Category Archives: Kawasaki KLE 500

KLE and Me :)

Well, it’s been a long time since I took Rentareck, my old KLE 500 motorcycle for a ride.  For various reasons, I’ve been reluctant to throw a leg over the old girl.  Possibly because she needs some serious work done before I go crazy.

The front fork seals are weeping, as is the front brake line.  The rear shock is starting to sag, and I really should change the oil.  Instead, I parked her in the shed, and let ‘other things’ chew up my time.

Every week I’d shuffle past her, and think, “Yeah, better get her fixed up.”  But every week, something else would distract me, and the work remained undone.  That’s how it’s been for months.

But this week, I thought, “Nope, let’s make a start.”  And I did, sort of.  I got her going, and as she sat there rumbling merrily away, I blipped the throttle a couple of times, and thought, “Oh yeah!”  Then I thought, “Should I?” 

Can you see me? I'm the rapidly accelerating dot on the horizon...

Well, my intention was to take her for a run up and down the road, then bring her home and start taking her apart.  But one thing lead to another, and over an hour later, I rode back through the carport door feeling windswept and delighted. 

Ok, the work still needs to be done, but sometimes, you’ve just got to ride.  And maybe ride some more.

And some more…

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KLE 500, The Weather, and a bit of a Laugh!

The cool weather has arrived!  Autumn!  Gladstone is actually getting an autumn this year!!

I’ve got to tell you, I’m pretty stoked.  For years I’ve been trying to convince my kids that Easter used to herald the coming Winter.  I’ve got photos (somewhere) of us rugged up in jumpers, jeans, and even beanies during the Harbour Festivals of my youth.  But for the last 10 or so years, it’s been far too hot to wear anything but shorts, shirt, and thongs (and on rare occasions, a raincoat).  

The cooler weather has had me thinking about getting the old KLE 500 out for a bit of a spin.  Summer was so hot, humid and wet, that the mere thought of putting on a helmet, leather jacket, jeans and boots made me feel faint.  Riding in extreme heat is not fun.  You dehydrate quickly which causes headaches, impaired judgement, and lazy reflexes.  Just what you need on a motorcycle when you’re riding on roads surrounded by idiot kangaroos. 

So, I wandered out to the shed this morning, fired up the old girl, and did some checks.  Not good.  Front brake seals are leaking.  Rear end sagging, front fork seals looking a little dodgy.  ‘Ho, ho, ho!’  I thought, ‘You’re not going anywhere on this machine mister.’ 

So, I got some prices for the necessary bits, and enquired at a couple of places about getting the mechanics to do the work, so I can hit the road asap.  $90 an hour is the going rate.  

I just had another bout of palpitations just thinking about it. 

The weather is so good, that I’m thinking about stealing a bike to go for a ride! 

I can do some of the work myself, no worries, which is what I’ll do, and let them gouge me for the more ‘technical’ stuff down at the shop.  Well, it’s better than leaving her abandoned in the shed…

Anyway, if you need a bit of a laugh (which I did after coming home from the bike shops), then click on the link below, and follow the link from the site to play the video.  It is genuinely laugh out loud funny!  Enjoy 🙂

http://www.news.com.au/technology/fans-pay-the-ultimate-tribute-with-casey-pughs-star-wars-uncut-the-new-hope/story-e6frfro0-1225853630100

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KLE 500 – Rider Profile?

The KLE 500 is the sort of bike that sort of appeals to a particular sort of person… 

Ok, it’s not fast, this is a fact.  It’s not particularly good on the dirt, and it has arguably the worlds’ hardest seat.  But having said that, it is pretty versatile.  I’ve surprised much better riders on much faster bikes, when we’ve hit twisting corners up long, winding roads.  Plus it’s fairly easy to ride, is fairly forgiving on most surfaces, and can take a few knocks if and when you hit the deck.  

I’ve only met a couple of other riders in my travels, and they all seem a bit, well, like me.  Which is pretty scary actually.  They’re not into speed, or motorcross dirt riding, prefer to ride alone, or in a very small group, and have a bit of a limited budget.  The KLE is designed with us in mind!

