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DR650 Experiences



Just a little scooter.
I'd ride to work 4 miles each way.
Really, that's all I wanted to do.
I'm a mountain biker,
that's how I ride trails.

How did I get here? Hell, I went almost 20 years without really wanting to get back on a motorcycle. I have a friend from college who had a 'severe' crash way back when; I used to call him every time I started to feel the urge. My big mistake was I started thinking about getting a small scooter to ride during the Olympics, when we expected that traffic would completely saturate the (already high) driving stupidity curve here in Atlanta.
Off I went to the bookstore, to feed my obsession with information. 8 magazines, 3 buyers guides, and 2 books later I was utterly convinced that scooters were dangerous, but by then it was too late; I had the bug.
I started looking for a first bike which could do many things reasonably well. Commuting. Tours. Maybe some trails. Not too heavy. Not a sportbike. The more I read and talked to riders, the better a dual-sport sounded: high off the ground for better visibility, light and simple, low insurance, reasonable purchase cost, decent resale value.
I visited the local dealers in the area. (It's funny how I remember lots of dealers in close to the city when I was growing up here, but now we're reduced to a few mega-jumbo-colossal dealerships way out in the suburbs.) I looked at Kawasakis, Hondas, Suzukis, Yamahas, KTMs and ATKs. It was instant lust. I started patrolling the convenience stores in search of fresh Auto/RV/Bike trader magazines weekly. What bike to get? New or Used? The decision came down to two issues: Displacement and (of course) Financing.
My opinion on displacement kept changing; basically I felt a 250cc was too small for the freeway, a 350cc was barely comfortable, the XR400 required a DOT conversion, the KTMs were too much $money$, and the 650's were big, heavy bikes.
So originally I was fixated on a 350. At 350cc there was only one choice, the DR350SE; the Yamaha XT350 just seemed old and toothless in comparison, and new Honda XR400 would require DOT conversion and certification/registration headaches. But after a couple of weeks went by with too much time spent absorbing catalogs (man, just stop reading and go ride!) I began to wonder about the DR's limitations (questionable power, flexy rear swingarm, fork improvements needed). And I realized that more power would be really useful if I planned on doing much touring (and the Honda and Suzuki 650s didn't weight THAT much more than the 350s, and, well, I rationalized myself up a size.
At 650cc there were three choices in my price range: The KLX650 was $400 more expensive than the others, had the most distant dealer, and a suspect rear shock; the Honda XR650L was a great 4 year-old design but very dirt oriented; the '96 Suzuki DR650 was too new to have proven its reliability (while the older DR650 wasn't very "dual-sport", more an unpopular street machine). Magazine reviews were contradictory, (and these guys are experts?) they were interesting but not much help. In May and June, when I was searching for a bike, the used motorcycle market (for 650 dual-sports anyway) dried up. Dust-like. None.
Availability, and the newer design pushed me over the edge from the XR to the DR; plus, I've always loved the underdog. Final price/finance negotiation was an equally long story, but I'll leave it up to your imagination. At least it was easier than buying a car. This was not an impulse purchase (or maybe it was just a really, really long impulse), I researched and looked and talked, ad nauseum for over two months before I bought.
He finally buys it

My biggest lesson
from the MRC?
That I'm afraid of the brakes.
True confession.
I rode bicycles, which have
crappy, ineffectual,
brakes for too many years.

So I purchased the bike on 3jun96, and promptly scared the hell out of myself by riding it all of 16 miles to get home. In retrospect, it wasn't that bad; I made it without scratches, drops, or bruises. I only stalled 3 times. But it sure wasn't like I remembered 20 years ago. I approached the bike from then on with Healthy Fear [TM]. Most riding during the 600 mile break-in was "getting aquainted" time, riding late afternoon/early evening mixtures of surburban twisties and errands, with some off-hour commuting and a few dirt roads. I managed to confine my crashing incidents to deserted dirt roads (OK, I did overshoot a right turn and get into someone's lawn. Sorry.)
I took an MRC RiderCourse in late June, and learned a lot. Honda has a huge training facility North of Atlanta, which is used for this course. Unfortunately, the first all-day riding session coincided with a Georgia heat wave. There we were, 8 sweaty riders and 2 sweaty instructors standing on a black-coated 4 acre asphalt solar collector. A reported 97 degrees and no shade. I must have really wanted to be there. Leather boots, jeans, and long-sleeve shirts. At least we weren't required to wear full leathers. I was the only rider on their own bike in the class, and I almost ran some other folks down on the range because my first gear was much higher than the loaner bikes. The instructors passed me despite the fact that I totally wigged during part of the riding test (Thanks, De). The story of my life: Ace the written exam, forget my head in the demonstration.
