Around three years ago, as the result of my BMW R1100RT being shunted out from under me one evening, I bought a Suzuki DR650 to serve me as an everyday commuter. I wrote a brief review of the bike here after I’d been using it for about 5,000 kms. Three years and more than 30,000 kms on from that, I’ve been prompted to provide a bit of an update. With just over 37,500 kms on the odo, I’m still, overall, very happy with the bike and consider it to have been excellent value for money. To date it has given me very little to write about but I am, at least, now able to give an idea of the long term running costs. First the good. The bike has been as reliable as a hammer. Indeed, given that I’ve had the heads come off half a dozen or more hammers of various descriptions over the years, I would go so far as to say that, given my usage of bikes and hammers, the DR has been significantly more reliable than a hammer . Only two very minor faults have manifested themselves. The speedo globe died a year or so back, so in the dark I’m reliant on streetlights and guesswork for speed estimation. No big deal as I don’t live in Victoria and don’t ride after dark that much. Replacement would be simple enough but I simply can’t be arsed. Secondly, after about 6 months use, the big single vibes caused the rego plate to crack around the securing screws and dangle in the breeze prior to falling off. An electrical tape bodge got me home legally and some lashed up rubber mounting and big washers has provided a long term fix with no further problems. Aside from that, I’ve not had to do anything but routine servicing. Oil and filter get changed every 5,000 kms. I bought a big bag of aftermarket filters from the US, which worked out at about AU$5 each inc postage. Buying locally they’re AU$10 which is still bearable. Oil fill is just over 2 litres so running fancy motorcycle oil won’t break the bank. It’s got Valvoline Super Diesel in it at the mo though ‘cos that’s what I keep in stock for the rest of the vehicle fleet. So far there have been no clutch problems as a result. Valve clearances get checked when I can be bothered to take the seat and tank off. So far they’ve remained within spec. Air filter is oiled foam and gets a wash in hot soapy water at service time before drying and resoaking in a jar of hydraulic oil I keep aside for the purpose. However hard I try I can’t seem to squeeze quite enough of the surplus oil out so the bottom of the airbox gets a little messy but it doesn’t seem to do the running any harm. Getting the filter back in and seated properly is a bit of a fiddle but would be much easier for someone with smaller hands than I’ve got. Spark plugs should be changed at 12,000 kms. I got lazy and didn’t do them at 24,000 and I’ve just put a new set in. Previously they were NGK CR10EKs with dual earth electrodes. The current set are the cheaper CR10Es with single electrodes and the engine idles noticeably less smoothly and reliably to the extent that I’ve had to tweak the idle speed up slightly to avoid it cutting unexpectedly at traffic lights. Back to the $20 a set CR10EKs at the next service methinks. Chain adjustment is simple enough by snail cams. I find the adjustment steps to be a little coarse but, OTOH, with a Scottoiler fitted, I don’t have to do it much. At nearly 40,000 kms the adjusters are round by 2-3 clicks from their factory setting with plenty of travel left. Rear sprocket is fine and I haven’t looked at the front one. Tyres (OEM Bridgestone Trailwings) have lasted about 12,000 on the rear and 20,000 on the front. I’ve just put on a set of Pirelli Scorpion Trails at $240 fitted and balanced so we’ll see how a more road oriented tread goes. They certainly inspire more confidence both wet and dry and give good directional stability. I’ve changed the front brake pads once at about 15,000 kms. I put in a set of Vesrahs which don’t seem to be wearing much, nor are they chewing the disc any more than the OEMs, whilst giving no discernible difference in braking power. The OEM rears are still going strong. That’s been about it on the consumable front. Fuel consumption is pretty consistent. My current daily commute gives 4.6-4.8 l/100km with a comfortable 230 kms between fill ups. If I really make an effort, I can see about 3.8 l/100km or if I really wring its neck I can get it up to 5.5 but the high 4s are typical. Sufficiently so that if it shows any change I’ll consider it an indicator that something is wrong. Insurance was $235 fully comp last year for a 44 year old with a clean licence and full no-claims. Overall, insofar as any bike is cheap to run, it’s cheap to run. As for the riding experience, nothing has surfaced that has changed my first impressions. It remains light, agile and fun. As I’ve become used to it and pushed it harder, the soft tune of the engine and the crudity of the suspension have become more noticeable but this is very much a budget bike. Fixes are available for both from ProCycle in the US if it really bothers you. As my bike is a workhorse rather than a project