My BMW R1150 GSAA at Deals' Gap

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Happy Trail SU Rack Installation on a new (to me) KLR650

What? Another Kawasaki? Yes! I spotted well-farkled 2015 KLR650 at my local BMW dealership in late October and brought it home. It had been recently traded on a BMW GSA and already had many farkles on it that I would consider if I'd bought it new. Oh, and it had less that 600 miles on the clock.

There's lots of farkle to look at on this bike and some things you wouldn't notice, too, like the Schnitz 685 piston kit.

Having previously set up my KLX250S with a set of Happy Trail SU Racks and a pair of Pelican 1550 cases, my immediate thought was to set the KLR up so that the cases could be used on both bikes. Unfortunately, the newer SU Racks have a welded in plate near the top, that provides two hard mount points for panniers. The older racks on the KLX are completely open, requiring a pair of pannier mounting pucks on the top instead of the hard mounting points.

The right side SU Rack for the KLR is shown below, with the brass hard mount points. From my work on the KLX, I had a set of knobs that would screw into the hard mounting points from the inside of each case.

Because I wanted to preserve the existing drilled holes in the Pelican cases if possible, I did some fitting and measuring on the bench before starting to mount the racks to the bike. Through some email exchanges with the folks at Happy Trail, I'd obtained a drawing (Teton .1 premount measurements.jpg) that supposedly shows the correct dimensions between holes necessary for drilling a set of panniers for use with SU Racks. The drawing indicated that the distance between the center of the two top holes should be 4.53".

I happen to have a Rotopax Adapter plate from Happy Trail that fits a SU Rack. It comes pre-drilled and powder coated, so I compared the measurements from the drawing to the holes in the plate. I found the distance between the center of the two top holes to be 4.375". Just to make sure, I checked that the factory-drilled holes in the adapter plate align to the hard mount holes on the new SU Rack. They did, as one might expect.  So, caution is advised when relying on any Happy Trail-provided drawing.

After confirming the correct dimensions using the adapter plate, I matched up the right and left side SU Rack with the matching Pelican case. I removed a little bit more plastic from the ridge on the bottom of each case for improved clearance and marked the locations of the two new holes.

The locations of the two holes to be drilled are visible in photo below. The two aluminum pucks at the top won't need to be relocated. These fit over the lower bar of the SU Rack.

Once the hole drilling was completed, I had a decision to make. I could leave the original two holes for the possibility that I'd use the cases again on the KLX250S, or find a way to plug them and use them exclusively with the KLR650.

I decided that with the KLR650 in the garage, it would be unlikely that I'd ever mount the cases back on the KLX250S.

I chose to use some J-B Weld to plug the holes - because it's what I had. Some blue masking tape was used to cover each hole from the inside of the case. A toothpick was used to unscientifically fill each hole with J-B Weld from the outside. Once dried overnight, this made for a cosmetically smooth surface on the inside and a relatively smooth, but imperfect surface on the outside - not that anyone with a KLR should really care about too much.

Now on to the mounting of the actual SU Racks...

There are videos out on the web that provide helpful details. One claimed that the installation should take 15 minutes. I can tell you that your mileage will vary.

I started by installing the right side rack, using the Happy Trail-provided instructions and YouTube for visual support. The kit provides two replacement inserts for bolting up the rear-most rack mount point with the turn signal. When bolting up the right side, I immediately found that the Kawasaki turn signal mounting bracket "lip" wouldn't align properly over the frame. I started to worry about crushing the lip when tightening the bolts later, so I experimented with a couple of possibilities.

The Happy Trail-supplied mounting insert is shown below - oriented the way one would expect it to fit inside the frame. The egg shape matches the open area in the frame it's supposed to go into.

While fighting with alignment of the turn signal bracket, I tried reversing the insert (L-R). It still fit, but didn't solve the problem. Going back to the original, and expected orientation, I tried a different approach.

Rather than bolting up and aligning the turn signal bracket with the M8x65 bolt in place first (refer to the Happy Trail instructions), I got some help from my wife to loosely hold the SU Rack in place while I installed the two M6X30 bolts for the turn signal mount. Success! I was able to align the rack and turn signal bracket without fear of crushing the lip of the bracket later! With the bolts in place, I reinstalled the M8X65 bolt and continued with the rest of the assembly.

When installing the left side rack, I didn't have any alignment issues with the turn signal bracket on that side. Luck?

Here are some photos of the installed left and right side racks:

If you have a keen eye, you may have already spotted the one last challenge I would need to solve.

