Seeing as I did a page on prepping my XT600E for South America which has seemed to help a few people out, I thought I had better do one for my DRZ400s.
After owning or riding pretty much every popular overland travel bike, I have come to the conclusion that the Suzuki DRZ400S is the best bike for the job of crossing Africa to get me to Cape Town. I have a Honda Africa twin too but this is just far too big and heavy for my planned adventures in Africa. The bike cost me £1600 and with everything I have done, it stands me about £2300.
I didnt like my XT600 as it was quite under powered for it’s weight and the suspension was CRAP.. I never felt confident when the road turned into trails and dirt tracks. Sand was a total nightmare.
The DRZ is a Enduro style dirt bike which has been calmed down for the road. The “S” model has all the niceties such as lights, an electric start, key ignition and and a more economical and “less crazy” carb and cam. It’s 75% dirt bike, 25% road which compared to my XT which was 50:50 !!
It’s lightweight and very simple to work on. I reckon I could have the engine out and back in again in an hour if I was in a rush. Everything is each to reach, easy to remove and there is nothing complicated about it’s design or mechanics.
The engine is reported to be pretty bullet proof and should easily last without any significent work for the entire trip. Mine currently has 11,000 miles on I plan to put another 15,000 on.
The suspension is straight off the Enduro “E” model. Plenty of plush, adjustable travel and high ground clearanace. It’s NOT for the shorties although there are lowering “dog legs” available from Talon.
The downside is that the seat is VERY narrow and hard, its pretty vibey and the brakes are built for enduro and the tank is small. This is on my list for improvement but a sheepskin is helping at the moment.
So, how did I turn this:
The stock tank is a puny 10.5L.. Rubbish !!! I instantly grabbed a second hand Clark tank which gives me 16L. That should be enough for 180-200 miles. Secondly, its thick plastic so removes the risk of damaging a thin pressed steel tank that it originally had.
I have also mounted a 10 litre Rhino steel fuel can on the rear rack. This should give me another 100 miles at least.
The stock handlebar is low and soft. Junk really. I swapped it for “Renthal Dakar High” bars which are higher, more comfortable for sitting & standing and are much better quality. It comes with a nice soft pad to save your “peanuts” too 😉
Barkbusters Handguards fit the bars perfectly. Essential protection for your levers and hands while travelling.
3. ENGINE PROTECTION
Case savers are essential on the DRZ. The engine cases are very thin and soft and are often broken in falls or by your brake & gear levers in a topple. Lots of varieties out there and are readily available on Ebay. Mine are made by CFC and are great.
The sump guard on the DRZ is plastic and doesnt protect the engine as well as most people would like. AD-tek made a good guard which is good value at £49 http://www.ad-tekproducts.co.uk/acatalog/Suzuki_.html
4. RADIATOR PROTECTION
The radiators also need protection. These are very vunerable in a crash or topple and an pain to have fixed without a skilled alloy welder.
UNIBIKER make good guards for about $100USD.. Imported hassel free from these people. http://www.wheelingcyclesupply.com/index.shtml
The standard pegs are pretty small for my Motocross boots so I changed mine to DRC wide pegs. Makes standing up on the bike much easier too. Only available in the U.S at this price, but this company will send you them no problem. http://www.wheelingcyclesupply.com/index.shtml
There are many trains of thought when it comes to luggage options. Many people are true advocates of big expensive aluminium boxes and equaly heavy and expensive frames. I’ve used these myself and learnt an EXPENSIVE lesson. To me, they just arn’t worth the money and the weight. They completely contradict the reason for owning a smaller enduro bike ! They are great for the bigger tarmac munching bikes, but for dragging accross the deserts and dirt roads… No thanks !!
In trying to keep my budget as low as possible, I went down to a local metal worker and bought £4 worth of 6mm steel flat bar. It’s thicker and heavier than I wanted (4mm) but it was all he had. A day of bending, hammering, drilling and welding had me some very functional luggage racks. There only job is to keep my soft bags off the exhaust and for securing the bags. I might remake these out of 4mm steel as they are pretty heavy and I think the frame mounts are more likely to break than the racks. I want them more pliable and bendy !!
I went for some £30 ex military pattern 58 canvas bags bought from www.silvermans.co.uk. They are old, smelly but VERY robust and have loads of pockets, straps and anchor points. I attached some D-ring mouting points to my frame to hold them.
I also fitted the Suzuki SM rear carrier which I attached my rear fuel can to. To fit the fuel can I bought a sheet of aluminium checker plate, bent up the sides and glued some old rubber mat inside. I bolted it to the frame and the can is held on with small straps and a thin bicycle lock stops it from being stolen (in theory). You could use this for water if you didnt need the fuel.
7. Performance & jettings.
The E.U. DRZ400S comes with all the emmissions “crap”. First thing I did was remove the PAIR valve and carb vacuum valve. I won’t go into detail here as its much better covered at www.thumpertalk.com.
I also junked the heavy, rusting standard exhaust and fitted a Scorpion full system (with removable baffle). I bought the JD jetting kit from thumpertalk.com and rejetted the bike doing the popular “3×3″ modification. (Basically cutting your airbox hole to 3×3 inches and jetting up to suit). The performance is much improved and smoothed out. I also fitted a longer manual fuel screw (Kintech) so I can fine tune my fueling.
The stock battery on the DRZ is CRAP !! Way too small for a push button bike. The stock is a 6Ah battery so I swapped it for a 8.6Ah battery.
The battery box is made for the standard “small” battery so you need to cut out the back of the battery box and replace it with a velcro strap or make (or buy from thumpertalk) a cradle for the bigger battery. The replacement battery you should buy is a Yuasa YTZ10S. This has the same height and width as the original but is deeper (hence the need to cut the back out of the battery box).
I simply cut the back out of the battery, made some slots and threaded a thick adjustable velcro strap around the battery.
If I were to bottom out my rear suspension, it does look like the tyre could rub on the battery. I intend to stiffen the rear spring and see if this is really likely to happen. Think about this if you do the mod yourself. The battery box designed by “sinsero” on thumpertalk is better and prevents this but the price and shipping was too much for me.
9. Bits & bobs
A larger footprint welded onto your side stand will stop it sinking into the soft ground.. A must !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tyres are a personal choice but I have gone with Continetal TKC80. They offer a nice balance of road legality and grip with decent offroad ability.
12. Chain and Sprocket.
The standard gearing on the DRZ400S is 15/44. I have changed mine to 15/43 for a less “revvy” road ride. I can cruise comfortable at 60-65mph with the engine not stressing. Acceleration is still good !!
Sprockets are available for “JT” with the following codes.
Front Sprocket: JTF 432.15
Rear Sprocket: JTR 808.43
A DID X-ring chain finishes it off.
MUST DO !!!!!
Remove your alternator cover and loctite all bolts in there for the stator and the ‘Pick up’. These are NOTORIOUS for coming lose and self destructing. I thread-locked mine and had 20,000 problem free miles.
Also, make sure you buy ‘Case Savers’ for the Alternator and clutch cases. They are thinner than paper and if you drop the bike, the brake pedal or gear lever can/will smash through it. Very expensive and show stopping.