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DR650 Six Months On

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' at netrider.net.au started by PatB, May 15, 2009.

  1. Well, it’s now six months, all barring a week or so, and 11500 kms since I abandoned my vow to never own another Japanese motorcycle and rejoined the dark side by coughing up for a new Suzuki DR650, so I suppose it’s time to clog up everyone’s internet connection with a few paragraphs of PatB verbosity and give you all an update.

    It’s pretty good. As an everyday commuter I’m still very pleased with it. It’s light, agile, fast enough, reasonably comfortable, costs peanuts to run and is a doddle to work on. There are a few niggles though, some of which aren’t really excusable on a 2008 motorcycle.

    Light means that I was able to pick it up without going purple when it decided to have a lie down in the car park at work one afternoon. The weight certainly shouldn’t intimidate anyone fit enough to ride a solo bike at all. I’d be surprised if you’d find a significantly lighter 650 that wasn’t a pukka endure or motard.

    However, the drop I mentioned highlighted one of the less excusable points. The bike went over because I stalled it while dropping down a kerb. Back wheel compression locked, I was caught off balance and she went down quite gently on the LHS, at a standstill on flat bitumen. At first glance it looked OK. Scraped LH handguard, twisted mirror, paint scuff on the rear rack which protected the rear indicator, none of which I consider a problem. The aftermarket handguard did its intended job and saved the clutch lever and I rode home thinking no more about the incident. It was only the next day that I noticed the small puddle of oil under the engine and, on further investigation, discovered that the gear lever had put a dent and a crack in the alternator cover. A quick prayer to Araldite, Goddess of Broken Things sorted the leak and I have now epoxied a small guard onto the affected area to try and prevent a recurrence. However, I’m a bit disappointed that something purporting to have dirt abilities appears to be so vulnerable in such a minor drop in standard form.

    The other niggle from the drop is the fact that it popped the headlamp connector off the back of the bulb, necessitating removal of the headlamp surround to replace it. Access is amazingly poor here for a naked bike and I was also annoyed to find that there appears to be no combination of cable routing that prevents the clutch cable from pressing on the connector. Presumably what popped it off in the first place.

    The bike's basic agility allows it to be thrown through traffic in a manner that I haven’t experienced since I had my old C90. Bearing in mind the DR has about 5 times the power and torque of the little Step-Thru, this makes for Fun Fun Fun for me and :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil: for great swathes of the motoring public. I had my current project manager tell me yesterday that I’d cut him off in traffic a few days ago. Wasn’t me, honest. It was the bike wot done it :wink: . The bars are a little wide for really squeezy conditions, but taking the bar end weights off to fit hand guards gives an extra 30 mm or so of clearance. I’ve also put on VeeStrom mirrors, which stick out a little further than the stockies, which can be awkward when the going gets really tight, but it’s good to be able to see something other than my own elbows in them so I’ll live with it.

    Away from the queues it handles very well indeed, given that it’s on pseudo trail tyres. Initially the front end felt a little insecure when cornered really hard, but hardening up the rear damping seems to have improved matters. Or maybe I’ve just got used to it. The original rear Trail Wing is almost worn out and has a distinctly square profile now, but it doesn’t seem to upset things much as long as you’re decisive about cornering lines. If you dither, it’ll oscillate up and down over the “cornerâ€. A fresh tyre will cure it until I wear it flat again.

    Fast enough means 120 km/h cruising would be possible if it were legal and 150 km/h would come up on the crappy $2 Shop speedo fairly easily, whilst continuing to accelerate with some authority. Not that I would do such a horribly dangerous thing of course :LOL: .

    However, top speed isn’t really where the fun is with this bike. The real giggle zone is in the lovely fat midrange. Not sure what revs it all equates to, but if you run at the minimum speed in any gear that avoids chain snatch and then whack the throttle open, the front end goes gratifyingly light and the normally rather dull exhaust note takes on a real bark. It feels and sounds so good, I find myself doing it for no good reason other than entertainment. It’s also good for overtaking maneuvers at real world speeds. Again, coming up behind a car doing 80 and cracking the throttle in 4th for the pass is very satisfying.

    Comfort is reasonable for what it is. It’s no problem on my daily commute of 48 km each way. I’ve done a couple of 450 km round trips on it and it gets a little less pleasant. The footpegs are too high for me, leading to cramps in my thighs, and the seat goes very hard at about the point the tank runs onto reserve. However, as the pillion accommodation will not fit any human being yet known to science, there’s plenty of room for the rider to move around and spread the load a bit.

