• Saturday , 1 November 2014
  • The bikes
  • The bikes

The bikes

Our adventure riding began in earnest with the purchase of a 2004 Kawasaki KLR 650 for Mike and a 1999 Yamaha XT 225 for Shannon. This was a good set-up for us both as I am 6’3” and the KLR fit nicely as did the tiddler Yamaha for Shannon as she barely stands 5’4”. We absolutely loved our bikes; both were reliable, durable, and relatively inexpensive as we purchased them used on Craigslist. The downside to these bikes for the around the world trip:

  • The XT 225 was not very fast and topped out at about 54 miles per hour. While this was fine for most dirt riding it was difficult on major highways in North America and was downright unsafe for the few times we had to ride on the expressway (interstate freeway).
  • The XT 225 was a very light bike and really got kicked around on windy riding days to the point Shannon would either refuse to ride or only plod along at 35MPH (on the freeway no less!)
  • Having two bikes by different manufacturers required a pool of spare parts for each bike and mechanical prowess for each.
  • The KLR was a bit heavy when compared to other dual sport bikes in the 650cc range.

This said, I was perfectly happy to take the KLR and Shannon could have her pick of any bike she decided. She had already gone through a couple of vintage Hondas and a Royal Enfield Bullet before the XT 225 came into her life. She went through bikes like Kleenex, very expensive Kleenex.

Then Shannon laid down the law and I bent to her will after realizing the topic was not up for debate. I could see that look in her eye and knew it was no use to challenge this one. Her mandate: We will ride the same bike. Damn, how is this going to work? With the difference in our height and weight?

Time for the world wide interweb. We quickly ruled out any bikes that would cost more than $9,000 to fully build, outfit, and set-up (including luggage and all accessories). This ruled out buying new and it shied us away from used European makes. We angled toward Japanese and I wanted carbureted and no special tools required for maintenance. After totally geeking out and reading the entire DR650 string on ADV rider I stumbled onto a website called Shortwayround.co.uk created by Adam Lewis. Adam went into great detail about setting up a Suzuki DR 650 for himself after having a growing frustration with the BMW F650 that he rode for the first 4 years of his around the world trip. What really got my attention was the fact that Adam and Shannon are the same height and he loved the DR. Adam was very detailed in his set-up of his bike. Before I would let Shannon pry my KLR from my cold dead fingers we decided to buy a Suzuki DR 650 for her to begin with. That way I could assess the pros and cons of the bike while still maintaining my coveted Kawasaki ownership.

Simply stated: the Suzuki DR 650 rocks. It is light for a 650cc, powerful and easy to maintain. Its weak points are minimal and can all be sorted with some aftermarket parts and a little wrenching. It handles the rough stuff better than the KLR and is WAY faster than the XT 225. But best of all, the bike is easy to lower to fit Shannon. All that was required was a custom seat, a factory lowering procedure, and an aftermarket lowering link for the rear. Boom, three inches shaved off the stock DR 650. And best of all, for my DR 650, by lowering the foot pegs 1”, raising the handlebars 2”, and spending a bit on custom front and rear suspension it fits me as good as the KLR ever did. BAM! Same bike for both of us! I am not as patient as Adam from shortwayround.co.uk so I am going to list what my modifications were and not go into much detail. If you want greater detail email me at mike at smboilerworks dot com and I will do my best to answer any set-up questions. The following lists are from my shop notes. I occasionally forget to write simple tasks down so it is ok to assume that other routine maintenance like brake fluid change, chain adjustment and lube, luggage mounting and other minor maintenance actions have been performed. I stick to the recommended maintenance intervals as close as I can.

A lot of DR riders modify the airbox and jets to get a little more power and snappier throttle response. I have decided for the time being to leave the carburetion, airbox, and exhaust all stock. The bikes do what we ask and neither of us are unhappy with how they currently handle. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I hope this decision will not bite me in the ass later down the road.

