Alaska to Argentina DRZ 400

Discussion in 'Americas' started by peteFoulkes, Dec 22, 2011.

  1. peteFoulkes

    peteFoulkes Been here awhile

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    Hi guys,

    Some time back I posted a thread outlining my plan to ride with a friend from Alaska to Argentina. We leave London in April of 2012. The original thread can be found here: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=692685
    We were both overwhelmed by the responses we had and fully appreciated the time everybody took to reply. Thanks to the advice given, we have now definitely decided to buy out in the Americas (preferably Alaska) rather than shipping from the UK.

    Since my previous thread, we have completed an awesome trip through the Indian Himalayas on a couple of rented Royal Enfields in to give us a taste of the kind of riding we may expect from out big trip next year. (If anyone is interested in such a trip, take a look at our YouTube clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tRMMDYryRM and feel free to message me for advice.)
    The trip involved some hairy off road patches and it really made us both realise just how much more enjoyable it may have been if we were on some small, light dirt style bikes like a Suzuki DRZ400 S or something similar. I love the thought of travelling light and hunting down the dirt roads as and when we can.

    Our budget is still around the £3000/£3500 mark but knowing what we know now, we have a whole load of new questions we need to answer. Perhaps you can help.

    - Availability.
    How likely is it that we will be able to arrive in Alaska and expect to find two DRZ's in our price range suitable for such a ride? Will we be able to source spares for the bikes even down in South America?

    - Highway cruising.
    We know there will inevitably be a lot of tarmac on this trip. How will the DRZ400 S hold up? Top speed, fuel consumption, handling etc. Perhaps the DRZ SM (super moto edition) would be a more appropriate choice. We could then fit dirt tyres when we get down to the really rural areas.

    -Gearing
    Perhaps we need to consider gearing the bike differently for the highways. Does anybody have any advice on ratios?

    - Custom Tanks.
    From what I understand, this seems like a sensible move.

    - Comfort.
    From reading other threads it would seem that many people suggest fitting a custom seat. Any recommendations? Is it realistic to expect to be able to spend an entire day on a DRZ 400? I’m sure it doesn’t compare to a KLR or something like that but is it feasible?

    - Luggage.
    How suitable is the DRZ for fitting panniers. We’re happy to go with soft luggage options if necessary but where should we be looking for luggage racks?

    Any responses will be really appreciated.

    Pete.
    #1
  2. alma1992

    alma1992 Jaded AND Cynical!

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    I'll let someone else w/ more local knowledge answer the availability question.

    The DRZ will cruise all day @ 70-75 w/ no change in gearing. You won't enjoy it, but the bike won't mind. 55 MPG is my average consumption. I would avoid against the SM option due to few dirt tire choices.

    I wouldn't change the gearing unless you are planning on ONLY highway travel.

    The Clarke 3.9 is the standard aftermarket tank, but there are several options. The stock is too small for extended travel, so this is a must.

    I've done 400+ miles/day and there are others that have done much more. I have the stock seat w/ sweet cheeks. I think if you stand frequently and limit your mileage you could ride the DRZ around the world.

    DirtBagz soft luggage is a great choice and seem to hold up well. Wolfman luggage also makes quality gear. Hope this helped.

    Here's a link you should check out. http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=483092&highlight=mini+moose

    Steve
    #2
  3. Moose_DK

    Moose_DK Been here awhile

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    - Availability.
    try and contact Alaskan Leather... Really nice people.
    Or other dealers in Anchorage..


    - Highway cruising.
    Other than the seat I really like the DRZ for long distance touring. Its not fast but it will get you there no matter the road. One thing you should know is that if you load the rear up with heavy loads, like I do the bike will get a whobble effect when you hit 65-70 miles an hour. The rear simply starts whobble. But dont worry it will hold. Just make sure to check the two front bolts that hold the rear frame once in a while. They tend to loosen.

    I have tried to stay away from freeway riding as much as possiple.. Its just not fun to be the smallest when the big trucks race by. But if needed the DRZ will do 70 miles/hour for hours and hours and hours. I normally ride 60-65 miles an hour on freeway, on the other hand I can still do 55 on a good gravel road. Top speed fully loaded on my bike is about 85 on the speedo.. But hold on tight!

