Lucy, my 2011 Suzuki DR650, has already been thoroughly abused during its three years on the road traveling the Americas. This year, however, I’d decided to throw a new challenge at it: two cross-country roadbook navigation rallies, a 7-day and a 4-day event in Greece and Bosnia. When it comes to Suzuki DR650 reliability, old loyal Lucy survived both Hellas Rally Raid and Bosnia Rally with minimal damage and breakdowns, and it’s still good to carry me across Europe and on to the next RTW leg – plus, of course, more rallies.
Cross-country rallies are, in essence, an intensely condensed version of ADV/trails riding. You cover double or triple the distance you normally would on a regular TAT or BDR day, tackle technical sections, crash, get stuck in mud, maintain your top speed best you can, and if you don’t have a team of rally mechanics to help you out in the bivouac, it’s up to you to keep your bike in shape. Total special stage distance for Hellas was 1,600 kilometers in seven days, Bosnia covered almost 1,200 kilometers in four days; during both events, I had no support and had to be creative when it came to repairs and maintenance.
Luckily, a DR650, even in tough conditions, does not require much. After Hellas, the damage included two broken spokes, broken turn signals, broken luggage rack (which I should have taken off for the race but didn’t until Day 4), tired rear wheel bearing, bent brake pedal, and a crushed left mirror. Having done the repairs in Albania after the rally, I then rode to Bosnia and entered Bosnia Rally after which, Lucy required fixing a mangled gear shift lever, a new clutch cable, an oil change, new chain and sprockets, and a new front sprocket seal. I’m no mechanic but I figure this is all pretty rad having in mind that before the rallies, Lucy had last seen a good service once-over in Lima, then was packed into a container ship for 5 weeks and covered some 5,000 kilometers from Poland to Greece.
Here’s what boosted my Suzuki DR650 reliability the most:
Wheels, levers, bearings
Lucy’s got Warp9 wheels, footpegs, and levers which were clearly built to last and withstand some serious beating. After Hellas, Kevin from Warp9 kindly sent me a new rear wheel bearing and brake pedal (even though the old ones, I’m pretty sure, would have lasted a tad longer). I’ve also got some spare spokes just in case, but apart from that, all Warp9 parts are still going strong.
Cogent Dynamics makes a miracle shock, period: my Cogent shock has lasted over 40,000 or so kilometers of traveling across North and South America plus endured two rallies… and is still fully functional. I’ve been told I should do a rebuild soon, however, but shipping parts to the Balkans is a little tricky, so I hope the shock will last until I get back within the EU borders and can order a rebuild kit. Until then, the shock still needs to endure some off-road trails (unloaded bike) and some 2,000 kilometers on tarmac (loaded bike in travel mode), and I have a feeling it will.
For the longest time, I’ve been a huge fan of MotoZ Tractionator tires; however, finding them in the Balkans wasn’t an easy task, so for Hellas Rally Raid, I opted for a Golden Tyre front and Mitas E-07 rear. The rear tire lasted the whole rally plus additional 1,000 km on the pavement from Karpenissi, Greece to Sarajevo, Bosnia. Here, I switched for a Pirelli Rally rear tire and used it during the Bosnia Rally and to get back to Sarajevo. It’s still looking more or less decent for about a thousand kilometers or so. The Golden Tire front endured Hellas, some 1,200 of road riding, and Bosnia Rally and still looks good now. For the next leg of the RTW and more rallies, I’m curious about the MotoZ RallZ tires. I know I’m asking a lot from a tire – pavement, off road, loaded vs unloaded bike, “normal” travel mode vs rally mode all in one go, but perhaps RallZ will be the answer?
Not exactly essential for rallies, but crucial for traveling, my Seat Concepts aftermarket seat is just pure heaven. It’s wider at the back allowing for comfy travels when doing those long haul days on the pavement, but narrow enough at the tank so you can comfortably stand up for hours during a rally or just off-road riding.
So what’s next for Lucy? In the short run, I’ve been told I should do a valve adjustment soon and have a look-see at my front fork seals (last I checked, they looked just fine with no leaks or damage), which I hope I can do once back in the EU. In the long run? I’m fantasizing about a Stefan Hessler rally build for next year, but since it’ll require some serious budget, whether I can pull it off or not remains to be seen.
Either way, I’m stuck with my DR650 for the foreseeable future – and loving it. Sure, the KTM’s and the Huskies are all sorts of awesome, but when it comes to a solid pack pony that can do everything and refuse to break down, my vote will always go to the good ole DR.
Featured image: Actiongraphers