OK, here we go in all the gory detail (photos coming soon):

Shannon’s Bike Name: ZIPPY

Details: Stock 1997 Suzuki DR 650 with 6,282 miles on the ODO at purchase. Bright yellow and purple color scheme, yes, yellow and purple, ouch.

Cost: $2,850, used bike off of Craigslist. Brought home April 2012.

Set up and maintenance listed below will probably bore you to death. You have been warned:

6,282 miles at purchase

  • Removed all stock Suzuki stickers from the cowl and side covers. Was going for the ‘mystery’ look and people have to search a bit to see what kind of bike it is.
  • Raised forks ¾” in clamps (to make bike shorter, I didn’t want to do the factory specified way in case I needed to quickly return the bike to stock, worked fine this way, and bike performs normally on and off-road).
  • Cleaned and greased speedo assembly on front wheel since I had it off for tire change.
  • New front tire, tube and rim strip.
    • Kenda K270 (3.00-21)
    • Motion Pro Adhesive Armor Rim Tape covered with a couple wraps of duct tape
    • IRC heavy duty tube (90/100-21)
  • New rear tire
    • Kenda K270 (5.10-17) (currently Shannon has 7,600 miles on this tire and it still has 1000-1500 before it is too far-gone. This tire has been an exceptional value and it does well in the dirt and on the pavement. I will definitely mount Kenda’s again on the RTW but I am going to leave Seattle with Avon Gripsters on both bikes to see if I can get even more miles than I did on the Kenda. I’ll keep you posted as to how the Gripsters do.)
    • New IRC heavy duty tube
  • Tuned all front spokes.
  • Balanced front wheel with weights after tire mounted.
  • Ditto on rear wheel.
  • Air filter cleaned and oiled.
  • Raised rear swing arm per factory instructions (to make bike shorter).
  • Added custom seat to further lower.
  • Replaced rear shock with stock unit from a 2009 bike. Set preload to 244mm and 8 clicks out on the compression screw.
  • Removed upper chain roller, filled hole with blue Loctite and a stainless bolt, cut bolt flush with frame with hacksaw and sanded smooth.
  • Changed from stock 525-drive chain and sprockets to 520 (more common size out in the boonies).
  • New sprockets with stock 15/42 ratio and DID gold O-ring chain (the stock gear ratio seemed a little tall and required a lot of clutch slipping at low speeds to keep from stalling. We have since settled on a 14 tooth front sprocket on both the bikes and this ratio works well for both of us on and off-road).
  • Added factory shortened kickstand. (With bike fully loaded this was still too long and the bike was difficult to park, as it stood too upright. To solve this I cut out an inch and a quarter from the middle of the stand ran a tap up both ends and inserted a 4” piece of ¾”all-thread. By doing this I can adjust the length of the stand at will. Shannon is very happy with this modification).
  • Replace foot pegs with IMS extra wide foot pegs (procycle.us).
  • Added 3”X3” metal pad to foot of kickstand for stability on soft surfaces. I ordered a bolt on kit from Touratech for a BMW HP2 (PN# 044-2016) and easily modified the parts with a hacksaw and file to fit the DR 650 stand.
  • Gapped spark plugs.
  • Adjusted valve clearance to factory specs but they were within spec already. I just made them more in spec if that is even possible.
  • Bypassed kickstand safety switch.
  • Bypassed clutch safety switch.
  • Installed “warp 9” reusable stainless steel oil filter (procycle.us)
  • All new O-rings for oil filter and cover.
  • Oil changed to full synthetic, Maxima Extra 4 10W/40. (I realize that trying to source full synthetic oil once I leave the US may be a challenge and I will transition over to conventional dino oil when the time comes. At 45,000 miles my KLR looked brand new on the engine’s inside and I believe that the full synthetic oil used for its entire life was to thank. It is more expensive for sure but I think it does a better job and I love my bikes, spoiling them with high grade oil is the least I can do)
  • Replaced oil drain bolt with one that has a magnet on it (procycle.us).
  • Added Plexiglas windshield from TCI (turbocity.com).
  • Added steel front luggage rack from TCI (turbocity.com).
  • Added engine skid plate and engine guards from TCI (turbocity.com).

