Niko’s Kantina Ride: BC1 (about my Kawasaki KLR 650)

Is this bike the ultimate adventure bike? Arguably, depending on your definition of adventure I’d say.

BC1, or the Kawasaki KLR 650 as the rest of the world knows it, it is a peculiar bike that will never blow your socks off, but it will never bore you either.

It’s a bike that can do pretty much everything, but it’s not excelling at anything. Pretty much as the owner I must say.

Lets take handling for example. Once you’re really into it, it handles sweet, but if you drive too slow or too fast, it feels like riding a unicycle. The BC1 has a lot of aftermarket parts that are supposed to make it handle better, like progressive springs in the forks and a fork stabilizers. I guess it makes it handle a bit better.

Engine, pretty similar to the KLX 650 engine, maybe a bit less power, but with the brakes on this bike, you don’t want to be going fast anyway.

The front rotor is a joke. It’s the size of a rear disk on an average 125cc bike. The rear is pretty much the same size, but does a better job. Many people do an upgrade on the front. Braided brake lines, bigger rotor and even dual piston calipers. I wanna do that too, but it’s hard to just find it in a random bike shop and internet orders don’t work so well when you’re moving. I hope we’ll stay here long enough so it gets here, otherwise I’ll have to blow more cash to order the same piece again and find an address further down the road.

Other upgrades/downgrades. Shorter spring on the monoshock. Not my favorite, but the bike sits high anyway. When not loaded with all the shit I carry around it’s actually pretty high. So high that I wish I was into stretching.

Another thing I find interesting the previous owner did. Clutch lock and side stand lock are taken off. That way it’s easier to spot electrical problems which I like big time. I took off with my sidestand twice so far. That’s how much you get used having this piece of equipment thinking for you …

Highway pegs. Everyone is super stoked about having them on my bike, personally I couldn’t care less. I use them every now and then, but having no access to my only working brake makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. The position is not so great either, reminds me of a squat toilet. But hey, it came with the bike and on long rides, every chance to change the position is welcome.

A very great addition I find almost life saving is my gel seat cover. Like an airhawk but with gel instead of air. This was a gift from Jay and Barbara that I used only on my computer chair so far. On a “serious” bike, when you want to go fast, I could never use something like that. Makes you feel detached from the bike. But on a ride like BC1, with that seat it has, I love the gel thingy. Could ride for hours! I’m curious what will happen with the gel at higher temperatures though.

Sidecases are from Happy Trails and they’re kick ass. I wonder when will the frame snap from all the vibrations, but in terms of robustness, waterproofness and storage capacity I’m glad I have them. Once I’ll put a dent in the spare parts I’m carrying I think I might be able to get rid of a dry bag or 2. Probably not though.

All in all, I love the Kawi. It handles like a piece of crap and working on it, it feels more like a Russian than a Jap bike. But it makes me confident to ride it through anything and it seems indestructible. It has a carburetor, chain drive and a big tank, that’s my kind of bike. And remember that this bike already has an around the world trip under its tank and we put it through some pretty gnarly off-road and crashes and still everyday it starts with a smile.

Is it the perfect adventure bike? For what I’m doing it’s probably quite close. However, if you want to ride the Road of Bones in Russia you probably want to consider a different machine and of course, if your kind of adventure is riding to a Starbucks, we all know what’s the perfect bike.


Niko’s Kantina Ride: Team meeting

We get to the mountain camp and meet William and Jean, the other two members of our wolf pack.

We reluctantly leave Grants pass in the afternoon. Say goodbye to everyone and keep on riding. It starts raining again, so we pull over in Cave junction, where we’ve been told they make the best beef jerky in the World. Burger time again, and lots of other meat stuff.

More riding, more rain and we are in California. The temperature change is impressive, a day ago we were freezing, and now it’s perfect for riding even in rain!

The plan was to camp in Jedediah Smith (I probably spelled that wrong) campground in the Redwoods. But we got there soaking wet and realized that the camp is almost full and they charge 35$ per tent plus the bikes! Even in dry weather I think I’d skip that. And it was worth going all the way to crescent city. It was pretty dark already, foggy but not much rain. Riding past these giant trees, with their trunks disappearing into the darkness. Surreal and magnificent, 10/10 would do it again.

Crescent city was our last stop before we meet the guys. William and Jean are living a bit further out in the mountains, where as usual there is no phone service, so we had to wait till he comes down to be able to get the message that we’re here. Another lovely motel and drying our stuff was the goal for the night.

Niko’s Kantina Ride: Grants pass madness 

Looking for spares and repairs took us to a town called Grants pass. Between avoiding drug dealers and eating cheap sushi, I really grew fond of this place.

We started our bikes on this beautiful Sunday morning, we agreed that we do just a short ride to Medford, find a motel and the pieces we need.

We were there in no time. Actually lunch time. Sat down in this old school diner and ordered a burger. The whole place was like out of a movie. I was just waiting for Honey Bunny to stand up and pull her gun out. The food was delicious and the coffee was flowing, we did some research on the internet and soon found out that all the motorcycle shops are closed on Sunday AND Monday. So we started looking for alternatives close by and found a couple of shops that should be open not too far away, in Grants pass.

