Suzuki DR650 prepped for overlanding the world

There are a few good options available as round the world bikes, and here I refer to the mid size and smaller bikes not the drag a block of flats around heavies. The Kawasaki KLR, the Honda XR650 and CRF250L, DR650 and so on. We had the KLR, the Xr650 and then as we had the Dakar’s we used them for our trip up Africa and Europe. Well they were supposed to last for our entire route around the world. Eventually stored our Dakar’s in Germany as they were getting old and worse for wear due to Africa. Our main goal was to get simpler, lighter bikes which also cost less to maintain and ship.

We will update this page every now and then with more info

With a bit of research and a lot of help from people like Mick, Tanya from Earth’s End and Wouter Brand we were able to convert the humble Suzuki DR650’s in round the world motorcycles. I have yet to meet adventurers who use their bikes in such an extreme way than these three Chuck Norrises, and if the DR is good enough for them the bikes will for sure last for us. It is easy to go bonkers with farkles, pimping and converting these bikes but we wanted to stay light and minimalist but still have the essentials.

RTW Paul did a great write up on modifications, tips and a proper DR650 preparation for a round the world bike.

The reason we decided on the Suzuki DR650 as our new bikes after the BMW Dakar’s

DR650SE is a cheap reliable dual-purpose bike that is like a Toyota J70 and had very little changes since it’s birth in 1996. The DR still has a bit of a primitive suspension and very basic in design and not fast. The major thing is the original design performs excellent for such a huge amount of riding styles.

The KLR we owned and although a very cool bike, still heavier than the DR, it’s watercooled and lacks a bit off quality compared. The XR650 is equally impressive but also heavier and some stories of eating it’s own engine over time. The 640 KTM and the 690KTM are well, KTM’s ready to race, and lack the simplicity, affordable maintenance and durability. This is not a which is a better type debate, but for us and our pockets and our experience with all the choices over the last 15 years we seriously took up this crazy sport of adventure dual sport riding. So it’s what’s working for us. It’s not to say a KLR, XR or KTM is not made for long term travel. They can do that and have done that as proof of so many trip logs on HU and other forums and blogs.

  • Tractor type Torque – It’s a low ref air cooled single. 
  • Reliability heavy and old-fashioned, built to outlast the Giza Pyramids. The DR650SE is famous for needing little apart from infrequent oil changes to last for years with minimal maintenance. Parts are generally available and overall maintenance is cheap. 
  • Handling and versatility – needs upgrades but is a do-it-all bike.
  • Economy the bike is surpassingly light on fuel and if ridden conservative it will do 25km/l
  • Price Not many other dual sport bikes can beat it for price.
  • Aftermarket parts and bling There are a staggering array of options to bling and convert the DR650 to perfectly suit every type, size and shape of rider and activity. You can convert this bike as close as possible to a perfect hand made tuxedo.
  • Seat height and ergonomics The DR650 is a relatively small bike and doesn’t sit as high as many modern dual sport motorcycles and is perfect for vertically challenged riders. If you still find the DR650 too high, there is an alternative bolt hole for the rear suspension to lower the bike further, then just slip the front forks a bit in your triple clamps to suit. It’s not a good pillion bike in our opinion.
  • Shipping This is where the 140kg bike scores when you need to fly or ship the bike around the world. Adding 70kg price penalty to a big bike and the cost goes through the roof.

What we did to our DR650:

