Jul 29

Dual Sport: Perfect SHTF Motorcycle

When the weather is decent (read: above 50 and not too much rain in the forecast) I’ll often ride a motorcycle to work.  My bike of choice for such festivities is a KLR 650 outfitted with various performance / protection upgrades  and options for storage in the form of tank, rear rack and side luggage.  The KLR is classified as a Dual Sport motorcycle which means although it does nothing extremely well it’s a home on the pavement or dirt.  Think of it as the pickup truck of motorcycles and if T-SHTF, it or a similar bike could be an indispensable tool used to enhance survival.

KLR 650 From Kawasaki Website

KLR 650 From Kawasaki Website

Earlier this week I had to travel on the freeway to see a client, although I do attempt to take backroads when on a motorcycle sometimes the freeway is inevitable.  I was cruising along at 70mph and started to see brake lights, not long after 4 lanes of traffic came to a complete stop.    Lane-splitting is technically illegal where I live but if you think I’m going to sit there and cook in 90 degree heat, you’ve got another thing coming.  I made my way to the shoulder and chugged along slowly for a couple hundred yards and then saw my way out.  The shoulder dipped and there was a grass drainage area which ran down, gravel in the middle and more grass on a long incline back up to another road which ran parallel to the highway.  Total length was around 100 yards and because of the slope, even a 4WD might have an issue with it (considering the grass was a bit sloppy in the middle).  But….not an issue for the Dual Sport!  I rolled on the throttle, stood up on the pegs and let the knobby tires do the work as I left gridlocked traffic in my wake and shot through the grass, up the hill and onto a side street.  Freedom!

The whole experience got me thinking about SHTF and the usefulness of a motorcycle in situations like what I faced.  Not a Harley, streetbike or some other road bike which are only useful on the asphalt.  Dirtbikes are cool but are similarly sort of one trick ponies.  Great in the dirt but what if you have to haul a passenger, gear or roll for hundreds of miles?  The Dual Sport is the best of both worlds in that it allows one to do street duty and if necessary get in the dirt to get to a desired destination.

In my opinion the best SHTF motorycle should have many of the Dual Sport traits:

– Be relatively inexpensive.  A used KLR can be had for around $3k, new their MSRP is around $6k.

– Street and dirt use.

– Be able to carry a passenger AND gear.

– Extended range, 200+ miles at a minimum.

– Be easy to work on, the KLR has one cylinder and has a carb.

– Readily available parts, boutique motorcycles need not apply.

You might be wondering what you would use a motorcycle for if T-SHTF, and without hesitation I can tell you there are many uses which involve tasks a vehicle would have a tough time completing.  

– Evasion.  Try chasing me down in your 4×4 with 400 hp, and I’ll cut through a field and into the woodline.  Bye sucker.

– Scouting.  Quick in and out into areas considered impassible by other vehicles.

– Supply runs.  While a motorcycle cannot carry loads of gear it could be used for essential supplies (extra ammo, medical supplies, barter items).  The low fuel usage and ability to navigate restricted terrain make it invaluable.

The Bottom Line

If you don’t know how to ride a motorcycle (eee gads man!) you probably don’t own one which means this entire article does not apply.  However the motorcycle should not be discounted as a valuable SHTF resource, especially those of the Dual Sport variety.  A Harley / Streetbike / Touring rig might as well be an expensive boat anchor if SHTF, whereas a cheap Dual Sport could potentially be a lifesaver.   Just something to ponder!


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    • Bill on July 29, 2015 at 11:04 AM
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    The KLR 650 is a great bike, especially for longer distances and higher speeds. Mileage will run in the 50s per gallon. Drop to the KLR 250 and you can still carry a passenger or gear, just not both at once. Mileage increases into the 80s per gallon and the bike is more nimble in the woods or tight quarters.

    Can’t beat these for Post SHTF transportation.

      • PJ on July 29, 2015 at 4:53 PM
      • Reply


      Great insight, 80mpg really is tough to beat!

    • Curt58 on October 7, 2015 at 11:16 PM
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    I agree, the KLR in my opinion is the perfect Dual Sport SHTF Motorcycle. The KLR has been in production for so long in almost the same configuration you will be able to scrounge usable parts for one for centuries as long as gasoline is still usable. They may not be the fastest thing on the street, but give them a job and it will get done.

