Preparing for the Worst: Outfitting KLRs for the Motorcycle Adventure of a Lifetime

You are planning to ride a motorcycle from frozen tundra to untamed jungle, covering nearly 20,000 miles in between. You will ride in darkness, in bitter cold, in sweltering heat, and through wilderness to reach the very end of the road on the South American continent. Why? Just to see if you can.

This might be a fantasy for some, but it’s becoming reality for a team of four U.S. military veterans who are planning to ride from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Ushuaia, Argentina, attempting to cross the notorious Darien Gap along the way. They’re filming the expedition from preparation to completion, and will release a feature-length documentary called “Where The Road Ends” — check out the captivating film trailer. They’re also riding in support of the Lone Survivor Foundation, which provides aid to wounded service members and their families. Team leader Wayne Mitchell approached Twisted Throttle to help outfit their bikes, and if you know us here at Twisted, you know this is right up our alley. Read on to see which accessories were installed and why. (Note: All photos are by the Where The Road Ends team.)

Custom KLR sidecar - where the road ends motorcycle documentary

Now, this expedition has been carefully planned from the start, and planned out more than a year in advance. The journey will begin in Alaska in November, which means they’ll be riding on frozen roads in sub-zero temperatures. That’s why the bike prep took place this past February, so the team could test out their rigs in ice and snow. Once we’d all settled on the choice of lights, luggage, and protection, our own Mr Twisted, Erik Stephens, along with Twisted tech expert Keith Gardner were dispatched to Colorado (with a few pallets of gear) to help with the build.

Where the road ends documentary

Which motorcycle did the team choose for this extraordinary endeavor? The one that many world travelers before them have relied on: the trusty Kawasaki KLR650. This kind of trip is a testament to what you can do with this bike: add a sidecar, load it for street touring, strip it down for dirt riding. It’s lighter than the big ADV bikes, so you can more easily get through difficult terrain. And it has a larger tank than almost any other mid-size ADV motorcycle, with a range of about 250 miles. There’s a sticker we’ve seen at rallies that sums up the KLR well: “Your bike can go fast, my bike can go anywhere.”

Where the road ends KLR in the snow with a sidecar

One of the primary challenges with outfitting for this kind of expedition is the enormous change in terrain. The team will ride from frozen roads to highway to 100 miles of pure jungle. Let’s look at the major differences in setup to accommodate the changing conditions.

Building a custom KLR sidecar
For the Alaska portion, the bikes will be kitted with sidecars custom-built by Edwards Racing in Brighton, Colorado. The sidecars will hold extra equipment in a Pelican side case, including additional batteries. The KLR has a famously weak charging system, and in the deep cold the team will need to power heated gear, heated grips, auxiliary lights, and winches. In this circumstance, bulletproof is more important than flashy, and it’s best to keep the accessories and electronics simple. That includes avoiding doing anything that would tap into the original wiring harness or modify the electrical system. To that end, we used a DENALI PowerHub2 to keep electrical accessories off of the original harness.

custom KLR sidecar
Since the men will also be riding in the dark, with only about 3-4 hours of twilight each day, the sidecars were outfitted with powerful DENALI D4 LED lights, which send light 500 feet ahead along with lighting up a wide swath on either side. The bikes received DENALI DR1 lights, which draw less power than the D4s and thus are less taxing on the KLR’s charging system. The DR1 is perfect for all the highway riding later, providing 700 feet of viewing distance down the road. (To see more lighting options for ADV bikes, check out this helpful video.) Lastly, studded tires will help ensure traction on the icy roads of Alaska.

Once past the Arctic portion of the ride, the sidecars come off and SW-MOTECH crash bars and skid plates go on, along with TRAX ADVENTURE side cases with Quick-Lock EVO racks. We added the hard-bolt kit, which provides additional strength and durability for the side racks during rough riding. It also makes the luggage much harder to steal. An SW-MOTECH steel top rack with expansion plate adds a wide storage space at the rear. This top rack also has pre-drilled mounting points for RotopaX fuel packs. Up front, the bikes will carry the SW-MOTECH Enduro tank bag for additional storage. As for tires, the team will swap the studded rubber for MEFO Explorers, a 50/50 dual-sport tire.

Once the team reaches the jungle, it’s time to strip the luggage to make the bikes as light as possible. They’ll also swap the regular 50/50 tires for something with even more grip — that could be studded tires again, possibly the MEFO Stone Master and MX Master (as of this writing, we’re not sure).

There are a few other accessories that will make the trip a little more comfortable — or maybe “bearable” is a better word. For starters, the KLR’s stock footpegs are known to get pretty slippery, especially when muddy. They were swapped with SW-MOTECH On-Road/Off-Road Footpegs, which offer a wider and grippier surface. Doubletake Adventure Mirrors replaced the stock ones, which have been known to break at the threaded mount (good luck fixing that on the road). The Doubletake mirrors use a RAM ball mounting assembly, so if the bike falls over, it pushes the entire assembly aside instead of breaking the mirror or mount. The SW-MOTECH Centerstand for the KLR will come in handy for roadside repairs and tire swaps (once the sidecars are gone). Finally, Barkbusters Storm handguards will provide cover from wind, rain, and snow in the cold, and also protect the levers from damage if a bike hits the ground.

Where the Road Ends Motorcycle Documentary

This spring and summer, the team will be traveling to events and rallies to drum up support for the project. We’ll update this blog with a list of where they’ll appear, so you can meet the guys and check out the bikes in person. You can contact them via the expedition website or Facebook page. And please help spread the word — the team needs support to make the documentary happen. Right now, we’re focused on helping them gear up for the ride of a lifetime.