It’s easy to work on, needs little in the way of TLC, and simple mods’ make a world of difference.  For example here is a photo of a nice couple I met a few years ago at a rally.  They travel two up fairly regularly, something which I thought would not be too comfortable, but the addition of a woolly cover helps a fair bit… apparently.  The other mod that the rider had made was a piece of gal pipe with bicycle hand grips on each end, attached just in front of the radiator.  Very simple highway footrests. 

Homemade Highway Pegs!

He swore by them, and I’ve been tempted to make one of my own, and attach them onto the top bolt of the bash plate, but this looks much easier, and may in fact be a better stretch for my legs… will have to have a play this year when I repaint the old girl.

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KLE 500 – A Tale of Woe… for someone else!

It’s been a few weeks since my last ride, and my old battery finally died, point blank refusing to start last weekend.  It’s been recharged a couple of times over the last 7 years, but it’s not holding charge for long these days.  

100_1896 (Small)

I pedalled to the nearest bike shop, and while I was in there deciding which battery to buy, one of the mechanics ushered me outside and showed me a KLE 500 the same era as mine, that was waiting for work to be done on it.  It had had fallen over and the brake pedal had gone through the clutch housing cover, and some minor damage had been done to the plastic cosmetics.  When he told me how much it was going to cost the owner to fix the bike I nearly had a heart attack.  The owner was toying with writing the bike off, or spending a fortune to fix it. 

Here was a perfectly good bike, parts should still be available for it, particularly off an old GPZ 500 for the clutch cover, or many of the parts off the later model KLE’s should also fit, (the design hasn’t changed that much!) and the poor owner was looking at scrapping it.  Bullshit! 

Ok, KLE spares are as rare as rocking horse shit in this country, but not impossible to source.  I’ve dropped my KLE on a couple of memorable occasions, and generally the worst damage has been a busted indicator light and/or clutch lever.  There’s a large dent in the left hand side of the tank where my mates’ knee was slammed into it when a Virago 1100 took him out while we had swapped bikes.  No biggie.  It’s one of the things I like about the old girl.  She takes a hammering, and keeps on, well, hammering! 

But, most parts I’ve bought over the years, including one of the footpegs that got bent out of shape by the Virago, have come off the thousands of GPZ’s littering most cycle wreckers yards.  It would be a shame to see the KLE in the bike shop scrapped because of a few dinky parts.

The mechanic said the owner was keen to get the bike going again, but the bike shop are probably pushing him towards upgrading, possibly to one of those neato Versys 650’s (although wait til he drops one of those and see what it costs to replace those big lumps of plastic round the tank).

I’ve been toying with contacting the owner and seeing if I can help him get his bike back on the road… (God knows how!), But on the other hand, if he writes it off, then there’s a heap of spares for me if I can get my hands on the bike. 

You can see what sort of moral dilemma I’m having!

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KLE 500 – Backend Woes

One of the weak points of the Kwaka KLE 500 is the crap way that they’ve used the fibreglass/plastic rear light guard to attach the lengthy rear mudguard.  Over the years, I’ve had to have the plastic rewelded as the vibration from the mudguard left cracks around the holding nuts, and after a little while those cracks grew until the guard dropped onto the back wheel. 

Occy strap anyone?

Occy strap anyone?

The plastic welds would hold for a while until more cracks appeared.  I did look at replacing the entire section, but opted instead for cutting the guard down, and trying different epoxies to hold the guard in place.  This was relatively succesful, but a couple of dirt rides shook the guard loose again, and I returned home with the guard strapped to the rear carrier, my number plate having taken another big hit from the rear tyre, and the rego label missing.  I was getting a tad pissed off with the situation.

A search of the internet revealed that must be the only damned KLE owner on the planet with this problem, (or the only one stupid en0ugh to post about it 🙂 , so I would have to come up with a solution… not a huge engineering problem, but annoying nonetheless.   

Eventually I added a couple of steel braces to the frame bolts, and bent them just enough to keep some solid pressure on the guard preventing it from moving.  In addition to this I shortened the guard which lightened the load without any noticeable difference in the amount of dirt, rocks, mud, cow pats etc. flinging over the tail light (and me!).   

