Suzuki DR-Z400S, Suzuki GSX-R750 And MV Agusta F4 1000 S - Doin' Time - MC Garage

Photography by Dexter Ford

Suzuki DR-Z400S
Ringleader: Ford
Msrp: $5599
Miles: 2821-6706
Average Fuel Mileage: 52 Mpg

Accessories And Modifications: Dunlop D208 Sportmax tires, modified by excessive cornering speed; mouth, modified by excessive grinning.

This whacky little DR-Z is more fun than a cameraman gig at Girls Gone Wild. I've been too busy riding the snot out of the Little Bike That Could to do much in the way of tweaking. With its supermoto-spec East Coast Wheels, Dunlop 208 Sportmax tires, EBC 320mm front disc brake and Factory Connection suspension, it is simply hilarious in the canyons. Before I thrashed it on Las Flores, Stunt, Tuna, Piuma, Latigo and Yerba Buena Roads, I had doubts about whether a 398cc single could haul my overstuffed ass as well on the street as it had in the dirt.

Not to worry: A good dirtbike always makes a great streetbike. Especially when it weighs under 300 pounds, has wide, soft, sticky tires, great brakes and the suspension travel, quality and adjustability to make 'em all work together.

The Malibu canyons are tight, dirty and bumpy-in other words, perfect for the DR-Z. When I tested the KTM 950 Supermoto, I thought I'd ridden the ultimate canyon bike. And I just might have. But the DR-Z can certainly hold its own here; buddy Peter Goodwin had his own new 950 SM along for many of those canyon miles, and its power advantage was much less help than either of us would have predicted. The DR-Z's nutty flickability, uncanny bump absorption and amazing grip make it the king of cornering speed. And it's always more fun to go fast on a slow bike than vice versa.

The DR-Z is even surprisingly agreeable on a long freeway drone. Its 17-inch front wheel (down from the stock 21-incher) makes the speedo wildly optimistic, but the smooth, counterbalanced engine, perfect riding stance and deceptively plush seat mean the bike is no more annoying after the first hour than any other sit-up machine. And in this day of expensive gasoline, its fuel mileage is actually improving: It hovered around 45-48 mpg early on, but is now routinely getting 52-53 mpg. Could be the street tires or the new, low-friction DID ERV-3 racing X-ring chain. Who knew a chain could help save 10 percent in fuel costs-not to mention the planet?

Next up: As we all must, the DR-Z will soon return to soil. Shorter gearing, new, lightweight UFO head- and taillights and a few dirt-specific guards (radiator, engine, ignition-cover and clutch-cover) from Thumpertalk (www.thumper talk.com) lurk in the garage, awaiting their chance at grimy immortality.

Staffers' Rides

Suzuki GSX-R750
* Ringleader: Loy
* Msrp: $10,199
* Miles: 3107-4267
* Average Fuel Mileage: 38.8 mpg
* Accessories And Modifications: Taylormade exhaust, TechSpec grip skins, Rhino sliders, Pirelli Diablo Corsa 3s

On the cover of the December 2006 issue, Sport Rider magazine posed the question, "Is the Suzuki GSX-R750 the best sportbike ever?" I haven't ridden every sportbike there is, but at this point in time, my answer would be yes.

Granted, my bike isn't stock anymore. The first thing I did was slip on Taylormade Racing's Underbelly street exhaust kit ($625; www.racetaylormade.com), which looks like it came off a MotoGP bike, sounds great and is said to boost peak power by 3 bhp. I haven't confirmed the increase yet, but a dyno run is in the bike's near future. In the past I've always installed a fuel-management system along with an aftermarket can, but the GSX-R runs well with the Taylormade pipe without one.

Next, I stuck on a set of TechSpec's Gripster Sport Grip Skins ($39.95; www.techspec-usa.com), which takes pressure off my wrists by giving my legs something to grab onto under hard braking. Last, a set of Rhino axle/swingarm sliders ($64.99; www.rhinomoto.com) should help save those parts if I fall off like Brian did. In anticipation of track days to come, I also reversed the shift pattern to my preferred GP pattern, which is easy to do with the GSX-R's stock linkage.

My first outing with The Track Club at Buttonwillow Raceway (www.thetrackclub.com) showed I have some more work to do. One issue was ground clearance, the adjustable footpegs scraping in spite of them being raised to their highest position. Aftermarket rearsets are a simple (albeit expensive) solution, and I have a set on the way. A quarter-turn throttle should help me "pin it" a little easier. And while the Pirelli Diablo Corsa 3s I had fitted worked great on the street, they got greasy by day's end at the track. Next time out, I'll probably go with my favorite Supercorsa Pros.

MV Agusta F4 1000 S
* Ringleader: Cat
* Msrp: $21,495
* Miles: 4651-6375
* Average Fuel Mileage: 34 mpg
* Accessories And Modifications: Corse RG3 exhaust, Galfer green brake pads, Dunlop D208 GP Sportmax tires

When last we left my long-term MV, I was screaming obscenities as the exotic Italian sportbike fell off its stand in the Las Vegas Motor Speedway paddock. A couple of months later in the tech line at California Speedway, I bumped into painter Boris Landoff of California Cycle Design. "I've been meaning to call you," I told him, pointing to the scratches on the MV's right flank.
"Ah, wait a while," he replied.

Talk about being jinxed.Sure enough, just two days later the MV did indeed need much more comprehensive paintwork, as I proved for the umpteenth time the ineffectiveness of cold, worn tires at Buttonwillow Raceway. It wouldn't have been so bad if Angie hadn't been right behind me.

At first, the bike didn't appear to be too badly damaged. But removing the bodywork revealed two bent fairing stays, a cracked fairing bracket and a broken muffler mount. Worse, after replacing the damaged ignition cover shown in the photo and restarting the engine, gas sprayed from one end of the fuel rail. So I'm investigating a cure for that now, too

Meanwhile, the fairing and tailpiece are at Boris' place, from which they'll emerge in Agostini Replica regalia-those big, yellow number-one plates just look too cool. Ironically, when I dropped off the MV's bodywork there was another set on the shop floor, so apparently I'm not the only idiot in Southern California.

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