Posted by SCG on January 17th, 2013
by Alexander Tolchinsky
Whenever I start riding for the day the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane” comes into my mind, and I start singing away. However, after buying the KLR (Georgia), and slowly packing her with all the essentials, it feels less and less like leaving on a jet plane, and more like taking a Studebaker across the Sierra Nevada.
I am 5’7”, 165 lbs. This means that, as it is, the KLR is too tall for me to ride comfortably. But with a pair of boots, a low-cut Corbin seat, and a few hundred pounds of weight, Georgia comes down to where I can touch the ground with all of my toes. But with this new found “reach”, comes the burden and instability of the incredible weight. Though I balance her well through my packing, and though the Happy-Trail panniers allow a good amount of weight to be brought down low, whenever I leave the paved road it is only prayer which keeps me in saddle (and sadly that has failed me more times than I wish to recall).
As a note, however, not only have the 9” Tetons from Happy-Trail kept my gear dry and dust free, they have invariably saved Georgia from countless repairs. Every time I have taken a spill, or whenever Georgia decides to lay down for a rest, they have taken the full brunt of her weight with little more than a scratch to show for it. They have also made it significantly easier for me to lift her up as they, along with the enormous 10 gallon tank, have kept her off the ground entirely.
From the very first time Georgia tipped over after being fully loaded I have been on a mission to eliminate more and more gear. The process has been easy with the small extras (like extra toiletries and t-shirts), but almost impossible with what I deem to be essential. And just to make things more interesting I am now carrying two extra tires (because tire prices in Central and South America are beyond ridiculous).
Here is a list of the gear I have packed. If anyone has any thoughts on eliminating something, I am all ears.
A few weeks ago my friend decided to get married in Minnesota and flew me in to bear witness and stand by his side. This allowed me the opportunity to buy some tires, as well as what I thought was a lower shock by Progressive. I spent a lot of money to find out that the “lower” shock is still higher than the stock because of improved spring tension. So my efforts to alleviate the height and weight issue resulted only in improved suspension. So I am still where I was before: walking a very thin line whenever I get into traffic or go off-road.
I have faced the full wrath of mother nature, the discomforts of not having a home, hunger and fatigue … but it is the lack of confidence on anything other than a paved road (with no gridlock) which has been the hardest element to face. I even came close to selling the KLR and starting all over with BMW 650 (which has a lower seat height). But the thought of going back and spending the time to find and equip a new bike is keeping me atop Georgia for now. Let’s see what the jungle will have to say about this.
Trail Dust is a publication of happy-trail.com