At 9,366 miles

  • Replaced front tire with Metzler Sahara 3 (Shannon did not feel comfortable with how the more aggressive Kenda K270 felt on the freeway at high speed).
  • Replaced front and rear brake fluid with fresh DOT4.
  • Put Neverseeze paste on spark arrestor cleanout bolts locate on underside of muffler.
  • Gapped and installed new CR10EIX iridium spark plugs (procycle.us).
  • Oil changed, 10W-40 full synthetic (Maxima “extra 4”).
  • Greased rear brake pedal pivots.
  • Replaced stock yellow fork boots for black ones; all traces of yellow are gone (white tank, black seat, black fork boots, white fender and side covers and a funky-cool purple frame) NICE!
  • Replaced cush rubbers in rear wheel sprocket carrier hub with OEM Suzuki parts. The original ones were pretty hard.
  • Greased rear cush hub wheel bearing. (I know they are sealed but I found a coating of grease helps keep the moisture and dust out).
  • Cleaned and sanded electrical ground wire connection to engine block (did this simply so I had a dependable ground connection for the electrical system).
  • Replaced rear axle nut with self-locking type that does not require a cotter pin (procycle.us).
  • Replaced rear brake light bulb with LED unit (trying to scrape together a few more watts of capacity so I can use the heated vest if it gets cold without affecting the battery charging).
  • Installed Roto-Pax auxiliary 1-gallon water tank on the windshield luggage carrier. While this makes steering heavy when it is full of water we do not plan on having to fill this tank very often and will keep it empty whenever possible (procycle.us).
  • Installed 1.5 gallon Kolpin auxiliary fuel tank on left side pannier underneath saddlebag. Again, this tank will normally be empty and only used when additional range is needed between fuel stops.
  • Added Ricor “Intiminator” front fork cartridge inserts. Trimmed down preload spacer to maintain stock preload. Replaced oil with 5wt as required for these inserts (procycle.com) (Shannon is overjoyed with this addition. The bike handles off-road stuff way better than stock and washboard dirt roads are now smooth as butter. Worth every penny).
  • New Moose Racing heavy-duty fork seals (procycle.us).
  • Added LED auxiliary headlight, .75 Amps @ 12Volts. Vision X-Solstice Solo Series. Again, another watt saving add-on to use when more watts are needed.
  • Added PC8 fuse panel behind headlight cowl to power all the auxiliary do-dads, powered by 30 Amp relay on switched circuit (PN# PC8&30ARK48, easternbeaver.com).
  • Added headlight relays and low beam on/off switch (PN# H4RK, easternbeaver.com).
  • PC8 fuse schedule:
  • 15amp spare, *switched by on/off with ignition switch
  • 15amp headlight, *
  • 30amp spare, *
  • 10amp for heat vest tap, *
  • 5amp radio/communication system (autocom.com), *
  • 5amp auxiliary LED headlight, *
  • 2amp spare, un-switched circuit
  • 7.5amp battery charging tap, un-switched circuit
  • New fuse panel and headlight relays could be fit behind headlight cowl and the 30-amp relay for the panel is located under the seat by the air-box snorkel.
    • Installed Wolfman Backroads Moto side racks with Expedition Dry saddlebags.
    • Spare clutch cable routed next to original cable for quick deployment if current cable breaks.
    • Added pleated air filter element to crank case breather hose (procycle.us).
    • Added expanded metal headlight shield.
    • Replaced mirrors with adjustable dual sport type (procycle.us).
    • Added fuel/air mix adjustment screw to carb (procycle.us).
    • Replaced Neutral Sending Unit (NSU) screws with allen socket cap type, Loctite and safety-wired. While it was time consuming and required me to modify an allen wrench I was able to do this job without needing to remove the clutch plates. I replaced the clutch cover gasket before reassembly.
    • New oil banjo bolt crush washer on clutch cover.
    • New oil hose o-ring on clutch cover.
    • New white Acerbis 5 gallon gas tank (procycle.com). Installed the dual petcock left/right kit.
    • Installed countershaft seal keeper (procycle.us).
    • Added custom lowering link to rear shock linkage to lower the bike another 1” (procycle.com). With factory lowering procedure, custom low seat and this lowering link I was able to shave 3” off the stock height of the DR 650. In addition, Shannon found some motorcycle boots (Daytona Lady Star) that add an inch to her height. She is now able to get both feet on the ground when she sits and she is much more comfortable and confident riding the DR 650.