Took some weekend rides out into the country and experienced the adrenaline rush of getting blown sideways by sudden gusts of wind at 60+ mph. Whoa! How'd I get over here? I quickly learned that hanging on tight was not the answer (Just made my arms tired), the bike wants to go straight... slowing down though, that did help. I later found that my Bell off-road helmet and loose jacket were making this worse. Since my head was far from the already tall center of gravity, side loading of my visored "dirty" helmet was great leverage. I now think an aerodynamic helmet and jacket are required for sustained freeway speeds. A fairing helps a lot, too, but adds it's own quirky sail-like effects when the wind is just right.
After the break-in service at 570 miles, the bike felt very different. Much more power on-throttle and engine braking on off-throttle. Checking the work order I found racing gas additive. Hmmmm. The next tank of regular gas made the bike feel sluggish. Hmmmm. Switched to premium, much better. Hmmmm. Hey, it's only money.
(Anybody else wonder why they've not put in some sort of temporary throttle stops for break-in time, since it's hard to know what is 50%, or 75%? Some kind of screw could be inserted during manufacture and removed at the break-in service to limit the movement. Aaa, what do I know?)
At 800 miles I installed an Alumilite handlebar, dual-sport grips, and Acerbis handguards. Suzuki uses a co-molded throttle grip, so I had to carve off the OEM CR-style rubber to install the new, fatter ones. As Tom Warr reported, the Acerbis handguards require some modification and wrestling to install, but they're strong. The new bar does not vibrate any more at speed despite removal of OEM bar-end weights to install the handguards. I also installed an aluminum front fender brace, much stiffer! Fiddling around, I lock-tited all the bits and bolts, increased the rear compression damping, and found that the rear axle snail adjusters were not equal so I corrected the rear alignment.
In July I finally broke down and went trail riding for the first time at a friend's farm outside Atlanta. Discovered rear-end steering through throttle control, front braking can have surprising consequences, those little balls on the ends of brake and clutch levers can break off, soft dirt can scratch plastic, and sometimes it's better to just let it go and run away. In between discoveries I managed to stay upright and yell "Woo-Hoo!" a lot. In short, I had a great time.
After getting used to the bike, it sure beats the hell out of driving my '82 Volvo wagon (but it's too damn practical to sell!). The thing I enjoy most when I ride is that it's a real flow acivity. I'm only thinking about riding; Who's around me? What does the bike sound like? Is that van turning left? Upshift, shift your weight for the corner, scan the road surface, watch the side streets. Feel the wind. Smell the fresh-cut lawns. Be IN the environment. It's like meditation, all the mundane job and day-to-day problems disappear. If only I could get my girlfriend to understand...
Considering how little I knew about bikes last March when I started, I think I ended up with a great choice. And, unlike a lot of first bikes, I believe I'll keep this one for a long time. (Of course, this could just be cognitive dissonance. When you pay this much for anything your brain has to rationalize and balance and justify the costs. hmmmm.) Since there was no entry for the DR650, in July I grabbed the KLX650 description and began inflicting this obsession onto the web. Thanks to Jerry Hanna for letting me vent here. Thanks also to Steve Johnson for the obvious work that went into his KLX Review.
pRC, July 1996
A D D E N D U M part 1


Like a dream, the road seemed to glow in the failing light; with stillness all around except for the rising and falling of sound of the big thumper at 5000 feet.
  Yeah, I smelled the plastic cooking under there when I stopped for gas,
but what could I do?

October 1996 - Time marches on and miles accumulate on my odometer (now @ 2800+). Lots of little commuting experiences make me happy about my dual-sport and getting the MRC under my belt before I had a chance to develop [many] bad habits. Labor day weekend I rode up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville, NC for my first moderate tour (560 miles in two days). Saturday night I got on the BRP at 7:15pm and rode 87 incredible twisty miles down a beautiful empty road at sunset. The last half an hour I rode in complete darkness, through wisps of fog and a rising wind. Finally, I had to exit and ride back through civilization to find a place to sleep.
The next day was sunny and low 80's. I had to choose between continuing North or working my way South, back towards Atlanta. My butt was sore, but still I was tempted to head up to Mt. Mitchell before a weather report showed that the next day would not be fair. So I took to the BRP South, and smiled all the way down to Bryson City as I carved up the ultra-smooth curves in the light traffic. Nice to have all that lean clearance in a decreasing-radius turn! From Bryson City to Franklin I took a "shortcut" down a long dirt road running along the Little Tennessee River. At about 200 miles that day, my rear end finally stopped hurting and I zoomed the the last hour down freeway to get home (typical Atlanta freeway speed is somewhere around 75 or 80). A trip to remember.