    In hot weather there’s a tendency for the exhaust to cook the rider’s right shin, aided and abetted by hot air off the oil cooler. It’s not unbearable though and I can’t really see any means of avoiding it, given the need for a high level exhaust on this style of bike.

    Running costs are cheap as. Fuel disappears at 5l/100 km. It’s quite happy with regular so that’s what it gets. Oil consumption is nil so it only costs money every 5000 kms (book figure is 6000 but I’m paranoid), when 2.5 l go in. Because the quantity is so small, I’m quite happy to wear the cost of something with a picture of a bike on the can as I can’t be bothered to fix the clutch if I inadvertently put something with too many friction modifiers in. Oil filters are $10 a pop for Japanese aftermarket. Air filter is washable foam.

    Chain doesn’t appear to be wearing, with the help of a Scottoiler. Front brake pads have just been replaced and probably had another 1000 kms in them before they hit the official wear indicators but as they were out anyway, I stuck in a $50 pair of Vesrahs which seem to be doing the job and have bedded in nicely. The front disc is also perceptibly worn so I’ll be expecting to replace it at some stage. Maybe 60,000 if the wear rate remains constant.

    Tyres are cheap. Even buying branded rubber, I’d expect to get something safe, if not optimal, for $100 an end. I’ll be swapping the rear this weekend for another Trail Wing I picked up off Ebay very cheaply. The date stamp makes me gulp a bit though :shock: , so I may not use it for long. We shall see.

    Other service costs are zero as I’m doing my own. After much umming and aahing I decided to risk giving the warranty the flick. I can fix some pretty major faults for the cost of two year’s professional servicing. Tappets are screw and locknut so there are no shims to buy and, frankly, there’s not that much else to do. A major advantage of a basic air cooled single.

    Whilst on the subject of the technical aspects of the bike, though, it’s worth mentioning the major disappointment with it. Bearing in mind it was bought in late spring and ridden through a WA summer and the driest autumn in a decade and a half and so has barely been wet, WHY THE BLOODY HELL HAVE THE BRAKE CALIPERS GONE FURRY, THE PAINT FALLEN OFF THE EXHAUST DOWNPIPE AND THE WELDED SEAMS ON THE (stainless) MUFFLER GONE RUSTY?!! :evil: Not impressed at all. I know it’s a very cheap bike, but come on Suzuki. This is the sort of rubbish standard of finish that contributed to my hatred of Hondas. Yes, obsessive polishing might have kept the corrosion at bay, but it wouldn’t have made the exhaust paint stick any better (and why did Suzuki see fit to paint a stainless downpipe anyway?) and shouldn’t be necessary in the dry anyway. 3/10 I’m afraid. Even the Ural’s better than this.

    Next to the crap durability, the daft little ezy-snap plastic tags that hold the front of the sidepanels in place and the fact that the vibes made the number plate fall off a couple of months ago (now mounted with some big rubber washers and lots of Loctite) are pretty small beer.

    Future plans are to spend some of the (unexpected) stimulus cheque I just received on a bunch of Mikuni jets and to have a play with opening up the airbox which is, allegedly, quite restrictive. One day I may be able to afford an exhaust for it too so I can get the nice bark all the time. I’ve also investigated the availability of Across wheels for a mooted, all Suzuki, motard conversion which I think might be rather entertaining. Done right, I reckon I could make it look factory original. A sort of DR650SM if you will.

    One thing I really must forge ahead with doing, given the apparently poor corrosion resistance, is to remove every fastener on the bike and give it a coat of anti-seize, so that my life is a little bit easier when it approaches the end of its life. I’m working on the basis of 5 years reliable usage, at which point I can throw it away and get another (or equivalent) without too much pain.

    So, all in all, it’s a fun, competent motorcycle that really shines as a cheap commuter that makes me smile. The downsides are mainly (I assume) as a result of it being so cheap. They can be worked around, but, in this day and age, there isn’t really a valid excuse for the corrosion issues that appear to be looming, although I’ll only really know if my concern is entirely valid after it’s done a winter. However, I suppose it’s not really fair to blame a Japanese motorcycle for not being made in Germany :roll: .

    I’d buy another and you can’t really say fairer than that. :grin:
  2. Excellent, informative write-up :cool:

    From memory of your beemer binning piece, I'm guessing you live in the hills(maybe?). I've always fancied exploring the abundance of tracks up there. Have you had the DR off road?