Riding Down Under - Tropical Cairns Australia | GTAMotorcycle.com

Riding Down Under - Tropical Cairns Australia


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Down Under on a KLR 650

Got my 2005 KLR 650 yesterday here Cairns Australia. 30 degrees out and incredible roads.
Had no problem flat footing it even with running shoes on so no problem at all with boots.
Hopefully get out on it this evening after getting insurance sorted ( cheap here ). second riding season here I come.

Insurance was easy and did not even have to show my licence. Was covered under the registration for third party liability. No tax on a used bike sale and the liability insurance goes with the machine not the driver. So basically if you flew in you could buy a bike - ride it for a few months and flip it back with little cost. Much better system than Ontario.....and did I say NO TAX.
GST is only paid once when the bike is new and then never again.....as it should be.
Late in the day when it was done and I was still bagged from the flight and time shifted so waited to go out.

Fast forward a day.

Nothing like a ride on an ancient warrior to appreciate a modern bike. KLR is fun but damn the brakes.....err sort of brakes - thank heavens for engine braking on 10 degree slopes. NOt sure I could lock the suckers up if I wanted to. Shifting and clutching came back easily - even being on the opposite side of the road was not too bad tho the roundabouts take a bit of getting used to. Only one annoyance on a 40 minute first ride - at a stop sign and proceeded through cross traffic idjit was using the rather windy hilly road as a rally course and came up the hill across me at about double the speed limit - so just had to boot it a bit to get across......was clearly his little private route as he took the corner behind me hard and then slid into a nearby driveway. Left me muttering.

But weather is just gorgeous - brought the mesh with me but did not bother putting the additional armour in - so even 29 and very humid did not feel bad at all. Will be a bit different with the sun out. Good to get that initial jitters out of the way - tomorrow will be a quieter day and hope to get out of town a bit. Big single a bit hard on my hands but seating position is as I remember - nice and upright and suspension a treat.
Geometry a fair bit different than the low slung Burgman which corners on rails comparatively. Since work is late at night ( 14 hours time shift ) and GF works during the day from early on - I'll be riding most days for a couple/three hours in the mornings. :D

Looking forward to some early morning rides after GF goes to work. Nicest time of day as long as not raining - usually pours in the wee hours ( big time ) and would not want to be caught out in the heavy stuff. Did not bother with rain gear - it's too muggy and the rain is warm. Just get wet then dry off when it quits .

Looking forward to some of the legendary routes .check the links above ...

Gilles up the coastal range and the road along the coast to Port Douglas - 80k of lovely twists along the Pacific.
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The weather here atm is making me wish I was back there right now LOL Looks like your having a ball mate.
Lovely ride this morning up The James Cook Highway. Put on 100k -did not get to Port Douglas as the weather turned ( the norm for here ) but a nice couple of hours. You get wet, dry off, repeat.



just after sun up north of Cairns.


great road with lots of warnings to mcyclists about high accident zone ;)

looking south

looking north

no random swimming due to stinger risk

Starting to push the KLR a bit more - fun on the round-a-bouts and cruises very smoothly at 100k.
No problem with hands.
Will take a bit to get used to the seat after the Day-Long luxury of the Burgman seat. :thumbup:
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Looks like you're having a blast my friend! Enjoy and keep us posted!

I'm curious though, why the choice of a dual purpose bike as opposed to a road bike, or a scooter?
A Burgman 650 runs $9000 12,000 here as they only have the exec and that was way out of range for a 3 month machine.

I know the KLR650 and the price was right....there were only much older road bikes anywhere near the price point ( $3500 ) and for a 2005 that was a steal - plus just a few blocks from my GFs - he even dropped it off for me.
Had a top box already plus some over the pillion saddle bags.

The upright seating, cheap parts and the guy it came from were all positives.
( about my age and a mechanical engineer so did his own wrenching).

While I will ride hard in the twisties once I get the Burgman here...that will be in the dry season as every day is 60% chance of rain so the roads are wet a lot of the time. Basically if you go out for a few hours you WILL get wet. Sometimes a little and you ride through it - sometimes a lot and you find some shelter.

Also I don't mind dirt roads and the KLR is nicely set up for that with his tire choice.....decent on the pavement and enough grip for the side roads.
The upright riding position is good for gawking too....as well as staying aware of the being on the opposite side of the road.

