2020 DR650S PROJECT BIKE
Suzuki’s DR650S has a reputation for reliability, balanced performance, build quality and value where it is often favored over other dualsport and ADV motorcycles. As the DR650S has been around so long, many enthusiasts have forgotten how this iconic motorcycle came to be.
Suzuki leadership, including industry icon and racer Mark Blackwell, aimed to resurrect dualsport riding with the release of their dualsport family of motorcycles in 1990. This successful undertaking included the large bore DR650S that was derived from the DR600/700/800 platform and also led to the legendary DR Big in other markets. Despite adding electric starting in 1994, the heavy and long DR650S continued to be a handful for riders and dealers alike, so Suzuki brought a new generation DR650S to market in 1996.
Employing weight-saving oil-cooling, like their renowned GSX-R750 and DR350 models, this new DR650S was far lighter and more compact. Applying the lessons learned from their support and study of how their dualsports were being ridden, the DR650S was ruggedly basic with a high build quality and included suspension that could lower the seat height several inches. The ability to significantly reduce the rider’s reach to the ground drew many riders to the motorcycle who also enjoyed the engine’s power characteristics and reliability. That same Showa-supplied suspension could also be re-sprung and valved in stark comparison to other bikes whose lesser quality components needed to be replaced at greater expense.
Today, as the population of the popular, but now discontinued KLR650 begins to shrink, the DR650S is gaining riders. Many riders have discovered the bike’s tough nature and have made the DR650S their chosen platform for world travel. Built right from the start and basically unchanged since its introduction, the aftermarket contains a plethora of goodies for the DR650S.
Simply put, the DR650 is analog and it is easy to maintain and repair. Upshift started over 3 years ago, and with all the technological advances we’ve seen in these 3 years, we have always had contributors across the globe riding Suzuki DR650’s. Loaded with gear bags, fuel, tires and whatever else they can fit, they are literally the pack mule of off-road motorcycling. For example, Suzie and Kelvin from www.avvida.co.uk and Michnus from www.pikipikioverland.com have logged thousands of kilometers on their fully loaded DR650’s as they travel across the continent of South America. Wherever they go, they know their bikes can be tuned, repaired, and they can get parts quickly. A computer glitch or a bad abs sensor can be a challenge to fix in the middle of Africa or South America. Additionally, let us not forget cost. The 650 is far less expensive to maintain and repair compared to its modern competitors. This bike is trustworthy, technologically simple, and affordable over time, and that is why so many people choose to ride the DR650. Our belief with this bike is as follows: it’s not for everyone, but if you want to explore the world, you know you can certainly do it on the tried and true DR650.
Now let’s take a look at our latest build. Keeping in mind that this was not about building the most expensive DR650, we approached it with a desire to improve on the basics, giving it a more robust performance and refined ergonomics. Sure, there might be a few styling changes, but hey, we’re Upshift, we can’t help getting a little creative! One of our contributors, Stephen Clark, built a DR650 in the past and suggested we talk to the guys at ProCycle in Oregon. They have been selling parts for DualSport bikes for years and had various upgrade options for our DR650, many of which we had never heard of until we went to their website.
We started off with a 2020 Suzuki DR650S (one of several DR650 model designations such as S and SE). We then rode the bike in the Boise foothills to get a sense of what we were working with and to start thinking about possible improvements. From the beginning, we knew we needed some “pop” from the motor, but didn’t want to sacrifice horsepower for reliability. We also didn’t want to break the bank, so ProCycles pointed us to their plug-and-play TM40 Mikuni Carburetor conversion kit. The kit includes cables, air filter, and comes pre-jetted for typical mods such as performance pipes and a modified airbox. ProCycles also offers to set it up for your particular bike. However, if you are mechanically inclined it’s an easy install. We paired this up with the Yoshimura RS-2 exhaust system and modified the Airbox per ProCycles’ instructions. Boy, the difference was noticeable!
