September 21, 2023

The right gear to carry and a good bike for adventure touring

2023 kawasaki klr s

Equipment and a motorcycle for adventure touring Mark Vaughan

According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are 1.4 million miles of unpaved roads in America all open to the public. If you live in the country, this is no surprise. If you live in the city, now you say something like, “What??? 1.4 million miles????” Combine that statistic with the fact that almost every motorcycle manufacturer in the world makes off-road motorcycles and many motorcycle equipment manufacturers offer ADV Touring gear, and you have a recipe for about a million great weekends of adventure.

A few weeks ago, gearmaker Alpinestars hosted a pair of motorcycle media outlets in the rural mountain paradise of Big Bear, California, just outside of LA. Next to the lake of the same name, Big Bear is surrounded by beautiful pine-studded mountains intertwined with well-maintained trails, almost all of which are just waiting for you to ride them.

The mountains are calling and you must go.

2023 kawasaki klr s

Self portrait with Alpinestars Ardent 3N1 AdventureTouring jacket, flaps rolled down and tucked in.Mark Vaughan

We were there on a Tuesday, which meant no crowds. The weather was perfect, with huge piles of cumulus clouds spraying across a perfectly blue sky, and no dust because there was no wind. We were all stationed at a small, biker-friendly lakeside resort called The Outpost (which I recommend if you’re ever there, which you should be), and we headed out into the wilderness.

I got to try an Alpinestars Ardent 3N1 Adventure Jacket, which is not yet on the market but will be coming soon. I was impressed with the versatility of the large front panels that rolled down and tucked away for hot days and then easily zipped back up when the sun went down or the day grew colder. There were angled vents on the biceps and forearms, something you won’t appreciate until the sun is high in the sky and the heat is rising. As Astars’ Heath Cofran was fitting me for my loaner jacket, he diplomatically said this suit has a “relaxed fit” made to accommodate a “wide variety of body types”. Hey, I’m going to start training next week, after dinner. Maybe.

2023 kawasaki klr s

LtoR: A mannequin in AStars gear, motojourno Adam Waheed, Alpinestars Dakar rider (who almost won this year) Toby Price, Nick from the US and a guy from Oz, all decked out in Alpinestars Bogota Drystar Adventure Touring jackets and pants . Mark Vaughan

Alpinestars has a full line of Adventure Touring gear to wear on your next excursion. Consider the popular classic like the Bogota Pro, the entry-level jacket and pants you can get for less than $700. While the shell is water resistant, the suit also comes with a fully waterproof Alpinestars Drystar liner that you can wear over or under the suit can do. It has roll-up ventilation panels at the front and back for warm days that can be zipped up when it gets cold or wet. It even has a warm thermal liner for colder days. And of course it has armor for the shoulders, knees and elbows.

Slightly fancier is the AMT-10R which costs stickers for $1400 for jacket and trousers. It has a built-in Drystar XF liner, but the waterproof shell comes loose around the arms, shoulders and chest for full ventilation. It accommodates the Alpinestars Tech-Air 5 airbag for the best rider protection – well worth the investment.

2023 kawasaki klr s

Alpinestars AMT-10 Jacket. With pants it’s $1400.Alpine Stars

I had a choice of different bikes to ride and because this was a mountain town and because all mountain towns across America have different Kawasaki KLRs as part of the population, I chose a new Kawasaki KLR S.

The KLR is a great all-around dual-sport bike, as comfortable on pavement as it is easy to ride off-road. And it’s much cheaper than full-on ADV bikes from BMW, Ducati and Honda. Sticker price starts at $7634 without ABS and $7934 with. For comparison, in the ADV segment I have the Ducati Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak adventure bike that I have more than four times as many decals this week. iAi Chihuahua!

After disappearing in 2018, the KLR was back in 2022, with fuel injection and revised cams on both the intake and exhaust sides. That means its 652cc upright DOHC single-cylinder puts out 39.1 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. Horsepower is not given in the US, but published figures in Europe indicate 40 horsepower at the crankshaft and 35 at the rear wheel.

2023 kawasaki klr s

Kawasaki KLR 650 S (shot in South Africa, not at Big Bear).Kawasaki

Full-size adventure bikes offer four times the horsepower. Of course they also weigh a little more, but not too much. The KLR weighs 452 pounds, which is slightly less than large ADV-class bikes like the Ducati Multistrada and 50 pounds less than the BMW R 1200 GS Adventure.

The new KLR still has a five-speed transmission while many competitors offer six-speeds. Likewise, the gauges on almost every other motorcycle sold in America provide more information than the speedometer you see on the KLR. For example, there is no tachometer, but every rider should be able to know when to shift by the sound and feel of the engine. You can trade tachometers and radar cruise control for that low sticker and the KLR’s reputation for everlasting durability.

The “S” in KLR S stands for short, with shorter suspension and a 2.2-inch lower seat height at 32.1 inches, which makes it easier for newer riders or those of shorter stature, but may not offer as much of a knee-hugging bike -hugging like more advanced riders want. There are other KLR models that are sure to meet your specific needs.

Likewise, some have said the KLR S’s 7.3-inch ride height isn’t as tall as more dirt-and-rock-oriented bikes like the tried-and-true (i.e. old) Honda XR650L dual sport, which offers 13 inches of ground. clearance, 100 pounds less curb weight, and is priced close to the KLR, but isn’t quite as comfortable. The Yamaha Tenere 700 has two inches more ground clearance than the KLR, 73 horsepower and 50 lb-ft and weighs exactly the same but costs twice as much. You can spend all day comparing specs on many bikes. Depending on how aggressively you drive, there are tons of choices.

For my part, I was perfectly happy spinning on the mostly flat dirt roads in the Big Bear woods on this KLR S. Most anyone can master shifting in the right places on the rev band just by sound and feel. The riding position was fine for me and I also found no fault with this rig while standing on the pegs. I’m six feet tall, but most of that is torso, so I look like an Oompa Loompa. Normal-sized people should be even more comfortable on this, especially shorter riders.

I found it much easier to ride off-road than a full-size ADV bike like the BMW GS 1200 Adventure or the Ducati Multistrada, but those two are much more comfortable for long sidewalks.

2023 kawasaki klr s

Making a wheelie (not me).Alpine Stars

I haven’t ridden the Yamaha Tenere 700 yet, so I can’t say how it compares to that, but I’ve ridden the Honda XR650L and thought that bike was more of a serious dirt bike. In the hands of a skilled dirt rider, that Honda would certainly be more competent than the KLR in the rocks and sand.

If you need or can only afford one bike for both on- and off-road riding, and commute to work in all weather conditions on sometimes muddy, rocky or snowy roads, with sidewalk riding included, the KLR is obvious.

It made me want to get a job as an elevator operator in Mammoth in the winter, and then as a construction worker in Alaska every summer—if I had a nice set of Alpinestars gear with it.

The main point here is that adventure is waiting for you, so face it.

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