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In the white with smaller front wheel, round headlight, IMS tank OEM DR650se

Suzuki DR650se Review

F O R E W O R D Since first constructing this page in Summer of 1996, I've received numerous eMails from all over the world about the DR650. This has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life, and I'd like to take this chance to say thanks for all the questions. In the last (v4) revision the page grew a 'little' large, so I've broken it up into two sections now for easier downloading. Page Two now holds all of my history and modification information. Also, thanks again go to Jerry Hanna for the incredible Thumper Page and to the other contributors for their time and expertise which set my humble comments in great company. I believe that the type of thorough expert information contained on this site is one of the truly great things about the Internet!
I N T R O D U C T I O N Suzuki released a complete redesign to the DR650 in 1996. Changes include an all new frame, new 43mm fork, new rear suspension, a totally reworked engine and counterbalancer, a new electric start system, a redesigned seat, and tank. It appears they were repositioning the big DR within the dual sport spectrum, away from the street-duty extreme and towards true dual-sport use, to compete directly with the Kawasaki KLX650 and Honda's XR650L.
The new frame is a computer-designed mixture of different thinwall tubing forms and stamped gussets, and is claimed to be both lighter and stronger (13% stiffer) than previous efforts. It is a single downtube cradle frame and controls a new welded box-section aluminum swingarm that looks plenty stiff, with a CNC machined aluminum shock linkage.
The new 43mm KYB fork is a conventional design with gold anodized lower legs. Suzuki calls the new design a "hybrid-style", it is also used on the 1996 RM250. The dual-chamber design has progressive springs and a good feel, but no adjustments. The previously mentioned rear swingarm and linkage drive a Kayaba shock with a piggyback reservoir, with adjustable preload and compression damping. The shock spring is powder coated yellow for bonus coolness.
The engine has been made much more compact and lighter, with a new oil cooler located high and to the right side of the front of the cylinder. It has a pent-roofed compression chamber with dual spark plugs, and 4 valves driven by an single overhead cam. The bore and stroke have been changed from a nearly square (Bore = Stroke; 95 x 90mm) design before '96 to an oversquare (Bore > Stroke; 100 x 82mm) design like the XR650 and KLX650. The result is more flexible power and increased reliability. The counterbalancing system has been simplified to one gear-driven disk, down from two in earlier models. The engine is very compact, with very little plumbing hanging out (v. the notorious XR650 smog pump). Even the oil lines are tucked away neatly. The sizeable oil cooler is protected by a beefy steel rod guard bolted to the frame. The small electric starter behind the cylinder is powerful and reliable but there is no back-up kick lever, so be prepared to roll-start this puppy in an emergency.
The new seat is really long and moderately firm, but much of the length is used running up the back of the tank, leaving a shortage of pillion space. The white plastic side panels are attached with single screws, and the seat is bolted onto the frame in two places. Unfortunately, you will have to remove all of these screws to access the the battery which is located behind the airbox under the seat.
The 3.4 gallon painted steel tank is quite narrow at the seat junction and flares out towards the front. It has black plastic edging around the seams at front and top. The DR650 uses a vacuum switched gas petcock. This system automatically cuts off gas flow to the carburetor when the engine is not running, so you don't need to turn off the gas when you stop to park. In fact, there is no Off position, only Main/Prime/Reserve, so I'll be watching those vacuum lines as they age.
A widely reviewed feature of the DR650SE has been the unique adjustable seat height (actually bike height). Suzuki, apparently actually listening to the complaints of shorter riders, has a kit available for dealers to lower the frame 1.5 inches by relocating the shock links and fork internals, and installing a shorter kickstand. Incredibly, they claim this does not affect the suspension travel, with only ground clearance and wheelbase reduced (this is disputed by the factory service manual). It's possible that this modification would be a quick first step towards converting this bike into a supermotard street bike. At 6'-1" I'm happy with the original seat position, and can put both feet down flat at lights, but 92% of the population is shorter than me! But this is great outside-the-box thinking which could help make dual-sport riding more accessible to more people.
Other goodies include: a huge and quiet stainless exhaust system with an aluminum heat guard; large-diameter hollow wheel axles; plastic handguards; folding shift lever; rubber-mounted handlebars; rubber-mounted wide steel footpegs; helmet lock; locking gas cap and fork; steel grab-bar/luggage tie-down on rear fender; low profile tail-light; racing-style serrated aluminum passenger pegs (I know, it's an oxymoron); sealed plastic tool carrier under left side panel; thumb operated choke lever at left grip; and an OEM low resistance foam air cleaner (accessed thru two layers of screwed-on side panels).
