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Farewell To You Old Friend – Selling The KLR650

There’s much more to a bike deal than the straight handover of cash, as Trevor discovers while he ponders the sale of his faithful KLR650.

October of 2011, I was planning a motorcycle trip in my home province of British Columbia. The first issue was that I didn’t have a motorcycle yet.

I had owned a 2003 Kawasaki KLR650 before. It had been sold three years earlier via Craigslist. So I took to the online seller’s forum again. Almost right away I was drawn to a 1999 KLR, priced to sell at $2,000. Garett was a musician moving from Vancouver to the wide-open spaces and fresh air of rural Manitoba, but was in a hurry to do so. His motorcycle had hardly been modified at all. Its factory seat was still on. Only a luggage rack and slightly taller windshield were evidence that the dualsport bike had been personalized. 

Garett assured me of its reliability, I rode it up and down the block and was convinced it was the right motorcycle. We transferred the ownership, did an online payment and shook hands.

The following spring I opened a box containing a Happy Trail aluminum pannier kit and set to work. The old luggage rack was removed. Michelin T63 knobbies were put on. I bought a Wolfman tank bag and strapped on a duffel bag. In August, I set out to ride the Stewart-Cassiar Highway into northern BC.

It would be a solo two-week adventure that would change how I saw my home province, one I look back on with pride. My Kawasaki KLR650 got me there and was a reliable means to do so. But more than that, the blue dualsport was a companion on stretches of road where there was no one. I’ll admit that I talked to my motorcycle, sometimes even giving it a pat on its 22-litre fuel tank when it got me through another stretch where there were no amenities, including fuel stops. 

Over the next five years, the KLR650 and I would ride gravel forest service roads on Vancouver Island to remote parks and lumber towns. Its one-cylinder, four-stroke engine would thump happily along as I journeyed to old silver mining towns in the Kootenays. It would propel me along trails and back roads on my first off-road rally in the Cowichan Valley. I dropped it in the rain, and it still worked when I got it upright. We saw some adventures that bike and I. Even when I’m not riding, perhaps walking along the sidewalk in Vancouver, when I detect the distinctive whistling thump of a KLR engine, my head will turn to find the source of that familiar sound.

This past winter I got a call from a riding buddy of mine. Mike was retiring from motorcycling. In his early seventies, he felt it was time to hang up his riding gear. He had his reasons, and I fully supported him in his decision, although I was sorry I would no longer be riding alongside my companionable, light-hearted and experienced friend.  

But what he said next blind-sided me: Mike wanted to give his riding buddy first dibs on his 2010 BMW F650GS, sweetening the deal by giving it riding buddy pricing. I thought about it over the winter. Although I felt I would always think of the GS as Mike’s bike, I decided to accept his offer. 

So when the spring came and I was staring with my arms folded in my garage looking at two insured motorcycles, I was torn. Sure, there’s the dream of having several motorcycles to choose from come riding season. But practically it didn’t make any sense. In my busy family life, finding the time to maintain one motorcycle was challenging enough, having two would ensure I would be neglecting one. 

klr650 loaded up for a tour

I had always admired the features and modifications of the GS: a Sargent seat that lowered the height and made for a comfier ride; a Cee Bailey windshield, expandable BMW Motorrad hard cases and top box; crash bars and heated grips, just to mention a few. Although I had added Moose pegs, a 16-inch Clearview shield, an aluminum bash plate, hand guards and a Wolfman Expedition Dry to the KLR’s feature list, I was thinking about how these would be selling features rather than aspects of the bike I would continue to use. Comfort was also a factor. I had to admit that, in middle age, the smoother ride of the parallel Twin GS was more appealing than the signature vibration of the KLR’s one-cylinder shuddering. 

So, I had made up my mind. I was reluctantly committed to selling my old bike then.

The first attempt was at the Classic & Vintage Swap Meet and Show ‘n’ Shine in Surrey, BC in May. I had booked a table where I was selling my books, a little less enthusiastically. While I usually had my KLR behind me as visual aid (although its dings and blemishes weren’t exactly those of a classic motorcycle) this year the space behind me was empty. I would mention to several familiar faces at nearby tables that I was selling my KLR650. The news was met with some sympathy and some lukewarm attempts at encouragement via statements that it would be spread about.

It was not encouraging.  I couldn’t bring myself to mention the impending sale at my local shop Burnaby Kawasaki, considering they’d been so supportive and welcoming over the years. It almost felt like a betrayal. Okay…now I was just being overdramatic.

