When a project gets out of hand: Building two DR650 RTW bikes

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by micko01, Jul 4, 2014.

  1. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    RTW, currently Argentina
    Ok, so there are a few inmates who know I’ve been busting my arse over ther last couple months on two DR650 builds for a RTW trip starting this month in South Africa, and they have been quietly suggesting I should do a thread. So here it is; my build thread to show how I (and a few very notable others) turned 2 relatively standard DR650SE’s into these:

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    Its safe to say this project suffered a fair degree of scope creep. It seems that everything that was on the "nice to have" list ended up on the "to do" list. Here is a list of mods completed:
    • KTM Rally Fairing
    • KTM 990 Adventure low fender
    • Reinforced frame
    • Custom light tower
    • Acura TL bi-xenon projectors
    • Custom Dash and electrics
    • RMZ450 Showa USD fork
    • Cogent Dynamics Mojave Shock
    • Reinforced Swingarm
    • Excel 18” rear wheel
    • Custom Luggage rack
    • 10l Secondary Fuel tank which is the Left Hand Pannier Frame
    • 6l Lockable toolbox which is the Right Hand Pannier Frame
    • Bashplate with 3l water tank
    • DG muffler with extra baffle
    • TM40 pumper carb
    • Delta wired stator
    • MOSFET regulator/rectifier
    • Battery isolator and some other security devices
    • Plus other stuff…..

    Over the upcoming posts I’ll go into a fair bit more detail on the ins and outs of the build in an effort to add back to the knowledge base here on ADVRider.

    Cheers, Mick
    #1
  2. xaman

    xaman Been here awhile

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    Very nice! Thanks for taking the time to share this, looking forward to it :clap
    #2
  3. johnno950

    johnno950 Long timer

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    Terrific stuff,the dr is a great bike.I am not a well travelled rider etc but a friend of mine rode from vadavostok (spell check) to london on a dr 650 with 2 other dr riders,nearly 30k for each bike and had basically zero issues for the combined total of 90k for the drs! from what he told me only dramas was a hold up waiting for tyres somewhere in central asia.Look forward to your future posts etc on your trip.
    #3
  4. bobfab

    bobfab Long timer

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    well they look like great builds i look forward to the play by play!!

    :lurk
    #4
  5. JagLite

    JagLite Long timer

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    Excellent! :clap
    Safari tank?
    I am looking forward to details of the pannier "frame" tanks and the many other custom features of your bikes.
    #5
  6. Night Falcon

    Night Falcon TRIUMPH TIGER 800XC

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    cool another build thread, best looking DR's I've seen for good long while. Who said ya cant make a silk purse out of a sow's ear! :thumb

    How are the screens working out for wind noise and buffeting?
    #6
  7. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

    Joined:
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    yeah the fairings are excellent. Very little buffeting, and lots of protection. Wind over the top of the fairing hits the very top of my helmet and both shoulders.

    #7
  8. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

    Joined:
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    So to start off I should say that a lot of what I’ve done is not particularly original, in fact you will probably recognize a lot of the stuff I’ve done as stuff you’ve seen before. I’ve used a lot of build reports and other threads here on ADVRider as inspiration and a great source of ideas. A few notable sources information – in no particular order:

    Bergdonk
    DRJoe
    Snowy
    Colebatch
    Greg@RME
    Ron Seida
    Procycle
    KTMatt

    I’ve also got to say a massive MASSIVE thankyou to my father for he put in what turned into weeks and weeks of work to get the bikes going. He also ensured the electrical system was far more user friendly than anything I would have come up with.

    Also big shout out to Treborbig who was a good source of aluminium knowledge, as well as aluminium! This being my first foray into aluminium fabrication, Rob put me on the right path from the start. Cheers mate.

    So, why DR650’s? Easy answer is because we already had them. The humble DR is far and away the most popular adv mule here in oz for a few notable reasons; they are capable, reliable, and simple. They just work, and work, and work, and when they stop working, they are easy to fix. So when we decided to turn our dream of doing a RTW trip into a reality, is was easy to just start with what we had and turn them into what we wanted.

    That said, there were a couple of times through the build when I was hitting roadblock after roadblock that I wished I’d just sold them and gone and bought some KTM690’s or BMW XChallenge’s. But where is the fun in that? And those bikes have a number of known design flaws that need aftermarket work just as the DR has, so I would have ended up doing a fair bit of work either way, and been more dosh out of pocket. So, DRx2 it was.