T E C H N I C A L   S P E C S Culled (and checked, and cross-checked, but probably still in error) from reviews, sales literature, owners manual, and the DR650SE Suzuki shop manual. Raw data! Nerd out!
Engine Description: Single cylinder 4-stroke, SOHC, 4-valve,
pent-roof compression chamber,
SACS (Suzuki wet sump air/oil cooling),
Nikasil (silicon-carbide ceramic) cylinder coating,
electric start,
CDI electronic ignition, stainless steel exhaust
Bore x Stroke: 100mm Ø x 82mm
Displacement: 644cc
Compression Ratio: 9.5 : 1
Twin Spark Plugs: OEM: Dual NGK CR10E or Nippondenso U31ESR-N
Hotter Alternate: NGK CR9E or Nippondenso U27ESR-N
Electrical: 3-phase A.C. generator
~200 watts generated at 5000 rpm
12v/8 Amp-hour (28.8 kC/10hr) Yuasa YM-8a battery
Negative Ground
Carburetion: 40mm flat-slide Mikuni BST40SS "Slingshot"
Main Jet - 140
Needle Jet - Y-5M
Jet Needle - 6F23
Idle Mixture Screw - 1 1/4 turns out
Transmission: 5-speed constant mesh, wet multi-plate clutch
Primary Reduction: 2.178 (61/28)
Gear Ratios: Low - 2.416 (29/12)
2nd - 1.625 (26/16)
3rd - 1.238 (26/21)
4th - 1.000 (21/21)
5th - 0.826 (19/23)
Final Gearing: 2.800 (15 front/42 rear) US and Canada
2.733 (15 front/41 rear) all other countries
Oil capacity: 2.4 quarts (2300 ml) oil change
2.5 quarts (2400 ml) oil with filter change
2.7 quarts (2600 ml) with engine overhaul
Interval between valve checks: 7,500 miles (12,000 km)
Chain: D.I.D. 525 v9 O-ring, 110 links
Chassis Description: Single downtube and backbone with engine cradle,
thinwall steel frame with welded aluminum swingarm
(cast yoke, extruded legs).
Front Suspension: 10.2 inches (260mm)
[8.7 inches (220mm) with seat lowering kit]
KYB leading axle "Hybrid-Style" 43mm conventional coil spring oil damped fork / No adjustments.
43 ° steering angle, 61 ° 30' caster, 4.37 in (111mm) trail
Front Brake: 2 piston Nissin, single 295 mm Ø Disk
Front Tire: 90/90-21 54S Bridgestone TW 41
(22 psi normal, 25 psi loaded)
Rear Suspension: 10.2 inches (260mm)
[8.7 inches (220mm) with seat lowering kit]
Link type coil spring gas/oil damped Kayaba shock with reservoir / Adjustable spring preload, compression damping.
(16 clicks, set on 8 from factory)
Rear Brake: 1 piston Nissin, single 245mm Ø Disk
Rear Tire: 120/90-17 64S Bridgestone TW 42
(25 psi normal, 29 psi loaded)
Wheelbase: 58.7 inches (1490mm)
[58.1 inches (1475mm) with seat lowering kit]
Measurements: 88.8 inches (2255mm) overall length
[88.0 inches (2235mm) with seat lowering kit]
34.1 inches (865mm) overall width
47.4 inches (1205mm) overall height
[45.9 inches (1165mm) with seat lowering kit]
10.4 inches (265mm) ground clearance
[8.9 inches (225mm) with seat lowering kit]
34.8 inches (885mm) seat height
[33.3 inches (845mm) with seat lowering kit]
Turning Radius: 8.2 feet (2.5m Ø )
Fuel capacity: 3.4 gallons (13.0 l) includes 0.8 gallon reserve
3.1 gallons CA model
Weights: 324 lb. (147kg) Claimed Dry Weight
360 lb. (162kg) Estimated Wet Weight
770 lb. (350kg) GVWR
Note: I've seen the dry weight reported anywhere in a range of 312 - 360 pounds.
Instrumentation: Speedometer, Odometer, Resettable Trip Odometer,
indicators for Neutral, Signals, Hi-beam
Color: "Iris" blue frame (purple-blue)
with white plastic, purple/yellow seat cover.


