Saturday, June 30, 2012


At the border! Waiting in one REALLY HOT line of vehicles.

Fueling in Fargo

So I have been getting 48-50 miles per gallon so far. But Dad has been getting something like 35.

Bua ha ha ha ha!

Just kidding, we both have to stop no matter who runs out first. He made some adjustments to try and fix the problem. Changed the fuel/air to a leaner mix and added air to the tires. We'll see how that goes.

Scratch that

Day 1 over.

So communication between my dad and I can be difficult. 1. He is nearly deaf when off the bike.. 2. When on the bikes, we are both effectively deaf, and one handed hand signals are how we have to talk.

After a "conversation" I realized we ha different ideas of our end point tonight. Giving up my expectation made me think about what I wanted. That turned out to be sleep. :)

And my dad is gracious, something he surely learned from our mutual Father. Minutes after telling him I could ride all night, I pulled over, pointed to myself, pointed to a hotel, and he said "great, I'll follow you."

Ok. To the sleep.

South Dakota

Trying to make it to Fargo. Stopped for fuel.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Omaha ha ha

Omaha... More like Omaha ha ha ha, as if we would ever stop there!!!

EDIT: dear Omaha, you know I we was just joking right? LOLZ! I wrote that before I knew we were going to need you for fuel.

And they're off

Two very similar men with two very different approaches on how to get to Alaska on motorcycles.

It worked!

When I left my driveway for West Virginia, I felt like I was trying to control a stubborn elephant. But I buffed the rear spring and added the fork brace... And this morning it felt good! It's still heavy, but doesn't feel unstable. Though I did ride easy, cause what I forgot to account for was taking my laptop to work. So I basically set it on top of everything and road easy. At least it didn't break the camel's back.

So, after work... I'm riding to Alaska.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Packed and ready... I think

I packed as much as I could tonight. Thanks to Danny for the organization help. Well, more than that, he basically reorganized all my gear while I was visiting with my sister and brother who stopped in.

As you can see: way too bulky and much too heavy... But hey, he's a good friend so I don't mind.

Just kidding Jennifer! I meant the bike.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012


So I've been pretty stressed. We leave in a few days for Alaska, and I'm just not ready. My bike's been apart, waiting for improvements from my last trip. My garage is a mess, I'm not packed, and I haven't really planned the trip aside from knowing our destination and knowing that getting there in our timeline is GOING TO BE IMPOSSIBLE.

Anyway, I went to Dad's for Father's Day, and found this (image to right). What that is, is a clean garage, in which sits an an expertly packed KLR, in great condition, cleaned up, with factory wax still on the unused tires, with keys in the ignition. It's just waiting for a rider to hop on to tear it's way across Canada to the 49th state.

And here's my situation. Tools and parts surrounding a bike that is LITERALLY held together with zip ties. It's not packed, it's not even fully assembled. And I've never been more worried about my motorcycle not making it to where I'm pointing it. Suddenly, riding through 48 states of the U.S. sounds incredibly easy. It's only the last two that really provide a challenge.

This is also to point out our different styles of preparation. Dad has a newer bike, and is resisting riding it to keep it fresh, for the long journey ahead of us. I bought an older bike. Already well-used. And I have ridden it across 8 states and back, adding thousands of miles to the odometer just to "work out the kinks" before I take it on a REAL trip. And I'm glad I did, because I learned that my bike really can't carry me and 110 lbs of gear on the back more than 1500 miles.

Anyway, I'm still stressed. A week to go and I'm blogging instead of packing. Better get to it.

Bert's Automotive and a new rear spring

So I took off my rear shock assembly to install my beautiful new spring. I'm hoping the stronger spring will make the bike feel more normal when under 110lbs of gear-that's-necessary when motorcycling to Alaska and camping along the way. I thought it would be a piece of cake. Four motorcycle shops told me they couldn't swap it. One said they could, but after I dropped it off, called me and backed out. My dad's spring compressors wouldn't fit. The spring compressors I rented from the auto parts store wouldn't fit. And I was stressed.

But then, my dad discovered Bert's Automotive. It's one of the shops he looks after in the AAA network, and he stopped in and asked to see their spring station, and he said it would fit. I had my doubts, but stopped by and left my spring. An hour later... voila! Spring replaced. For $10. Pfew! Less than 2 weeks before we leave.
Two days later, my friend Danimo helped me put the beast back together and get her running again. My KLR now has a new rear tire (we'll need as much rubber as possible for the 4200+ mile journey, and we'll have to replace them in Alaska for the ride back). It has stiffened rear suspension. And we installed the fork brace/stabilizer. I had Danimo bounce up and down on the rear spring (he has 80 lbs on me), and it looked good. I took a ride with my wife around the city and up/down the steepest hill I've seen in KC. And it felt better. Pretty soon (6 days), I'll know for sure.

Friday, June 1, 2012

I'm 100 lbs heavier than I thought

The biggest "take-away" from my trip was the weight I added to my bike. After getting home I actually put everything on a scale and discovered I had put 110-120 lbs on the back. And the weight was pretty far back on the bike, which didn't help. Besides the expected decreased performance (accelerating, braking...), this caused two things:

Note the polished spot on my exhaust and the
shine on the rightmost knobs of the tire.
  1. My suspension was close to fully compressed through most of the ride (despite being adjusted for maximum stiffness). And "full compression" for me is when the right side of my tire meets the pipe from my exhaust. So the rightmost knobs of my tire were baking most of the trip, and on bumps would actually polish the inside of my exhaust pipe. And, this got worse each day. The first two days I never felt the "bottoming out" of the tire meeting the exhaust. Once I felt it, it noticed it happening more often until the last few miles from home it took only a crack in the road to cause it.

  2. All the weight on the back wanted to control where the front wheel would go. The increased mass increased the inertia so much that trying to turn at low speeds (as opposed to leaning, at higher speeds) became a battle between where I aimed the front wheel and where the weight of the bike wanted it to go (straight). This caused a serious feeling of instability as the front wheel wobbled between the two forces. I assume the wobble was allowed by the flexing of the long front forks. At speed, when direction change is controlled by leaning the bike, there wasn't a problem.
After researching a little, I ended up on a lot of forum threads from heavier riders talking about the instability of the KLR and my very same problems. And that made sense. The KLR seemed to be designed around me. A 160 lb rider carrying up to 25 lbs of gear. But touring means more gear. In my case... 110 lbs. So in reality I have to set up my bike to handle a 250 lb rider, with up to 25 lbs of gear. So finally I ordered a fork brace for the wobble, the benefits of which are praised by so many riders. And a stiffer rear spring designed to accommodate riders of the total weight I expect to carry when I go to Alaska next month. Riding without gear might become a bone-jarring affair, bet I think it will be worth it.