Hint:  It has to do with the rear bumper bracket that bolts to and separates the left and right side racks.

Here's a better picture of the problem:

As assembled, the rear bumper bracket fit very tightly against the KLR's fender, actually pressing on and deforming the plastic.

At first, I was disappointed, but figured it was acceptable, as the fender plastic didn't look like it was in any danger of breaking. A friend suggested that the bumper could probably be bent down to provide the proper clearance. I'd think about that.

About a day later, I was still thinking about the problem and had what I call an epiphany. It happens - usually in the shower.

Since the rear bumper bolts on, what about simply flipping it over? Maybe it would fit better. Out to the cold garage I went and within a few minutes, I had my answer.

Flipping the rear bumper over completely solved the problem. Here's another opportunity for Happy Trail to improve their documentation with a few extra details.

Since I'm getting older, I took the time to mark the rear bumper for future reinstallation, as shown below:

It was nice to have this problem solved without resorting to bending things!

In conclusion, here are a couple of photos showing the racks with the Pelican 1550 cases mounted. Overall, I'm very happy with the installation and ability to reuse my existing cases. Enjoy!


KLX250S with bags spotted in the sunlight

By popular demand, here are some photos of the bike captured outside the garage. You should be able to get a better idea how the bike looks with the bags on it from these.

I've started working on the communications box that will mount to the rear rack and am on a hunt for certain small bits and pieces now to finish it up. I hope to make some progress this weekend.


KLX250S Adventure Make-over - Phase 4

Phase 4 began on Saturday afternoon with me in the garage as the wind howled outside. The Happy Trails SU Side Racks were looking a little bare and it was finally time to mount a set of Pelican 1550 cases sourced from Nalpak Group on them. Along with the LED tail light assembly detailed in a previous posting, I'd picked up the Happy Trails SU Puck Kit for 3/4" tubing (P/N HTPMK750-A), as seen below.

I was favorable impressed with the ruggedness of the aluminum "pucks". Hardware was included for tool less mounting/unmounting using the big plastic knobs - 2 per side. In addition, extra bolts for wrench-required mounting/unmounting were also included.

To make sure I mounted the bags in the same location on both sides, I planned to use one of the ridges on the bottom of the Pelican case as a guide rest for the tubular rack. With this in mind, I knew from trial fitting that I'd have to remove some of the plastic from the ridge opposite the guide ridge due to the width of the SU Rack. I tackled this modification on both bags using a Dremel Tool earlier in the week, as shown in the photos below.

Knowing that I needed to make sure the bags were in exactly the same location on both sides of the bike, I decided to create a template when planning the left side that I could flip it over to use as the template for the right side.

I removed the left side SU Rack and positioned it where I wanted it to be on top of the template and Pelican case. Following the instructions from Happy Trails, I then positioned the 4 "pucks" in place to maximize stability at the bottom (no forward or backward movement allowed) and to allow rotation at the top for case removal.

Upon doing this, I realized that more plastic was going to need to be removed in order to allow the puck in the lower right to mount flat to the case.

The Dremel came out again, making short work out of the additional plastic removal. Then with the rack and pucks back in place, I used the insert from a ballpoint pen to roughly mark through the bolt hole of each puck. This worked out pretty well in practice, but probably has some of you cringing.

Small pilot holes were drilled through the paper template and left side case. I then used a step drill to work my way up to a clean 5/16 inch hole for each.

A keen eye will notice that the step drill got away from me on one of the holes. Oh crap. In reality, this mistake didn't cause any harm, but I was much more careful when drilling the remaining holes.

With holes drilled and deburred, I test fit all the hardware to make sure everything was secure. Yes!

With everything looking good and feeling very solid, I flipped the template over, traced the main lines through and taped it to the side of the right side case. I used the right side rack and pucks to check everything out. With just minor variations in rack dimensions, I only had to adjust the location of one hole before drilling. No mistakes this time!

Before I mounted everything back on the bike, I took a moment to weigh everything.

  • Left side Pelican 1550, mounting hardware and SU rack:  13.1 lbs.
  • Right side Pelican 1550, mounting hardware and SU rack:  13.2 lbs.
  • Happy Trails SU Rack "Bumper": 1.7 lbs.

That's a total of 28 extra pounds on the back of the bike, before I pack anything in. I might have to check that preload adjustment on the rear shock after all.