    I have 2! One Gas and one Diesel. Both are modified into Frankenstein Survivalist Machines. Not freaky Rat Bikes, but modified for SHTF duties to carry tools, firearms (long guns and handguns), luggage boxes and large amounts of fuel. Both have IMS 7 gallon fuel tanks. I built 5 different pannier sets for them ranging from small day boxes to soft bags to monster 30 mm ammo cases capable of carrying more weight than you’d want to haul. Built a one wheel trailer to pull behind them for ultimate scrounging capacities. I have a side car set up but don’t like riding with it for everyday riding. If I need a sidecar it’s there.

    And let’s not forget a plug in 12 volt plug in 18 GPM fuel pump and hose for quick scrounging and the spare fuel can on the back of the left pannier for hauling back fuel for the stoves. To heck with sucking on a siphon hose!

    Mine have extra large rear racks to those oddball loads and both have Solo and two up seating saddles. There is even a Machete scabbard bolted to the crash bar. ( One of those nice razor sharp Gerber 18 inch ones with the tree saw teeth on the back of the blade.)

    The lighting systems are improved with HID and LED aux lighting. Both are converted to tubeless tires and quick change drive sprockets. Aftermarket skid plates and crash bars protect the engine and I even carry spare parts. Including a cables, fuses, tubes and a spare voltage regulator. I have 2 spare gas motors at home along with 2 extra cylinders with pistons, rings, and gasket sets ready to go.

    The diesel is a conversion, not a Military Version. Still trying to get my hands on one of those, but mine will get 130 mpg at 55 mph, which is top speed for the diesel. And yes, it’s registered, plated, insured and totally street legal. The Gasser will run 80 all day and burns no oil in its 685 cc cylinder with its ported and balanced innards.

    I’ve ridden with many other bikes including the KTM’s and Suzuki DR’sof simular engine displacements and have no problem keeping up as long as it’s not in powdered sand.

    Once rebuilt the 1st Gen gassers carburetor on the side of a goat trail in Arkansas to get home. Try that with your Fuel Injection.

    Total investment for both KLR’s is under $10,000.
    The KLR is the Cockroach of Motorcycles. Well mine are anyway. They will still be running long after I’m dead!

      • PJ on October 7, 2015 at 11:23 PM
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      AWESOME input, I just learned something! I love the cockroach of motorcycles, I’ll have to remember that. THe KLR truly is an awesome bike.

    • Jeff on July 18, 2016 at 9:49 PM
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    Could you post links and more info on parts and upgrades that you made your motorcycle would be greatly appreciated. I am looking at building one of these bikes if not two for myself and my wife. Sound’s like you’ve got this pretty well covered love it thanks.

      • Curt58 on August 2, 2016 at 2:52 PM
      • Reply

      I wish I could put the entire list of what I’ve I’ve done to both the Gas and Diesel KLR’s. But it’s about 10 pages long.
      The gasser has been bored, ported, balanced, crash bar’ed, and regeared. I made the crash bars to be rugged and they have. Several get offs, crashes and drops and I’m still running the stock turnsignals.

      I cut the seat down to a single seat and made a rear rack that takes up the extra space and gives me a place to carry a very full set of maintenance tool. I converted Doskocil Large Pistol Cases (Now Plano) into water proof panniers. Which come in handy in deep water.
      UIt has a 7 gallon main tank and a spare 1.5 gallon tank behind the left pannier.

      I added some brackets so I can carry a rifle in a scabbard and a machete strapped to the engine crash bars.

      I even built a one wheel trailer to pull behind it for shopping!!! (cough)
      And I can take my mountain bike with me should I need to.


      The KLR650.net Forum has a lot of different KLR’s outfitted for TEOTWAWKI. Search for Curtis and you can see some of my writeups.

      If you join the KLR Forum Jeff, we can hook up through them and I will be happy to elaborate more on the KLR Upgrades you may want to consider.
      (Not sure we can link up here, but if so feel free to..)

    • Chris on February 8, 2017 at 7:08 PM
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    I want to know what it would take to repair my 2016 camo KLR 650 would be after an EMP event?…..

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