    At 12,504 miles (April 2014)

    • New DT1 triple layer air filter, oiled and installed (procycle.us).
    • Oiled inside of air-box.
    • Added oiled “Filter skin” micro fiber cover over air filter.
    • Cleaned, adjusted and lubed chain.
    • New OEM carb float assy. (Had some trouble with carb overfilling last summer and replaced all parts involved). Now good to go.
    • New carb. Float bowl gasket (original 1997 gasket was pretty hard and crusty).
    • Spark plug adjust, valve adjust, and oil change to the usual full synthetic

    Mike’s Bike Name: THE BLACK DONKEY

    Details: Stock 2009 Suzuki DR 650 with 3,349 miles on the ODO at purchase. Black color scheme.

    Cost: $4,500 after tax and fees, used bike from the local Suzuki dealer. Brought home January 2013.

    3,349 miles at purchase

    • Removed stock mirrors.
    • Removed stock hand-guards.
    • Removed bar weighs.
    • Replaced crankcase breather filter with pleated aftermarket filter (procycle.us).
    • Relocated horn and front turn signals to fit new 7.9 gallon Safari fuel tank.
    • Installed ball valve breather tube on gas cap.
    • Installed Ricor Intiminators inertia valve cartridges in front forks. Trimmed preload spacer to compensate for addition of Intiminators and to preserve stock preload. Replaced fork oil with 5wt as specified for these devices.
    • New heavy-duty Moose racing triple-lip fork seals.
    • Balanced front wheel but left stock Bridgestone Trail-Wing on. Getting down there but still a little life left in the tire.
    • Re-upholstered stock seat pan with comfy dual sport seat kit from Seat-Concepts (procycle.us).
    • Added LED brake light bulb to save a couple of watts for other uses.
    • Bypassed clutch safety switch.
    • Bypassed side stand safety switch.
    • Raised handlebars 2” with aftermarket clamps by PowerMadd (procycle.us)
    • Added 1 1/8 inch tapered aluminum handlebars.
    • Lowered foot pegs 1” with kit from (PN# ASM-LOWPEGS, procycle.us)
    • Rerouted clutch cable to accommodate the raised bars. Throttle cables needed to be turned 180 degrees at throttle assembly to compensate for raised bars and still using stock throttle cables.
    • Sealed vacuum line that went to stock petcock (new tank came with its own petcocks).
    • New Protaper pillow handgrips with new aluminum throttle tube.
    • Added PC8 fuse panel behind headlight cowl to power all the auxiliary do-dads, powered by 30 Amp relay on switched circuit (PN# PC8&30ARK48, easternbeaver.com).
    • Added Touratech GPS locking mount for Garmin Montana GPS. Mounted with RAM Mount (ball and socket thingy clamped to handlebars).
    • Added headlight relays and low beam on/off switch (PN# H4RK, easternbeaver.com).
    • Added low beam headlight cutout switch (so I can turn the headlight on and off).
    • Added Moose Racing handgaurds (used off of the retired KLR 650).
    • Removed upper chain roller and filled hole with RTV silicone (to keep water out of the frame).
    • Added LED auxiliary headlight to left side of handlebars, .75 Amps @ 12Volts. Vision X-Solstice Solo Series, added on/off switch for this light.
    • Added Plexiglas wind screen (screensforbikes.com)
    • Added folding dual sport adjustable mirrors. Stock mirrors suck (procycle.us)
    • Moved rear turn signals to accommodate hard luggage (no-name aluminum box luggage is off of the retired KLR 650).