    You should choose the S model. The SM model has a totally different suspension and will not be as good on bad roads (Gravel and shit)
    the DRZ does finy with fuel.. but I would think about having a little extra gas if you get out in rural areas.. I have a 4 gallon tank and fully loaded the bike does about 250 miles before.............. I shit!!
    Ny record is 275 miles on 4 gallon.

    Dont worry about tires.. the S has very standart sizes and you will easely find tires everywhere. I almost alway run Dunlop 606 tires. But I also try and do as much dirt as possiple.
    But you just going to do paved road I would now´t worry and just whatever cheap tires you can find.. We did Califonia - Alaska - California on 35 dollar tires!

    -Gearing
    I would start out with a standard gearing. what you then could do is to have 2 extra front sprockets. one with an extra tooth and on with one less tooth.

    - Custom Tanks.
    YES... Get a clarke or IMS 4 gallon fuel tank.. http://www.happy-trail.com/Products/IMS-Fuel-TankbrSuzuki-400SSM---KLX400S__115521.aspx

    In general I can recommend Happy-trail for DRZ parts.. They are really nice and can get what you need. Talk to Tim (the owner) or Kurt (parts guy) Tell then Esben from Denmark send you.

    or if you really need a bog gas tank!
    http://www.safaritanks.com.au/home/8-Suzuki/53-Suzuki-DRZ400S-28-litres/flypage.tpl.html

    - Comfort.
    For another long trip on a DRZ I would surely get myself a new seat. Maybe something like this: http://www.sargentcycle.com/XTSEAT.html
    For long highway days the seat just hurts!
    On my Alaska trip I used a small gel pad but its just not enough.

    More comfort: Heated grips and bark busters.

    - Luggage.
    I have tried two things.
    Happy-trail aluminum panniers.. GREAT and protects you stuff.. but heavy.
    http://www.happy-trail.com/Suzuki-DRZ400/Aluminum-Panniers-Teton-DRZ400.aspx
    Wolfman expedition panniers... lightweight and strong... and still waterproof!
    http://www.wolfmanluggage.com/Expedition/expd_dry_saddle_bags.html
    and they work even better with the Wolfman side racks.

    On top you can tie on a stuffsack/dufflebag or even a wolf man expedition dufflebag..
    http://www.happy-trail.com/Wolfman/Expedition-Dry-Duffle-Three-Sizes-Wolfman.aspx

    This is how our setup looks now
    Camillas bike:
    [​IMG]

    My bike:
    [​IMG]
    Pete.[/QUOTE]
    #3
  4. Johnnydarock

    Johnnydarock Been here awhile

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    Hey Pete: Not sure if you thought about the logistics yet. Are you planning on flying into Alaska and riding the bike away? For your budget...you're not getting anything new. Plus it will take you weeks if not months finding the bike and outfitting it and getting it registered in your name.

    I helped my brother-in-law and his girlfriend from Switzerland buy 2 used 2008 KLR 650s, register them in their names and outfit them for a trip to Tierra del Fuego. Logistically...it took me months to put it all together. I got them on the road for about $5500 each.

    If you want help...and are willing to come through Los Angeles...send me an email (john.peluso@verizon.net)

    John
    #4
  5. slabm7

    slabm7 Been here awhile

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    If you are going to be spending that much time on the highway I would look at the KLR 650 or the DR 650. If your going to be on highway and gravel then the KLR is your best choice. I know around here the DR650 is cheaper than the DRZ400S, not sure if alaska is the same. The DRZ400S is a great reliable bike but it can get tiresome after long days on the highway. I sold mine for that exact reason. Unless you are planning on some tight technical stuff or a few mountain passes I would go to a bigger bike. I wanted to do longer trips from home and the DRZ400S feels very clapped out going 70 mph.
    #5
  6. peteFoulkes

    peteFoulkes Been here awhile

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    Hi guys,

    Thanks so much again for the advice. It really is good food for thought. @moose_dk, thanks for taking the time to cover all of my initial questions with such thorough responses.