The KLR gave me a late model, generally bullet proof bike I knew at the right price and location.
Huge tank helps as well.
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Dry weight is only 337 lb - far below that of the Burgman and it holds 23 litres which adds a fair bit up top when full - but still that gives it a big riding range at 60-80 kph which is about the speed for interesting roads here. Also I've been told the cops are pretty strict.

Seat height is a bit daunting 35" and had to get used to slinging my leg over and with a top box and boots on that's a bit of effort to negotiate - once on tho the long travel suspension lets me be fully flat foot

An oil drum on stilts? As the following technical specifications indicate, the KLR650 is something odd: It is, overall, a fairly light (~ 400 pounds wet) motorcycle; but when its large gas tank is full, a noticeable percentage of that weight rides high. It has a 21 inch front wheel, and very long fork tubes. Its engine is said to produce roughly 40 horsepower, and significant vibration.

Yet, the bike's large gas tank affords the motorcycle operator a safe 200 mile range between fillings - in most conditions. I hit the reserve at 235 miles. And the engine, coupled with the light body, provides 50-60 m.p.g. - while turning fairly smoothly between 2000 - 5000 revolutions per minute. (3900 r.p.m. seems to translate to about 60 m.p.h., on a fairly level surface, without too much wind.) It is an easy bike to work on. And, because the simple, reliable, durable design of the KLR650 has not changed significantly since its introduction in 1987, parts and service are readily available.

Year 2006, Model KL650A6F:
Engine: Four-stroke, four-valve, DOHC single
Displacement: 651cc - 39.7 cu in.
Bore x stroke: 100.0 x 83.0mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Cooling: Liquid - 1.3 L coolant capacity
Carburetion: Keihin CVK40
Ignition: Electronic CDI
Transmission: Five-speed - constant mesh, return shift
Final drive: Chain
Frame: Semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel
Rake-trail: 28 degrees / 4.4 in.
Front suspension-wheel travel: 38mm leading axle, air-adjustable preload / 9.1 in.
Rear suspension-wheel travel: UNI-TRAK® single-shock system with 5-way preload and 4-way rebound damping / 9.1 in.
Front tire: 90/90x21 - 54S
Rear tire: 130/80x17 - 65S
Front brake-rear brake: Hydraulic disc / Disc
Overall length: 86.8 in. - 2,205 mm
Overall width: 37.0 in. - 940 mm
Overall height: 53.0 in. - 1,345 mm
Ground clearance: 9.4 in. - 240 mm
Turning radius: 94.5 in. - 2.4 m minimum
Seat height: 35.0 in.
Dry weight: 337 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 6.1 gal. - 23 L
Wheelbase: 58.9 in.
Body colors: Kawasaki Lime Green, Aztec Red

total bikes in the region for sale - it's not a big area and all else is a looooong way away...mix is usually either sport or dirt - not a lot in between.


I CAN tour the KLR, it's fine around town and I'll get my money back when I sell.
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Day 3 - lot more confidence on the KLR tho my *** is still sore - partly from the long flight and partly from a new ride.

Decided to tackle one of the legends.

Went up to Mareeba for coffee - lovely area


Fueled up with a lovely latte and some tasty pastry


Decided to check how much fuel I had used - 7.5 litres for 170 km....he that give me around 500 km range..... ?

Now I have to add something to the Burgman grin......The Gillies Grin....OMG!!!!!

have a look


29 km of heaven ( the core of the ride ) - did it downhill and can't wait til I get a shot at the uphill. Sure glad the previous owner put new brake and a disc on the front.
Gorgeous pavement and turn upon turn - some full 180s and many linked sinuous to keep you on your toes.

Hey the ride up to Kuranda is terrific but the Gillies is out of this world.
The best of PA but soooooo continuous.
It would be quite a challenge on a high powered bike as there are few places to accelerate - you are simply in turns all the time...

Fortunately the combination of engine braking and the comfortable speed being in the KLR sweet spot ( 40-70 ) meant not a lot of shifting tho it was down to second gear on a couple of the tight ones. Even with the ample engine braking the brakes got a work out and I had to remember to use the rear a bit - couple of times I caught myself before I grabbed the left lever.