I did have a casualty that weekend. The weight of my right saddlebag pushed my right side panel into the muffler and melted a dollar-bill-sized hole. Very ugly. The Chase Harper saddlebag ended up with a scorch mark on the heat shielding and it got warm enough inside to trash a nylon and suede hiking boot. Replacement right side cover was $65, and I've got to design a fix to keep this from happening again; I made a removeable fiberglass heat spacer to fit under the panel, and added two layers of moto-tile under the plastic to the aluminum tape reflector. If that doesn't fix it, I'll try an extension to the existing aluminum heat guard mounted to the muffler (currently spanning from the plastic rearwards)?
Back in August I bought a Vanson SRX properf leather jacket; It gets hot and sticky in Atlanta, but I can wear this thing when it is mid-90s and feel comfortable (well, if I'm moving. Sitting still in the sun is still not fun in black leather). Thick protection with double elbows and shoulders. I did not get the optional armor, but I can easily add it later since the velcro is already sewn in place. The fitted shape is more aerodynamic and reduces effects of gusts of wind, passing trucks, but I got cold up in the mountains on the trip to Asheville, and ended my day riding with my rain jacket on top as a wind barrier (now that's ventilation!). Good jacket, but expensive.
I also installed an enlarged IMS tank. (155 - 170 miles between fillings intown!) I have to compliment IMS on their eMail responsiveness; once I contacted them in July looking for the tank they sent me regular progress reports until I was able to get a production version in October. The new tank is roto-molded from thick (0.200 or better) plastic, and holds around 5.1 gallons. The kit comes with mounting bolts, a seat attachment flange, an off-road vented gas cap, and a really useless instruction sheet. All bolts into the tank (gas pickup/petcock and seat mount flange) are captured by molded-in brass inserts. The mounts are very clean, especially the petcock area - bolts right in with no leaks! Installation was very fast, in fact the only lesson I can pass on is to avoid tightening the rear mount bolts too much or the tank will vibrate. This tank is several pounds lighter than the steel tank it replaces so the extra range is almost free as far as affecting the weight of the bike. The only downsides to this product are the cost (~$200), the loss of the OEM locking gas cap, and the scratchability of the HDPE. A great modification for a DR650.
The moto-style graphics were beginning to get under my skin, so I tried to peel 'em off one day (side panels were easy, tank graphics are clearcoated into finish so I passed). The IMS tank I added took care of that; only added a red Suzuki "S" to each side. My only concern is that I'm losing some of the bike's high visibility in traffic. (Later: stickers aren't good on the IMS tank. I think the polypropylene is semi-permiable, because the stickers keep bubbling up with air pockets. Will try other stick-on materials)
I saw a picture of a BMW F650 the other day that looked much more sophisticated and subdued (but probably not as conspicuous as my PURPLE and YELLOW machine). But (inevitable for me) followup web research showed that the Aprilia manufactured BMW is much heavier than the DR (421 lb v. 324 lb.), without much more power (48 hp? v. 35 hp stock tune, est. 42 hp with mods?); I read the BMW's Rotax is tuned more for top-end than low end torque like the DR. It also has 3 inches less suspension front and rear, all for only $2,200 more than the Suzuki. So I think I can rationalize my way around this one.
I've found that I just enjoy riding the DR on the street; the handling and acceleration are really addictive, and there's always a wheelie just a clutch and throttle away in first and second (which is pretty different from when I drive my 1982 Volvo DL wagon). But you don't have to be going 80 mph to feel like you're riding the DR properly. I don't know how people stay anywhere near the speed limits on these sportbikes I read about; If a KTM Duke is much faster than the DR, then their owners must struggle with daily temptation just to hang on to their licenses. I'm not sure I'm that strong.
Finally, I ordered a small clear fairing just to try it out (hey, $50, I can always put it on my bicycle...). Though small (rounded 14" wide by 13" high), it provides a lot of torso protection, and reduces the amount of "human parachute" effect on the freeway, at the cost of cooling Summer air movement. I'll keep it on this Fall and see how it works. I (still) lust for a euro dual-sport fairing with small dual lamps and room for a tachometer...and a centerstand, and a taller seat, and, and, and...