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20 Comments on "Preparing for the Worst: Outfitting KLRs for the Motorcycle Adventure of a Lifetime"

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Ken Woods
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Ken Woods
6 months 21 days ago

The haul road in November? Really?

As a Fairbanks, AK based ADV rider—good luck with that. Y’all need to talk to Carlisle, Alaska West, DOT and Lyden so you don’t get run over.

Mitchell
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6 months 21 days ago

Thanks Ken, two of our riders live in Fairbanks, and we have all worked in Alaska in the Army. We are talking with the crews up there and coordinating our efforts. We will keep you all posted.

Ken Woods
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6 months 21 days ago

Oh. Nevermind. I looked up who these guys are. They know what they’re getting in to.

Michael Eastham
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Michael Eastham
6 months 21 days ago

3 of us are Alaska based riders

Stephen Sweeney
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Stephen Sweeney
6 months 21 days ago

AWESOME IS ALL THAT I CAN SAY

Joe C
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6 months 21 days ago

As a Gulf War veteran I am really happy to see this taking place along with the sponsorship from Lone Survivor Foundation and Twisted Throttle. As a customer of Twisted Throttle a company can sell anything to anyone, however it takes a bit of class to step forward and do something for others. Well done.

Curtis
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Curtis
6 months 21 days ago

This should be an interesting journey but I must say as an owner of multiple KLR 650, calling them lightweight would not be something I could not say with a straight face. And yes I have one with a sidecar so “swift” would a word I would use only if I was BS’ing someone. My 06 has been dependable for over 100,000 miles, but it has had a lot of preventive maintenance to eliminate it’s a Achilles heels. Tough as a hammer, and it is far from “STOCK”.
Good luck with the Adventure!.

G blake
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G blake
6 months 12 days ago

Lightweight is a relative term of course. Check the weight of a BMW GS or other multi cylinder ADV bikes and see for yourself.

Peter Miller
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Peter Miller
6 months 21 days ago

Sounds like a fantastic ride except for the starting point in November, too cold for me. My ride is a V-Strom with low power also. While I was in Canada I used Moose Foam Handguards with my electric grips. Works great to keep the finger tips warm.Directs the air flow below the finger tips. Cheap, light weight, easy to remove, no tools, will fit over Barkbuster. Once the sidecar is dumped, there will be many cold morning starts.
Thanks for taking the time to do this guys
Safe trip

Ken Woods
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6 months 21 days ago

And apart from the cold, there’s the 3′ drifts on the haul road…..

Johnny Mars
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Johnny Mars
6 months 21 days ago

KLR is a good bike but has only one cylinder. It it goes away, you’re stuck. A better choice might b a V-Strom DL650A or a Kaw Versys 650 with two cylinders each. Since the sidecar negates the mobility advantage of the KLR, I’d go with the twins. In fact, a more interesting voyage would include 4 different bikes.

G blake
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G blake
6 months 12 days ago

Actually, the more cylinders, the greater probability of a failure, all else equal. Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic in a single engine powered Spirit of St. Louis for that reason. Twin engines would have doubled the probability of an engine failure, and at that time, you couldn’t fly on just one.

Rick Currah
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Rick Currah
6 months 11 days ago

best of luck to all of you on this adventure. It is fitting that individuals trained to jump out of a perfectly good airplane undertake this. Your military training will serve you well.
As a bike mechanic, I’d say your selection of machines is spot-on. The big adventure bikes are too big and complex for this trip. Keep it simple and as light as possible. You don’t need race bikes, tourers or ponderous monsters. What you want is a pack mule.

Larry
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Larry
6 months 21 days ago

Please tell me you will add CAPTIONS to your film. One of the most frequent disability to Vet’s is hearing loss. Please don’t leave the guys who suffer from hearing loss, out of this dialogue, your narration, and the audio you provide in the film.
Thank you in advance

Don Kuellmer
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Don Kuellmer
6 months 20 days ago

As a fellow veteran (I only got in Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom BOG tours), I applaud you for taking on a mission like this. If you went South to North, would you encounter better weather?
I will be following you and contributing to your cause.

Monte Notton
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6 months 18 days ago
I am just jealous. I attempted the same trip alone in 2012 and my brand new BMW GS conked out in southern Mexico. I am still working to make another attempt to reach Ushuaia. I am a Marine Combat Veteran of Viet Nam and feel a kinship with these guys. I am sure these gentlemen have figured the politics on this one, but just in case, I will state the following. Last I checked the Government of Panama would not allow travel below Yaviza. I am sure these hardy gents have spoken with Helge Pederson about this trip. He did… Read more »
Eric Bryant
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Eric Bryant
6 months 18 days ago

Let’s meet up in Oregon.

MileToGo
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MileToGo
6 months 6 days ago
First, allow me to say, this ride the guys are doing is for a great cause, and I am 100 % supportive of their adventure. Secondly…it has been done before, so this will not be the first time that sidecar rigs have ventured into Alaska, and up to Prudhoe Bay…in the Winter. In December 2013 my riding partner and I rode our two bikes up to Prince George, B.C., and swapped them out for a couple BMW R1150GS sidecar rigs, so that we could make the trek up through the Yukon, through Dawson, over the Top of the World road,… Read more »
Derick
Guest
4 months 22 days ago

Awesome! This sounds amazing!
I’m getting ready for an awesome cross country trip this summer. I’m so excited, I can’t help but search all over the place for articles about riding trips.
Btw, I have experience with the bark buster storm hand guards– wind protection is amazing.

Jackson Daniel
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Jackson Daniel
9 days 4 hours ago

What more can I say? Hats off to you guys for pulling this off. Me and my buddies have always wanted to go on a trip like this but haven’t had the chance to. I will definitely share this with them later. Really inspirational!

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