    So, it looks like it is definitely the 400 s model that we should be considering and not the 400 sm. I understand that the DRZ may not be the most suitable bike for the top end highway speeds but sticking with the advice of Moose and others we have spoken to, we are prepared to suffer with this in order to really enjoy the dirt roads of South and Central America.
    For me, the appearance of the bike and from what I have read about it's ability to handle in the dirt means that I will definitely be choosing this over the KLR650. I am aware that there are many KLR riders out there who are likely to disagree with this decision.

    The Happy Trails fuel tank looks like it could be ideal but I do have a few concerns over it's strength and durability. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? As it stands, this is my tank of choice.

    Out of interest, does anyone know how the DRZ 400 S compares in weight to it's 650 bigger brother?

    The Wolfman luggage looks perfect. Many people have advised I don't go for the hard luggage option as it can be a nasty incident if you trap you leg under any steel options. Given the fact that the Wolfman luggage seems pretty strong and waterproof, i guess the only downside will be security related.

    @Johnnydarock- Thanks for your interest in our trip. Yes, we have often considered just how hard it may be for us to acquire bikes quickly after landing in Alaska and this is a concern of ours. Ideally we could arrive and ride but we fear it could take quite some time to arrange. Thanks for your offer, it would be something i may have considered further if you were perhaps based in Alaska. We are adamant that the trip must begin here.
    On that note, does anybody know of dealers in Anchorage or around that area we could contact in advance?

    Thanks again.

    Pete
    #6
  7. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    Trying to get two worthy DRZ's in Alaska will be problematic as its a very small market. It would be much, much easier to source a couple DRZ's and get them kitted for the trip in the lower 48, either California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington. You will have many more bikes to choose from and being in the lower 48 you can kit them out quickly. Also, once you buy and register the bikes, you will need to wait to get the title, which depending on the state, can take several weeks to acquire. You will also need a US address in the state you purchase the bike for the registration and title. Browse the regional forums and I'm sure a fellow ADV'er will let you use his address for that purpose.

    While waiting on the title, ride north to Alaska, so when you return to the lower 48, the title will be waiting for you. That will also be a great way to get the bugs worked out of the bikes and your kit before you plunge into Latin America where parts, etc are much more difficult to source quickly than in the US.

    The wolfman luggage is great. But I would also take a look at the Giant Loop Great Basin bag as it wont require a rack and holds quite a bit of stuff. I use one on my KTM 990 and really like it. You dont need to carry a lot of crap for an Americas trip.

    Also consider putting on heavier springs on the shock and forks since you are loading up the bike and they are a bit on the soft side, and head shake and wobble is generally due to undersprung suspension.

    I think the DRZ would be a great bike for the trip. It wont have the highway speed, but you dont need to go any faster than 60 mph. I gear mine at 14-47 for trail riding. The standard S model is geared at 15-44 IIRC, which is a bit on the high side. 15-47 or 14-44 would be a good compromise IMO. The S model has a Mikuni CV carb and you can find jetting information for all altitudes, among other must do DRZ mods on thumpertalk.com. You for sure will want to do the primary nut fix among others like the 3 by 3 airbox and jetting mods. You will want to carry an assortment of jets as on the andean dirts roads you will be going from sea level to 5000 meters and back, sometimes in the same day. In Bolivia you will sometimes be over 4000 meters for days at a time.

    FWIW, the KLR actually feels heavier and more cumbersome than a KTM 990, whereas the DRZ is sub 300 lbs, and rides like a proper dirt bike. You can also get a nice comfy Renazco seat to make long days in the saddle more bearable. I think the DRZ is a fine choice for what you want to do.
    #7
  8. peteFoulkes

    peteFoulkes Been here awhile

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    @crashMaster, thanks for your help.

    Sounds like we could have a tricky time getting hold of two DRZ's up in Anchorage. Is anybody up in the area or know of any dealers up that way who may be able to help?

    On a similar note, if we decided to buy bikes outside of Alaska then ride north to start the mission, how do bike prices vary in Canada compared with the main lower part of the states?