I would next hand out posters at garage sales and at motorcycle clubs. Nothing came of it.

So when I reluctantly logged into Craigslist I reminded myself of a few things. I would sell my KLR to the right buyer, one who would be sure to look after it and take it on new adventures. I would price it to sell to ensure that, as when I bought it, the sale would be swift and as painless as possible. The last thing I needed were tire-kickers coming by and telling me about all the bike’s flaws and how they couldn’t see buying the bike with all its blemishes.  But with the modifications I’d made, I would ask for more than what I’d bought it for. I posted an ad that got across my message, with several photos of the KLR in action in various parts of the province to demonstrate its versatility.

Almost immediately I got several responses. The first was from a construction worker in Vancouver who was planning a trip to South America. Promising! 

The next was a curious one sending me a wish list of bikes and a concern that my motorcycle had more than 50,000 kilometres on the odometer. I responded that I had seen KLRs with more than 200,000 kilometres thumping along happily, suggesting his choice of motorcycle was up to him. Another response was a non-committal wish list of motorcycles, of which mine was just one consideration. In response I was brief: I have an interested buyer and if that didn’t work out, I’d be in touch. Maybe.

Cesar had saved enough money in Vancouver’s busy construction industry to buy a motorcycle and push on to Keremeos, BC where he intended to work the summer at an orchard before riding home to his native Mexico City.  He was in his mid-twenties, enthusiastic and ready for an adventure. If all went well after Mexico City he planned to ride to Ushuaia. I was impressed.

In Cesar I saw a responsible young man, aware that he was unattached and in the prime of his life. Why not have an epic adventure now?  I was envious.

He saw how the KLR650 was similar to the Suzuki DR he had ridden in Mexico, although bigger with the aluminum panniers on. He was impressed. He hoped we could come to an arrangement that would meet his tight travel budget. We bartered down to $2,500. Although this was a concession, it was still within my planned outlook for selling the bike, having had it valued between $2,000-3,000. 

Cesar had a fixed schedule. This was the last week of June. He was expected in Keremeos at his new job by July 1st and by the end of the week his Vancouver accommodation would expire. Also, he was trying to get his remaining construction pay in cash from his boss. It looked like we were in this together. He gave me a $500 deposit and we arranged to meet in a few days.

After taking out the recycling one evening, I ventured into the garage and, while the BMW F650GS looked on, I gave the KLR another pat on the tank and said goodbye.

June 30th. The end of the month. In the evening I drove over to the house. There was a delay. Cesar came out to tell me he had most of the remaining cash in hand but needed to wait for his roommate for some more that was owed him. I was starting to get nervous, but I trusted my new friend. He had come through with the deposit. As we drove to a late-evening insurance broker to transfer ownership and insure the bike, we found the tired operator closing his shutters.  Disappointment turned to hope as we found he opened up on Canada Day at 9 a.m. Cesar had handed me the remaining cash to complete the deal. This was a leap of faith on his part, and I intended to be back at his house at 8:30 a.m. next day.

The next morning the transfer was done, although Cesar was given a financial blow by the cost of first-time motorcycle insurance for a 650cc engine. He took it in stride. 

In my garage he mounted the bike with a newfound helmet. I found him an old pair of gloves to wear. He rode behind me as I drove back to his house with a spare pair of tires he would leave behind in storage to collect later. I wished him the best of luck in his journey and asked him to keep in touch. We shook hands warmly and I drove away. The KLR650 faded away in the rear view mirror as I quietly wished happy travels to my old friend.

The next week, I received an email. Cesar had safely ridden the KLR650 to Keremeos, where he was working at a cherry orchard. He had camped one night en route and sent me a picture of his one-man tent set up next to the bike. The image reminded me of a campsite I’d once ridden the KLR to at Tyhee Lake southeast of Smithers. 

I knew the KLR was destined for more adventures with someone who was hungry to travel. I was happy for both Cesar and the KLR650. I let the motorcycle go.

I’ve since ridden the F650GS on a few brief adventures and realized I’m starting a new chapter. And I’ve privately contemplated the experience of selling the KLR, which turned into a collaborative effort rather than the oppositional experience I had prepared for. I always say that travel by motorcycle allows me to connect with people. In an unexpected way, the final adventure with my KLR650 allowed me to meet a new friend while helping him on his way. It was a satisfying experience.  

by Trevor Marc Hughes Canadian Biker Issue #334


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