Kawasaki KLR 650 – the Badger
Lars is riding a 2009 KLR 650.
The bike was purchased about 2 month prior to the start of the trip, in Fairbanks. It’s been modified with the following parts:
- Happy Trails OSR Racks.
- PD Nerf plus – Skid Plate, Engine and tank guard + Highway Peg.
- Rear Master Cylinder Guard.
- Eagle Raising Links.
- Moose Hybrid SS Footpegs 1/2
- Rox Pivoting Riser.
- KLR650 Doohickey (Balancer Idle Lever & Spring)
Suzuki DR 650 – The Bunny bike
Henriette is riding a 2009 DR 650. The bike was also purchased about 2 month prior to the trip in North Pole from Alaskan Oil worker Mike Martin (a man of very few words). It’s been modified with the following parts to prepare it for the ride to Ushuaia.
- The most important modification was having the bike lowered. I have basically no legs – my feet are attached to my knee, that are attached to my hips! So dual bikes are normally out of reach for me. It’s easy done on a Suzuki DR650. The rear suspension can be dropped 1.75″ by removing a bolt and replacing it in a different spot. And the forks can be pushed up through the triple clamps about 1.5″.
- Oversized footpegs. Awesome for standing up.
- Skid plate. Would never have made it over the Engineer Pass in Colorado without it.
- Happy trail side racks. Works well with soft luggage.
- Heated grips. Saves me on a cold day.
- Suzuki low gel seat – I cannot recommend this seat. I had it fixed at Powersport Seats in Calgary and when they removed the cover, it was easy to see why even the gel seat is very uncomfortable. It was poor foam and gel, and the gel was badly fitted. I had new foam and gel put in and put an Ludde sheepskin from IKEA over it.
I bought the gel seat for $175 which was a complete waste. I later spend $200 for have it redone in Calgary. I bought a Ludde sheepskin from IKEA for $45 and later an Airhawk seat cushion for $100. This still didn’t work and I finally send it to Seat Concept in California and had it completely remodeled, to give it a wider and flatter shape in the back. The price tag for this was an additional $200.
- A 12 Volt socket.
- A Screen for bikes windscreen from Australia
- Engine guards. Prevents the brake or shift lever from puncturing the engine when you drop the bike.
- Spark plugs
- Clutch and brake lever
- Brake pads
- Brake fluid
- Oil filter
- Air filter cleaner
- Chain cleaner
- Chain oil
- Jets (for higher altitudes)
- Throttle cable + clutch cable
- 2 x front tubes + 2 x rear tubes
- Repair kits for tubes
- Doohickey for the KLR
- we also carry parts that needs to be changed within a short period. Right now I carry a chain and sprocket set for the Suzuki.
- Duck tape
- Zip fasteners
Acquiring the bikes
Acquiring the bikes was not simple at all. We were naive to think that buying a dual-sport bike in Alaska would be super easy. The dealers would be standing in line with good value for money bikes meeting our needs – NOT!
Lars was pretty flexible in terms of model and was looking for KLR, DR, BMW GS, Yamaha Tenere, Honda XRV. I needed something very low, and there’s basically just 2 dual-sports models that fit that criteria: the BMW F650GS or the Suzuki DR650. I did not know the DR model until I came across this website Short Way Round. This guy has tested both the F650GS and the DR650 bikes for long overland trips and recommended the Suzuki.
I found a guy in Denmark who had a DR650 and tested the seat height. High – but not impossible when lowered. I have ridden the BMW GS for 2 years now and even if it’s comfortable and a very nice bike, I find it too heavy and too much of a sofa bike (Sorry BMW). The Suzuki is lighter, and doesn’t have that couch-wide seat as the BMW. When you have short legs, the width of the seat makes a difference. The Suzuki seat is known for a being super uncomfortable – also the gel version, so I’m up for a tough ride!
So Suzuki it was! But to my big surprise the dealers in Alaska did not have DR650’s lined up waiting for my call. And they could not order them either. It was simply impossible to get a new DR650 in Alaska and having the bike transported from the lower 48’s turned out to be less than simple. A guy on Advrider advised me to try the local Craigslist for used bikes and that’s where I found the Suzuki.
The dialog with the seller was not simple. He was a man of few words and quite rude to be honest. Told me several times that he wasn’t so eager to sell the bike and that he had other buyers waiting with the money in the hand. Not the usual bikers spirit, you meet most places. I mean most bikers dream of that long trip, and get quite exited when they meet people who finally do it.
I did not dare to transfer the money directly to this guy, so I contacted Northern Powersports in Fairbanks and asked them to help with the transaction. Basically I needed them to have a look at the bike and if they thought it was in an ok condition, pay the guy $4000. Mike Martin the rude seller, did not like to spend his time at Northern Powersports. “I have told you, the bike is great, and you should trust that!”. So for a while there, I thought the deal was never gonna happen. BUT, the people at Northern Powersports were great.
I transferred money via Moneygram to the owner of Northern Powersports. I thought a direct transfer to their bank account with a SWIFT code and IBAN would be safest and easiest, but they refused to give me their bank account number. They later told me, they thought I was scamming them. Anyways, transferring $4000 via Moneygram without really knowing the people at Northern Powersports felt quite shaky! I simply had to trust that they were honest people.
Finally the deal was on! They received my cash. Mike Martin brought the bike from North Pole to Fairbanks. Northern Powersport had a look at the bike, thought it looked really good and paid the guy the money.
The following week we repeated the drill. Lars had found a guy on Craigslist in Fairbanks who was selling his KLR650. The guy was in fact a pastor, so this couldn’t be wrong. A bike previously owned by a pastor – means it blessed! (Lars’ bike anyways! Does that push all the breakdowns towards me???)
The Pastor Gary Cox was a really nice guy even if his computer skills were limited. The pictures of the bike were not particularly satisfying. But Northern Powersport had a look at it and handled the payment the same way they handled the Suzuki.
Northern Powersport did not do a thorough check of the bike before the deal, so it was not like there was any guarantee against breakdowns or problems. But this was the best solution for buying 2 pre-owned bikes on the other side of the world.
Registering the bikes
Having the bikes registered in Alaska was not a problem at all. We brought the Title, drivers license, passport and a local address to the local DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles) office in Fairbanks. Waited an hour in line and had our new titles, registration and license plates made within 15 minutes. It costs $48 for the Suzuki and $15 for the Kawasaki – a ridiculous sum compared to the cost in Denmark. We gave them the address to the hostel where we were staying.
For insurance we visited the local Progressive office and bought insurance covering the US and Canada. We pay $109 per month + $100 in fee (once) Not cheap at all , but I later came in handy.