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DR650 Long Term Update

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by PatB, Oct 9, 2011.

  1. 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 :D. 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.
    • Like Like x 3
  2. maybe 160 on the wildly optimistic speedo, but i dont think that they will do it as a true speed.

    very reliable bike though. fairly cramped in the ergo's though.
  3. My experience has been pretty similar, though I am not getting as good fuel economy more like 5-5.8 depending on how much I push it.

    My speedo light also broke, I fixed it last week but it has blown again.
  4. Assuming you don't already know this: If the exhaust note really bothers you, you can cut open the top of the air box as per the template on Procycle's website, raise the needle to the 4th position on our adjustable Australian delivered needle (at least that's the position on the aftermarket needle, stock needle might be different), and install a larger main jet. Not only will this really wake the bike up, but you will be able to hear the induction roar as the throttle opens up, or as I like to describe it, you can hear the inside of the engine through the airbox through the carburetor through the intake boot :)
    So this will make the bike go better, sound better, and it won't sacrifice too much fuel economy. I also believe that by jetting the bike properly and adjusting the idle circuit, you remove the lean-running condition that is present from factory and your bike will even run better. You can also drill a second hole in the vacuum operated slide to improve throttle response.
    The best part is that this will only cost you the cost of a larger main jet, maybe a steel washer to fine tune the needle half a clip position, and you can knock the job over in just a couple of hours. I'd also be replacing the 4 main carburetor screws with stainless steel hex key screws. Oh and they are set unbelievably tight from the factory and strip easy, so use whatever method you use for removing stubborn buttery philips head screws.
  5. Excellent writing as always mate.

    I'm looking for a cheapo longer-distance ride at the moment and as nice as bikes like the Tiger, Bonneville etc are I just can't justify the cost of them compared to 8k for a new, or 5.5k for a second hand DR. Simple engine, functional and should do everything I ask of it.

    What are the vibes like on the DR? I don't want another teeth-rattler, but hopefully it's still got some personality in it.
  6. Vibes are pretty good on the DR650 due to the counter balancer or what ever it's called, not too vibey but you still feel it through the bars if you take the weights out and through the foot pegs. I quite like the vibrations, adds to the charm of the DR650 and I swear it's keeping my bum toned ;)
  7. I've heard of DRZ's going well past 80,000k's......... As in over 300,000 :-O
  8. My rgv seems to have more vibes. I just did two eight hour days on it with 500km a day across dirt, backroads and freeway and the vibes didn't bother me at all. Decided I am keeping it now as it did everything asked of it.
  9. Very little. Like I said, ine shook its rego plate off but it must have been at a frequency that doesn't bother humans :D.

    You can tell you've got a real engine below the tank but you really only notice anything you could call vibration a) if you're trying to, b) if you're lugging the engine in too high a gear or c) at idle if, like me, you drop the tickover down as far as it will reliably go.

    The small tank, hard seat and slightly cramped seat-footpeg relationship are much more of a limiting factor in terms of obligatory rest breaks. All of which are fixable, of course.
  10. PatB I'm interested in what your thoughts are on what I've said.
  11. I'm sure PatB likes your toned bum.

    Rode a DR tonight. Sweet little bike. Methinks I'll have another aircooled single in the garage in the not too distant future.
  12. What about? Cheap tuning mods or toned bums? :wink:

    Seriously, as far as cheapo mods to the bike are concerned, I'm aware of the possibilities but I'm far too lazy to bother. I started with grand plans to maximise the bike's potential but, when it comes down to it, it's not worth the effort for the likely returns given the use profile of my particular bike. I have made up a replacement airbox end from ally and flyscreen so I can open it up without cutting anything but that's as far as I've got. I've also got a pair of R1100 throttle bodies on the shelf for a pie-in-the sky EFI project but that's probably dead in the water too. The bike does what I need it to do so I've decided to devote such bike related efforts as I can spare to the resurrection of my K100 trackday project.

    Also, trawling the various DR wisdom on the net, nearly every account of modified bikes I see lists fuel economy significantly worse than I'm getting. As I do 550 kms a week commuting, additional cost adds up and the fuel stop pain in the arse factor goes up a notch.

    I'm also not convinced that the Oz market bike is all that leanly jetted. Given that I can knock the choke off and have a fully rideable bike after warming for the time it takes me to zip my jacket and put my lid on on a frosty morning, it strikes me as being fairly close to right.

    Like I said, for other usage profiles mods can make sense but I'm way too idle to try it on the bike that I have to ride to work tomorrow.

    On the other side of things, my arse is far from toned :D.
  13. I think you may be right about the aus delivered bike, my bike is actually more lean now than it was delivered (was actually set too rich but I should've left the damn thing alone).

    well if you ever decide to switch to EFI, there is an almost PNP kit in the works, http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=725795
  14. what economy do you get kernel?
  15. about 17km/l but that is going off the trip meter and quoted main tank figure of 10l, i suspect that every time I hit reserve, it's a time where I have ridden away from the servo forgetting to reset the trip meter until later, one of these days I will get around to using fuely.com
    sedate-riding economy should improve once I install the fcr-mx carburetor i'm waiting on, while driveability, acceleration and wheelieing ability will improve dramatically :demon:
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Out of interest, do you guys have any whining noises from 3rd gear?
  17. Mine doesn't whine at 30000kms and one year old (previous owner rode it from Broome so it is mostly highway and me commuting). I believe that the 3rd gear issue is more if you bash it across the Simpson or a lot of dirt.
  18. certainly do, started happening very early. It gradually started getting worse and then just stopped getting any worse. Now I hardly notice it because the induction noise from the cut airbox mostly drowns it out. I did the mototune method of breaking it in so maybe that had an impact.

    I think a large amount of DR650s have the whine, but the bashing across the simpson or a lot of dirt is what causes some of the bikes to suddenly without warning have the 3rd gear blow out. The 3rd gear got an upgrade somewhere along the way and mine has the upgraded gear but I guess they didn't fix the whine issue. That or they had an old 3rd gear lying around in the factory and just threw it in, it might pay to buy the upgraded 3rd gear and have it installed. But at 13,000kms I don't think I need to worry too much yet.
  19. Nope.
  20. Picked up a 2005 DR650 the other day.

    Can't comment too much on the handling (Has a 19inch front wheel and 18inch fat rear - handles very much like a road bike bar the soggy suspension) but the engine is a fantastic unit. Lots of torque, okay acceleration. Feels like it's going to be a great bike to see me through the next years worth of riding.

    18,000k on it and it has a very pronounced whine in third gear. Oh wells. It has an aftermarket pipe and the jetting, while it feels great, has far too much backfire. I'm told a mikuni TM40 helps ease this and offers a good increase in acceleration. Might have a shot at this in the not-too-distant future.

    Great review as always Pat. Your opinion went a long way towards me deciding to get a DR.