The bottom line is the bike is great for commuting, dirt roads, and back-road touring, but it's not for high-speed interstate droning unless you've got a higher threshold for wind than I do

As I've gotten used to the machine, I'm really happy with my choice. The bike is very good on the street, where I spend most of my time; composed in corners - eats up bumps, smooth shifting, excellent brakes, stable at speed, well-controlled vibration, decent suspension, great hill power - pulls strongly in any gear at low to medium RPM.
The DR650 easily pulls 80 mph (and tops out at about 100), but the lack of a fairing and the upright position mean that you'll tire quickly from wind buffeting (which is why I've added a small (removeable) fairing. Hmmm, with my 4.9 gallon IMS tank and the fairing, I've sortof made a DR/KLR...). I've taken a couple of trips with multiple 280+ mile days - The bike is fun, handles great (especially on tight twisty mountain roads, with pretty much infinite lean clearance and a torquey motor that pulls nicely out of corners), but long days on the stock seat will put a hurt on you. I upgraded the seat with a gel seat pad and the problem disappeared.
I ride my DR daily to work here in Atlanta, and it's great in traffic! You're up high so you can see well ahead and around (and I'd like to think people can see me better, too). It's got plenty of grunt when you need to get out of the way (careful! Keep the front end on the pavement, please), and the light weight and wide handlebars make turning quick and controllable. Dual sport suspension is somewhat of a compromise, giving up some rigidity for travel, but the bike is not upset by random lumps, pothole infestations, or speed bumps, even at (hey, be reasonable) speed in a corner. The fork will dive when you clamp on the front brake, but it's predictable and there's still some effective suspension left over.
Off-road the bike is a handful in tight corners and very throttle sensitive, but I'm getting the hang of it. The OEM Bridgestone tires are OK on dirt roads and gravel, but there's not much traction in mud.
In 95°+ degree heat, you don't want to be sitting still in traffic for long, or the heat from the exhaust and oil cooler starts to seep into your right calf. Anything above 20 mph and it's comfortable even then. I give up on riding when it gets down below 30°, but the choke works fine in that range, and in stock trim the bike starts easily and is rideable in a minute or so. If you leave the choke on after the engine starts to warm, it coughs and dies when you brake hard.
At 4000 miles/9 months, I had a warranty repair when many oil leaks mysteriously and suddenly appeared, (probably due to a dealer goof 200 miles previous when I had the normal 4000 mile servicing performed) aside from the extraordinarily long time it took to repair (22 days, same dealer) the bike seems fine and I don't expect a recurrence (mostly because I've found a new repair shop).
1. POWER! There's no substitute for cc's
2. Road handling is predictable, lots of clearance for lean
3. Easy starting, hot or cold (well, down to 30° F anyway)
4. Suspension great for road, good for off-road riding
5. Comfortable level of vibration (for me, YMMV)
6. Excellent ground clearance
7. Easy access to almost everything.
8. Good gas mileage - 45 city, 55+ MPG touring average
9. Low insurance rates
10.Very noticeable, tall with white/purple/yellow graphics

1. Seat feels low to pegs, hard, little passenger room
    (1/2" SportsMed gel pad helped this)
2. 15/42 Final gearing is very high for off-road, especially 1st
3. Parking light lock position drains the battery accidentally
4. Tool carrier is too small for extra tube, vise grips, etc.
5. No protection for engine side cases (skid plate fixes this)
6. Smallish gas tank, 90-130 mile main range
    (3.4 gallons including 0.8 gallon reserve)
7. Surprising amount of heat on right side
8. Melted a hole in my right side panel riding with saddlebags
9. Hard to get to the battery (must unbolt side panels and seat)
10.No tachometer
O T H E R   R E V I E W S   and   L I N K S
Motorcyclist, August 1996
1996 Best Dual-Sport Single - "...serves well as a commuter or short-range sporting weapon without giving up much on the off-road side." (The BMW GS1100 was best multi-cylinder D-S)
Motorcyclist, December 1996
Up to Speed - "The Honda XR650L is still a better street-legal dirtbike. But the big DR is more refined and better behaved on paved streets, or dirt roads, or cow trails or golf courses ("Hey, get off the golf course"). And at $5199, it's even something of a bargain."
Cycle World 1996 Buyer's Guide
"...the new DR650SE seems to have hit the dual-purpose nail dead-square on the head."