    Regarding the basic concept of the builds – they had to be strong, so the frame needed to be reinforced around some of the known failure points. I wanted more fuel range than a standard safari tank could give me (this was more for Australia then RTW, we did plan on doing the Anne Beadell Hwy, Canning Stock Route and a few other routes that need large quantities of fuel), but didn’t want to carry jerry cans, so needed another fuel tank. I wanted emergency water storage, so needed a water tank. I wanted to get as much weight out of the panniers as possible and towards the centre of gravity of the bike, so toolbox. The bikes needed good wind protection, and proper lighting. And proper suspension. So that was the design brief. Not too much to ask for?

    I’ve got nearly 700 photos of the build (and still missed things!) which I’m sorting at the moment. Here is a bit of a taste of what is to come:

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    #8
  9. Bli55

    Bli55 -

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    That's some mad metalwork skills! :eek1 :clap
    Subscribed....
    #9
  10. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    RTW, currently Argentina
    So, the DR frame is pretty tough, but it was never really meant to be used as a loaded up adventure bike and it needs a bit of beef added.

    I reinforced the subframes a couple of years ago when we bought the bikes and set them up for some big adventures. The subframe from the seat mount back was reinforced with two pieces of 25mm flat welded on end, one piece vertical on the inside edge of the subframe tube, and a second piece triangulated down to the outside edge of the subframe tube. A piece of flat was also added to the last cross member to stiffen up the back of the bike to torsional loads.

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    All the mounting tabs were all gusseted also.

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    When pulling the bikes down this time I checked the bikes very closely for cracks and found two small cracks in my frame – an ’07 with about 27000kms on it. While that’s not a lot of kms, all the kms I’ve put on it (about 12000kms) have been mostly tough roads and tracks, lots and lots of corrugations, and always loaded for camping. Tanya’s frame, an ’04 with about 16000kms was fine.

    One crack was on the left hand side where my previous reinforcement ended.

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    And the second was where the main down tube meets the top tube on the left hand side. You might have to zoom in a bit to see it

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    The left hand pivot was fine, however its obvious the chain side of the DR frame is a little underdone for strength out of the factory and should be checked probably with every service for cracks if you are doing lots of loaded and/or rough/corrugated riding.

    So, I started on reinforcing the left hand pivot point. First effort was a piece of 25x25x1.6 shs with one side cut out and fitted to the front of the down tube.

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    I liked the concept but wanted more tie-in with the engine mount towards the top. Mark 2 was a piece of 25x50x1.6 rhs with the end cut out. This one turned out much better. Towards the bottom, there is a cut way in the inside edge and the rhs is bent in to mirror the factory downtube.

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    In preparation for welding, I cut a piece of 25x25 shs to the right length to substitute the swingarm and used the shims to get it nice and tight. Notice the bottom engine mount bolt is removed – more on this later.

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    Next, I cleaned off the factory paint ready for the TIG. I didn’t do this so well on the first frame I welded up and ended up with a bit of porosity which I had to grind out and reweld, which was frustrating. So I made sure I did a much better job of preparing the second one. I’ve got a bit of experience with MMA and MIG welding, but this was my first project using the TIG so was learning as I went.

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    So, started off with a gusset made from 50x25x1.6 rhs between the main downtube and subframe downtube. Everything was carefully ground to fit the frame.

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    And welded in.

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    Next, the main pivot gusset was tacked in

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    I then welded up everything I could get at with the motor still in.

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    Here is a piece of 20x20x1.6 shs with the inside edge cut out and fitted beteen the pillion peg mount and the main downtube.

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    And welded inside

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    Remember that comment on taking the lower engine mount bolt out? Well, on the first frame I reinforced I didn’t take that bottom engine mount bolt out, and when I went to pull the engine out and finish welding up the inside of the gussets, I realized this bolt comes out on the left hand side of the bike and was now captive! Bugger.

    So I cut it.

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    And then chamfered it.

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    And welded it back together.

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    It got cleaned up after this and went back in the bike. Should do the job.

    Right, that’s probably enough for now this post is getting enormous. Will follow up with some more tomorrow.
    #10
  11. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Oddometer:
    552
    Location:
    RTW, currently Argentina
    Frame Reinforcing Continued……

    I gusseted in the seat mount bolts.

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    And on the inside aswell. The reason for this was at the time I was considering using this as a mounting point for pannier frames or other things – drill a hole through and put a bolt through and you could get a lot of weight off the back of the subframe. I didn’t end up doing this.

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    Next was to stiffen up the top tubes in front of my previous reinforcement. I carried forward the same principal of standing so flat up vertically on the inside of the top tubes…..

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    And then triangulating it with another price of flat laid over from the outside edge of the top tube.

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    Quick paint with cold gal and finished…. Well sort of. Note I filled in the recess around the left hand pivot point with weld to try and tie this in with the frame better.

