My BMW R1150 GSAA at Deals' Gap

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Sunday
Jan292012

KLX250S Adventure Make-over - Phase 1

Got a wild hair? Lost my mind? Why would I want to take a box-stock 2006 Kawasaki KLX250S and morph it into something that resembles an adventure bike? Well, because I can! OK, really I do have a motive. In this case, I like the decent suspension and lightness of this bike. I could have taken a KLR650, DR650 or other larger-bore dual sport and create an adventure bike, but they all weigh more to start with and picking this little 250 up in the wild is a whole lot easier - quite the opposite of taking our rather heavyweight BMW R1150GS Adventure out to play in the dirt. At 10 years old and about 90K miles on it, I'm beginning to consider just what activities I involve the BMW in - before I hurt it.

So, what's Phase 1 all about? Phase 1 is focused strictly on the bars. At 6'1", when standing on the pegs, I found myself hunching over, making for some really uncomfortable riding. My choices of fixes included the addition of bar risers or a complete replacement of the bar. As seen below, the Kawasaki came with some rather flimsy plastic handguards. I REALLY wanted to bolt on a nice set of Barkbuster Storm handguards. I learned from the interweb that the Kawasaki bars are plugged with a welded in washer on both ends. That made the bar replacement an easy decision over adding a set of bar risers.

Some searching on the internet yielded a suggestion or two on the replacement bar. Calling Renthal about one such recommendation yielded an even more educated recommendation from Brad. At 6'2", he recommended the RC High bar, PN 809-01-SI-01-185 which would give me the proper lift, without running into issues with the clutch and brake lines. I was able to shop around and found the bar on sale at Powersport Superstore. Score!

The Barkbuster Storm handguards and fitments were ordered up from Twisted Throttle. Their website allows you to select your specific bike and all available products in their inventory are then displayed for your shopping pleasure. Oooo, farkle!

Grip replacement was going to be necessary, so I went with a set of grips mentioned by another KLX250S owner: ProGrip Rally 737 - Black. These were also ordered up from the Powersport Superstore, but this time through the Amazon marketplace. No tax, no shipping charges, $12.52 to my door. These soft, gel-style grips look like a nice step up from the stock Kawasaki ones, and appeared to be slightly larger in diameter, too.

Everything arrived in time for the weekend, so with some help from Ed Gray, the bar-replacement activity was started early Saturday morning (1/28/12). Pictures were taken of where everything "was" before everything was removed from the existing bar. Once everything was removed and dangling, the Kawi bar was removed. It felt heavier than I imagined, so I decided to weigh it. It weighed in at 2.5 lbs. The new Renthal bar weighed in at 1.8 lbs. A bit of a savings there, but I knew that adding the Barkbusters was going to likely result in a slight weight gain. Oh well.

The Renthal bar was aligned and lightly bolted into place. Brad at Renthal suggested I sight up the shock and align the bar to that same "line". Doing so, positioned the laser-etched Renthal logo right smack in the center of the cutout in the handlebar clamp.

Without riding the bike, I wouldn't know if I liked the height/tilt of the new bar, so I felt it best to start with the neutral position as seem here.

Grip replacement seemed like the next thing to tackle. ProGrip's documentation indicated that IF the package didn't come with grip glue, simply use alcohol as a lube to allow the grips to slide into place and allow them to dry 24 hours before use. Their documentation also went on to say that for racing conditions, safety wiring the grips in 2 or 3 places along the length was also recommended. The left grip went on without any hassle. We took some extra time to clean some of the existing glue off the throttle tube before mounting the right side grip. A box cutter and a bit of alcohol removed most of the glue (enough, we figured). The right side grip slid on almost as easily as the left, but required purging a bit of trapped air along the way.

Hmmm. What to do next? Wait 24 hours seemed to be the answer, so Ed departed for home and I tidied up a bit before moving on to other Saturday activities (time with my wife, late lunch, craft beer tasting, etc.).

Sunday arrived and it was time to finish Phase 1. First step: Finish up on the grips. After 3 stops in Raleigh and getting the blank stare when I asked about safety wire (unbelievable!), I resorted to taking my money to the craft store (A.C. Moore!) and buying some wire used for bracelet making! <gasp> Strong, thin gauge, and inexpensive ($3.49 for twelve 2' lengths), it seemed like the ticket. If I was working on an airplane, I'd certainly get the right stuff, but for simply a little added security in keeping the grips in place, it worked.

The ProGrip grips have three nice slots for safety wire molded right into them. You can barely see the wire here and the twisted ends tucked in nicely, so not to catch on my bare hands (I ride with gloves anyway).

I even got to dust off my old safety wire tool from the good old days when I worked on my airplane.

With the grips secured, it was time to tackle bolting on the Barkbusters. After some experimentation, I decided that fastening the black plastic guards to the aluminum backbones ahead of time would reduce my frustration once bolted up to the bike. This turned out to be the wise move, as getting a screw driver in place to secure the plastic guards after the fact would have been difficult.

Both grips required a bit of cutting to allow the expander end of the backbone to slip inside the bar end. With the left side, this wasn't difficult, but the throttle side took some additional time and patience. The instructions suggested cutting a whole in the grip and then rolling it back off the end of the throttle tube. Once rolled back, they recommended using a hack saw to remove the very end of the throttle tube so to allow the expander to slide into the bar end without restricting throttle movement. The new grip wasn't going to behave itself, so I decided to use my Dremel to enlarge the hole in the throttle tube to match its inside diameter. This all worked pretty well, except that much of the plastic that was ground away ended up between the throttle tube and the aluminum surface of the Renthal bar, gumming up the throttle action. Oops.

I really hadn't planned on taking the throttle assembly apart, but no time like the present to learn something new. With the two clamping screws removed, the twin throttle cables were exposed and quickly popped out of their slots. This allowed the throttle tube to be removed and cleaned out. The bar was also cleaned of a few particles of plastic before all was popped back into place and buttoned up. Whew.

A little bit more trimming was required on the right side grip to keep it from binding on the bar-end insert from Barkbuster. Here's a close up shot, showing the completed throttle-side assembly.

With everything bolted lightly into place, I took the time to tweak and adjust so that left and right matched in height. With everything matched up and looking good, I followed Barkbuster's instructions that call out the specific order in which everything is tightened up. No torque specs were provided, so I went by feel and plan to check things out after a few hours of riding. One last thing to do... torque up the handlebar clamp (4 bolts) to 25 N-m. I'm glad I didn't forget that!

Below are some additional pictures of the finished product. Phase 2 is already on my mind and will focus on bolting on a set of pannier racks from Happy-Trail.com.