Saturday, February 27, 2010



There's no denying we get a mountain of mail from readers about Suzuki DR650SEs.

In the past couple of years whenever we ran stories from Ron 'Iron Man' Grant about mods and set-ups he made to his well-fettled, mile-munching DR, we'd be inundated with enquiries for more details and information.

Remember those templates Ron made up for lowering the DR's pegs and bracing the rear sub-frame? We must have emailed them out to every DR650SE owner in Australia -- the number of requests was massive! Now Ron's footpeg mount templates are copied all over the world and flogged on eBay -- for real.

So it's no surprise that when Suzuki Australia recently offered us a new DR650SE as a TRAIL ZONE Project Bike, well, our adventure bike editor Lance 'Russ' Turnley from jumped on it with the same voracious appetite he shows whenever there's a double-decaf-mocha-soy-latte and slice of toasted banana bread thrust his way -- he wolfs it down!

Russ has just taken delivery of the DR and his first test-ride on the stocker appears in TRAIL ZONE issue #29 that we've just started working on. The Project Bike mods to the DR will then be featured in the following three issues, so if you're one of the legions of DR disciples, make sure you get all our upcoming issues.

In the meantime, we recently had a Trail Mail email from TRAIL ZONE reader Adam Usher, who has just got done with his own Suzuki DR650E build-up.

As you will see when you read the story that follows, Adam has hit his DR with all guns blazing and made some major suspension and detail updates to the bike to transform its off-road prowess into just the kind of machine he wants. Take it away, Adam ...

"Hi guys: here's a quick story of the build on my Suzuki DR650.

"I bought the DR new in Oct 2008 and quickly got tired of the suspension, or lack there-of. I loved the ability to cruise effortlessly on the black-top to get to the trail head, but tyre selection and poor suspension were spoiling the experience. I had the gold valves and springs done, but I still wasn’t happy. Every improvement led to me riding harder. I considered trading up to a 450, but the price difference with mine as a trade-in was about $7,000. That buys a lot of parts.

"I talked to people about it and kept coming back to the same question, 'why can’t I put USD forks on this?' I searched web forums and came up almost empty-handed. Then I saw some brand new forks for sale on ebay in the USA. At $400 they seemed too good to be true. So taking a gamble, I sent an offer and won. The ease in which the whole purchase happened only encouraged me further.

"So now, after buying all brand new 2007 model RM-Z450 parts, I have USD Showas, rear shock (2 of), front wheel complete (2 of), CNC billet top triple-clamp with steering lock, jet kit, pod filter, and IMS fuel tank (20 litre). I’ve spent less than $2,000. About the same price in total as a DR-Z400 on the road, with the basic mods.

"The transformation is amazing. It rides so much better on the dirt there is no real comparison. I can slam it over jumps and whoops, then rip through wash-outs and ruts without it so much as twitching off line. The stability and confidence the suspension has inspired has convinced me I need to get back my race license. It’s also far better on the tar, it tracks straighter, holds a line through corners better, and brakes and turns with far more stability than before.

"You can move so much faster on trails now, without having to really work hard, that collision is now my greatest fear. It’s very easy to get carried away and find yourself entering a turn way too hot. With the new handling it’s hardly a challenge to wash some speed and change line. The old suspension would have had the bike wallowing and bottoming out in the same circumstances, and at much lower speeds. I find that something as simple as drifting into a turn under brakes is so much easier. The back end stays stable and predictable.

"Anyone who has owned a DR will know the familiar feeling of 'stall and fall' in the bush. The front is so under-damped that you hit a small obstacle and the front bottoms out and stops the bike, the engine stalls as the bars twist to full-lock, and you face-plant with a hot DR on top of you. Not any more.

"The only real issues that have emerged from the modifications are that it is a lot taller, and it has as much wheel travel as ground clearance. Therefore the B&B bashplate is looking a little sad.

"The parts were all a straight bolt-on affair, except the rear shock. The upper mount had to be relocated 20mm back and 10mm up from it’s original position. I did this with a bracket that inserts into the original mount, and then is welded to secure it. The linkage at the bottom is narrower on the RM-Z so I cut down the DR linkage width, and machined out the bearing hole from 24 to 26mm and ordered a new RM-Z linkage bearing. The shock bracket mods have held up fine, despite lots of jumping, so I’m undecided as to additional bracing. I’ll just keep an eye on it and see how it goes over time."

-- Adam Usher, via

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