A D D E N D U M part 2


The new quartz halogen mega-glare device blows the OEM lamp away. Much brighter, very even rectangular illumination on low-beam, and I can fade car paint on high-beam. You can argue about whether loud pipes may or may not save lives, but I'm convinced that bright lights definitely help!

February 1997 - (now @ 3800+ miles) 2nd servicing
I read that Kawasaki has killed the KLX650 in the US market, and is instead pushing the KLR650 here. I don't know what this will mean for the DR (which is unchanged mechanically for 1997, only slight graphics changes were made); I'd like to think that big dual sport bikes are on the upswing, as they've been in Europe for a while. I actually saw a BMW F650 ST (street version) in a local megadealer in January. I've also read that Aprilia will begin importing the Pegaso 650 in late 1997. We'll see.
If you take the time to actually re-read this whole huge page (no, wait, you don't need to), you'll see that I've made numerous changes, especially to the History and Addendum sections. I was trying to make the story more intelligible, but I probably have only made things too long. Anyway, it's nice to be able to re-write history. I reorganized the page into a table to make reading easier; reading research shows that a column 8 to 13 words wide is faster to read, and users have better retention.
The past couple of months I've been wrestling with some new modifications to the DR:
I ordered and installed a DG "Baja" aluminum skidplate through Dennis Kirk. This bolts into two threaded frame inserts at the rear and uses two frame tube clamps at the front. It's a pretty simple install once you get the hang of aligning the frame clamps with fingertips while starting the allen bolt from beneath while laying on your back in the parking lot. It's made from 0.200" aluminum plate with welded seams, it comes up the sides about 3" to protect the side cases and oil filter cover. A single large hole in the bottom gives access to the oil plug and lets spooge and water drain out. The only problem with this thing is the noise. It's like a large bell down there, and resonates at some engine speeds. It's really loud. So I re-installed the plate with sections of inner tube for damping, which quieted the problem some (and reduced the paint damage that the clamps were causing). I also tried sticking foam around the bottom of the engine. Even with the ringing effect reduced, it still reflects engine noise and makes valve noise more noticeable. I may give up on it for my day-to-day commuting duty and save it for trips. Maybe I can drill holes in it and change the resonant frequency...for now, I've removed it.
In late November I ordered a Rifle Nightflight fairing and a 7 inch round headlight assembly from Dave's Cycle World. We eMailed back and forth for a couple of month's about fitting a Cagiva-like dual-headlight sport fairing (like an FZ400) to the DR. Finally lost my nerve on that project and instead went with the smallest Rifle in white with a tinted shield and a round 7 inch headlamp assembly to replace the stock rectangular unit (I was concerned about clearance below the stock lamp, and thought the bigger light would make the bike more visible). Eventually received the fairing in mid-January, still waiting for several small parts in late February. Sorry Dave, but 9 - 12 weeks is a long time to wait for off-the-shelf parts.
The chrome 7 inch headlight is HUGE!
Hmmmm, the OEM headlight assembly is trapped by the fork clamps on the upper fork tubes. So to remove old headlight assembly you've got to unbolt the triple clamps and slide the fork tubes off the bike!
Oops, there were no off-the-shelf headlight mounts to fit the DR's fork tube diameter, so I spent thirty minutes walking around Home Depot and came up with some rubber drain pipe splices which, when slit to fit around the tubes, made neat grey spacers for fitting the oversized (50mm) clamps to the 43mm fork tubes. That done, it was simple to put the lamp and housing together, connect the electrical plug and tuck the wiring harness glob-o-wires into the bowl housing behind the lamp. I went with a quartz halogen lamp at maximum DOT (55/60) wattage. I'm gonna try a 55/100 bulb next and see what effect that has.
While I had the forks out I removed the stock yellow rubber accordian-slider boots and installed some early '90s RM sliding plastic fork protectors. They don't provide the protection of the rubber boots, but I'm riding on-road mostly anyway. At least they keep the bugs and tar off (and roost when I do go off road) plus I can see my sliders and visually track their sealing condition.
When I ordered the smallest Rifle fairing I went ahead and got 2 tinted windscreens, one regular height and one tall. space inside shell for storage or instruments. weighs only 3 pounds, so there is minimal effect on handling from the weight. But, as I found with the small National Cycle fairing, there are some unexpected handling changes at speed. get used to this after a day or so. The new fairing does a slightly better job keeping wind off me than the old windscreen. Still, during the Summer I'll probably remove the thing for better airflow.
