Thursday, March 1, 2012

Kawasaki KLR 650 and motorcycle batteries

I bought my 2009 Kawasaki KLR 650 Dualsport new in 2009 and have enjoyed it ever since. I don't like driving on busy highways much so I mostly ride on the back roads where there is less traffic. I also mostly try to ride only when it is above 60 degrees out as I'm now 63 and sometimes it is more difficult to maintain body heat at this age than when I was younger. But sometimes I will ride when it is down to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit for a 1/2 an hour or so and come home and get into my Hot Tub if it is around 100 degrees Fahrenheit so I don't get too chilled. If you have never experienced how fast you can lose your heat try and get behind someone below 60 degrees in high humidity with no sunlight and see how long you stay warm. Or worse yet get in front and drive yourself at around 60 mph at 50 degrees without a large fairing and see how long you can stay warm without one of those electric warmers connected to your motorcycle's electrical system or through it's own batteries.

But the last few times I have tried to start my  "Bike" I keep hearing a staccato of sounds and my motorcycle doesn't start. In the old days all my motorcycles had "Kick Starters" even when they didn't have electric starters, so usually you could either easily or more difficultly start them. And always as a last resort you can push them down the street as fast as you can run and pop the clutch in 2nd gear and sometimes they will start too. However, I just got over being sick and if you make a little mistake while running either you or the bike can get hurt (usually both) so I haven't wanted to do this for fear of harming one or the other of us. However, then there comes a second problem which is that I don't have a full metric set of sockets which is what I need to pull enough of the bike off to get at the battery.

So, I called up a friend who builds antique Indian Motorcycles from parts he buys online and asked him about motorcycle batteries. He told me he had a good source for batteries but that I needed to get a sealed non-maintenance battery which is a little more expensive. But he said he could get me one for about 1/2 of what I would pay because he is always building up a new antique Indian motorcycle from parts he finds on the Internet and auctions around the U.S. So, I was grateful to talk to someone who knew more about motorcycle batteries than I do because I haven't had to replace one since about the 1970s or 1980s. (I sold my 1974 XL Honda 250 around 1989) and didn't buy a new motorcycle until 2009. When I was young and thin from 1975 until 1989 my Honda 250 XL was the best on and off road bike (dual sport) I ever owned. I could do everything from hill climbing to 8 foot high jumps with it (way before the super high jump springs and shock absorbers)

However, one of the problems I have run into is that a Kawasaki is built for someone not bigger than around 170 pounds if you are going to go over jumps on back roads or dirt roads and the like. So, since I am 6 foot 5 inches and over 275 pounds and lift weights to keep my upper body strength and am Scottish Big boned so I don't usually ever break any bones (I have only broken my nose and a little toe) and have fallen up to 40 feet in the past off a cliff while rock climbing in the 1970s. But having an upper weight limit of about 170 pounds for the KLR 650 is concerning if I want to do anything serious off road in the dirt or back country. People have wanted me to convert my bike and change my front suspension by changing to progressive springs but I haven't yet because I'm thinking I might need to either buy a Husqvarna or BMW Dualsport also around 650 cc's and sell my Kawasaki because they are designed for Viking size people there in  Germany that are around my size. For example, some Mercedes car models are the most comfortable for a man over 6 foot 4 to around 6 foot 7 and also full size pickup trucks even a newer Toyota Tundra this is also true of as far as comfort goes. But also, I'm now 63 and my family wants me to stay alive and I do notice that I'm not as young as I used to be. So, I'm having to rethink all this as well.
Also, I just found out that BMW motorcycle division now owns Husqvarna as well as I was researching stuff for this article.

However, in the meantime I probably need to just buy a full metric socket set and pull the side covers off my bike and replace the battery. However, there are a lot of things we need to do in life for ourselves and our families besides playing with motorcycles, so for now at least I will have to wait a week more or less before I start pulling the covers off. So, unfortunately that also means I can't ride for awhile. But you never know maybe God is protecting me or something. I've always found there are no accidents in life and God has always been very good to me. So, Thanks God!