    • Added Shorai lithium iron battery, weighs only 3 pounds. (I think this battery is shit. Whenever it is cold out it does not have enough poop to start the bike. The manufacture says to leave the headlight on for 30 seconds to warm up the battery before trying the starter. This works sometimes, other times it runs the battery flat and still will not start the bike, then I have to jump my bike off of Zippy’s stock lead-acid battery. After 3,000 miles, and hassles whenever it is cold (below 40F), I replaced the Shorai with a heavy duty Yuasa (PN# YTZ14S). Weighs a lot more but it is a dependable battery with no issues).
    • Added 3”X3” metal pad to foot of kickstand for stability on soft surfaces. I ordered a bolt on kit from Touratech for a BMW HP2 (PN# 044-2016) and easily modified the parts with a hacksaw and file to fit the DR650 stand.
    • Replaced top and bottom screws on carburetor with stainless allen socket cap type.
    • Added fuel/air mixture adjustment screw to carb. (procycle.us).
    • Dielectric grease added to all electrical connections.
    • New K&N air filter (this filter is too fiddly and I don’t know how it will fair out in the world, at 6,578 miles I replaced it with a foam ‘Twin Air’ filter).
    • Added oiled “Filter skin” micro fiber cover over air filter.
    • Fabricated an expanded metal headlight guard.
    • Replaced Neutral Sending Unit (NSU) screws with allen socket cap type, Loctite and safety-wired. While it was time consuming and required me to modify an allen wrench I was able to do this job without needing to remove the clutch plates. I replaced the clutch cover gasket before reassembly.
    • Oil and OEM filter change. ‘Maxima Extra 4’ 10W-40 full synthetic.
    • New magnetic oil drain bolt.
    • Greased rear brake pedal pivots.
    • Cleaned and gapped spark plugs.
    • Adjusted valves, intake .004”, exhaust .008”.
    • Brake pads are still good.
    • Oiled air filter.
    • Cleaned and adjusted chain.
    • Installed 7.9-gallon safari tank. Aluminum cross brace that came with the tank was all wrong and I needed to drill different holes and cut/redo to make it fit. Took a shit-load of time to get the tank mounted properly.
    • Removed all Suzuki stickers from fenders and side panels (mystery bike effect).
    • Put Neverseize paste on spark arrestor cleanout bolts locate on underside of muffler.
    • Rear shock mailed to RaceTech in California for full upgrade. G3-S custom shaft, heavier spring, gold valves and rebound adjustment. (This shock ROCKS! And the bike handles off-road like a dream even when fully loaded with all my gear and a full 7.9 gallons of fuel)
    • Installed countershaft seal keeper to keep oil seal in place. Not a suspected problem but others have had issues and I did this just to be on the safe side.
    • New 14tooth front sprocket because I think the stock 15 tooth is too tall for how I ride.
    • New ball bearing lower chain roller

    At 6,578 miles

    • Stock Bridgestone Trail Wing on the front is almost bald. Mounted the Kenda K270 (the one Shannon didn’t like) because I am cheap and it was already here.
    • Fresh DOT4 brake fluid in front and back brakes.
    • Cleaned and lubed chain. No Adjustment needed at this time.
    • New iridium spark plugs (NGK CR10EIX). Gapped to spec and lubed threads with neverseeze compound.
    • Adjusted carburetor float level
    • Oil change, same as before.
    • New reusable stainless steal oil filter, ‘Warp 9’ (procycle.us)

    At 7,941 Miles (post shakedown cruise)

    • New tires, Avon Gripsters
      • 130/80-17 rear. While not the stock size this size tire works fine on the DR 650
      • 90/90-21 front
      • New heavy duty tubes
      • Rims taped with Motion Pro ‘Rim Armor” and then taped again with duct tape
    • New chain and sprockets (now using 520 size instead of stock 525)
      • JT high carbon steel 14 tooth front sprocket and 42 tooth rear
      • New 520 DID VX2 o-ring chain

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