I also ordered and installed a Thumper Racing Dynojet kit, so I could start learning about carburetor adjustments the hard way. It turned out to be just another Dynojet kit, revised to include '96 DR. It includes 150/155/160/170 main jets and a replacement needle with much steeper taper than stock and multiple clip positions. The 150 and 155 jets are included for the 90-95 DR650S (I wonder if I can exchange tham with Dynojet for a 165 jet?).
The 1996-on DR Requires airbox modification; there is no Stage 1 version (stock airbox, filter, and exhaust) available. It turns out that the stock DR is unbelievably lean for EPA purposes, with an almost cylindrical needle and a tiny (140) main jet; Dynojet recommends a 160 jet with stock exhaust and airbox mod and a 170 with a high-flow aftermarket pipe. To open up the airbox, I drilled two 1.5" holes in the top and removed the rubber snorkle, that gives me approximately 6.5 square inches of opening. I also added a filterskin over the OEM foam filter out of hope and paranoia, visualizing all that air hurtling through the box. The rest of the kit was a simple installation (with my Suzuki shop manual for reference). You also need to drill out the brass plug over (actually under, it's on the bottom of the carb) the idle mixture screw, which was preset at 1 1/4 turns out from the factory.
Learn from 3 things from my carburetor experience!:
1) Be careful when reassembling the diaphragm cover not to pinch one edge (the slide won't pull up evenly or completely). 2) Check the float bowl vent hose four times after re-installing the carb to make sure it isn't kinked. 3) You don't have to disconnect everything to swap jets, etc. If you loosen the hose clamps on the rubber inlet/connections, you can pivot the carb to the side without removing the throttle and choke cables and access the diaphragm and float bowls easily.
The bike feels much more powerful, and I don't think this is wishful thinking. The front end gets light more easily and the top end has more oomph; it's beginning to feel less like a beginner bike and more like a sportbike with ground clearance. I called Dynojet about trading in the smaller (old DR650) jets for a 165, and they sent me 2 of them for free. Cool. My ending settings: 160 main jet, Dynojet needle on middle clip position, idle mixture screw set 2 1/2 turns out.
Winter/Spring Projects and Fantasies:
In spite of my fear of my front brake (or maybe because of it), I'm upgrading my brakes in 1997 with a braided steel front brake hose and Moose/Dunlopad replacement brake shoes. I'll flush my old fluid and put in fresh DOT4 while I'm at it.
Now that I feel comfortable on the bike, I'm getting those little tickles in the back of my mind (more HP? hmmmmm). I had a conversation with a race tuner in early January about some head work; he seemed to think there was another 20 HP available through head porting/polishing, cam work, cylinder/head spacing, and replacing the carburetor. Sounds a little optimistic, and I worry about screwing up the DR's reliability and ease of starting. And, this would not help the throttle sensitivity on dirt.
Speaking of dirt v. street riding, I had another conversation with the guy above about fitting a second set of Supermotard style 17 inch rims and tires to the DR. Since the rear is a 17 already, I could go cheap and re-lace the front with a new rim, but then I couldn't go back. For convenience, the idea of 2 sets of wheels sounds a whole lot better than swapping tires. Unscientific analysis (we held up a tire and looked at the front end) shows that the front would probably be lowered 2 inches with a 17 inch wheel, and would stay closer to stock height with a 19 incher. We could also go with some salvaged cast sportbike wheels and custom machined spacers, etc. (tubeless tires!) Of course, this also opens up related issues like: Oversized braking rotor kit for both front wheels? (320mm v. 295mm stock) 3 or 4 piston replacement front brake caliper? And all those sportbike tire choices? How do I pay for all this?
Over the past 500 miles or so, I've noticed a flat developing around the central tread of my rear tire. While I could probably slow this by using my throttle less, I'm surprised it has worn so soon. I'm thinking of trying a pair of Metzeler Enduro 4 (or Pirelli MT60?) tires next, since I ride 90+% on the street, and they happen to come in the OEM rear tire size (120/90-17 Bridgestone TW 42). Most other dual sport tires go up to 130/80-17, which I believe will also fit (looks like 3/4" minimum clearance to chain to swingarm on right side, +1" clearance to chain side and crossbrace). If I'm open to the larger rear size, I can consider the Avon AM24 Gripster, Pirelli MT-80, Metzeler Enduro 3, Continental TKC80, IRC GP-1/GP-110, Michelin T66, Michelin Sirac, and others. That oughta make this a tough decision! I've still got a copy of a Thumper maillist post from three German magazines reviewing tires for the BMW R100GS. It's translated by Marcus Grave, and typically German-ly thorough. Their winners?
