The Bikes

The bikes we selected are the old man’s choice: reliable, under-powered, rugged and saggy-breasted. Alas I’m yet to eat a meal cooked by my bike, and I know that’s a factor when old men select girlfriends, so perhaps the simile is flawed. Perhaps the better descriptor is the poor man’s choice: single cylinder, carbureted, minimal electrics, and cheaper to service than the same old man's girlfriend. Certainly not the shiniest bike in the parking lot, Kawasaki’s KLR650 is nonetheless respected for what people, generally broke and old, have accomplished on them in the world of Adventure Travel. They’ve been ridden in every continent, on mountains, sand dunes, muddy tracks and city streets. They’ve been ridden for extended periods of time on one wheel by members of certain ethnic groups (see The Idea) and they’ve been ridden on multi-continental voyages by anyone who can scrape together a few thousand dollars and a tent. Some all-conquering Aussies even used 2 KLRs to power a boat to sail from Columbia to Panama.

Matt on first road trip through the Rockies

I bought mine from a 50 year old dominatrix nurse. I’m not one to judge anyone’s lifestyle, so with all traces of leather buckles and harnesses removed I rode the bike home with a friend’s license plate attached and S&M jokes dancing around my head.

Matts KLR in September 2011

Atley's KLR when first purchased 

Once licensed and insured I began putting miles on the bike. And I just loved it. I rode it to the Rocky Mountains. I rode it across British Columbia. I rode it the 75 kms each way to the mine where I worked, on the so-called Highway of Death, in bitter rain and winds, dodging silly people driving jacked up F350s. Carlos rode it up a super steep dirt track that I was unable to get my motocross bike up. We all agreed it wasn’t the greatest bike in the world, but it was the perfect steed for the sandy roads of Baja Mexico, the mountain passes of Chile and for any old mechanic in the world to fix with parts from a 1960s refrigerator.

 Cruising on BC Ferries

With a baffling amount of emails bouncing back and forth between Atley and I on a daily basis, we researched the hell out of KLR modifications. We needed to turn these stock bikes into touring machines. I began to purchase bits and pieces, and bolted them onto my bike as they arrived in the mail. It started with a lowered Corbin seat, then went to crash bars, skid plate, centre stand, heated grips, heated jacket, bark busters, cruise control, tall windshield, headlight protector, aluminium side cases, tank bag, dry duffel bag, powered pelican case on the rear and a LED replacement for the taillight that flashes all pretty when I hit the brakes.

 Checking out the Lilloet views in Sept 2011

I had all this ready just in time for a 10 day ride through British Columbia with 3 mates in September of 2011. We did 4500km on the coolest roads I’d ever ridden - through Kamloops, Lillooet, Whistler, Powel River, Comox, Victoria, Hope, Osoyoos and Cranbrook. We camped every night and I got to test out all my gear with great success. When I got back into Alberta, it was hard to turn North and head back to the working world.

Ready to hit the road in Cranbrook

The bike worked out so well in fact, that on the way back north I bought another KLR, almost identical to mine, for the lanky man, Mr Mark Jefferson Atley.
Same bike: shared parts, shared knowledge, and good for trouble shooting. After all, we’re not mechanics, I was just a dumb engineer and he ran a glass shop – what would we know about anything.

Notice I said was.

Now we’re Adventure Travelers.


Here are pictures of the bikes in June 2012, a couple of days before departing on the big trip.


  1. WTF is the axe for? I mean I know what they are for..why are you carrying one on a motorcycle trip?
    Just found the blog tonight. Looks great already!!


    1. An axe is the perfect tool for motorcycle travel!
      Having said that, that axe isn´t on this trip, the photo is from a previous 10 day ride into the Canadian wilderness, where one must prepare one´s own firewood.
      Having said THAT, we do have a small hatchet on this trip and we use it all the time! I´ve used it to repair bent panniers and bent bolts. And we use it every time we camp to hammer in tent pegs and collect firewood. Also useful for applying 50 foot pounds or greater of torque to bolts that don´t wanna move! :)

      Thanks for following! (And which Craig are you??)

    2. I carry a Gerber hand axe when ever I travel on my KLR. It's great for splitting firewood and pounding in tent pegs. Not to mentino the Gerber has this handy little tree saw in the handle. Oh, and I carry a tree saw machettee also. Too many uses to count.
      In Montana all the remote campsites provide firewood to keep people from buring down the forest. Great idea, but you have to split it yourself.
      Just now getting back to reading about your adventure. I first started reading when you guys were powering boats with your KLR's......

    3. Yeah we wanted that Gerber axe with the saw in the handle, but I already had the small logsplitter that we've got now. Then we bought the Awesome Saw from MEC and we can cut and split whatever we need. But that's a chump's game, nowadays we just snap branches with our hands and feet and have huge fires - been a long time since a North American groomed campground selling $5 bundles of wood. haha, lame.

      We never powered a boat with KLRs, that was some other creative Aussies.