A few weeks later: After I got back skiing with my family at Timberline Lodge near Portland on Mt. Hood at about 5900 feet (It snowed for 48 hours straight) (The north pole with trees) so there eventually was a total of 5 new feet of powder snow I came back and went out and bought a metric socket set to take the left (when you are sitting on the bike) rear side panel off with an 8mm socket with an extension. After removing that I could then see the battery. There is one Phillips screw that allows access to the battery just below the battery. But be sure to use a big enough headed Phillips screwdriver head or it won't come off without stripping it usually. So, after removing that I could also remove the battery and it's plastic cover. I saw that all the cells were low in distilled water. So, I got some distilled water from the market and put some in a little container and filled the cells up to the top mark. I then took a 12 volt re-chargeable battery supply to it and the motorcycle started right up so I was pretty happy. I backed the motorcycle out of the garage so the exhaust wouldn't build up inside the garage and let it warm up while I put the side the plastic protector in place on the battery and put the Phillips head screw back in place and tightened it down. Then I used the 8mm socket on my socket wrench with an extension and tightened those bolts into place snugly after putting the side panel into place. So, I was ready to go and rode my motorcycle away while realizing I likely might not be able to re-start it. So, I knew I couldn't just go drive and get some more gas in my bike because I knew I would then have to shut it off and likely wouldn't be able to restart it. So, after riding about 1/2 an hour I came back into my driveway and tried to restart the bike. It started but not easily. The next day it started hard again but then when I reached home this time after riding it started up easily when I tried it. So I realized that the battery might still have some life in it and though I might get a back up  battery this one would do for now. I called my friend who rebuilds antique Indian Motorcycles and he said he would send me a trickle charger and told me how to set it up. He say he can buy one for about 6 dollars. This keeps the battery topped off whether you are riding every day or once a week or even once a month. He spoke about installing on the positive and negative terminals of the battery one wire each that comes down into a permanent plug or receptacle that stays there to attach the trickle charger to so you don't have to take off the side panels or battery holder Phillips screw and plastic each time you want to connect the trickle charger when you return from a ride or whenever you wish.

How to pop start a motorcycle in 2nd Gear: This is usually after trying to start the motorcycle with an electric starter or by kick starting and not being successful. To be successful usually you might need the outside temperature above 50 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If it isn't at least 50 Degrees Fahrenheit you might take an electric heater and place it about a foot or more away from the crankcase of the motorcycle in your garage if it is stored there for 1/2 hour first before you do this.

Then, on most motorcycles you want to find a down slope of some kind. This usually won't work on an upslope but sometimes it will work on the level. Next, put your bike in 2nd gear ( or you can also wait). Then pull your clutch in and start running as fast as you can next to the motorcycle. (However, first you need to put the ignition on and turn the gas cock on). So, with the gas cock on, the ignition switch on and either in 2nd gear with the clutch in (or in neutral if you want to put it into 2nd at the last moment) You start running on your downslope as fast as you safely can next to the motorcycle. Then jump on while the bike is coasting and either pop the clutch (be ready for the jolt of the engine so it doesn't throw you over the handlebars). If the engine engages work the throttle to keep it going. If you get it running you can either run it around the block to warm it up or put it into neutral and warm it up( your choice).

However, this is more something one does in emergencies only. This isn't a good way to start a motorcycle every time unless you don't really care about the transmission much. But, knowing how to do this can really save your life  sometimes if you are stuck somewhere without a kick starter or an electric starter that goes out.

My old BSA 500 that was used in North Africa in World War II I often started this way, (especially if the kick starter had already thrown me over the handlebars in a backfire once already.) This was about 1968 and 1969 through the 1980s as long as my Dad and Mom had their retirement home in the desert.

Note: Added much later on March 29th 2013:
I went to a local Kawasaki Dealer and they said motorcycle batteries don't usually last over around 2 years or so. So, I bought one they had in stock. However, the one in stock was a kit. When you are filling the cells with battery acid remember not to wear anything you care about at all. Because I used a flannel shirt and jeans and eye protection to make sure none got in my eyes. Also, it helps to have a trickle charger to charge up the battery once you fill all the cells with battery acid. However, my flannel shirt got holes in it about nickle sized and smaller below my bellybutton over the next week from little splashes I didn't see so I was sort of upset about that but happy it wasn't my eyes or hands or face. I kept washing my hands and eventually my face because it is really easy to get it on your hands or face which can be bad. Don't fill your battery with acid unless you have clean running water nearby to wash your eyes or face in some kind of emergency while doing something like this. Also, after I filled the cells up through a tube provided (one cell at a time) I capped them all off and wiped it all off and installed in in my motorcycle and attached the leads from my trickle charger and plugged it in to charge up the battery. The trickle leads stay permanently on the battery so you can recharge or bring up the charge whenever you want to after it reaches full. My trickle charger has red light to a green light on it. So when it is a solid green you know the battery is fully charged and ready for use. end note.

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