Street only: Metzeler ME33/ME55 (only street tire in test)
Dirt: Avon AM24 Gripster/Michelin T65
Best wear: Continental TK60/70
All-around: Metzeler Enduro 4/Enduro 3/Michelin T66.
Longer range modifications? A Yoshimura exhaust system? Cover all my plastic with stick-on fake carbon-fiber vinyl? Replace all my plastic with custom carbon-fiber parts? (actually, I wouldn't mind having some carbon fiber side panels, they would take the heat and wear much better)
A D D E N D U M part 3


You are at the mercy of your Service Department, so find a good one.
The moment you start hearing contradictory information coming out of their mouths, you've got trouble.

August 1997 - (now @ 4700+ miles)
Well, I had a serious warranty problem with the bike in March. Seems that I suddenly developed about five oil leaks 200 miles after the dealer (Roswell Fun Machines; Roswell, Georgia) performed the 4000 mile servicing. Hmmmm.
Then they didn't even look at the bike for 2 weeks. Hmmmm. Finally, after yet another non-responsive phone call, I called Suzuki's national service center in California (whose number was not easy to find on any of their materials, instead I found it on the 411 website). They were surprised to hear I was having a problem with this dealer, who never had any complaints filed. Hmmmm. Could this be because no one could call Suzuki?
I wrote up all my notes from my phone calls, and included transcriptions from voice mails left my my dealer, and sent a copy to both Suzuki and the dealership owner. Time was still tripping along, and after 3 weeks, I got a call from the dealer and his service manager regarding the letter, but still no apology and no bike. Hmmmm.
Finally, after 4 weeks, I got the bike back. Finally, they actually apologized and accepted that they had 'screwed up'. Five weeks later, the leaking began again, although much less of it. Another 10 days in the dealer's shop (now I was starting to get paranoid about my warranty) and a simple 're-torqued the head' and it was fixed. Hmmmm.
So what have we learned? Well, I think a few useful things:
1) You are at the mercy of your Service Department, so find a good one. The minute you start hearing contradictory information coming out of their mouths, you've got trouble. As a consultant I've seen over and over that attitude flows from the top down, if your service manager is acting like a jerk, it's very likely the owner is one too.
2) You have little recourse. Your bike's manufacturer is not going to lift their line from a successful dealership, their business is to sell motorcycles. So the manufacturer has little pull with the dealer; and since their representatives are spread thin it is hard for them to come into the middle of a bad repair and understand the true situation. Service departments are testy when they come around asking questions anyway, so you may end up with slower service.
3) Warranty repairs are low priority. You have a contract with your manufacturer to repair your bike if it craps out in the first year. The local dealership has a contract to perform this warranty work for the manufacturer at a "special rate". YOU have no direct contract with the dealer for the warranty. If the dealer has plenty of normal work, warranty repairs are sent to the bottom of the queue, or worse, assigned to less experienced mechanics (if this happens, any damage is unlikely to show up until after the warranty has expired. They've mangled your bike, and still get paid to fix it, a vicious circle.)
Depressing, isn't it? Your options are to demand better service, take your business elsewhere, get a lawyer, buy a second bike to ride while this is happening, and exercise your first amendment rights and tell as many people as possible how to avoid your fate. Good information is scarce, so share your experiences, good and bad.
On to more Pleasant Things:
The OEM brakes are pretty spongy feeling. I had a panic stop where the brake lever squeezed to the grip and actually held the throttle open (oops, didn't get it rolled all the way off) and I ended up standing, clutch in, with the engine racing. This spring I replaced the front hose with a Russell steel-braided-Teflon line and now I've got 2 finger brakes (if I squeeze REALLY hard the back of the lever touches my ring finger still wrapped around the throttle). I'm not sure why these lines aren't standard equipment, except to exclude temptation to pull stoppies!
I also installed some Moose/Dunlopad front brake shoes I ordered through Thumper that wore incredibly fast (down to the base in about 7 weeks!). Must've been a bad batch. Switched to EBC pads now. They have pretty good feel, but we'll see how they last. It's a good thing it's only a 10 minute process to change the shoes.
After 4100 miles it was time to replace the OEM Bridgestone 'Trail Wing' back tire, though the front is holding on fine. I installed a Metzeler 'Sahara' Enduro 3 on the rear of my '96 DR650 in late June. I've only put about 600 miles on it so I can't vouch for durability (actually, it looks like I'm pretty hard on tires, with an in-town commute everyday I seem to be having way too much fun). I 'can' comment on street traction, which is surprisingly good as long as you keep required pressure in them. They grip strongly at lean and can even take a fair amount of throttle in a corner without complaint. This despite a pretty 'chunky' design. Also, not that noisy. Really, really good rain tire. I've only ridden a few miles on dirt roads with it, but it felt more controllable than the OEM Bridgestone 'Trail Wing' TW42. I had to go up a size from the OEM 120/90 to 130/80, but had no clearance or handling problems emerge.