    Thanks.
    #8
  9. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    I'm not sure, but in the lower 48 states you can get a nice DRZ for 2000 to 3000 US$

    Check out cycle trader as well as craigslist for the respective city you are interested in.
    #9
  10. Moose_DK

    Moose_DK Been here awhile

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    The gas tanks from happytrail will hold up very good. I dont know how many times I have crashed and all but one time the gas tank have hold up to the punishment.
    But I must admit that the crash was really hard.
    The problem was that I have not mounted the gas tank on the radiators.. (to protect tha radiator)
    so the gas tank was almost broken of and ended up leaking from what I would call its soft point.. the mounting brackets under the seat.

    for the next 7-10.000 miles I have just put JB weld on it once in a while. and but finally I desided to get a new gas tank.


    as for the wolfman expedition luggage.. its is pretty good. My girlfriend has tested its durability MANY (crashes) times! its still water proof..

    I too would consider starting out in Canada or maybe washington.. Im pretty sure that DRZ's are pretty rare in Alaska, and shipping stuff there can be pretty expensive and SLOW..


    I think you should try and write to Lars (a friend of mine) who started out in Alaska last summer and are now in south america.
    http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=704429
    #10
  11. manx_20

    manx_20 Been here awhile

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    Can you guys tell me what is the cost of taking the ferry from Bellingham to Whittier. I looked on the alaska website and i really hope that i'm somehow reading it wrong. the way i'm reading it, it seems to cost $1400 each way for me and my bike :huh. that cant be right can it ?
    #11
  12. Johnnydarock

    Johnnydarock Been here awhile

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    Hey Pete: Looks like you have your heart set on a Suzuki DRZ 400. I think Crashmaster is right....you will have a hard time finding used bikes in Alaska and get them registered and outfitted in a reasonable amount of time. Even though I've only owned BMWs and outfitted my brother-in-law and his girlfriend with KLRs my offer still stands to help you get some DRZ bikes if you come through Los Angeles.

    Keep in mind...those two or three months getting the bikes set up is going to cost you money (and Alaska ain't cheap). It may be a better deal to just buy new bikes from a dealer in Alaska. Just wire them the money and I'm sure they'll help with the rest. Maybe an ADV rider in Alaska will lend you his address for registration purposes and will help get the bikes ready. You can buy all the gear with your credit card and have it sent directly to their house. If the dealer in Alaska won't help...try Seattle.

    Stop by my place in Los Angeles on your way to Baja.

    Johnnydarock
    #12
  13. HighwayChile

    HighwayChile greetings from Wa state

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    stupid money, wow, not sure on their pricing but also look into BC ferry from port hardy to prince rupert, more riding less boat.
    #13
  14. HighwayChile

    HighwayChile greetings from Wa state

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    hi, you might post this in the Alaska and Pacific northwet regional forums. you might find a dealer as well there that can help.
    DRZ400 are very popular in Washington state, also many here work north so might ( with a lot of luck) find someone to bring it north for $.

    make sure to get an S model, the E has higher compression, you dont need that on bad gas. Look into Tubliss systems for the wheels. no flats are a good thing.

    http://www.bikefinds.com/ is a site that cruises other sites though I dont think it covers alaska. craigslist is big in the US for bikes. Canada tends to run more $$ for the same .

    yeah like johnnydarock said, dealers may know of last years models or hold overs, buy new, get a 12 month unlimited mile warranty, for 2 bikes off season ( its snowmobile time in AK) you might get a decent price. you have plenty of time to cruise ebay/advrider for the add ons, all are easy bolt on's. spend 1 -2 days bolting the junk on and go. A member might help being a parts drop, hey you could use me although I'm in WA state. you can post a WTB wanted to buy in Advrider flea market.

    Oh make sure you figure in extra time for Washington and Oregon, we have the best IPA's, Porters and Stouts on earth. Guiness is considered a chick beer here.

    I do like soft panniers in case of a crash, have a top case thats lockable.



