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KLR650 Width and the “No-Zone”

Posted by Tim Bernard on August 24th, 2010

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.


3 Responses to “KLR650 Width and the “No-Zone””

  1. Ken Hunter Says:

    If 36″ is the ideal width you are trying to stay within then going systematical with the panniers racks on a DRZ should not be an issue. It will also allow those of use that run cliff cuts up high room for the turn signal and it will also give the necessary space to run storage tubes on the inside of the rack.

  2. Tim Bernard Says:

    One would think that, on first appearances. The majority of the bikes are asymmetrical in design by nature of a single exhaust. Is the goal to keep each side as narrow as possible? Just the right side? Just the left side? Once you start down a road of thinking and design personality that is where you tend to go and argue for that point of view, after all you have condemned others for thinking contrary to your thoughts and have sold against it for years.

    Some bikes that are single exhaust have forced symmetrical racks due to other parameters so you have a vacant space and you have a desire to fill that space. Here comes the debate then on how you should approach the design criteria and how rigid your thought process should be. Fortunately for Happy Trails we are riders and we are surrounded by riders with experience (like you) who bring intelligent thoughts back to us and are willing to debate them with a purpose of making it better for other users. When the point is well made we can be flexible and follow points and reasons of the intelligent debate, as we are innovators and design our own product.

    When you deal with Happy Trails you are dealing with the source. I would invite anyone to bring intelligent, thought-out points to us and we will promise to talk to you about those points.

  3. Dr. G Says:

    Much of Europe operates on the “one meter rule” for technical inspection (like Germany, Austria, Switzerland…) which means the motorcycle can be no more than one meter wide, anywhere. Then there is the rule cars must be one meter apart, when side by side. That means there is a one meter space, at least, on the centerline and why motorcycles are allowed to split lanes when cars are on-coming on a two lane road. It’s tight, but amazingly works. Once I knicked a guys mirror when lane splitting. He was agast…I was kind of surprised too. My learning curve was a little upward at the time. Now I can better judge just how wide one meter is. I had an International license plate at the time so he did not know I was a stupid American, just knew I was a stupid driver. :-)

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