That said, I'm not really expecting it to last more than the 4000 miles (2000 - 3000 miles, according to some folks on the DUST list) I got from the Bridgestone, at which time the front should also be ready for replacement. I'll probably get the front wheel re-laced with a 19" rim, since I boinked it pretty good on a really BIG pothole at 45mph, and try the Enduro 4 front and rear, since I'm a supermotard kinda guy. Forgive me, you trails junkies out there; After trying a few times I'd rather ride trails on my Cannondale, but I love this big thumper and the way I don't have to avoid dirt roads when I ride it.
Still in search for the perfect mirrors, also thinking about contacting Suzuki to get a set of Euro/Asian market side panels and rear fender and converting the bike to black (also have to order a custom black IMS tank, and a black aftermarket supermotard front fender...). Hmmm.
A D D E N D U M part 4

  In the white, with 19 inch front wheel
In the white, with 19 inch front wheel

Black plastic and Supermotard stuff,
new jets, and more
Finally find some great mirrors

August 1998 - (now @ 7700+ miles)
Finally got my oil leak (that's 'awl leeek' in Georgian) fixed last Spring at my new mechanic, Performance Triumph/Suzuki in Norcross, GA. I also got my Supermotard fix at the same time.
When I took the bike in for servicing, Performance would not give a price to fix it until they had opened the engine (Finally! someone who admits the truth about engines). When they called to report on the price, and told me that the engine had just been re-assembled poorly before, with 'silicone sealant where it shouldn't be, and a cylinder bolt that was not properly inserted'. Man!
After much soul searching, I went with the 19 inch front rim to replace the dented OEM 21 incher (don't ask). Though my rear Metzeler Sahara 3 still had about a thousand miles on it, I decide to replace both tires at the same time. I selected, sight unseen, a new Dunlop dual sport tire 'for heavy dual sports like the BMW GS and the DR650', the D604.
Hey, you can't accuse me of ignoring targeted marketing.
The Dunlops were radials. A 110/80-19 for the front, and a whopping 140/80-17 for the rear. Despite a few delays with the re-laced front rim (courtesy of Buchanon in California), I was back on the road with minimum terror. New tires and a geometry changing front wheel! The scariest moment of the whole adventure occurred in the first 20 feet of the service lot. Whoa! That new rear tire is greasy slick until it's worn in a little. After a few break-in miles, that was no longer a problem, and these tires are awesome. Really sticky wet and dry, and they look very aggressive (see photo at left), kinda like a cross between a Metzeler Enduro 4 and a Pirelli MT60. Dunlop has a real winner here if they only last a few thousand miles. So far, the rear is holding up much better than the Metzeler it replaced after 1500 miles of squidly torture.
Now, I went up 2 sizes on both tires and dropped the front end an inch with these chnages, but aside from a highly over-optimistic speedometer there have been no ill effects. I did have to adjust my riding position and move forward an inch or two on the saddle. The steeper front end is compensated somewhat by the larger front tire, and the bike turns-in more quickly but is still very stable. You can really toss it into a corner now and lean WAAAAAAAY over and it just feels planted. I only get very mild headshake under certain wind conditions above an indicated 90 mph.
No, really, Officer I was just checking the suspension.
It's even still effective in the dirt, though the rear has less hook-up than the Sahara 3.
Well, if a little change is good, a lot must be great. So I went with black plastic next. My seat cover was getting a little weird from the gel pad working it's solvent-like magic, so I re-covered the seat in black (I also added some Saran Wrap covering between the gel and the new cover). I ordered another tank directly from IMS, custom molded in black. Those guys are so great, they didn't even charge extra for the color change.
The IMS gas caps are tough, and included with the order. but I wanted a flush cap, so I ordered an aluminum aftermarket sportbike cap from White Bros. and lost an evening with a Dremel tool removing the old nozzle and siliconing the new cap onto a perfectly good tank. I also added a vent tube by drilling a 3/8 inch hole just in front of the gas cap and screwing a little 90° thread to barb fitting and attaching a pvc drain tube. I also ordered some black adhesive motocross number vinyl and spent two evenings with x-acto knife in hand and voila! black plastic side panels and rear fender. In combination with the new acerbis (black, natch)front fender, the new black plastic really sets off the Suzuki purple/blue frame paint and purple anodized Alumilite handlebars.