Likely a cruiser nightmare as bits would be scraping......really challenged the concentration....and of course downhill on the opposite side of the road really made me focus.
Very little traffic - got by one truck in a less than legal sprint and just wore an ear to ear grin all the way down...had to remind myself to keep the speed down as the turns came up so quick and did I say ....downhill.
Glad it finally eased off as I was near my concentration limit.
Mostly great dry pavement, couple of wetish spots and one set of ripples on a corner that got the heartbeat up a bit.
Was glad I had a year on the KLR previously - that was a workout. Never felt any traction issues

Uphill tho on a sportbike or on the Burgman would be just flat out a ball. Yu just jink back and forth turn to turn to turn - the linked s turns almost look designed for a motorcycle instead of a sensible road. :cheers:
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Find any good off-road trails yet? You might not think it from the weight, but that bike does well in everything except deep mud and sand.
Yep - one reason I bought it but even tho I owned one for a year I have to go easy.
I'm in no shape to deal with a stuck machine and I'm riding solo in an area where weather is very treacherous and cell coverage sketchy at best.

There is some learning curve here and I need to build up my confidence standing and riding for a few minutes at a time.
Just need seat time and get my legs used to it.
Something I missed on the Burgman is being able to stand for a few minutes and stretch. There are cool dirt roads very nearby - so I'll work my way up and get my slow speed balance and throttle control....do recall have not shifted or used a clutch in a few years.....came back okay but there are nuances off pavement that require some finesse tho the KLR is a docile beast - lots of grunt and no running away.

Sure would be nice to have my Bultaco Sherpa or even the Honda trialer for mucking about but as long as I'm careful I'm looking forward to some dirt trails perhaps in the near table lands where it's more like open dairy country.
I also need to not get lost - got turned around yesterday and went back for a map - sure enough was heading off to the interior ;)
and the next town was showing 235k!!!

If you google Daintree River - there are some amazing adventure biking trails up there. I'm going to visit for sure but strictly on pavement as it's a very long ways from nowhere.

For now I'm going to do couple hundred k every other day getting the classic area rides under my belt and maybe some practice stuff up behind me to get my slow skills back.

Then I'll link up some of the classic loops with some more secondary roads which there are plenty....it really is a riders paradise as long as you don't mind getting wet.
I blew a no rain day today.....was sore from yesterday and had a lot of work to do. Might still go out as its only 4 pm - put about the local area and down town for a swim later.

hit the magnifier :D
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Having much fun on the KLR and extending my range.

Did the Gillies up bound this time but did more gawking than pushing it.

Great ride up to the Daintree.
Might do the 4wd section further up next round.

Serious jungle


mind the local wildlife


some streams are safe tho Mossman Gorge - been around for 400 million years !!!


road getting down to it terrific -


the view part way down - coast north of Cairns


starting to tackle some back roads - much fun - when you get soaked in 30 degree weather feels right wonderful - hit this one a bit too fast on the way back :D


giant trees the scale of this is hard to get across - the canopy covers two football fields - called the cathedral fig - 3,000 years old.



critters to go with it .....about the size of my hand.

If you can figure a way to get here for a few weeks you will never, ever regret it.
Especially on a dual sport....you could spend a lifetime exploring....and getting wet :D
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Enjoying the update pics mate.
hehe - yah big suckers

really enjoying getting out on my own and wandering tho gf is a bit concerned my getting stranded in some of the out of the way spots - wish I had not sold my tracker.

even the termites are into oversize....

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There are ALWAYS downsides to tropical paradise....large critters...mega rain.

Monsoon season...this was part of 3" in a few hours.


I'd say most rides I get wet, some rides I get soaked....none so far have I had to take shelter but that's more luck than management as it really comes down hard.
Woof......first monsoon then tropic sun....got a pretty good burn today - teach me to go shortsleeves when it's 34 and clear.
Couple of smaller rides still added up to 200k and nice swim at the end.


hit the magnifier on this one - it's huge and detailed
- even the locals were out in full force cooling off.....going to 35 and Tstorms tomorrow.
Alright - off road fun

Couple of shorter rides that were fun now a day that I did NOT miss the Burgman

What was to be a couple hour jaunt turned into a delightful 6 hours - pretty sore legs too.

Started up went up the coastal range to just before Kuranda, delightful 13 km of twists and turns and cut right on Black Mountain Road as planned figuring on just going a little ways in.

Well about 10km in maybe 2/3 pavement then - reasonable gravel road I came on a road crew.

Day was nice had a full tank of gas, was well rested and couple bottles of water plus food - was even getting cell coverage at that point.

