My intent with the XR650L is to convert it into a (relatively) lightweight adventure bike – which means there will be times when I want to load it with gear and take off for a week of riding.
One challenge with this scenario is that riding in the dirt carrying even moderate loads on the back of the bike has been known to crack and/or break the subframe. My friend JT has had to repair the subframe on his XRL several times before he was able to get it strong enough to carry his luggage.
I thought a pre-emptive strike was in order – I really don’t want to get deep into the mountains of Mexico and then have to deal with a broken subframe – so I searched the internet and found several possible solutions. I particularly liked the bolt-on reinforcement bars sold by Twisted Throttle but they won’t work with some aftermarket exhaust systems. Since I’m running a Supertrapp slip-on and didn’t want to go back to the stock exhaust I had to pass on the Twisted Throttle solution.
I finally settled on a set of weld-on steel support gussets made and sold by a fellow called gravityisnotmyfriend on Advrider.com. I’m not an engineer and I didn’t sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night but these gussets are heavy and seem sufficiently strong to me. As I understand it they are designed to reinforce the part of the subframe that is most vulnerable to cracking and breaking. My buddy Steve welded them on for me and even painted them silver to help keep rust away.
Hopefully they will work as desired and absorb all the excess stress applied to the subframe when carrying luggage. My buddy JT, who definitely knows more about this kind of stuff than I, isn’t convinced they will work. He thinks that instead the stress will be applied to another part of the subframe, which will then break.
As an additional subframe reinforcement measure (can you tell I really don’t want my subframe to break when I’m deep in the mountains of Mexico and a really long way from help?) I added side racks from Happy Trails. Not only will the side racks keep my saddle bags away from the muffler, out of the rear wheel, and from flopping around while riding in rough terrain, they will also act as an additional support for the subframe. I believe the combination of these two – subframe reinforcement and side racks – should make the subframe sufficiently strong for the riding I do. To be fair I don’t do a lot of very fast, off-road riding with the bike loaded down with gear. Under those conditions I’m not sure that even with the reinforcement I’ve done that the subframe would be okay. But, really, who wants to do a bunch of high speed off-road riding with a loaded down bike? Certainly not me.
As a first test of the reinforced subframe I completed a 7 day, 1500 mile, dual sport ride in Mexico with the bike loaded down with gear and had no issues with the subframe. I’m checking this box as “complete” and moving on to adding a luggage system to the XRL.