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Dirt-Bagz Saddlebags Installation on a KLR650
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I wanted my KLR to be able to take me to the ends of the earth and back... or maybe just as far as work.  In either case, it brings up the question.  "How am I going to carry stuff?"

Carrying stuff leads to saddlebags, panniers, tail bags, tank bags, fender bags, backpacks, bungee cords, and the handyman's secret weapon - duct tape.  I chose to go with saddlebags.

Not the giant aluminum cans that hardcore adventure touring posers go for, but something more practical. A setup that's easy to remove, unobtrusive, carries the weight as low as possible, and doesn't require a small army to right your cycle in the event of a lay down. Besides, unless you're leaving North America or Europe, no one really needs to carry that much stuff!

Dirt Bagz are just the right size (NOT bulky) and you'll never know they are there while you ride. The design offers a frame that attaches firmly in place and the bagz are made from a rugged material & stitching.

Keeps the heavy stuff off your back on longer trips!

Overall Capacity (ea)11.5 Liters
Overall Height12.75"
Overall Length11.5"
Top Width6.0"
Bottom Width4.0"
Overall Weight4.6lbs
Manufacturing Specs
Interior Stiffener1.5mm plastic
Design Specs
Covered zippers
Quick disconnect forward strap
Tapered design for minimal width
Original Brackets

The original brackets are perfectly functional.  They hold the bags firmly in place and allow for quick removal, but that's just not good enough.  The right side mount is one inch higher than the left side mount, so they look crooked, and the brackets don't prevent the front of the bags from touching and marring the easily scuffed side skirts.

I'm assuming the idea behind the higher right side mount is so that the loop shaped mounting tab aligns evenly with the muffler thus minimizing the chance of the bag touching the hot exhaust.  Unfortunately the tab isn't big enough to have any effect on exhaust clearance and just causes the right bag to sit higher than the left bag.

I'm also assuming that the manufactures believed that most people don't care really care about the appearance of their vehicles so why not save themselves $1.26 worth of tubing on every set.

Side view of stock right bracket Rear view of stock right bracket
Right Bracket.  I forgot to photograph the left bracket before modification, but it looks the same. As you can see, there's plenty of clearance around the Big Gun Muffler
Step 1:  Move the right side tab.

Mount both brackets to your cycle, stand it straight up, and measure the height of both the left and right bag mounting tabs from the ground.  Subtract the lower left side value from the right side value and you'll get the amount you'll need to lower the right tab.  On my KLR the measurements turned out to be 32 and 33 inches respectively. This means I needed to lower the tab one inch.

Remove the powder coating from the surrounding area with a rotary wire brush or sander, cut of the tab with a hacksaw, (You can use a power tool here but be careful not to gouge the main tube.) and weld it back on in its new position.

Once the tab is welded in place, use a file or grinder to smooth out the spots where the tab was originally mounted.

View of old tab mounting point View of moved tab
Tab tacked in its new position.
Yellow arrows point to original tab position.
I use a Miller Dynasty Tig Welder but a even a cheap Mig welder should do just as well as long as you're careful to protect the plastic panels from spatter.
Step 2:  Form the new left side bag support bar.

The original brackets are made from 5/8 inch mild steel tubing.  Most suppliers don't seem to carry that size so I used 1/2 inch tubing from the friendly guy's at McNeilus Steel.

Start with an 18 inch length of tubing.  Place a mark 7 1/8 inch in from one end.  Using a tubing bender or a couple of mapp/propane torches, make a 45 degree bend at the mark.  If you heat the area around the mark until it's red hot and bend slowly you can achieve almost as smooth a result as with a good tubing bender. (Wear thick leather gloves such as welding gloves.)  When you've completed the bend, trial fit the new bar to the frame and see if it lines up where you want it.  If not, tweak the bend until it does.

After the tubing is bent to fit you'll need to make a concave notch in each end of the tube so the new bar will fit tightly against the original bar.

When everything looks like a perfect fit, tack the bar in place, let cool, install the left bag, and check the fit.  Make any necessary adjustments and finish welding the ends of the new bar to the old.

That's it for the left side.

 Crude sketch
A sketch of the new tubes dimensions.  Your measurements may vary slightly so measure and cut long.
Heating and bending tube Coping tube for fit
If you don't have a tubing bender,
you can heat and bend the new tubing using two mapp or propane torches.
"Don't burn yourself!"
Don't forget to notch the tubing for a tight fit.  You can use a round or half-round file for this.
Left prototype from side Left prototype from top
Left side bar bent and welded on.
(Those are squirrelly Kenda K270 tires.)
Setting the rear mounting point back a bit for best clearance and fit.
Left bag clearence with new bar Top view of left bag clearence
The new bar now holds the front of the bag away from the side panel. A view from the top.
Step 3:  Form the new right side bag support bar.

This is the hardest part.  The right side bar requires two bends.  One to form the loop and one to curve under the extended right side panel.

Start with a 19 inch length of tubing.  Place a mark 7 3/8 inch in from one end, the upper rear end, and make the 45 degree bend as before.  Then make another mark 6 1/2 inches farther down and make a gradual 30 degree bend in towards the original bar.  Check the fit often and make any adjustments necessary.  Don't forget to cope the ends for a clean and tight fit.

When everything looks like a perfect fit, tack the bar in place, let cool, install the right bag, and check the fit.  As before, make any necessary adjustments and finish welding the ends of the new bar to the old.

That's it, except for finishing.

Bend in the right bar Another shot of the bend
Finished bending new bar.  Go slow or the tubing may distort like the lower bend here. Another view of the new bar.
Finished right bracketCheck out the front bend
Finished right bracket Another shot of the new bracket.
Check out the bend around the side panel.
Right side clearanceAnother shot of the right side
The new bar provides plenty of exhaust and side panel clearance. Another clearance shot.
Step 4:  Cleanup, powder coat, and mount.

Ok, you don't really need to have the brackets re-powder-coated.  Just remove all the old powder coating, give them a coat of enamel primer, and then a couple coats of epoxy paint. You can restore the original black or paint them to match the KLR's frame.

Note: If I did this again, for a cleaner look, I'd probably cut off the front loops and re-weld them on the other side of the new bar.

Pre-powdercoat shot Finished left bracket
Pre Powder coated Finished
Front mounting capscrew Rear mounting bolt
The setup comes with 8mm bolts, but I like cap screws. Unfortunately, I couldn't find 55mm ones for the rear, so I had to use 8Mx55 Bolts.
Step 5:  Throw on the saddlebags and go.
Left side with bag  Right side with bag (Done)
Left Side Bag Done
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Last mod: April 14, 2021
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