or weekend warrior I can’t justify the time and dollars involved but the option is there for those with a different mission profile. Even with the soft, wooffly stock engine it will happily cruise at 110+ km/h for as long as you want it to. The riding position isn’t conducive to sustained extra-legal speeds but it’s not too horrible. Top whack with me on board and sitting upright is probably (and this is purely speculative :twisted a bit over 150 given a long run up, but I’m a fat bastard with the drag coefficient of a small house. Getting down flat with feet on the passenger pegs might see the 160 that I’d expect from mid 30s rwhp. There’s not much room on the seat for a pillion. I wouldn’t want to go far 2-up. The main use of the back half of the seat and the pillion pegs is to give the rider room to shuffle around and change position to lessen the discomfort of the seat on long runs. As it stands, it’ll carve through traffic, corner harder than I wish to on a regular basis and be sufficiently good fun whilst doing so to ensure that I’m not completely bored with it yet. Sure, I lust after other bikes but, realistically, there’s nothing that I could get for the same money that would do a better job of the tasks I demand of it. It fits what I need in a bike at the moment. And now the not so good. To be honest, there isn’t much of note. The main issue is the standard of finish. I’ve had cause to revise my opinion of some of the materials used. Some of the alloy (front caliper, starter motor end caps, parts of rear hub) grew a luxuriant coating of white fluff even before the bike had seen a winter. Not hugely impressive given the dryness of a WA summer, even allowing for the fact that I’ve never cleaned it. Oddly, the rear caliper, swingarm, most of the engine and the fork lowers are all fine, having had an identical level of neglect. The black finish fell off the exhaust header in less than a year and all the seams on the “stainless” silencer have gone brown on and around the welds. OTOH, the deterioration in the finish on the downpipe meant that I didn’t feel too guilty about knackering it completely by brazing on an O2 sensor bush to monitor fuel mixture. The fork stanchions are showing some small rust spots between the yokes but the functional bits are protected by gaiters so should be lasting well. Plastics are holding up OK in the WA sun, although I do throw a cover over it during summer. The bottom half of the engine, frame and swingarm are well preserved by a thick layer of oily gack from the Scottoiler. Looks rough but, when removed, reveals alloy, paint and steel in as-new condition. Overall, this is where the bike’s budgetness shows up the most. Regular polishing would deal with most of it (although I fail to see how it would have helped the black exhaust coating) but I’ve never been a polisher. I regard a bike that looks actively contagious to be good security and I’m realistic about likely resale value. Another small niggle showed up when I dropped it on its left hand side not long after buying it. The gear lever is perfectly positioned to put a crack in the engine casing. Not a big crack but enough to cause a leak. Araldite sorted mine. It would make sense to preempt such problems by making or buying a sheet ally engine case shield. And, like all dirt bikes that I’m aware of, the high level exhaust gently cooks your leg. It’s fine in winter but can get a little noticeable in high summer. And that’s about it. I’m keeping it until it dies. If I get 80,000 kms out of it I will consider that it’s paid for itself. If I get more, that’s a bonus. So far there is no sign that this is overly optimistic. There are no rattles, no smoke, the gearbox is still as sweet as when new, maybe better and there are no other signs of significant wear anywhere. I keep toying with the idea of upgrading it with ProCycle’s range of suspension and engine bits but then I remind myself that this is a cheap commuter, not a project. If you tot up the cost of a good DR and all the exciting bits you could fit to it, you’ll get close to the price of a pukka dirt bike with good suspension and more power as standard. I can see the point from a personal satisfaction point of view, along with the ability to pay by stages and the enjoyment of owning a bit of a sleeper, but it doesn’t make sense for me right now with this bike. OTOH, I can also see the DR as a good donor for other projects. The forks, wheels and brakes, for example, would be perfect running gear for something like a hardtail Triumph chop or bobber. The engine, too, this time with the ProCycle tuning gear, could be slung under an RGV frame to give the Suzuki equivalent of the TZR/XT singles racers that were popular in the UK 20 years ago. So I would say, if you fancy a DR and are realistic about its abilities, or, if you’re after a simple, economical, fun commuter or if you just want the most new bike you can get for sub-$8k, you are very unlikely to be disappointed. Buy one now because something so simple is unlikely to remain available for much longer.