With the weighing done, the bags were removed from their respective racks and I commenced re-bolting the SU Racks back onto the KLX250S. I'm getting to be pretty good at doing this now and I managed to complete the process in about 15 minutes. The trick to making it a little easier is to start with the middle bolt on each side, followed by the shorter, front bolt and finally the hefty rear bolt. None should be tightened much until you are satisfied that the bolts are threading in properly. Stripped threads in the frame = much badness.

With everything in place and tightened up, I then bolted on the rear bumper using the 4 temporary (actually undersized) bolts, washers and nuts I'd used initially. I did end up asking Bob at Happy Trails about the missing hardware and he kindly arranged to send it to me! I'm not sure how it got missed in the first place, but it's the customer service that matters in this case. Thanks Bob!

A few minutes later I had the bags in place and the mounting hardware tightened. I'm really pleased with the results and managed a short, brisk ride this morning to get the feel of riding a (much) widened KLX250S. I actually couldn't seem to tell the difference, but I bet I would in a stiff cross-wind.

Anjoy the photos below of the finished work! I'm now starting to think about electronics.


KLX250S License Tag Relocation

As you might recall, I found that the horizontal "bumper" that bolts between the left and right side SU Side Racks from Happy Trails partially obscured the license tag in its factory location on the '06 KLX250S. Not wanting another reason to be pulled over, I decided the best fix would be to move the tag down a few inches.

I scrounged a piece of aluminum from the junk box, made some measurements and had a friend at work cut it to dimension on the shop's sheet metal brake. I drilled two holes for the existing mounting bracket and another two near the top to secure the new bracket to the fender. I then cleaned and painted the plate using flat black from a rattle can.

Here's a shot of the finished "product" with the OEM bracket bolted on.

Yesterday, I bolted it to the KLX250S, using the existing holes in the plastic fender. Black 6mm cap screws and stainless steel elastic stop nuts and washers were used on the inside of the fender to keep things secure. The photo below shows the new position of the tag bracket with the Happy Trails "bumper" above it.


KLX250S - Simple LED Tail Light Assembly Swap

Quick and easy! That's the way I like things sometimes. For better visibility, I decided to replace the existing tail light bulb on the KLX250S with an LED-based option. Already being a customer of Happy-Trails, I noticed they offered the LED Tail Light WOW Kit (P/N AER70-001-2) for all years of the KLR650. Buried away in the fine print was a reference to this same assembly reportedly working on the KLX250S. Their pictures made it look like a reasonable gamble, since the mounting "tabs" looked like they would fit with the two screw mounting of the existing red plastic tail light cover on the KLX. I ordered one up and it arrived along with the "puck" kit I was going to need for mounting the Pelican cases to the side racks.

Here's what it looks like...

According to the documentation on the Happy Trails website, the stock incandescent bulb draws 5 Watts of power as a tail light and 21 Watts when the brakes are applied. This 6 LED assembly reportedly draws only 1 Watt as a tail light and just 10 Watts when the brakes are applied. Oooh, that leaves some Watts for additional farkle!

This also being the second generation of this assembly, it was supposed to also be brighter than the original, boasting the same 10 Candela when on as a tail light and 100 Candela (up from 80 Candela) as the brake light.

On to assembly... I quickly removed the two screws that secured the red plastic tail light cover from the KLX and extracted the existing bulb. The new assembly uses a bulb base with wires attached as shown above to make the electrical contact necessary to operate. I inserted the bulb base into the bayonet-style socket and gave it a bit of a twist to lock it into place.

I then gave it a quick electrical test to make sure it worked. Key on: Check. Tail light "lights": Check. Brake light "lights" when brakes applied: Check. Excellent.

I noticed that the smarts of this unit also flash the brake light several times upon initial application of the brakes - cool! No, I didn't count the flashes, but you get a few seconds of flashing before the brake light stays on steady.

I placed the screws back in their proper spots on the red plastic cover, aligned them through the mounting tabs in the circuit board and within seconds had everything back in place on the bike. VERY simple.

Here's a picture of the tail light function in action.

And here's one showing the brake light on steady.

I've not heard any reports of failures of this assembly, so I'm hoping I too have good luck with it. Please note that I can only confirm it mechanically fits on the '06 and '07 KLX250S since they have identical tail lights. The '08+ models have a different tail light in terms of shape and location. If you know that this product works there too or want to compare measurements, please contact me.

I've already let Bob at Happy Trails know of the confirmed compatibility with my bike. It would be nice if something could be stated specifically for the newer years.