Monday, March 21, 2011

Bug-Out Vehicle Test: KLR 650

One of the great things about working on my current book project, Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters: Build and Outfit Your Life-Saving Escape, is getting out there in the real world and using some of the options I am writing about.  I did that this past weekend when a friend and I took a shake-down ride and camping trip on our Kawasaki KLR 650 dual-sport motorcycles.  These bikes can carry a load like a pack mule on the asphalt at freeway speeds, and then venture into the backcountry on gravel or dirt with ease.  We took a 600-loop from south Mississippi north into the Mississippi Delta country.  This particular road below ended in a backwater of the Mississippi River. It would have been a good place to switch to canoes:

Overall, it was a great trip.  We camped in one of the national forest areas in the northern part of the state and explored a lot of backroads I'd never seen despite living here most of my life.  Longer trips on these bikes are definitely in the planning stages for later this year.


  1. Sounds like a great time. I have never owned a dual-sport bike, lots of street bikes though. What a great bug-out vehicle. 650cc is just right for a bike that handles well and still has the B@#$'s to really go if needed. Look forward to hearing about the longer trip your planning. Take more pic's so we can ride along.

  2. You're one of the few who actually go out and use the gear you write about, unlike many 'authors' who are writing 'preparedness material' who's only experience is what they read off the internet or latest catalog of gear from various makers.

  3. BadVooDooDaddy,

    Yes, these 650cc singles are great for the purpose, powerful enough, yet still lightweight enough for some rough stuff. I've had a lot of street bikes too, and also ride a Harley for other purposes.


    Thanks. Yes, I try to get 'out there' as much as possible. I came to the prepardness scene from a lifetime background of adventure travel, so I try to focus my writing on what I know from experience and what has worked for me in the past. I'm not much on sitting around in a bunker waiting on TEOTWAWKI. I encourage all my readers to get out there and enjoy using their gear and learning from first-hand experience.

  4. what kind of gas mileage did your KLR get?

  5. Drew,

    On this trip it averaged about 46mpg. That with a good load and generally running 70mph on the highways. My friend's older model was getting 50mpg.

  6. These bikes are really attractive, for the reasons you cite, but how manageable are they for someone with a 30" inseam? Would sawed-off types be better off looking at 250s?

    Great blog, BTW; lots of reading material. Got your book wishlisted for next payday.

  7. jbrock,

    I think you could handle one fine with a 30" inseam. If not, lowering links are available to reduce the seat height. Once you're in the saddle the tall suspension compresses quite a bit, allowing you to reach the ground. A 250cc would be good too, especially if you plan to be offroad more than on, but the 650cc is naturally better for long stretches of highway.

    Glad you're enjoying the blog.

  8. Scott, that is awesome. I really need to investigate the motorcycle BOV more in depth despite having never ridden one. I've been quietly eying them up since stumbling on your blog some time ago and reading a bit or two about them...

  9. for those interested in the KLR and more tech info about them, check out

    while lowering links are available for the KLR650, they reduce the travel available for the rear suspension and make the laready weak shock even softer because of how they change the linkage.

    chopping down the seat, and reupholstering it with carpet padding can help, but a Suzuki DR650 might be a better option for those with a shorter inseam.

    the KLR has been plagued by a few problems that Kawi has mostly ignored. the "doohickey" or counter balancer adjuster on the older bikes was stamped steel for the first few years, then a horible combination of a stamped part and a cast part welded together. this was prone to grenade and occasionally cause catastrophic damage to the transmission, but usually just causes increased vubration.

    the '08+ versions have a new part, but it has a spring that's too long and a poor fit on the shaft.

    best advice for ALL YEARS is to upgrade to the billet stainless version. see the link above for more info.

    the suspension and brakes are also notorious weak points on these bikes. the brakes were improved in '08, but all years seem to greatly benefit from aftermarket ugrades to the suspension and brakes.

    the subframe bolts were another weak spon on older designs. again, aftermarket upgrades are available.

    with a little work they're great machines.


  10. Wondering if you considered either the 650 or 1000 Suzuki V-strom's? A little heavier off road but swapping the tires from street skins to some knobby dual sports makes them very capable. The now discontinued 1000 has serious power for loading down with gear and hauling say a significant other when u bug out.

    Just throwing it out there so people have options if they're looking.

    I've also read about Yamaha's new Super Tenere which is to be a 1200cc wicked dual sport monster... if you can afford the $12-13K for it.


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