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Old 02-17-2014, 09:22 AM   #1
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Which of your Airhead mods/upgrades give you the Best VALUE??

My motorcycle history has centered around the Kawasaki KLR 650. It is the "Jeep" of motorbikes, rugged, capable of most anything, easy to work on all by yourself, simple. I, and many others, would argue that it is THE pound-for-pound dollar-for-dollar BEST value in dual sport motorcycling. Part of KLR culture is doing upgrades for dirt cheap money. People will use milk crates for tail boxes, weld their own luggage racks, upholster their own seats, buy stiffer shock springs to avoid buying a better shock. In other words, KLR owners know about value, that is, how to get the absolute most utility for the absolutely lowest cost.

While I've never gone to those value extremes with my KLR, I very much appreciate the idea of getting good bang for my buck. i also like nice things. I realize that nice things don't usually come at low prices.

As a new-to-me airhead owner, I want to maintain that KLR value ethos. I've been reading for hours and hours, and am already frightened to think that I might be spending $2000-$3000 to make my airhead nice for a round-the-world trip: $1000 for an Ohlins to replace the stock, maybe another $1-2K or more to rebuild the transmission/clutch/driveshaft.

Help me do this by sharing the best Airhead values you know! Luggage, shocks, lights, seats, maintenance tricks...what are the best deals, where are the things that perform 95% as well as the high-end equipment for only half the cost?

Let me start by sharing what looks to me like a good value:

My Airhead has stock bing carburetors. I have no idea their condition, and will definitely do some kind of cleaning or rebuild...or perhaps I'll replace with Mikuni carburetors. It looks like a full Bing rebuild kit might be close to $200. Also it looks like a set of bings can be had on Ebay for $150-$200. A set of new Mikuni carbs and associated parts can probably be found for $380. If I can sell my stock Bings for $200, then I really only have to pay $180 out of pocket to put in brand new Mikuni carbs. That's about the same as if I do a full rebuild of the Bings! So, brand new, better performing Mikunis or full rebuild the stock Bings? Both options cost the same, so it seems Mikuni is the better value option.
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Old 02-17-2014, 09:35 AM   #2
One Less Harley
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OH GAWD...don't replace the Bings with Mikunis...and you said you were a KLR owner. Bings are simple to maintain and you won't have to screw around with getting them dial in.

Main thing would be to make sure the charging system is up to snuff. If not got with Motorad Electric or Enduralast.

For luggage if riding off road the Wolfman expedition bags are the best. If you have to have hard bags, the Happy Trails Bags.

In keeping with the KLR spirit, don't fix anything till it's broke.

YSS rear shock if your OEM is shot. Best for Money.

Weak front spring then progressive. UNless wanting to put an emulator in the fork, then race tech springs.

Anything else would just be fluff and unneeded.

Keep the heavy Bosch starter and just rebuild it as needed, easier to keep the heavy current draining Bosch going than the Valeo.

The seat is adequate, but Seat Concepts does make a foam and cover kit.

Any other upgrades aren't really needed..at least bare bones....
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Old 02-17-2014, 09:41 AM   #3
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For me, the best bang for my buck seems to be reugular and conscientous (sp?) maintenance. After that using OEM parts whenever possible.

You mentioned riding around the world. Do really intend to do that or do you want a bike that just loooks like it could if you had the means and motivation? Seriously. When I first got my airhead, I kind of fell in to the "upgrade" trap, but more and more, it seems silly. It's a damned good bike in stock form if maintained and kept up to snuff.


I think the best "upgrade" is to have a realistic mindset. You can do many things to "modify" the bike, but whether or not it is an upgrade can be questionable. If the "upgrade" menas more tinkering and changing other parts to suit the 1st change, how is that an upgrade? Get to know your bike. Ride it a lot and spend your money on gas instead of trinkets.

How's that for free advice?
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Old 02-17-2014, 09:43 AM   #4
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I switched to a crank mounted ignition that leaves the stock points apparatus in place. If it ever fails, I just switch one wire to get back on the road. In the meanwhile, no more fiddling with the gap and timing, wear, etc. Hagon shocks are the best bang for the buck, suspension wise...

Big Bamboo screwed with this post 02-17-2014 at 09:56 AM
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Old 02-17-2014, 09:48 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by One Less Harley View Post
OH GAWD...don't replace the Bings with Mikunis...and you said you were a KLR owner. Bings are simple to maintain and you won't have to screw around with getting them dial in.

Main thing would be to make sure the charging system is up to snuff. If not got with Motorad Electric or Enduralast.

For luggage if riding off road the Wolfman expedition bags are the best. If you have to have hard bags, the Happy Trails Bags.

In keeping with the KLR spirit, don't fix anything till it's broke.

