by Tim Bernard
When setting up a KLR650 my guideline is 36” total width. Here’s why:
First of all, anything that sticks out beyond 36” is in what I call “the bug line”. Simply put, this means that if the bugs are hitting the panniers then so is the wind, which means more wind drag on the bike. The KLR650 is a single cylinder bike putting out about 30 HP at the rear wheel, so every bit of drag at the rear is important.
The second issue is clearance around obstacles on the trail. Sooner or later there becomes a NO-Zone and I have adopted the 36” rear width as my acceptable standard.
When the 2008 KLR650 came out, changes included a new tail rack and new rear side covers. Both of these contributed to making the 2008+ KLR650E wider at the rear by 1.75”. This might not seem like a big difference, but in my opinion it’s enough to affect the “bug line” as well as the NO-Zone. Because of this, pannier buying guidelines are different for the newer style KLR650.
On the older KLR650A, I like 7.5” or 9” wide panniers . The 7.5” is a good slim look, while the 9” gives more volume, with a total width of exactly 36”. However, the KLR650E model with 9” panniers is 37.75” wide and that’s a no-go for me. I recommend 7.5” panniers on the newer KLR650s for a lean width of 34.75”
Nothing scientific or fiercely debatable here, just my seat of the pants opinion derived from experience.