After: slightly shorter and stronger

After: slightly shorter and stronger

 Of course, the next step will be to get the rear shock checked, as the old unit may be starting to sag a little.  I suppose I’ll have to take it a bit easier riding over the odd jump, potholes, bush tracks, and logs until this work is done… possibly!

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KLE 500 – Touring Bundaberg

A couple of years ago my boss at the time asked if I was interested in going for a bike ride south to Bundaberg.  Yep.  So we sailed off one sunny mid-week morning (the joys of shift work!) on the Bruce Highway. 

The weather was great, and the old KLE was pumping along quite nicely.  This was the first big ride I’d done on the bike since the rebuild, and I was keen to see how she’d go.  My last run ‘down the road’ resulted in my discovering that the engine was getting a little tired, just short of 100 000 klms.  No worries, some money changed hands, and a local mechanic ripped it to pieces and put it all back together again with some mods, and a couple of tweaks. 

After a careful running in period, and a couple of oil changes I was ready for a slightly longer run, and the 400 – 500 klm round trip was just what the Doctor ordered.  We pulled up at the Apple Tree Creek Pub, where I checked the engine oil, and chain before enjoying a cold beer.  Afterwards we turned back North on the Bundy road, and slid between the lines of sugar cane on each side of the highway. 

My boss made a sudden turn onto an old road, so I followed him.  We ended up at the Cordalba pub.  A hotel in the middle of nowhere, with great service, great views and a friendly barmaid.  We had the one beer, a bit of a look round at the old photos, and spent some time patting a friendly dog.  Back on the bikes we hit Bundaberg town.

Cordalba Pub

Cordalba Pub

While cruising down the main street I noted a bloke wearing bikie colours look up as I rumbled by.  The note on my bike is fairly prominent (just ask my neighbours when I do my early morning starts), so I thought he was just having a bit of a look.  Instead he started pointing at me and indicating to pull over.  Now… in the past, I’ve run into trouble in Bundy.  It’s a nice place, but geez, I’ve had some aggro there.  It seems like every time I visit I run into some nutjob.  So I ignored him and his mate, and rode on.

Lunch was just up the street at another pub.  As I ordered the beers while we waited, I saw my boss being confronted by the two bikies, and I heard one of them say, “You the bloke on the KLE?”  My boss, pointed straight at me and said, “Nah, mate, you want Greg.” 

Yeah, ‘Thanks ‘mate’!’ I thought, and putting the beer back on the bar, braced myself for the confrontation.

“You riding the KLE mate?” asked the taller of the two.

“Yep,” I said keeping my face neutral.

“I’ve got some shit at home for you if you want it,” he said, and put his hand out and introduced himself.  I breathed a sigh of relief, ordered some more beers and we talked turkey. 

It turned out that he had a complete exhaust system, an unused bash plate and some other bits and pieces, and was asking bugger all for them.  All I had to do was arrange to pick them up next time I was down.  How good was that.  I had a complete rethink about Bundaberg and its’ people…

After lunch, we cruised northwards, and took another unsigned turnoff.  This time, after much backtracking, head (well, helmet) scratching, and some swearing we fetched up at Bucca pub.  It’s a beautiful place, nestled on a small hill overlooking a clean running creek, surrounded by fields of small crops, and the odd cattle farm.  I regretted not having my camping gear with me, as it would have been too easy to settle in for the afternoon, and a pleasant evening of eating, drinking and chatting with the friendly locals. 

Bucca Pub

Bucca Pub

Instead we saddled up, and hit the road, eventually finding our way back to the old highway.  A quick top up at the Avondale Tavern (or the Avvy Tavvy as we have come to know it!) and we pushed on home as the shadows from the overhanging trees covered the highway. 

The bike ran well, and had plenty of punch when I needed it, so it was with a large smile on my face that I slid into my driveway and slipped the kickstand down.  

Why am I posting this today?  Well, this afternoon, I was refitting my new exhaust and I recalled the day I came across the bloke who owned all the parts now sitting on my bike. 