YSS rear shock if your OEM is shot. Best for Money.

Weak front spring then progressive. UNless wanting to put an emulator in the fork, then race tech springs.

Anything else would just be fluff and unneeded.

Keep the heavy Bosch starter and just rebuild it as needed, easier to keep the heavy current draining Bosch going than the Valeo.

The seat is adequate, but Seat Concepts does make a foam and cover kit.

Any other upgrades aren't really needed..at least bare bones....
Thank you! I've seen the Mikuni vs Bing debates, so not trying to start another debate here. I'll keep reading about them. I thought I'd read the Mikunis required less maintenance (rebuilds less frequent), even though they might need a little more jetting attention. If you just bought an older airhead and had no idea of its service history, how would you rebuild the Bings? Should I take them apart to determine which replacement parts I need, or just buy the full rebuild kit to ensure they are back at 100%?

My Airhead came with stock panniers. Can I ride round the world with them? That would be free as I already have them!

I'll look into the charging system and read up on how to determine if its still in good condition.

"Don't fix anything til it's broke." Awesome advice. I'll resist the urge to "fix" things that aren't broken. I do have a leak already and the thing grinds when downshifting. I'll inspect, check the splines, gaskets, etc, to determine what's wrong. What scares me is the thought of needing a $1K rebuild on those parts...

I was thinking about progressive springs. I'm not really sold on the race emulator stuff...

Will check out YSS vs Ohlins. Part of my equation is determing resale value. If I decide to be done with Airheads in a year or two, I'd want to get back as much of my investment as I can. That would mean selling individual parts like an Ohlins (or YSS) apart from the stock machine. If I bought an Ohlins for $1000, how much could I sell it for after a couple years and maybe 20,000 miles?? Same for YSS. This will be part of my purchasing math.

I'll probably stick with the stock dual seat. Was considering a custom solo seat and extended rack, to enable easier piling of duffle bag and camp equipment, but again, will consider resale value.
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Old 02-17-2014, 09:52 AM   #6
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I put new pistons and rings in my R90/6. Found a new pair of 2nd oversize on Ebay about 6 or 7 years ago. Properly fitting pistons and rings has been the biggest thing I've done so far. Hopefully I get a valve job this year. And finish building my extra transmission.
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Old 02-17-2014, 09:54 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drhach View Post
Ride it a lot and spend your money on gas instead of trinkets.

How's that for free advice?
Yeah, this. It sounds like you're applying KLR logic to airheads. "greatest bike ever, but I have to replace half of it. Farkle, farkle, farkle." Ride it for a while and see what changes it needs to better suit your needs. You didn't even mention which airhead we're talking about here.
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Old 02-17-2014, 09:56 AM   #8
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am lost, i guess. what year/model bike? you mentioned prepping for a round-the-world trip?

why are you considering replacing the bings? have run bings since 1980 - zero probs.

there's no compression damping left in my shocks, am soon replacing with either progressive or hagons depending on spring rates available.

lighting? after a nimrod turned left in front of me in the early eighties, i've installed a 100w H4 with porceline base. blinding for on-coming cars even during the daytime and illegal too, but zero probs.

install a dyna iii elec ignition

maint tricks? do everything yourself, and if you get stuck ask on this forum. you're overthinking this...
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Old 02-17-2014, 10:03 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drhach View Post
For me, the best bang for my buck seems to be reugular and conscientous (sp?) maintenance.

You mentioned riding around the world. Do really intend to do that or do you want a bike that just loooks like it could if you had the means and motivation? Seriously. When I first got my airhead, I kind of fell in to the "upgrade" trap, but more and more, it seems silly. It's a damned good bike in stock form if maintained and kept up to snuff.

Ride it a lot and spend your money on gas instead of trinkets.

How's that for free advice?
I take all the free advice I can get and yours was worth every penny!

yes, I consider myself an actual round the world rider, or at least doing long-term riding outside the US. I rode my KLR through Central America and back a year ago, and will be riding it through about 15 European countries this spring. I would like to ride the "new" airhead to Alaska and potentially South America, but not really interested in riding other parts of the world on the airhead. In other words, I walk the walk.

I definitely fell into the upgrade trap with my KLR. I've done so many modifications it makes my head spin, probably spent $1500 (plus or minus) on mods (thermobob, LEDs, Sargent seat, 320mm rotor, lengthened clutch arm lever, subframe, doohickey, electrics, stebel horn, frame and engine protection, fork brace, etc). Compared to potential costs on this BMW, that looks dirt cheap, making me appreciate the value of KLRs even more.