    #14
  15. krhidaho

    krhidaho n00b

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    Good advice on the forum. I've been through two KLR's and have settled on the DRZ. Love the bike. I've keep my gearing stock but have a friend that re-geared his and it works well. He went to a 41 in the rear and left the front stock. Going to a 14 in the front returns the bike to stock gearing. You cannot go up on the front because of space. I run Happy Trails racks and panniers and like someone else mentioned they work great with a seal dry bag on the top. Happy Trails now makes a bracket that fits inside their racks that allows one to attach two welding rod tubes (one on each side) for tools plus they have a new tail rack that incorporates a 2/1/2" shelf for additional storage. It's just the right size for a slime air compressor, rear tube and tools. I also added a steering damper for riding in deep sand. What surprised me is how useful it is on the highway. I just turn it up a notch and it eliminates the buffeting you get from vehicles. Won't be without one now. Seat was modified locally and I have done 500 mile days with it. Tires, 606's are great. Also consider the Kenda 270 for the price. I have over 13,000 on mine including the TAT. I've also added Rox 2 1/2" bar risers, a home built windshield and a heaver spring on the rear.

    Good suggestions on buying other than Alaska. Consider contacting Happy Trails. They sell bikes on consignment and may be able to find a coupe of good DRZ's for you. Will try and add some pictures of my bikes set up.
    #15
  16. peteFoulkes

    peteFoulkes Been here awhile

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    Thanks again guys.

    This all seems like very sound advice.
    #16
  17. One Less Harley

    One Less Harley OH.THAT'S GONNA HURT

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    Just a quick reply.... look at my TAT prep for the DRZ below. Everything you need to know!!! Based on 8,000 Mile last year, 5K on the TAT, 2.8K interstate.

    -Hard Bags a no go as the AL subframe will twist a lot if you buy standard racks for the rear, most likely break after lots of miles and the rougher the road the quicker the failure. I reinforce mine and used Wolfman Expedition Bags and racks.

    -15-44 gearing fine unless in really narly stuff. Smooth spot in rev range at 62mph, good for 70 but more vibes.
    - jetting might be a concern over 10,000 feet. Bring extra jets and a carb float bowl gasket or two.
    - steel rear chain ring a must!!!
    -seat concepts seat best for money
    - bring a decent tool kit, again see my link below.
    -Heavy duty tubes 4mil thick
    -you will need a stiffer spring at the rear for sure, DRZ's are set up for light riders.
    -IMS 4 gal tank
    ******CASE GUARDS!!!!!!! not an option but a must!!!!
    Radiator guards too a must.
    #17
  18. peteFoulkes

    peteFoulkes Been here awhile

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    Thanks for this... Your ride report is a superb read. Lots of good info on there for me.

    Thanks again.
    #18
  19. GISdood

    GISdood Been here awhile

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    Just wanted to ring in on a few of the mentioned products.

    I ride a DR650 myself, but my wife has a DRZ-SM. We've added a Clarke 3.9gal gas tank, Wolfman side racks and Expedition bags, and a Seat Concepts replacement seat pad and cover to her DRZ.

    You really can't go wrong with the Wolfman stuff. Its built to take a beating and works extremely well. I originally bought a set of their side racks and Expedition bags for use on my DR. When it came time to add some luggage capacity to my wife's DRZ, I didn't even hesitate to pick up a second set. In addition to their flexibility and durability, I really like the positioning of the Expedition bags - as low as possible and ahead of the rear hub.
    [​IMG]

    The tank has extended the range between fillups to over 300km without even needing to switch to reserve.

    Stock vs Clarke:
    [​IMG]

    Aesthetics may not play much of a role in your decision, but I prefer the way the Clarke tank maintains the factory plastic panels. The IMS tank lobes extend lower and act as shrouds themselves. Effective, but I don't really like the looks of it.

    And what is the point of a larger tank if your ass is so numb that you have to stop every hour just to get the blood flowing again? Our Seat Concepts seats were probably the best bang for the buck that we spent as far as comfort on long days was concerned. Our butts were no longer the lowest common denominator in determining how often we stopped and for how long.
    [​IMG]

    Hope that helps you evaluate some of the gear choices. If you happen to be coming through Prince George BC on your way to or from Alaska, drop me a PM here. As long as we're home, we've always got room for inmates to crash (spare room or plenty of tent space).

    Good luck with the rest of your planning!

    And hi Esben! :wave How's the physiotherapy going?

    EDITED TO ADD:

    I forgot one thing - on our last road trip it was ALL pavement. We did what Moose mentioned earlier and went one tooth larger (16) on the cs sprocket. This really helped lower the revs while putting on highway miles in the long, straight, boring sections.
    #19