We roll out of town and in about an hour we get there. Tiny little town with five motorcycle shops. I like it already. Go to a Motel 8 and try to relax. Nice motel, but in a really dodgy area. Lots of weird people, drug dealers etc. When we arrived there were two police cars in front, taking some people in … Next day was gear hunting day.

I was looking for a jacket that Dane kindly offered to replace after the crash and in the mean time we were asking for a place where we could use their workshop. It was bad luck till we pulled in front of LMS motorsports. We went in, see that they have no gear, but just before we leave I give it a shot and ask about us using the shop. I had a fork seal leaking for days and it started to be annoying.

The young man at the counter, Lance, had to call the boss and ask him. Jeff, the boss comes out and after a short talk he agrees that we can do it. Straight away! As I’m getting my hands greasy, Dane goes to grab some beer, but before that he asks Jeff what beer he likes. “Jager bombs,” he said with his deep, loud voice. “It’s gonna lower your rent,” he added.

My forks are almost done when the first bomb came. By the time I was putting the front wheel up I think I had three. Bike fixed, so we start chatting and more bombs and beer and more. We get to hear a lot of cool stories about the rides around, former and current racing and so on. We leave the bike secure in the garage and go to the local bikers bar. After that it was a long, fun night, meeting waitresses and a lot of interesting characters. So we stay for an extra day and fix Danes headlight and all. Well, almost all.

South bound once again!

Niko’s Kantina Ride: The inevitable

My bike dissolves underneath me, I feel like I’m flying. I am flying! That’s not good news …

After we left that lousy motel, all I could think of was Crater lake and our future adventures. We decided to get there on pavement, because we wanted to make some kilometers that day and get to warmer places. The road was straight and boring. Very boring. Nothing but cold, straight roads and forest all around.

We approach a view point and as I’m about to take the turn I check the mirror, see Dane looking the same direction, next thing I know, I’m flying. We had a crash. The first time I got rear ended and it was no surprise it was a bike… I was kind of waiting for that to happen one day.

After a lot of swearing and picking up the pieces, we soon realize the damage is not so extensive and except for Danes headlight, nothing was really completely destroyed. Both of us are ok, apart from a couple of bruises and aching muscles.

Quick, very temporary fix on the bikes and we’re ready to go. The north entrance to the crater was closed, so we have to do more boring pavement, but now with a greater safety distance and eyes on the road.

Crater lake, a lot of snow around. Also, a lot of tourists. I forgot it’s Saturday and this place is quite an attraction. I took some time sitting on the rim to just gaze and admire that place. The crash seemed so far behind.

After that, we get to Prospect. Starving on food and fuel. We start asking around for interesting campsites. The guy at the tiny two pump gas station, Mick, send us to this fishing pond about 7 miles down a tertiary road. The best ride of the day this road.

Niko’s Kantina Ride: Riding high

Just a quick blast through Bend and we were on the Cascade lakes HWY. No idea what the mountains have in store for us.

Well, I had an idea, but I was hoping for the best. It was actually worse, far worse than I expected. What started as a glorious, almost sunny, kind of warm day, was to become a real mini adventure.

We had a big breakfast at a very local diner in Prineville. Unlimited coffee for 1$ and bacon that was fried to perfection. A sweet monochrome plate of colon cancer was just what I needed after living on a party bucket of fried chicken for the last 30 hours. Seriously, who can eat 1 kilo of meat in one go? Don’t forget the fries and the jerky on the side …

Back to the present. We fuel up in Bend, find a moto shop for some spares. I needed a new visor for my goggles. It’s pathetic how easy you scratch it. I look at the tire selection they have. It was my first time I’ve seen pure sand paddle tires. Queer!

Lock and load, we’re ready for some dirt baby! The plan, rough plan, was to get to lake Waldo through a mini pass with a recent burnout (quite common around here). The trail starts off nice and easy, we even meet a truck! But as we get on, we meet another truck guy hunter, who stops and asks about our destination. He smiles and says we’re gonna have fun. He mentioned floaters, mud and snow. Hmmm …

We get around the first couple of “floaters”, but the problem becomes the mud as the terrain got quite rough. Can’t believe those guys drove a car there. Well 4×4. Met another guy who was coming back saying he has no desire going any further. We see why. Hillclimbs and more puddles and snow. Oh, and rain. However it was fun, fun and more fun. I was wishing I had some teeth on my tires, as soon as I’d get a bit more frisky on the throttle BC started to whipe around like a window wiper.

We made slow process. About 6 kmph average I’d say. When things started looking particularly shitty and I was looking for a way around a big pool, I see signs of civilization. A whole bunch to be exact. The true natives, Native Americans, were there packing their things after some Indian affair. I think we were both equally surprised to see each other. The chief brought us very good news. He said that they’re coming from the other side and that if we made it through the northern part, we should have no problems on the other side, plus that there is no more (or less) snow further on. He warned us about the puddles …

The old Indian chief was right in every aspect. Especially about the puddles or pools or mud pools as we could call them. To add to the flavor of our little adventure, the deepest puddles seems to have no viable alternative. It was a perpetual leap of faith. After I got both my boots wet, I started to have fun and I didn’t really care about bypassing them at all.

After we finally got to the lake, we took a minute to contemplate about our next destination. Somewhere warm and dry!

We took took the paved road, covered in snow with precaution and in the next hour or so found ourselves a cheap and nasty motel. Perfect for us.

Dry the gear and our wet bones. Tomorrow, Crater lake!