Life is full of chance meetings, sometimes they’re good ones 🙂  And as I fired the old girl up I thought, ‘Time for another ride.’  You never know who you might meet, or where you may end up…. and that’s half the fun.

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KLE 500 – Beautiful Betsy

Back in the 2004 I was asked if I wanted to take my KLE 500 for a ride to visit the crash site of Beautiful Betsy, an American Liberator bomber which crashed near Gladstone in 1945.  The plane had only been found recently and, once the remains of the crew had been found and removed, and the crash zone photographed and catalogued, it was opened to the public. 

Yep, I was in. 

Betsy File Photo

After registering our vehicles at the National Parks office in town, we sailed forth a week later one sunny Sunday morning.

The ride up the Kroombit Range was fantastic, and the KLE was running like a train.  I had road/trail tyres on, and had deflated them a little to handle the dirt tracks.  One of the mates was on a Honda 500 road bike, so I figured the KLE was definitely going to handle whatever came our way.

Near the top of the range the road got a little narrower and steeper.  Long drops into the thickly wooded valleys below gave us an extra thrill.  The scenery changed from sparse, dry brown hills, to lush, green, mountainous terrain, dotted with flowing creeks lined with thick growths of ferns, staghorns and blackboys.  Along this road we now rode in single file with the support truck bringing up the rear. 

At the top of the range we passed by the camp grounds, and the rangers station.  The road was much better and we started to speed up.  It was fun, right up until I came to a ‘Y’ shaped fork in the road, and my front tyre started to let go in the thick layer of loose gravel.  I snaked all over the road, only just managing to keep upright, and just as I was about take out the large gum tree right in the middle of the intersection, the tyres grabbed and flung me hard to the left and around the tree.  I slowed down, my heart was jammed at the back of my throat, and pumping harder than a honeymooning Spaniard.  The bloke who had been riding behind me came alongside and yelled, “Mate!  How did you do that?!  You’re a *&%^ing Legend!” 

No.  I was the luckiest bastard on the trail that day, because my dirt riding skills are pretty ordinary… ordinarily. 

The last obstacle to get to the crash site was a long hill covered (for some insane reason) in sand.  2nd gear, flat.  The poor bugger behind me knew all about it as he got covered in a huge rooster tail of sand on my scramble to the top, I ripped the clutch in just in time to avoid launching through the small carpark like Evil Knievel on a bad day.

The crash site is a quick stroll through the silent scrub, and every noise we made seemed to be amplified in the stillness.  The plane was a mangled wreck, having more or less hit the only large rock jutting out of the side of the hill.  I reckon the poor buggers on board wouldn’t even know they’re dead.  The impact was so great that the plane bent in half, the tail flipping over the cockpit, and the four engines ripped off the wings ploughing nearly a hundred metres through the scrub, the propellors (each blade nearly 6 feet long) flung off in different directions. 

We took some snaps, had a bit of a snoop round, then sat in silence, each of us thinking our own thoughts, when suddenly a sound not like a cannon shot startled us out of our daydreams.  It was a large branch snapping off a nearby iron bark.  The perils of the Australian bush…     

Afterwards we made our way back to the bikes, and agreed that we would ride to the Kroombit Tops lookout, refuel from the containers in the 4wd, then make our way down to Ubobo on the southern track.  No worries. 

We set off and immediately split up, the good riders shooting ahead, sideways round the bends at a good rate of knots.  My bike was taking corners sideways as well, even at slower speeds, and on a couple of occasions I actually had the bike under control… damn tyres!

I ended up slowing right down, because the odds were pretty good that I was going to kiss the gravel if I kept pushing my luck.  I found some of the group and the lookout at the same time, just as I flicked over to my reserve fuel setting.  We waited for ages, and every now and then could hear bikes in the distance, sometimes revving hard.  Because I had the larger tank it was agreed that I should go back a little way to try and find them.  Just as I kicked the old girl over they turned up. 

