Pros: Lively low-tech motor...big strong and under stressed. Wonderful off-road trail bike!
Cons: The stock seat is junk! Wish it had a 6th gear, heavy.
A Wolf in sheep's clothing
by dr-man, Feb 14 '07
My research to buy a new bike:
I have over 30 years riding experience on dual sport and dirt bikes. I have owned a dozen bikes over the years so I feel qualified to give an educated adult (+40 yrs) opinion.
The best choices from my internet and magazine research:
Of the big three, Kawasaki has the KLR650, Honda the XR650L and Suzuki the DR650. All these bikes are long running models with sturdy, proven designs that are built for the long haul. The reviews I read placed the KLR as more of a road machine but capable of gravel roads or a long road trip. The price was $5,000; I liked the looks but did not want a 6 gallon gas tank or water cooling. I’m sure water cooling is a wonderful thing, but for me it’s just another thing I need to maintain or worry about. The Honda XR was the most dirt bike of the bunch, air cooled with a tall seat and major suspension travel; but at $6200, it was out of my price range. The Suzuki DR was priced at $5,000 and was dirt-rated somewhere in between the KLR and XR. It has an air cooled engine with an oil-cooler...low-tech and reliable. The gas tank holds a respectable 3.4 gallons so it was not an over-kill with weight on the trail. After I thoroughly checked out these bikes I decided upon the Suzuki.
My thoughts on the DR:
I'm 6'6" and 240 lbs so the DR650 fits me perfectly. I've hit nearly 100 mph a few times, it's smooth and powerful from idle to wide open. At freeway speeds (65 mph) the DR cruses at about 1/3 throttle with lots of power to spare and few gear changes needed because of its massive torque. My DR is a 2006 and now has over 16,000 trouble free miles. With just valve adjustments, oil and filter changes and new tires during this time, it has been a dream to own. The gas mileage averages at 55 mpg. The fuel range is more than 150 miles so you could do a road trip with ease. I purchase a few exhaust pipes and found them all to loud except for the FMf Q4. At $325.00 its a bit pricey but the sound is good, not loud and the bike runs so much better on the highway and trails. All things being equal the stock exhaust is a good balance of sound and power but it is very quiet.
DR650 trail riding tips:
Get diffrent tires and install a skid plate. Most of my riding is on dirt or gravel jeep trails or back-country byways. The DR idles in 1st gear at 20 mph, to fast for trail work so I geared down the DR and chose a set of 16/50 sprockets. these worked well on the trails but still allowed highway speed. Generally, I’m happy with the 16/50 gears and find it a good compromise between street and trails. Try turning the idle speed down, this helps slow the bike down even further on steep trails. After I wore the chain and sproket set out, I went back to stock. I run a 15 or 16 for the highway and a 13 for trail use.
The stock tires are fine on the pavement or gravel but not... for off-road trails that are muddy or loose. I got 3000 miles out of the rear tire and the front one was still showing little wear. I did some internet research and decided to try some Kenda K270's for better off-road traction. I got 6000 street/dirt miles on a set of Kenda tires. These are 6-ply tires that can handle the rough stuff. I only got one flat in 6000 miles (on a nail) so I was very pleased with the traction and lasting quality of these tires. My only complaint with the Kenda tires is the rough ride you get on the highway due to a knobbie-type design. The vibration in the handle bars was a real shaker. I filled the handle bars with bb-gun bb's, added a cork cap on each end and re-installed the rubber grips. This really smoothed the shaking on the highway.
The DR is heavy... remember it's not a light weight moto-cross or a trials bike. But on the other hand...with a capable rider aboard (and proper tires and gearing) the DR a VERY fine trail bike..but remember its always heavy! I usually get impressed nods from other dirt riders who can't believe I can ride the bike home after a day on the trails. The mighty DR will climb hills with authority or will lug down like a tractor and putt-putt it way along. The front and rear disk brakes take some getting used to. I found they are a bit grabby, careful on steep and loose dirt down hill trails.
As a compromise between dirt and street the DR650 really shines. My only real complaint is the crumby rock-hard seat. I think a block of wood, could be more comfortable! Try adding some extra foam to the seat & have it recovered or maybe try a gell seat. I currently have on a set of wooden seat beads. These are very comfortable and at $20 bucks affordable. The highway ride quality is much improved. I use a sheep skin over the beads for my highway rides. I also added a ten dollar 'Throttle Rocker' to save my wrist during longer commutes.
My only repair so far has been the stock horn quit working. A new Suzuki one was $45.00, so I opted for a generic horn from a local auto parts store for only $16.00.
*There are several Yahoo-DR650-groups you may want to join for research or to ask questions and get help.
Thanks for reading and happy riding!