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Sunday
Dec312017

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!