I planned on walking the 4 km with my jerry can, but luckily, just as I put the bike on the stand, the first car I saw on the road in 2 hours offered me a lift to the nearest servo and back. I told the kind man about how I won’t make risky fuel calculations, and he traded me his stories of helping other bikers. Bless him, the guardian angel that he is.
This happened because despite all the fuel calculations from the day before, I didn’t account for the fact that I had backtracked to set up camp in the storm, at the most recent fall back point (top tip: keep eyes out for these constantly while riding) some 10 km away. That meant losing 20 km, or a litre at highway speeds. But I only realised this when my bike sputtered and quit 4 km out from the Hi-Way Inn fuel stop just before Daly Waters the next day. That made me feel less intelligent.
The KLR650 is an interesting machine, with a design virtually unchanged for 20 years. The structure of the fuel tank means there’s still a small amount left on the other side from the fuel tap. So tipping the bike to the left side and restarting the engine will get you another 5-10 km. Good to know, but don’t want to be in that situation again.
When I left Brisbane, I thought the BMW was the one for me, with its performance reviews, aesthetic appeal, all the fancy ‘farkles’ and comfort factors I could ask for… but I feel more resonant with the KLR. It’s a very capable and gritty machine: more Mad Max, less 007. It’s a lot simpler, therefore easier to understand, and while not the fastest on the road, or most stable in the dirt, and probably with a typewriter instead of an engine computer, it gives me one hell of a mental and physical reward to get it to do what I want. I feel more invested by learning more about it.
KLRs sold in this part of the world are LAMS compliant. This means that unlike their American counterpart, they are restricted in their overall performance in a number of ways, usually observed as a drop in power output. Motorcycle manufacturers do this with various models to tap into the sizeable learner rider market. To unlock such bikes’ capabilities, some work is needed.
I had the carb slide holes filled in with epoxy, because I couldn’t source the compliant Harley slide in time before leaving Cairns. Interestingly, Harley parts are quite cheap; I don’t know what those straight-line-riders get a second mortgage for. Maybe it’s the chrome, but I’m sure gold -or a Meshuggah concert ticket- is a more worthy investment if you like metal. Anyway, this mod allows me to break past the 5500rpm restriction. I felt the difference as I pulled out of AMAC motorcycles in Cairns, where Laurie did the other mods too.
I swapped the stock exhaust for a Lexx slip-on: louder, and doesn’t sound like a chain smoker running a marathon at higher revs. A ‘Yoshi’ is cool, but not for the price variance for this bike. And while a full system including pipes and dyno tuning would give me a horsepower boost, I’d lose fuel economy: one of the many perks of the KLR.
I ran the carb air vent hose under the fuel tank, higher up than the original position, so my bike doesn’t swallow water and die in the middle of a river crossing. The ‘T-mod’ solution is popular, but I didn’t see the relative benefits to this design.
I added on barkbusters, engine crash guards, and swapped out the stock plastic bashplate for a steel one. I made a list of other things I’d like to do to the bike in due course, but that can wait.
The local Kawasaki dealer quoted me 300 bucks for an oil change, and an hour in labour to tighten a single screw on my brake fluid reservoir. Apparently laughing for 10 seconds was rude to the lady who didn’t realise she’d told a joke. I had spoken to to the mechanic over the phone earlier, and he sounded neither like a $300/10-minute-block MotoGP mechanic, nor a chimp that would take 3 hours for a simple fucking oil change. I do see value in supporting local business, but man… what a let down, Cyclone Motorcycles Darwin!
So I bought the oil and filter, and took my bike across the road to Motorcycle Territory, and had a chat with Rick. I asked if I could use his garage and tools to do my thing. He let me. I offered to buy him lunch. He declined politely, so I rudely bought him a coke anyway. What a good chap.
Other than that, and the fuel hiccup, getting to Darwin was event free. I have been here 3 days, and spent them all in museums, and reading plaques around the city while on evening runs. Darwin has a rich history: from its tumultuous establishment, through to the Japanese air raids in WW2, and the devastation unleashed by Cyclone Tracy. The current issue is a sadly declining population, but it’s proved its hope through comradery, commitment, and resilience multiple times. The exhibits at the Aviation Heritage Centre, NT Museum and Art Gallery, and Darwin Military Museum are an exquisitely detailed reflection of this, and make for an excellent recharge from distance motorcycle riding.
I caught up with a friend from NZ who just so happened to be travelling through, and met a couple of local riders through FB groups. I’ll stay with them just outside Darwin, towards Kakadu, while checking out the place. I have to come back here on Tuesday to change my rear tyre which I had express shipped over from MXStore on the Gold Coast, then I’ll head towards Broome. The front has enough tread to get me to Perth, so I had another tyre sent to Five Star Yamaha there.
I’m waiting for the rain to pass as I write this, and then I’ll head out. The wet road beckons…