When it comes to display information for the rider, like tachometer, engine temps, etc. the DR650 is pretty bare-bones. We took the opportunity to mount a Trail Tech Voyager Pro and CNC bar mount, giving us all the data in the world as well as all of the navigational features we’ve come to know and love.
Next up was suspension. We really wanted to stiffen up the stock suspension to handle more weight and be able to absorb larger impacts. Cogent Dynamics has been working with the DR650 for many years and was recommended by ProCycles, so we decided to give them a shot. Their Rear Mojave shock starts with a CNC machined aluminum body that has a hard ceramic coating for durability. Each shock is assembled and tested on the Cogent Dynamics suspension dyno before being packed up and shipped. This made an incredible difference in the handling of our DR. They select a spring based on the load you plan to carry. The shock package includes the CNC machined Bling Ring Preload Adjuster Collar and Preload Bearing which makes preload adjustments easy. A low shock is also made available by Cogent Dynamics. This option will lower your seat height 1” without the need for lowering links.
Up front, we used the Cogent DDC (Drop-in Damper Cartridge) performance cartridges and three bottles of Maxima 5w fork oil. The DDCs from Cogent are easy to install, with no drilling of the damping rods. Just take them off, flip them over to drain the oil, add new 5w oil, drop in the DDCs, add the springs and spacers, and then install the caps. Preload spacer material is included with the .47 and .70 Ohlins springs, while additional spacers are not needed with the other kits. Less brake dive keeps the fork up in the middle of the stroke on-road and better control off-road, whether it be rolling water bars or bouncing off the rocks. Providing enhanced control over all surfaces, this upgrade was a success across the board.
We wanted to change the bike’s ergonomics because its stock bar position is mounted very low. Riding mostly off-road in our case, we needed the bars raised in order to stand comfortably without transferring rider weight too far forward.
ProCycle has an oversized handlebar kit which includes a Warp9 handlebar clamp, adding an additional 1” to the height, and a 1-1/8” FLY aero bar, opening up the dash area for more goodies. When it comes to the seat, we referred to our friends at Seat Concepts, who have been tuning their DR650 seat for a few years.
For our drive train upgrade, we used Pro Cycle’s “Drive Chain & Sprocket Set: 520 O-Ring Chain Kit”. Many riders choose to convert over from the stock 525 to a 520 chain. Besides being lighter and less expensive, a 520 chain is more readily available and has more options when it comes to sprocket sizes. The kit includes JT Steel Sprockets and EK SR06 O-ring Chain. While we used the stock 15/42 gearing on our first trip (mostly highway miles), we plan on trying out a smaller 14 sprocket on future off-road trips.
In search of a few wheel suggestions, we called the experts at Dubya. In order to stay under budget, we utilized the stock hubs and had them cerakoted for toughness. Dubya then helped us pair them up with Black Excel rims and heavy-duty spokes. Finally, Bridgestone has an all-new Battlax Adventurecross AX41 tire that fit perfectly for this project (90/90-21 Front, 140/80-17 Rear).
Once the significant mods were completed, we upgraded the look by adding an Acerbis 5.3 gallon tank, Universal LED Vision HP headlight, and a stock DRZ400 SuperMoto Fender. We also added a compact Suzuki DR200 taillight and Yoshimura’s slim and durable LED turn signals, all of which were installed in minutes.
To finish things off, we installed Mosko Moto’s Reckless 40L System. We went with the 40L system in order to align with the style and intended use of this DR650 build. Without pinching the seat, this fit perfectly on top of the Pro Moto Billet cargo rack and allowed air to pass through the rack and muffler upon use.
2020 SUZUKI DR650S PROJECT BIKE SPECS
Mikuni TM40 Kit w/DT1 Filter Kit
Cogent Fork Kit w/DDC
Cogent Mojave Shock
Over Size Handlebar Kit
Billet Throttle Tube
DR200 Tail Light Fender Eliminator Kit
Chain & Sprocket Kit 520