He thought it was about 30km to Jelattin. Turns out it's actually a 56k run - about 40 of it forest track and dirt road.
asked him about the road, he said it's open, creeks?? all below road level
so I figured why not - gorgeous day

well that just turned into 40 km + of the best off road fun I've ever had. Part gravel, part dirt road and whole lot of forest track. This rider agrees

[h=2]Black Mountain Road[/h]
Black Mountain Road (BMR) is a great track about twenty clicks north of Cairns, QLD that I had the chance to explore on my last trip to Cape York. Running about forty kilometers between Kuranda and Julatten, it’s a chance to get off the pavement early if you’re heading up north… worth checking out especially when the Bloomfield and C.R.E.B. tracks are closed to the east.

It’s a windy single-laner with a hundred blind turns and kicker jumps the whole way. Yeah, that good.
By “jumps” I mean lips formed by rain runoff… uh, don’t mention that to the Ranger.
Despite being chock-full of whoops and hairpin turns just loose enough to step out the rear wheel, BMR is on National Park land and square in the middle of cassowary* country. So try and behave yourself.
*Cassowaries, for you non-Australian readers, are large (human-sized) land birds with blue feathers, a sharp blade on their head and a nasty attitude. They’re quite rare but extremely dangerous, having been known to slice people up and eat them for dinner. Forget drop-bears, these things are the meanest thing going most people have never seen. I was told they’re especially fond of Americans… better keep that engine running.

My first run up BMR was northbound around mid-morning. It was easy enough to find, with a big yellow sign delineating its location off the Kennedy Highway.
The southern half of the track is somewhat open, but after about ten kilometers the jungle puts the squeeze on and before you know it you’re blasting through a tunnel of trees, leaves and vines.
Some of those vines are as light as they look- others will clothesline you right off your saddle. Naturally, I learned this the hard way when I caught a big spiny fern with my right arm, adding a few more scars to my well-loved ballistic jacket. Other than that I managed to clear the track without incident. BMR is highly recommended if you’re in the Cairns area and need a quick blat down the dirt. I reckon it’s some of the best fun you can have in the jungle without a long-range fuel tank.

No cassowaries for me but gorgeous multicolored forest doves, a macaw that sounded like he was sitting on my helmet - startled me it was so loud.
Some stray horses added to the track obstacles which included a road covered in macadamia nuts ( think chestnut sized cannonballs ) - quite interesting to skitter through.

Nice big lizard on the tree just where the horses were.

Through rain forest and a few open areas,


just as I came to a fork about 35km in I sat there as they both looked identical ....and I'm thinking this is a long 30k!!!

No clue which one to take.

Up behind me pulls the only vehicle I've seen since the road crew - local aboriginal and I say "which one" and he points me the right direction and not only that but tells me what to do further along the trail once I cross the "main road"...whatever that is.

Black Mountain Road winds in and out of the Kuranda National park mostly in and I was glad I knew I was on the right track as it was getting pretty deep forest and rough track

but there were some signs of road maintenance and the bridges though rough had edge markers.

So felt pretty confident and thinking I was getting pretty close after the "main road" - a macadam highway that is closed ( no idea )
Now there is no turning off there as the highway was very securely gated about 100 metres each way ...
Some story there I imagine ( turns out its a private road of some sort -looks like apocalyptic highway.

Now I find I'm into Mowbray National Park and the "road" makes the bit in Kuranda National Park look like a cake walk. THIS i where the whoops mentioned above are so prominent and much fun.
Here's the two parks
People clearly on occasion drove Black Mountain Road near Kuranda - not here.

So following directions I stay to the right and have an absolutely hilariously tho sometimes scary ride through the Mowbray National Park.

While the first section of the ride might have been driveable even in a decent truck this section was serious off road track tho a good 4x4 that was narrow would do fine.


Way steeper ups and downs - one was a serious scramble and I happened to be in the correct gear for momentum and traction as I hit it - and the hill was a good 1/2 km long - perhaps 25-30 degrees in parts and a really balancing act for traction and throttle and trying to avoid the worst of the rain ruts. Fortunately it was mostly dry on the hill. The KLR is really geared to the highway and first is just barely low enough.

So whooped a bit getting to the top but then came 15 km of forest track that was just plain so much fun and no one had been through there in a while.

One downed tree was across the trail but had been cut by hikers or another mcycle group as there was just enough to get the bike through. If I didn't know this was going somewhere I might have turned back but I knew it went through despite getting narrower and less like a road.