The Kroombit Tops lookout is amazing.  The platform juts out over a high cliff face, and the first time I looked down I thought my guts were going to drop out of my arse.  Once I convinced myself that the deck was sturdy enough to support all of us I started to enjoy the amazing view (unfortunately not one of my damned photos turned out… guess I’ll have to go up again!)

View from platform at Kroombit Tops

View from platform at Kroombit Tops

The trip back down the range was an eye-opener.  Tyres, half dirt, half road (useless on both) were not meant for this type of riding.  The downhills were steep, and the corners so sharp that they almost turned inside out.  The drop offs on the side of the range were almost vertical so that if you were to go over, you’d be killed for certain… and no-one would ever know, or be able to find you in the thick undergrowth of ferns at the bottom of those tree filled cliffs.  

Only once did I come close to crashing.  The road had widened, and the grade was smoothing out, so I picked up the pace.  I was the 2nd last bike, with only the Honda roadie and the 4wd waaay behind me.  The others, were waaay in front, so I thought I’d try and catch up.

Fun!  I was having a ball, almost the perfect riding day.  I hammered toward a sharp corner and noticed that the dirt track was full of long and deep grooved skid marks, looking up I saw why, the corner was so tight that if you took it at any speed greater than, say, 5 kph, you would almost certainly go over the edge into the heavily wooded valley below. 

I clearly remember three things about that moment:  1.  I was yelling at the top of my lungs (in the bush, only the trees can hear you scream), 2.  The KLE’s brakes, suspension and steering worked magnificently, as I took the turn almost laying down, and 3. As time slowed down, I recall thinking over and over, “F*#* I’m dead!!”

My luck held.  It is the only time I have ever scraped the footpegs on my bike, my left leg was stretched so far out from the bike that I must have looked like a land born water skier.  It certainly felt like my hip was popping out of its socket.  I still have no idea how the hell I got round that bend.    My hair turned grey that day… or possibly the next day… look, it was around that time anyway 🙂

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful for me from that point on.  At a greatly reduced speed I got to enjoy the surroundings and magnificent views over the tops of the trees, and at the bottom of the range I passed through a timber cutters camp, before blasting through a knee deep flowing creek.  The only thing that would have made it more enjoyable was if I’d carried more bottles of water.  The creek at the camp was the last one I went through, and I wished that I got off and had a drink.  As it was, by the time I rode into Ubobo, I was parched, and not a little disappointed to discover that the shop was shut (it always is/was on Sundays).  Fortunately the water tank out the back was working, so I gulped down a few mouthfuls before riding off. 

Some of the better riders (all of them except for me and Mr. Honda) returned from wherever it was they’d been riding, and we stopped and chatted for a bit.  They were going to go back to see how Mr. Honda and the 4wd were going.  It was suggested that I should keep going as I’d only slow them down… cheeky buggers!  So I rode forth on my own, not that it really mattered much, I was pretty familiar with this stretch of road now.

From Ubobo, I rode onward to Nagoorin, then checked out an old camping spot, it was full of campers, and the ground was strewn with empty bottles, dirty nappies and litter (good onya morons!). 

Disgusted, I returned to the road and cruised homewards in a reflective frame of mind.  Much of this area is not controlled by the National Parks mob, and that is a good and bad thing.  Good, because when you want to go camping you don’t have some Hitler in uniform ordering you about (like they did in every camp ground around Brisbane that I visited).  And, Bad, because idiots being idiots, will turn any good camping spot into an open sewer, just because they can, which ruins it for everbody.  Surely there must be some compromise?  Shoot all the idiots perhaps?  Where to start…   

I arrived home just after dark, feeling weary, but exhilerated.  My bike was covered in dust, as was I, but only one of us was going to be washed that night… me (in case you were wondering).  The next day I caught up with some of the boys.  The bloke on the Honda had a hell of a time coming down the range apparently.  Thanks to his road tyres, and shocking state of the tracks, he spent more time crashing than he did riding.  Fortunately the support truck was behind the poor bastard to help on each occasion!

I’m hoping to take my family up to see the plane again soon, and will look at hiring a 4wd for the day/weekend.  Should be a blast, and this time I’ll make sure I get some better photos from the lookout… oh yes, and take plenty of water!

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