Back at Christmas, Factory Racing sent me an eMail asking if I would try out their new jet kit for the DR. No fool am I. I said when can you send it? It then sat in my toolbox until June (sorry guys, it was too cold to work. Really). When I finally got around to replacing the Dynojet kit, the first I noticed was that the Factory main jets were smaller (145 v. 160 main), and the needle was totally different. Well, to make a long afternoon short, the new kit is great. They sent me 5 main jets (140, 142.5, 145, 147.5, 150), 3 needles, and 3 pilot jets. The combination of a larger pilot and the smaller main with the new needle makes the torque increase at low and mid RPM noticeable right away, and the gas mileage went from 175 miles per tank to 195 miles per tank (longer if you're not in traffic). Highly recommended over the Dynojet kit.
I also finally found some great mirrors. They are Japanese late '80s CB750 copies from Dennis Kirk. Metal bodies on the glass and longer stalks make the rear view only 1/3 elbow now. They're also pretty resitant to vibration, or at least an improvement. I'm not sure anything is really stable on a thumper at freeway speeds.
So what's next? I'd still like to get a set of real black plastic side panels and a rear fender from a European or Far Eastern supplier, but that can wait until I do mortal harm to the current ones. I'm thinking about an amber bulb for my headlight next time I make a mailorder foray. And I'll need to replace that OEM muffler in another year or so with a Yoshimura YRD or Supertrapp. But right now, I'm loving my ride to work and the odd weekends I can get away to the mountains.
Bigger leftside view
M O D I F I C A T I O N S How much has this cost so far? It's kinda embarrassing. Here's an attempt to list the carnage to my wallet.
Item/Expense Date Source US$Cost
Initial Purchase June 1996 Roswell Fun Machines US$ 5100
Initial (Break-in) Servicing July 1996 Roswell Fun Machines US$ 180
Bike Cover Summer 1996 MAW US$ 40
Alumilite Purple Handlebars Fall 1996 MAW US$ 60
IMS White 5 Gallon Fuel Tank Summer 1996 IMS US$ 200
SportsMed Gel Seat Pad Summer 1996 SportsMed US$ 65
Chase Harper Dual-Sport Panniers Fall 1996 Dennis Kirk US$ 140
Pro-Grip 737 Dual-Sport Handgrips Fall 1996 Dennis Kirk US$ 140
DG 'Baja' Skid Plate Fall 1996 Dennis Kirk US$ 80
Dynojet Kit Fall 1996 Thumper Racing US$ 60
Acerbis Rally Hand Protectors and Spoilers Fall 1996 Thumper Racing US$ 50
Dual-Sport Lift Stand Fall 1996 Thumper Racing US$ 110
Moose Large Fender Bag Fall 1996 Thumper Racing US$ 20
Second Dealer Service Fall 1996 Roswell Fun Machines US$ 120
Acerbis Yellow Front Fender Fall 1996 Thumper Racing US$ 20
Third Dealer Service (Oil Leak) Winter 1997 Roswell Fun Machines Warranty
Round Quartz Headlight and Brackets Spring 1997 Dave's Cycle World US$ 150
Rifle 'Nightflight' Fairing Spring 1997 Dave's Cycle World US$ 150
Rifle Tall and Normal Windscreens Spring 1997 Dave's Cycle World US$ 50
Metzeler Enduro3 Rear Tire Summer 1997 Roswell Fun Machines US$ 120
Factory Jet Kit Winter 1998 Factory Racing US$ Free
Rebuild Top-End (Oil Leak) Spring 1998 Performance Suzuki US$ 380
Replace Front Rim 19x2.5 Spring 1998 Performance Suzuki US$ 140
Pair of Dunlop D604 Tires Spring 1998 Performance Suzuki US$ 230
Acerbis Black Low Fender Spring 1998 Dennis Kirk US$ 45
Clone Honda CBR Mirrors Spring 1998 Dennis Kirk US$ 46
Replacement Bike Cover Spring 1998 Dennis Kirk US$ 45
Seat Cover Sheet Vinyl Spring 1998 Dennis Kirk US$ 20
IMS Black 5 Gallon Fuel Tank Spring 1998 IMS US$ 200
Flush Gas Cap Spring 1996 White Bros. US$ 80
Replace Acerbis Rally Guards Summer 1996 Chapparal US$ 40
10k mile Valve Service Winter 1999 Performance Suzuki ??