Preparation

I’ve decided to embark on my next two-wheeled journey by motorcycle. I don’t yet know where I’m heading. Last year I traveled west and as far as Calgary, Banff and British Columbia. This year, I had intended to travel to Mexico, but now I am reconsidering.

While Mexico is not yet out of the question entirely, I will probably save that for another trip when the weather is cooler. Of course, by winter time I will want to head to Patagonia (I placed I have longed to visit for over a decade).

Before or after heading into Mexico, I had originally intended to stop off in Santa Fe to visit a friend, but that friend is moving on so I wonder if I will make the Mexico trip any time soon. It might form the entry point of my Latin America excursion.

It’s bit like last year when I was in Moab. I had thought I was going to continue west, but the impact of the hot sun and dry baking heat encouraged me to seek shelter in the mountains. So, I headed north into Wyoming and Montana. Yes, I prefer a cooler climate and mountain roads (something I enjoy little of living in Florida). Maybe I will head north instead of west. I still have many states to check off my list. Currently, the only northern state I’ve ridden is Massachussettes. I don’t care entirely about check marking states I’ve visited, but I must care some, or I wouldn’t mention it.

The bike I intend to take is not yet ready. It’s a 2006 KLR 650 which I have turned into a Tengai. It’s not a pretentious bike by any means. The plastics don’t match, and the bike looks worn and funky. After 32,000+ miles, though, it should look a little used after all. It looks like it belongs in Mexico, actually. That’s how I like it.

It’s not the only bike I could take on this next trip. I’ve thought about taking my 750 shaft-drive cruiser, and I’m still considering it, because I can travel faster on that bike for longer, though I have yet to prove that. I opted to take it on an Everglades trip several months ago and found I got fatigued by the riding position after hours and end. Up to that point, I had only taken my cruiser on shorter trips and a mere 850+ mile Everglades trip was no big excursion. But I did learn that the KLR 650 with its custom Sargent seat was more comfortable on a longer journey (for me) by some margin than my cruiser with its high-end Corbin saddle.

This is a rough outline of the trip I took to the Everglades
A rough outline of the trip I took to the Everglades on my 2006 Kawasaki Vulcan VN750 shaft drive cruiser in the winter of 2015. Google reported approximately 19 hours and 881 miles. It was probably more because I did backtrack and ride around a lot while not en route.

I do prefer the off-road capability of the KLR. In truth, it’s not ALL that capable compared to my KTM 690 Enduro R, or the flat-side carb-KLX400 parked in my shed. But it is the bike I would opt to take around the world. People seem to either love it or hate it. The KLR 650 following is extensive. It fits the groove for many riders. It is budget friendly, able to go long distances, able to tackle highway travel as well as take you off pavement while carrying everything you could need for a long solo journey. Unlike my KTM, the rudimentary mechanical aspect of the bike allows me to work on it and find parts in more remote regions. It can run on nearly any fuel or oil and is just a simply blunt machine with no finesse and no refinements. Like an attorney who owned a BMW GS adventure bike once said about my bike, “It’s an honest bike,” and I kind of liked hearing that after thinking about it a moment.

The cruiser is still an excellent bike. It’s low maintenance and can cruise comfortably. Even at 90mph it feels stable and relaxed. Not that I sustain that speed (though I do often tend to ride fast), but it is much more expressway-friendly, get-there-fast and it’s a flow-with-any-traffic kind of bike, compared to the KLR which really winds up the RPMS on fast paced Interstates. Major highways, which I usually try to avoid out of boredom, are the avenues to getting to certain places quickly and I find I must use them from time-to-time, when I want to extend my mileage for the day or when I am hindered by the clock.

But the KLR can do expressways well-enough, and does it ‘well-enough’ with the added benefit of being more off-pavement friendly.  I get frustrated when I see dirt roads or trails that would be hard or impossible to traverse on my cruiser. I’ve taken cruisers on gravel, dirt roads and even sugar-sand roads (not without ‘some’ trouble of course). At my level of riding I can manage more situations and terrain variables on most any bike than I could years ago when I first started riding back in Boston. But off-pavement riding is more fun with the right tires and better suited suspension. With the cruiser, I miss the nuances of off-pavement riding and have to take it slow and steady.

OK. Some I am still convinced I am taking the KLR it sounds like. Right? Rear suspension replacement, oil change, coolant check, tire inspections, brake inspections, wheel, hubs, chains, sprockets, what else? Hmmm. Just a once over on all the bolts and so forth and basic maintenance procedures outlined in the shop manual. Should do it. I already replaced the doohickey (yes, mine was broken) and did the Eagle Mike Through-frame subframe bolt upgrade. Valve job-check!

Acceptance, Courage, Wisdom