Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Caring for a KLR650 Chain - Part 1: Lubing Kinky

“The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.”  Robert Pirsig

Caveats and Self Loathing
I have limited innate "mechanical" ability.  When I take something apart, put it back together, or generally manipulate my physical environment, I tend to struggle, particularly compared to others.  A lot of people develop an interest in motorcycles because they love playing Hardware Hank in their garages.  I have a friend that completely rebuilt/restored an old 70's cafe racer, and has also put a lot of work into his R6, but he never rides either.  In fact, I don't think he really likes riding motorcycles at all.  He just likes working on them.

For me, it is just the opposite.  I would be happy to pay outrageous amounts of money for mechanics to do simple procedures on my motorcycle, however, if I am going to cross borders, it is probably in my best interest to learn the basics.  So to  anyone that knows anything about motorcycle maintenance, these posts are going to seem incredibly lame, but as it is part of my journey from mechanical ineptitude to less mechanical ineptitude, whatever, fuck you.

I do not know anything about chains.  I've only owned shift driven motorcycles in the past, and only now am beginning to appreciate the pain in the ass that is chain maintenance.  So what follows is, as far as I can tell from scouring the internet, best practices for chain maintenance for a KLR650.

Step 1:  Jacking
The KLR 650 does not come with a center stand, and after reading this thread on Adventure Rider, I would prefer not to install one as they appear to add weight, reduce ground clearance, and can damage the pegs.  That being said, I would like to have some option of jacking the motorcycle on the road in the event that I am riding two up with a beautiful Colombian girl riding bitch, and I get a flat on the way to her palatial mansion in the mountains.

Or a more likely scenario, I would like to be able to get the rear wheel off the floor to make chain lubing easier.

So my first step was purchasing the FS Moto Jack from  FDKLR, who manufactures them, one at a time "to try and help people out with a problem that [he] experienced [himself]".  FDKLR, you are a debit to capitalism!      

Note:  I did attempt to lube the chain without jacking the motorcycle (at 7,859 miles) by rolling it forward leaving a snail-trail of lube and degreaser across my car port that I imagine will be coming out of my deposit.  PRO TIP!  If you have to lube your chain without a jack, do it on a city street, or the parking lot of your local police station.

Step 2:  Cleaning
After spending a full day of work researching KLR 650 chain management, I have concluded that I would have rather pissed away an eight-hour day looking at gay porn.  As best as I can determine (and anybody reading this for advice should ignore what I am about to say because I am completely unqualified to offer an informed opinion, and, in fact, you should probably consider doing the complete opposite) nobody really knows.  Seriously.  There are a huge variety of opinions out there from seemingly credible sources.

However!  I am a huge sucker for empirical data, particularly when supported by charts and graphs.  And empirical data suggests that, to quote "Wheatwhacker" from forums:

...a clean chain is more important than a lubed one.  The internals of your chain are lubed and sealed with a rubber seal.  The object is to protect these seals by keeping the chain as clean as possible.  Oil will fine on a slow moving chain in a clean environment but, on a motorcycle tends to get flung off.  The remainder acts as a magnet for dirt particles so small you cannot see them but small enough to penetrate your oil seals...Keep your chain clean, protect the seals and your chain will serve you well.  Replace it when you need to start adjusting it often and start over again.  Simple.

And "keeping your chain clean" can be accomplished with WD40.  (Kerosene also works).  Just spray the shit out of your chain on all four sides.  Learn to say "Donde esta el W.D. Cuarenta?" or "Limpair mi cadena que poco cono" if you are feeling saucy.

Step 3:  Lubing
No need!  Or, if you are really meticulous you can follow these instructions and your chain will probably last a little bit longer.

So, the bottom line is that I plan on spraying the chain with WD 40 every thousand miles and traveling with a spare can of the stuff when I hit the road.  I will report back on my chain's longevity.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Caring for a KLR650 Chain - Part 2: Adjusting and Replacement Chains.

FS Moto Jack: $30 | Total Cost: $6593


  1. I am thoroughly enjoying your blog so far. It fits in quite nicely with what I have been doing for the past while. I am in the planning stage of a similar trip, but the start date won't be until next year some time. I also did Jimmy's course back in March and had an absolute blast. I was originally looking at taking the trip on a DR650 but ended up buying a 690 enduro. I'll have to wait and see if it was a good choice or not. I feel your pain on the whole mechanical thing. As my one riding buddy can attest, I am a poor mechanic. I like it, but I am just not very good at it.

    We did a ride in Baja last year as well, as a bit of a warm up. I was looking for a link to email the poster on here, but didn't find one. I'll definitely be following along, and if you ever want to touch base, shoot me a message at

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  3. Thanks for the compliment! I am also not planning on leaving until next year, but I am really interested in hearing more about your trip, particularly the logistics of making the trip on the 690. I will send an email.