Somewhere along the way, I lost control of my Suzuki DR650. Not like that, though I’ve definitely run it through a few trees and dragged it down a slope or two. No, where I let it get away from me had to do with modifications, and giving purchase to that crazy idea that I could make my 2005 model into a “modern” dual-sport machine. I know that factory engineers make compromises of performance and cost, and in doing so face an impossible task. Where you want to go isn’t where you can go.
But as an owner, I’m under no such limitations—though maybe I should be.
Two problems with the DR: It’s relatively cheap and plentiful. I found my low-miles DR for $2500 on Craigslist. New ones were $5999—for basically the same motorcycle. In fact, the DR hasn’t changed substantially since 1996. Manufacturers like long production runs, but the aftermarket positively thrives on them. The list of products for the DR on ProCycle’s Web site (www.procycle.us) alone is eye watering. The dangerous logic is that if you pay so little for the bike itself, you can then afford to spend more on the upgrades. That grassy slope looks pretty wet.
I started with the basics. The stock DR runs fairly lean, so a ProCycle jet kit went in—along with its clever extended idle-mixture screw because, well, with a carburetor you’re always messing with it. A quiet aftermarket muffler replaced the incredibly heavy stock item, then I went to work on the brakes, adding braided-steel lines and high-performance pads for improved stopping power and feel.
As soon as the DR accelerated and braked a little better, I couldn’t ignore the soft suspension. So, I heated up the MasterCard with Race Tech Emulators and stiffer springs for the old-tech fork. For the shock, I opted for a kit ProCycle sells including a replacement shock shaft (pre-fitted with a Race Tech Gold Valve) that features adjustable rebound damping; the stock shock has compression adjustment only. In my home shop on a dreary Sunday afternoon, I yanked the shock, replaced the shaft with pre-set damping pack, and fitted a stiffer spring. It was a fun day with wrenches in hand. Therapy, almost.
Richer jetting often hurts mileage, so the stock tank (3.2 gallons, as mine is a true California bike) gave unacceptably poor range. Hold on, doesn’t the aftermarket have something? Of course. On goes the Acerbis 5.3-gal tank, and now I get to remember to turn the fuel off instead of letting the stock vacuum petcock handle it. Miraculously, I’ve been up to the task. But the Acerbis holds almost 32 pounds of fuel, forward and up high, so my initial calculations on fork spring preload were off. Yank the caps, install longer spacers, and we’re ready to go. As soon as I could ride it further without stopping, the miserable stock seat seemed just that much more miserable. Hey, ProCycle, send me one of your seats, too. Around we go.
I thought I was done and perfectly happy until the Husqvarna TR650 Terra arrived in our fleet. I totally understand that it’s more money than a new DR650 or what I have into my bike. But, and it hurts me to say this, it’s a much better motorcycle.
The Husky’s stock suspension is soft but amazingly well controlled, it looks good, steers well, and generally does what I want a dual-sport to do. And then some, because its liquid-cooled, fuel-injected engine is far more powerful than the Suzuki’s admittedly much older, air-cooled clanker. It’s only about a 12-horsepower difference on the dyno (36 vs. 48) but it feels like more. Also a whole lot smoother, did I mention that?
So, yes, the Terra is really sweet. Only one problem: It doesn’t have a lot of aftermarket support. Yet. After all, you can clearly see that it needs a skidplate, different bars, and maybe a little more fuel capacity...