Introducing Mawson, my rugged KLR650 adventure bike, named after the famous Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson of South Australia. Mawson is a tough, simple and reliable single cylinder 650cc motorcycle, built on technology and design dating from the mid 80’s.

V2D loaded and ready to depart for Cape York.
Mawson – Sunken Luggage System MK2D, loaded and ready to depart for Cape York.


 The Kit

The gear I am travelling with:

  • Protective gear
    • Helmet – Shoei XR1100
    • Neck Brace – Atlas
    • Armour – Alpine Stars Bionic Jacket with BNS
    • Jacket – KTM Rallye Jacket
    • Gloves – Alpine Stars SP-8
    • Armoured Shorts – ForceField Pro 4 Layer armoured shorts
    • Pants – Xtreme Racing full leather
    • Boots – Apline Stars Tech 8
The Kit-1
Protective gear


  • Tools and general kit (left to right)
    • Hand chain saw with small piece of protective leather
    • Entrenchment tool that acts as an axe and an extension for my socket set when needed (changing counter sprockets)
    • 1L engine oil
    • Main tool kit and canvas bag
    • Electric pump (on red bag) from Best Rest
    • Canvas protective bag for fuel bladder next to the 12L fuel bladder (top right) from Liquid Containment. I carry two bladders and protectors.
    • Clymer KLR manual with home drawn electrical circuit diagram in addition to the electrical wiring diagram the comes with the manual.
    • Tyre repair kit
    • Contact adhesive
    • 14 tooth counter sprocket/ 16 Tooth counter sprocket
    • Nik wax for leathers
    • Waxed leather sewing twine
    • Two small pieces of sand paper
    • Small piece of copper pipe for swaging cables/ repairing broken clutch cables. My last clutch cable broke the ball of the end of it.
    • Several sizes of clear PVC tubing
    • Two small funnels
    • Zip ties
    • Locktight superglue (real super glue, not $2 shop stuff).
    • permatex thread-locker
    • Permatex gasket silicone
    • Duct tape
    • Spare fuses
    • Canvas spares bag
    • 50m 2.5mm dyneema core 200kg tensile strength
    • Canvas ground sheet/bike cover/tent outer when roller up
    • prussic minding pulley + webbing strap
The Kit-2
Tools and general kit

———zip tied into bash plate———–

  • Ball pein hammer 250g
  • Hack saw blade
  • Spare clutch lever
  • Vice grips
  • Tyre levers
  • Small piece of stainless for repairing cut tyre side walls

———stored in fairing———–

  • Quick steel for repairing small holes in crank case etc
  • Electrical wire
  • Electrical tape
  • Neoprene rubber for gluing onto rub spots. eg seat rubbing on tank
  • Assortment of spare bolts, nuts, pop rivets
  • Digital multimeter
  • Spare spark plug (iridium plug installed in bike)
  • Oil Filter
  • Drain plug crush washers
  • Air filter boots for when the roads get really dusty
  • Two spare air filters
  • Air filter oil

———stored in tank bag———–

  • Digital tyre pressure gauge
  • Helmet lock
  • Lip balm
  • Sun glasses
  • Uniden 78sx CB radio + 12v charger

———on handle bars———–

  • 60m recovery rope
The Kit-3
Photographic and electrical

Photographic and electrical (left to right)

  • 15″ MacBook Pro i7 2.66Ghz, 8GB, 240GB SSD + 500GB in optical bay
  • Three sets of four Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries
  • Spot Connect
  • 4xAA Lithium batteries for Spot
  • iPhone 4 + iPod 80GB
  • Canon 5D MKIII +32GB CF+4GB Eye-Fi SD card
  • Canon 50 1.4
  • Canon 70-200 f4 IS L
  • Canon 17-40 f4 L
  • Canon 100 f2.8 macro
  • Canon EX-600 RT
  • Cokin polarising filter
  • Benro C-0681EX carbon fibre 1.1kg tripod
  • Backup 1TB USB 2.5″ HD
  • Extra storage 640GB USB 2.5″ HD
  • Extra CF cards (8GB+2x4GB)
  • Time lapse remote cable release (non Canon)
  • 4 LP-E6 batteries
  • 12v LP-E6 charger (non Canon)
  • GoPro Hero 2 +16GB SD card
  • 12v socket to 2x USB + 12v socket adaptor
  • Lens bags
  • Dry bag
  • Canvas bag

——not pictured——-

  • 12v AA+AAA charger
  • Torch – Zebra light H51FW single AA, very small and light. The best UI of any torch I have ever used. Most customisable and practical.
  • Head torch – Led Lenser h14. Needs a lower mode, otherwise very good.


Custom made stainless panniers

See the Sinking Mawson page for the story of the Sunken Luggage System.

Choosing the bike.

One of the key aspects of selecting a tool is knowing what job it must perform. I wanted to adventure tour Australia on motorcycle as I had done on a borrowed Yamaha XT225 around Tasmania in 2008 with Alex Black. I am particularly grateful to Daryl Black for lending me his lovely new XT225. My criteria for a bike were:

The bike had to have a track record of reliability. Some known issues excepted. These can be fixed before taking on a big trip.

•Maintenance and repair with standard tools
The bike needed to be able to be pulled apart and fixed with simple tools that can be carried or found on farms and in small country towns. No complex electrical systems that need computers and special tools.

•Reasonable comfort
The bike must be comfortable enough that I don’t get more and more fatigued riding it day after day. A good seat and a bit of fairing to keep the elements off a little, reasonably upright riding position and so on.

•Reasonable off road capability
The bike needed to be at home on dirt, gravel, mud, sand and the many other challenging conditions found while adventure touring.

•Reasonable on road capability
The bike needed to be able to do highway speeds when called upon to keep up with traffic, occasionally do some long stretches of black top, be at home on tight winding roads with reasonable braking and acceleration under these conditions.

•Good fuel economy The bike needed to have good fuel economy. Carrying lots of fuel gets heavy.

Strong frame for carrying luggage on rough roads
A strong frame to attach luggage to was important. I didn’t want to to have to strip an expensive European bike and have its frame upgraded to carry my gear. The bike needed to be tough from the get-go.

Other considerations I was strongly attracted to low outlay and maintenance costs that seem typical of the Japanese motorcycles although it was not a requirement. Having ridden a small bike (Yamaha XT225) that fitted most of the criteria, I had a good idea of what a bike that fitted the criteria was like to ride. The little XT225 was a great bike! I still love this little gem. It did struggle a little on the highway and it didn’t have much in the way of fairing to protect one from the elements. The next size up is the 650cc class of bikes. Unfortunately there is nothing much in between that really fits the criteria. The three bikes that came up as serious contenders were the Kawasaki KLR650, Suzuki DR350SE,  the Suzuki DR650SE. Other bikes that held significant merit that I looked at: BMW F650GS, Yamaha XT600, Honda XR650L, KTM Adventure 640. Another consideration was that finding a bike that had just enough power to take me to amazing places without wearing out but not excessive amounts of power that would just temp me to be a hoon. The Kawasaki KLR650 is a simple, tough and reliable tool that fitted my needs well. Are there things I would change about the KLR? Yes! I have changed lots of things on my KLR to help it do what I want. Are there things that frustrate me about it? Yes! In retrospect, is the KLR the right tool for my needs? You bet it is. From the mountains to the coast…Mawson’ll take me there! Billy Goat Bluff, 1450m asl looking down on DargoDay 15-12Day 11-2

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