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.

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