My Motorcycles: 1986 Kawasaki KLR 600

If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can learn more about the KLR600.

klr600 You might be able to tell from all the non-stock stuff on this bike that I really wanted the KLR to be my personal statement about motorcycling. I spent way too much on accessories and customizing the KLR600. When it was all said and spent, the brutal fact remained; this was the worst, least functional motorcycle I’d ever owned. The KLR600 couldn’t get out of it’s own way. It’s only claim to fame was electric start. Otherwise, the bike was a monster loser in every way. In many ways, the KLR more resembled the first Kawasaki I’d ever owned (the 350 Bighorn), than any other bike I’ve had.

The suspension was soggy, made even more awful by the extra weight the 6 gallon Acerbis tank lent to already pitiful forks. The motor was anemic and easily overheated, even though it was watercooled. The handling was poor on pavement and awful on dirt. Rain grooves turned the KLR into something nightmarish. So did stream crossings. Mileage was a mediocre mid-30’s, unless you babied the throttle like you were driving a GM Suburban. The seat height was too tall for comfort while the ground clearance was not much better than the ’82 Yamaha Vision street bike it replaced. I could go on for pages. In short, the KLR 600 sucked.

I built the custom, stainless steel saddlebag racks, you see at the back of the bike (just below the “600” on the seat). The design allowed me to use a variety of bicycle panniers, saving a lot of money and adding a lot of options for in-town and touring luggage. It worked a lot better than the bike did.

Our relationship even ended badly. I sold the bike to a German tourist, in Southern California. The kid promptly killed the engine by riding it for several miles with the kickstarter half engaged, trapped behind his leg. When the starter gear seized, it took out a piece of the cases and he ignored that noise just as he’d ignored the grinding of the starter gear. After the engine oil was emptied out, the engine seized and that stopped him.

On discovering that he’d managed to turn his $1,600 investment into a pile of trash, he sued me in small claims court. Fortunately, he was stupid enough to explain what he’d done to the judge, while still expecting me to foot the bill for his stupidity, and the judge laughed him out of court, after giving him a short lecture on the word “used.” Still, I wasted a morning of my life and several hours getting ready to present my case. For a while, I thought the KLR was never going to let me escape from its clutches. (pun intended)

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