The track was designed to have quite sharp meter high whoops ( to direct the water off the road - I don't think the water does it - they are too regular ) and I was having fun til I bottomed on a couple and took it a bit easier. Did not feel like jacking the shock up and was getting tired.

Only one slippery stretch where the bike skidded a bit - was getting pretty tired when it got to the 50km mark as it was pretty technical deep forest riding for this section - lots of fallen branches, carpets of nuts and some loose rock and rain gutters even got nailed by a hanging wait a bit vine. Had to pay attention. At least no washboard here unlike the earlier section that got my teeth rattling in spots.

I really wish I had taken some more pics in the tougher parts but frankly there was very little level ground and I was having too much fun. :D I am going to go back again from the other end, run the Mowbray section then there is another road that cuts off after that.

Saw a couple of kookaburras and a gorgeous long tailed kingfisher.


Also quite a few multi-coloured doves that were amazing colours - got startled by a very loud macaw - sounded like he was sitting on my helmet. Damn things are incredibly loud.

So that was a good two hours of off road with just a couple breaks.
The ride up to Kuranda was just enough to get my hands to stop hurting. Back is a tad stiff from the riding but not bad. Had to force myself to concentrate the last 5k in the forest track as it was very narrow, tons of branches and macadamia nuts, many loose rocks ala stream bed - it was mostly first gear terrain the dappled light made it hard to see some of the rain runnels - should have lost the dark glasses for a bit.

Part of what I rode was the Bump Track - there was a gate as I got into less deep forest so clearly they close that narrow track off. ....lucky it was open tho I might have got around that one.


The hiking, mountain biking track was closed to motorcycles and pretty wild from the descriptions of it. One rider said he was hitting 60kph on his mountain bike going down it - and his brakes were glowing at the end of it.

Once a couple more KM then lighter forest but there was a junction with another track and info about the stage coaches that carried people along that path.

How the stage coaches handles those slopes is a wonder


Now want to do more in the forests but also want to get a tracker and perhaps something to deal with a flat tire.

Total vehicles in 50 km were two and none in the toughest part of the track.
I would have had about a 10km walk at the most for that section as no way could I count on a vehicle in there.

I should have taken a few more pics on the really narrow section but there was hardly a level place to stop and really was having too much fun.

Black Mountain Road came out the other end to some nice twisties and then down the Rex for more fun.


So my reward was a lunch at the Highlander - good coffee and a chicken curry -

lovely setting


took a break along the James Cook Highway


did not realize how far from home I had strayed.....

So some dumb luck led to a sweet ride :happy10:
With the new gen KLR, it might be a good idea to get some crash bars if you're going off road, it can save you from some plastics damage. Sadly they're quite expensive ($250+).

That's quite an adventure so far, keep up the posts :)
Question and comment for the OP:

Q: I recall over the last few months you mentioning that you'd be heading off to Oz, but don't recall what the reason was for (just curious, was it work, a woman, many womenz, etc.).

AND the comment is that this has been a great read so far (I don't normally partake in these types of stories just because I have this concept in my head that any and all who do this sort of thing are some filthy patchouli-scented hippies, and must all be cleansed by fire....but I am really enjoying reading this, so please, carry on).
That's not a bad idea - I had not really anticipated using the KLR off road but the good paved roads while spectacular are limited and the forest and savannah tracks are endless but I'm a bit concerned on solo journeys.

I'll feel better if I have a tracker - kicking myself for selling mine.

What's your experience with products like Slime - I'm not riding hard enough to fear a crash but rather a flat ( is it possible to ride out on a flat? )
Not thrilled with the idea of a forest trail tube change.

The huge tank is a big reassurance - the range nudges 500km. So far the bike has been flawless. I even tested a bump start today ( thinking dead battery might be a potential ) and realized that third gear might have been smarter :D
Got a little squirrelly as the rear wheel locked up

With this one under my belt now I want to tackle the route north from the Daintree which is also 50k or so along the coast.

The bad part is meeting 4x4s - the good part is a break down gets a fast rescue. Likely do it on a week day with less traffic.

I really need to go out each day and practice my stand up riding skills.....it's been a very long time since trials bike days and while the principles stick around - need the balance and throttle/brake control.

I should also invest in a decent pair of riding pants for off road.
I only have my very light riding jeans with me which are fine for the road - lots of pockets and cool....zero protection but hey I know that.
I hate the thought of heavy pants tho...:(
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