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    Profile of the pivot reinforcement.

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    My frame had the top chain roller ripped out by the previous owner. I sealed it up with aluminium backed tape and did a lot of kays like that – about 12000, but figured I should fix properly.

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    My welding was a bit rougher in the first frame…..

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    I stiffened up the right hand pivot point as well – I haven’t known of any failures on the this side but figured I should do it while the bike was apart. So the pivot was gusseted with some 2mm flat which allows room for the rear brake line to run as normal. Also added some 20x20x1.6 shs on the underside of the tube between the pillion peg mount and the pivot to mirror the left hand side.

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    I think JamminJay’s frame cracked up here at some stage from memory. This is 50x20x1.6 rhs which allows enough space for the top shock bolt to come out.

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    And the other side, this is 2mm flat to allow room for the external chamber of the shock to fit in if I ever fit one again – I fitted a Mojave which doesn’t have the external chamber but figured I should leave myself the ability to fit one again if needed.

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    More photos…

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    I filled in sides of the factory bashplate mounts so they are less susceptible to crushing.

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    And finally, this was after the bike got put back together I read about BergDonk’s frame failure propagating from the battery mount bolt holes. I decided to TIG around the threads properly and then lay some steel down the outside to the give it some more tensional strength through here.

    Standard – just a tack holding the battery mount threads in place.

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    I ran the TIG around and tied this all into the top tube, then laid some 19mm pipe which I cut in half and opened up slightly down the side.

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    Final product

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    So hopefully that should do it for reinforcing the frame. Because I was doing two bikes, as I went I cut two of everything so when it came to do the second bike, I had all the bits of steel ready to go. I weighed them before installing and it was about 800g worth.

    Next – headlight tower.
    #11
    arbr0972 and TwoWheelExplorer like this.
  12. JagLite

    JagLite Long timer

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    Excellent!
    Thanks for the great pictures of your frame reinforcements.
    Well thought out brace designs instead of just throwing a bunch of heavy steel at it.
    #12
  13. BergDonk

    BergDonk Old Enough to Know Better

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    Good stuff :thumb
    #13
  14. kezzajohnson

    kezzajohnson kezza

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    Location:
    Cairns - Queensland Australia
    :clap Very well done. I look forward to further instalments.

    Really appreciate the effort you have gone into to provide insight into the frame strengthening. It's inevitable that at some stage I am going to need to do the same and will be pretty well duplicating what you have done.

    Cheers
    #14
  15. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
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    RTW, currently Argentina
    cheers fellas for the great feedback :freaky
    #15
  16. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
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    552
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    RTW, currently Argentina
    So next was headlights. The standard DR headlight…… is…… well……. bloody hopeless. Absolutely, truely, pathetic. And as much as we all like to say “we wont ride at night”, something always comes up and we always end up riding at night at some stage or another. Tan and I have ridden at night nearly every time we’ve gone out on a multi day adventure ride – something comes up, something goes wrong and you end up in the dark.

    So I wanted some decent lights. I really liked what Colebatch did to his XChallenge with twin bi-xenon’s and a KTM rally fairing, so I figured, how hard can it be?

    Well, the answer to that question is – rather fucking hard actually. But it has been worth it – our present lighting on our two DR's is better than just about everything on the road. And the wind protection from the fairing is a good as a road bike. I’ll go into the details on the fairing and the headlights in future posts – this one is about mounting the projectors.

    So I started off by cutting off the steering stop, steering lock, and welding up the pop-rivet holes for mounting the compliance plate.

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    Next was to make the headlight tower mount. I used some 25x25x1.6 shs with the ends capped. I made the mount as long as I could to get the top and bottom mounting points of the headlight tower as far apart as possible and give the mount as much strength as possible. Here it is resting on the head tube.

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    Next, I drilled some 16mm holes and welded in some 16mm OD pipe to stop the shs crushing when the bolts go through. This will be the male side of the mount.

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    Next was the female side of the mount. I got some 30x30x2 angle and welded on a third side to make a U-section. This was made by g-clamping it all together around some 25x25 shs to make sure the fit between the male and female side of the mount is as tight as possible – I wanted a good interference fit.

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    Next was to weld the male side of the mount to the head stem. I g-clamped on some bits of steel down the side of the spine of the frame to ensure the mount was central on the headstem.

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    And once centered, it was welded in place.

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    And then fully welded from top to bottom.

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    Here you can see the female side of the mount fitted over the male side.