Cycle World, September 1996
1996 Top Ten Bikes - Best Dual Sport
Cycle World, April 1997
Baja Cannonball; Celebrity Dual-Purpose Shootout - Competing against the Honda XR650L, KTM 620R/XC, and ATK 605ES; "The Suzuki DR continues to surprise us. Clearly the smoothest street ride, it can still hang, albeit using discretion, with any of the other bikes in the dirt. Bonus for the best motor and lowest price, $5299. Compromise used to be a dirty word in dual-purpose circles. No longer."
Motorcycle Online
Big Bang Theory, Big Bore Dual-Purpose Shootout

Just goes to show everyone doesn't think alike.
Cycle News Archive - DR650SE Review
Bikenet UK Review, July 1996 (or quotes from it anyway)
Bikenet UK Review, March 1977 (they try it again)
Suzuki USA Home Page is finally up, not great, but you can give them all your feedback now.
Suzuki Japan Home Page with export specifications on entire line. Check out the fairing on the DR650RSET! Also has a 20 liter gas tank (5.3 gallons)
Anita Nguyen's Site with pictures of French versions of the DR line. Hmmmm, more fairings... DR800s, Green and Black paint schemes.
Laura Lemay's How to Live with a Neurotic Motorcycle Page Too True.
A F T E R M A R K E T    S T U F F
I've installed/used the following:
Acerbis Rally Handguard and Spoilers
Better protection than stock flappers, optional spoilers provide more knuckle protection and block wind. Require some drilling and filing to route cables.
Acerbis aluminum front Fender Brace
Works great, no more bounding fender, also holds fender bag more securely.
Alumilite RM Bend Handlebars, Purple Anodized
Moved hands forward and up, gotta like that color.
Pro Grip 737 Dual Sport Grip
Very cushy, yet grippy, bigger diameter fits my hands better.
Moose Dual Sport Fender Bag
For my rain suit, fits both front and rear fenders. Slight headlight interferance when on front fender. Very secure.
Chase Harper Dual Sport Saddlebags
These have heat shielding for muffler, good size, only 2 of 3 suspension straps were useful - strap on bottom? for a long travel swingarm? Not Waterproof. Weight in bags can push plastic side panels into your pipe.
Thumper Racing lever action workstand
A little tall, you'll have to lever the bike up onto the sidestand and front wheel, then drop it onto the lift in the down position. Still, much better than deadlifting the bike.
DG Baja Skid Plate
Good fit, 0.200" heavy aluminum plate, had to file edges to remove burrs from manufacturing, makes engine louder by reflecting sound back at rider. Used rubber around frame tubes to quiet vibration and protect paint. Still Noisy.
SportsMed Blue Gel Seat Pad
1/2"+ thick, extra large pad trimmed to seat shape with scissors and installed under cover, aaahhh. Heavy but worth it. Unexpected side effect: sorta cold in Winter. (Alack, their site is unreliable. Here's the phone: 205.510.3333)
CEET Custom Seat Cover
A bargain at ~$65.00 they let you pick your 3 colors. Well, 2 colors and black kevlar side triangles, screened-on kevlar logos rub off in a hurry. Gotta use a hairdryer and clamps to stretch material for installation.
IMS Plastic Fuel Tank
4.9 gallon spec, more like 5.1 gallons. Looks a lot like OEM tank but taller/softer and extends further forward, available in white, yellow, and natural milk-bottle-translucent. Bolts right on, takes 10 minutes to install. Only downside is loss of gas cap lock. 155 - 165 miles before Reserve riding intown!
Rifle Nightflight Fairing
Small (14" wide x 16" high), lightweight (3.3 lb.), easy to install. ABS plastic attaches to headlight side bolts and upper fork clamp bolts. Available painted in white, black, or silver no charge, custom color matching through Rifle. Windscreens available in two heights (15" and 17") tinted or clear.
Lockhart-Philips 7 inch Round Headlight
Huge! Chrome! Retro! With quartz halogen barely-legal lamp, very bright and even illumination. Lots of space inside bowl to hide wiring harness. (Secret mod: 55/100 bulb will fade paint on offensive cars)
Thumper Racing Stage 2 Carburetor Kit
Just a Dynojet kit, revised to include '96 DR. Includes 150/155/160/170 main jets and replacement needle/clip with much steeper taper than stock. '96 DR Requires airbox modification (no Stage 1 version available). Stock DR is horribly lean for EPA purposes, main jet is 140; Dynojet recommends 160 with stock exhaust and airbox mod (I added a filterskin over the OEM foam filter), and 170 with a high-flow aftermarket pipe. Simple installation (with my Suzuki shop manual for reference). BIG improvement. My ending settings: 160 main jet, Dynojet needle, idle mixture screw set 2 1/4 turns out.