  • Neutral sending unit (NSU) – This is a sensor within the engine that lights the “Neutral” indicator on the dash. It is held in place by two screws. There are rare instances where these screws have backed out and ruined clutches and/or gearboxes. If your neutral light stops working, find out why as it might be the problem. Here is how to: NSU fix  
  • Countershaft sprocket seal – can pop out. Not a common problem, but has happened. Buy a seal retainer for under $20 from Suzuki or Procycle. In 2013 models that Suzuki finally put these on the DR650 as standard.
  • Safety features on clutch and sidestand – Switches here won’t let the engine start until the sidestand is up and the clutch is pulled in. On a 1-10 difficulty scale this is a 1 to fix. Not a bad safety feature but it is annoying and just unnecessary.
  • Fuel tank & filters We opted for the Acerbis 26L tank as it was priced well and an easy fit. The Safari 30L is a great option but nearly double the price. We also use Guglatech filters fitted in the neck of the tank to catch water and debris. We also fitted inline fuel filter in addition to the  tiny white plastic filter inserted into the metal fuel tube going into the carburetor. 
  • Handlebars and handguards  The stock bars are rubbish. Fit a decent set of Renthals or other brand and if need be handlebar raisers. We used the Acerbis handguards.
  • Suspension – The stock suspension is not  adequate. Our option was to go for purpose built shocks from Cogent Suspension We upgraded the rear and the front suspension. Do not skimp on your suspension, it is the second biggest expensive stuff to fix on a bike. 
  • Seating The seat is fine for around town, but definitely needs changing for long adventure rides. There are many aftermarket options but we ended with the Sargent seats. They are well made and we can easily clock up 500km-700km per day with no issues. And we don’t use any other aftermarket butt savers. 
  • Heavy  exhaust –  The standard exhaust is ridiculously heavy at 5.5kg and quite restrictive.  Cheap popular mod is the Suzuki GSXR1000 exhaust adaptation – the DR650 will still be quiet, a lot lighter and have better low and midrange power. We also fitted a South African aftermarket exhaust to the one bike and saved 2,5kg.
  • Bashplate & casing savers Again there are a staggering range of options. We opted for the JNS Enginnering Skid plate as it also protects the oil filter casing. The Stainless Case savers we bought from Procycle. The Case saver chain guard – This nice piece replaces your plastic sprocket cover and protects your engine case from a chain derailment or failure. The 3/16″ (5mm) thick steel plate is adjustable to accommodate 14, 15 and 16 tooth sprockets. Includes mounting hardware.
  • Upper drive chain roller – A lot of DR650 owners claim this isn’t necessary and will eventually break, so they remove it and fill the mounting boss in the frame with either a locktited 8mm set screw flush with the boss or just fill the hole with some silicone to prevent water from entering. I could see the chain on Elsebie’s bike slapping up and down and for sure over time it will break off the roller. 
  • Lower and wider footpegs –  The stock pegs are too small and too high making the seating a bit cramped. We have now fitted JNSEngineering lower pegs mounts which have a 38mm drop and 25mm set back to make the footing position better. The quality of the JNS peg holders looks very well made and a quality finishing. We have fitted the DRC footpegs and although they won’t break the paint finish they applied came off within a year.  If such stuff are important.
  • Dash & electrical connections– The DR650 only come with a simple speedo. Our Zumo 660 GPS’s are now our speedo’s and navigation dash. Fitted onto the bars with RAM mounts. And Touratech GPS bracket. Our tank-bags are powered directly from the battery using a SAE electrical connections. (scroll down)
  • Pannier frames & luggage rack –  As we only use ATG soft luggage we fitted lightweight frames to support the bags and keep them away from the exhaust. The rear luggage rack sits flush with the Sargent seat and makes for a nice platform to carry the waterproof duffle bags. We have been using this luggage combination since forever.
  • Weak frame mount – If you fit a rear rack, there’s a weak mounting point on the frame that will snap on rough roads if you have a bit of weight on the back. It just needs a bit of welding to make it stronger.
  • Intank fuel filters  This is a very important overlooked item. We had water in tanks, we had brown dirty fuel in Africa and having proper fuel filters will save all the drama with stripping carbs and clogged up FI. GUGLATECH FILTERMASTER made us two intank filters which sits flush with the Acerbis tanks and the fuel cap fits perfectly. These filters will prevent water and particles to go into the tank, but we still also use inline fuel filters in addition to these filters.
  • Brake and Clutch levers  Not much wrong with the stock except you want shorter levers and also adjustable. Look out for Warp9 Brake and Clutch levers
  • Replace the wheel bearings – The stock wheel bearings are only sealed on one side. If you ride off road these bearings could prematurely fail on you and result in ruined hubs. The first time you change your tyres, get proper double-sealed bearings in these sizes: – front wheel- 6003LU (x2) – rear wheel-6204DU (x2)- sprocket carrier- 6205RS (x1) Rear wheel: Dust seals: (34X52X6) (26X47X5) Front: (23X35X6)

Links to DR650 Zen and goodness:

Updated 96-09 DR650SE Service Manual V1.0

Suzuki Manual 2012 

Batteries for the DR650

Download (PDF, 301KB)

3 Comments

  1. Hi Michnus

    Great report!!!!!!!!!

  2. Came here to download all the stuff you’ve published such as the parts catalogue and others, were did they go?! 🙁

  3. So sorry, we took it off temporarily as we had so many downloads it nearly closed our accounts with the place who host us on their servers. ?
    Will be back up in a day or four ✌?

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