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    Next was to sort out the headlights. The headlights I chose were Acura TL (Honda Accord) bi-xenon projectors sourced from The Retrofit Source. I chose these as they have a reputation as being the best OEM projector available for retrofitting. The major issue with them is size; they are really bloody big. The major issue is the dipper solenoid. When choosing, I wanted the best light I could and foolishly thought that because the mount was going to be custom, I could just adjust the mount to fit whatever sized projectors I ended up with.

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    Well, it didn’t really turn out that simply. The copy of the KTM rally fairing I sourced had some major problems. Firstly, the distance vertically between the two headlight holes was closer than the dipper solenoids of the projectors would allow. Secondly, the two headlight holes weren’t in alignment…. This pissed me off, it was just really poorly built. The top headlight hole was basically in the centre of the fairing, but the bottom headlight hole was about 6mm to the left (looking at the fairing, to the right looking from the bike over the fairing). But I bought them off the Internet for not much so there was not much I could do about it, but adjust the headlight mount as best as possible to suit the misaligned headlight holes.

    Here you can see the dipper solenoid of the top projector resting on the housing of the bottom projector. I needed to get these as close as possible if they were ever going to fit in the fairing.

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    I needed to cut away part of the bottom projector housing here for the top project dipper solenoid to fit.

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    This is the start of much cutting and shutting.

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    I then cut some lightweight angle and bolted the two projectors together. They are offset with a piece of 6mm aluminium so the bottom projector sits about 7mm and a bit in front of the top headlight. I had a play of where the headlights needed to sit out front of the bike.

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    Next, I needed to make some mounts for the projectors. The standard headlight is mounted on 4 rubber grommets, and I figured the projectors needed the same treatment. So I cut 3 sides out of some 25x25x1.6 shs and capped one side for the projector side of the mount, and some 50x25x2.5 (from memory?) angle to make the frame side of the rubber mount. The projector side of the mount would be slotted to adjust the inclination of the projectors. Here are the 8 mounts made for the 2 bikes.

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    And this is what they look like on the projector

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    Now I needed a frame to mount the projectors in. I did consider miter cutting some pipe and make a rectangular frame out of 16mm pipe. I then had a look at the radius of my little pipe bender and it was about perfect, so I bent two 180^ bends and welded them together into an oval.

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    And sat the lights in the frame, the bottom mounts out the front of the frame and the top mounts out the back.

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    The mounted result was like this.

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    Ok, I might cut this post off here and finish it off tomorrow.

    Cheers, Mick
    #16
  17. Bli55

    Bli55 -

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    510
    Location:
    Russia, N56 E49.
    Apologies for hijacking...
    Are we going to see some comparison output shots? :ear
    And weights?
    #17
  18. clintnz

    clintnz Trans-Global Chook Chaser

    Joined:
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    Really nice work on that frame reinforcement! So often people just add chunks of metal without any effort to follow good engineering practice.

    Having recently made a considerably simpler custom headlight/dash/screen setup for the 640 I can quite appreciate the work involved in getting those bi-xenons mounted up nicely. :D

    Looking forward to seeing some more detail of the rest of the bikes :wink:

    Cheers
    Clint
    #18
  19. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Oddometer:
    552
    Location:
    RTW, currently Argentina
    I do have some photos of the headlights when we were aiming them, but don't have any before shots unfortunately. I might be able to organise a side by side comparison with a standard DR though.....

    I can assure you though they are excellent. I set them up with the retrofit source's 55W ballasts which are good for about 4000 lumens each, and they are shining through one of the best projectors available. Imagine a Honda car with up-spec'ed lighting.

    Weight wise, the tower ended up at 1.4kg, which is heavier than what other people have achieved. From memory I think the ally tower made by Erik for Colebtach was 800g in comparison. But I wanted something strong and importantly, field serviceable. If ally cracks, which ally does, you need an AC welder and the right grade filler. But with mild steel, all I need is to get my hands on a welder of any sort, and I can fix it. I'm hoping its much more Africa friendly this way; steel is a material far more resilient to vibration and cracking than ally, generally speaking. I'll pay a 600g penalty for this assurance.

    The projectors themselves weighed about 1.8kgs with all mounts, ballasts and globes. So total 3.2kg mounted on the tower, compared to about 1.2kg for the standard light mounted - so 2kg extra. But considering the standard headlight emits about as many lumens as a cigarette lighter reflected off a half cleaned soup can, it's worth it.

    #19
  20. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
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    Location:
    RTW, currently Argentina
    Thanks clint. Yep, heaps of work. It was about when I had the first lot of projectors mounted, and had started on the fairing and dash mount, I'd look over to the second bare frame which need all the same work done and wondered whether I really had bitten off more than I could chew.....
    #20