Russell Braided Steel Front Brake Line
Russell, Fastline, others have front lines as catalog items, rear lines can be fabricated to a specification. I ordered and installed a Russell line, it was the correct length and was simple to attach. The semi-rigid plastic spacer for the straight section was 3 inches too long, but relaxed into the needed curve after a week or so. Better feel at lever; I can now stop with one or two fingers.
Moose/Dunlopad Brake Pads
The trick here (courtesy Thumper Racing) is that the front pads are same as the KLX650, which has been around long enough that there are lots of choices. Rear Pads are same as DR350 or KLX250/650. The Moose/Dunlopad offering has different compounds for front and rear to enhance control. I tried some of these and found they wore out in 7 weeks! Other pads that fit the DR are made by Vesrah, Braking, Ferodo, White Bros., etc.
EBC Sintered Brake Pads
Installed EBC pads as replacements, we'll see how they last... they're awesome!

Taller or Larger Aftermarket Mirrors
OEM's are half filled by my elbows. Finally found the solution with my third try, a pair of late 80's Honda CBR mirrors. Black metal round mirror cases on long rods. Dennis Kirk 39-147, $46
Thinking of Adding
In no particular order, these are other aftermarket mods available specifially for the DR650SE, or which can be fitted to the bike.
Race-Tech Gold Valve cartridge emulators for fork
With proper setup, I've read these can work wonders.
Progressive Suspension Fork Springs
Don't have any detailed info on these, OEM springs are progressively wound.
Custom Fork and Shock Services
Available from Thumper Racing, probably through Scotts in California. They claim it'll be transformed from 70/30 (street/dirt bias) to 30/70.
Exhausts from Yoshimura, DG, Supertrapp, Cobra
They're all lighter but louder. Yoshimura YRD just started advertising a (slightly) reverse-tapered stainless header to go with their aluminum or carbon fiber slip-ons (the most expensive choice of course). FMF has a new oval chamber/oval disks 4-stroke design in two versions, but I don't think the higher performance Megamax fits the big DR. Note: the Supertrapp can melt rear fenders since the exhaust exits the discs 360 degrees perpendicular to the muffler axis. The FMF design has a removable shield for that area.
Foot Pegs are same as DR350, so lots of choices here
I've read many testimonials for Thumper Racing Burly Pegs on the ThumpORL maillist.
White Bros. Carburetor Tuning Kit
Claimed +5 hp!? effect in dirt catalog. Probably another Dynojet Kit. Includes jets and airbox modification instructions/parts.
Renthal Replacement Sprockets using 520x114 chain
Since you should replace front, rear, and chain together it's logical to switch from the OEM 525 chain to a 520. Renthal has 15t (front, Chromoly steel)/42t and 45t (rear, Aluminum alloy).
Twin Air Filter
Probably about the same as the Suzuki OEM foam filter.
White Bros. All Around Performance Cam, Valve Springs
in Dirt catalog No. 19
JE Pistons, Replacement Piston
Standard 100mm dia., increase to 10.5:1 compression ratio.
Edelbrock Quiksilver Carburetor
Saw this in White Bros. Catalog No. 19, lotsa claims of increased power, etc. Specific kit for DR650se listed. Isn't this the standard KTM Rotax carb on the Duke?
Small Tachometer
Jegs (1-800-345-4545) mini-dragster tach 105-6652, 2 5/8" diam. 0 - 8000 rpm, ~$92 comes highly recommended from the Thumper maillist, works with any single cylinder engine with a "wasted spark" coil design.
Headlamp rock guard
Headlamp and/or brakelamp modulator
IMS Dual-Sport Mirror Pivots Cool Idea.
Suzuki Aftermarket Parts: Rear Rack, Skid Plate, Gel Seat.
Conspicuously Absent
Where are these parts?
Suzuki thoughtfully left a couple of threaded bolt-holes in the bottom of the frame for this, but there's no Suzuki or aftermarket solution.
Suzuki DR650se Review
C O N T A C T pRC's Home Page

pRCarter aka Randolph Carter
Any errors in this information are his fault. But hey, let's be adults and not sue each other, huh? Oh, and if you want to re-use any of this you are welcome to try, but be polite and give him some credit (he worked very hard on this).
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