspired and even more excited about our trip (if that is even possible).

Craig’s KLR while demonstrating how to use a piece of pipe to prop up the rear wheel.

How to prepare a bike to change the rear tire with just a piece of pipe.

First thing I did this morning was convince my mum to donate a sheepskin rug to me and Phil to put on our seats.

One month now until the Ultimate Ride begins!


Doing the Doo

Yesterday I did my doo.

This is not some kind of special dance or weird ritual, the “doohickey” is a bit of metal in the engine of all KLR650 motorcycles that is prone to break (real name “Balancer Idle Lever”). The reason Phil’s bike’s engine was rebuilt before he bought it was because the doohickey failed and tore up the engine. So the first modification on my list was to replace the stock doohickey with a more robust one.

Two gaskets, one manual, one torsion spring and a Doohickey

I bought the bits I needed, borrowed the special tools required (thanks Vance) and put out a call on the forum for others wanting to do it with me, or to just come help. Turns out there’s another KLR owner called Chad who lives five minutes from my house. He also wanted to do his doo, so we planned a Saturday tech day.

The bikes in the workshop

This left us in a situation where we were very much the blind leading the blind – with a lot of assistance from the internet and YouTube! This was our favourite “how to” video.

We decided to work on Chad’s 2011 KLR first. With the exception of a dropped washer causing a bit of a panic (which we later found) the installation went very well – until it came time to hook the spring onto the Doohickey (the key part that provides the tension). We tried and tried to get it hooked on, but it was extremely difficult. At this moment, I checked my email and there was a message from another rider, Dave. He’d just seen my post about the tech day, he’s done five Doohickeys before, and we should call him if we had any trouble. We called him immediately and he said he’d come over and help. Fabulous!

We’d been working for a couple of hours by this point, so Chad and I decided to go grab some lunch and a rotor bolt while we waited for him. We went down to the nearby area where there are three motorcycle shops on the same block. None of them had the rotor bolt I wanted, but one of the mechanics told us he always reused the old rotor bolt and so I decided to just do that. Then came the adventure called “lunch”.

There is a place called Billy’s Burger Bar in that same area. My dad had mentioned that some friends of his used to go there, so we decided to try it. We walked in and it was immediately obvious that Billy doesn’t work there any more. The majority of the menu is now Chinese food. The people at the tables seemed to be enjoying it, but it was quite a shock to have to really search through the menu for any burgers. A case of not judging a book by its cover I guess. We both ordered mushroom and cheese burgers, which were delicious. A new kind of fusion dining experience.

By the time we got back to the house, Dave had arrived. Chad went to show him how difficult getting the spring on was, and it just went on in 3 seconds flat. Typical.

The three of us then smoothly put Chad’s bike back together (after ogling all the lovely farkles and modifications Dave has done to his bike, which is the same colour and year as mine is.)

Dave arrives to save the day

It was then my bike’s turn to have its tender bits entered. (tee hee) We were a lot more confident having already been through the process and I felt like we were a bit quicker the second time round.

The inside of my motor

The difference between my old Doohickey and the new one was quite drastic. The old one seemed almost fragile. I’ve put it on my bike’s key chain as a memento.

Old welded together one on the left, new one on the right

I also struggled to get the spring hooked into my doohickey, and I wasn’t 100% happy with the way the spring was sitting on top of it, but after a lot of messing around, it looked pretty close to the pictures online of how it should look. After getting both bikes back together and both of them started up without the sound of the engine exploding we felt pretty proud of ourselves.

Not quite the same as Phil’s victory yesterday though. Well done little bro!



Meeting my KLR

I have arrived.

After three of the most stressful and emotional weeks in my life, I am now in Calgary, Canada, where I was born.

I am staying at my parent’s house for the next two months while I prepare for our departure.

Several months ago, in December, I bought a 2006 Kawasaki KLR 650 – the bike that will take me 35,000km. I had my parents pick it up and store it in their garage. This is how I found it when I excitedly went out to finally see it in person:

Where's the bike?

Spot the motorcycle

After digging it out from under all the junk, I rolled it outside and climbed on.

My first “ride”

It’s a lot bigger than my little Yamaha! However I can touch the ground on both sides so it will suit me just fine. That is if I can get it running.

When I tried to start it for the first time it was not happy. The starter turned over but nothing else happened. My first mechanical problem.

After learning how the gas valve and choke work (neither of which I had on the Yamaha) I charged the battery and was ready to try again. This time it started!

Short lived joy though because as soon as I touch the throttle the engine dies. I haven’t resolved this issue yet. I’m guessing there’s some sort of blockage in the carburator. Today’s job is to buy some carb cleaner and see what I can do to get the engine to keep running!

I’m really looking forward to learning how the KLR works, and to taking it apart and putting it back together. It’ll be a steep learning curve, but I’m ready for it!