I'm trying to approach the airhead with a little more thoughtfulness, spending more on gas than trinkets, as you say. A main concern is getting comfortable enough with its capabilities and confident enough in its dependability that I want to do those long rides on it.
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Old 02-17-2014, 10:06 AM   #10
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I switched to a crank mounted ignition that leaves the stock points apparatus in place. If it ever fails, I just switch one wire to get back on the road. In the meanwhile, no more fiddling with the gap and timing, wear, etc. Hagon shocks are the best bang for the buck, suspension wise...

First time reading about Hagon shocks. Will add that to the list of YRR and Ohlins. Thanks for that.

How much for the crank mounted ignition and how much time to install? I need to read about this, too. Not sure if it's replacing a reliable/unreliable stock system, or acting as a redundant backup?
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Old 02-17-2014, 10:09 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Airhead Wrangler View Post
It sounds like you're applying KLR logic to airheads. "greatest bike ever, but I have to replace half of it. Farkle, farkle, farkle."
Good stuff. I am really going to make an effort with this motorbike to NOT farkle it to death at the expense of riding.
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Old 02-17-2014, 10:11 AM   #12
One Less Harley
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Bing's will treat you well with minimal fidling. Easy to tear down and clean the jets. Inspect the metering needle and it's jet for wear. After 4-5 years with Bings I've not had any problems with them, pretty darn reliable. Every year or so I remove the carbs and give them a good cleaning,as crud does get in and around the jets. The carbs are easy to rebuild.

If riding off road put some leashes on the float bowls so you don't loose one.

Main thing as mentioned keep up routine maintenance and if you do your own you'll see things before it becomes a problem.

IMHO, Ohlins and certain upgrades won't get you all that much of a return on your "investment" just make the bike more appealing to buyers. Generally expect half price for selling off upgraded parts.Ride the stock rear shock till it blows and then replace with the YSS. Do you need an Ohlins....well not for a bike you don't plan on keeping.

I replaced a YSS with an Ohlins. and yes it's nicer but is it worth $900 more??? Now that's the real question. For me, well I was able to buy a new Ohlins for $650 and sell the YSS for $200 so yes it was worth it. But if having to pay full price...hum...If you really put the bike through it's paces then maybe.
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Old 02-17-2014, 10:14 AM   #13
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So are you going to tell us WHICH airhead you have?
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Old 02-17-2014, 10:18 AM   #14
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am lost, i guess. what year/model bike? you mentioned prepping for a round-the-world trip?

why are you considering replacing the bings? have run bings since 1980 - zero probs.

there's no compression damping left in my shocks, am soon replacing with either progressive or hagons depending on spring rates available.

lighting? after a nimrod turned left in front of me in the early eighties, i've installed a 100w H4 with porceline base. blinding for on-coming cars even during the daytime and illegal too, but zero probs.

install a dyna iii elec ignition

maint tricks? do everything yourself, and if you get stuck ask on this forum. you're overthinking this...
Well, to fully rebuild the bings looks to be the same price as if I were to sell the bings and buy new Mikunis, about $200. If I 'm spending $200 on my carburetors, why not get a brand new, more capable set than just a rebuild of the stock set? Again, I'm not sold on this option, just considering and still reading about it.

It's a 1991 R100GS, stock everything as far as I can tell, other than ugly aftermarket handgrips (non-heated) and Tusk handguards. It even has stock footpegs and panniers.

The thread is also supposed to be a bit generic, for others that might have different machines and different objectives.

I'd like this to be my North and South American ride (so, not necessarily round-the-world, but you get the idea--I would leave the US and ride in some less developed parts of the world).

I like safety mods. Hard to put a price on that and very important to me to be pro-active in not getting hit by cars. I've already looked into light modulators. What did your headlight cost and how easy to install? I ask because plug and play is obviously easiest. Any cutting, welding, soldering is possible, and I've done these things with my KLR, but it's a real turn off, as I just don't have formal skills...
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Old 02-17-2014, 10:26 AM   #15
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You already sound covinced that the Mukini's are better than the Bings, which I wouldnd't agree with. Teh Bings work great and are very easy to keep tuned and working well once you know how.

Why do they require a rebuild in the first place? First you need to learn how to tune what you have and then determine if they need a rebuild. For spares carry diaphrams, float bowl gasket and o-rings... that's way under $200

Tiffay Coats has been going around the world with stock BMW cases for years now... you could as well. just pack LIGHT

Shocks... troll for a used Works, Malindi (?) used one round the world and said it was super robust, easily serviced... my last used one was $100 and I was quoted $100 for a rebuild. Check with Beemerguru for a used one

Charging - unless you are planning on running heated clothing, extra lights and stuff like that the stock system is fine.

Everything else - just ride the bike and fix what breaks, as needed.

BTW, the racetech emulators did make enough of a difference in my case that I would suggest these if you do not like the performance of the stock front end.
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your bike is suitably dirty. Well done.
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