My BMW R1150 GSAA at Deals' Gap

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Entries in SU Side Racks (5)


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 Adventure Make-over - Phase 2

The craziness continues! This phase of the work commenced early afternoon on Super Bowl Sunday. What I thought would take just a couple hours kept me garage-bound for the entire afternoon. There's no such thing as an easy project sometimes.

Sunday's activities focused on bolting up a set of pannier mounts from the folks at Happy Trails. Because I intend to eventually bolt up a set of Pelican cases, I went for the SU Side Rack vs. the SL Side Rack. The SU adds a horizontal support between the left and right side racks. It's designed for mounting real panniers vs. just providing support for soft luggage. In this case, I'm sure it keeps the panniers from sagging if fully loaded and takes some pressure off the three frame mount points per side, especially if there's an unfortunate tip-over. The SU Side Rack kit sells direct for $279, $80 more than the SU version.

Here's a photo of the left-side rack from Happy Trails. I was impressed with the quality, especially the welds and powder coating. I don't "really" intend to abuse my bike, but I think these will hold up pretty well with anything I might throw at them.

Documentation? Slim. One sheet and it appeared to be for the newer '08-'11 KLX250S models which don't have a rear rack from the factory. Besides the left and right side racks and the horizontal support bar, stainless metric bolts were included (6 total) for attaching the side racks to the bike.

  • 2 M6x25mm SHCS for the front mount attach point
  • 2 M6x35mm SHCS for the middle mount attach point
  • 2 M8x30mm SHCS for the rear mount attach point

Surprise! No hardware was included for attaching the horizontal support bar to the left and right side racks. I didn't call the folks at Happy Trails on this because it was Sunday, because I wanted to finish the project that day(!) and I have a hardware store just down the road. The documentation "sheet" didn't mention the required hardware either.

On to the fun. Since the '06 (and '07) have an OEM rear rack and I was pretty sure that the Happy Trails engineers knew that, I simply thought I had to remove the 3 bolts that hold each plastic side cover on the bike and bolt the side racks up "through" the side covers using the supplied longer bolts. I was off the the races... This was going to be easy.

After some fiddling to get the bolts to thread into place (one must be careful with this!), I had the right side rack on and looking real good. Note the rear-most bolt passes through where the right side of the OEM rear rack attaches to the frame.

The left-side went on pretty much like the right. Wow, this shouldn't take long at all! Or so I thought.

I then proceeded to bolt on the horizontal support bar between the left and right side racks. Oh no. It's not wide enough. WTF.

Was it time to bend the bar? Get a bigger hammer? Hmm. I started to think about the difference between the '06-'07 KLX and '08-'11. No OEM rear rack!! I took a couple of quick measurements and decided the IF this was going to work, I had to give up the rear rack that Kawasaki was so nice to include. Bummer. My LED turn signals had a home on that rack too. I was starting to see my afternoon slip away.

Everything was unbolted, including the two additional mounts for the rear rack. With the rack loose, I lifted it up a bit to keep it out of my way while starting over with the attachment of the side racks.

Because it's a bit tricky to get the bolts through the plastic side covers and properly lined up, I decided this time, I would bolt everything up to the bike without the side covers. I rationalized that if there was still an alignment problem, I'd be able to see the problem much better. As the pictures show below (no plastic), with everything bolted up, things did align better and the horizontal support was the right width to bolt up properly!

A keen eye will spot one of the other problems I was going to have to fix at some point. Hint: Check out where the horizontal support passes behind the fender.

With things lining up as they should, everything was unbolted again. Before simply rebolting everything back up with the side cover plastic bits in place, I knew I had to do something with those turn signals I had permanently soldered up to those big resisters I mentioned in an earlier post. Off came all that electrical tape and out came my trusty wire cutter. I knew I should have used some bullet connectors in the first place to make removal of the turn signals as simple as unplugging the connectors.

I found a convenient place to cut the wires and removed each turn signal, and finally the rear rack that was floating there. One can never find pieces and parts when you need them and last Sunday was no different. I knew I "had" some male and female bullet connectors, but couldn't find them. Off to the auto parts store down the road. Did I mention that I'd already made a run to the hardware store for the bolts needed for that horizontal support?

The picture above was taken after the removal of the electrical tape and before the turn signal wires were cut. Before you ask why I had to cut any wires anyway, since clearly there are already bullet connectors shown in the picture, I'll answer by saying that big resistor doesn't fit through anywhere it would need to in order to remove the turn signal.

With turn signals removed and wires cut, it was a pretty easy matter of crimping on the waterproof female bullet connects as shown below and using a butane charcoal grill lighter to heatshrink the appropriate part of each connector housing.

The same was done on the ends of the turn signal wires, this time using male bullets connectors. Purists will note that I made a mistake here. I used two female connectors on the bike wiring end of things and two male connectors on the turn signal side of things. If I had mixed this up with one male and female connector on both ends of the equation, I wouldn't have to worry about checking the wire colors before plugging them in. No, I didn't think of that while I was still in the garage. It just occurred to me while I was writing this. Grasshopper continues to learn.

With the wiring (re)done, I decided to postpone figuring out where to mount the turn signals to another day. Besides, I was missing the pre-game on the tube. I finished the day by slipping the plastic side covers into place and rebolting and tightening the side racks. The pictures below show some of the detail with everything in place.

I can see where ANY bike maintenance requiring the removal of the side covers is going to be a chore. At least removing the seat only requires unbolting just two of the bolts that hold the side racks in place. Phase 3 will focus on mounting those turn signals and getting a rear rack back on the bike. Enjoy the rest of the pictures below!