The story of the DR650


Since last May when my riding partner, Hal, bought a 2010 Suzuki DR650, I have wanted one of my own. It is one of the most sought-after dual sport bikes for adventure riding because of its wide range of capabilities. I thought it was a pretty little bike, and I wondered how it would be to ride it. Surprisingly, I was able to do that, something I rarely am able to do because of my short stature. I was amazed to find that I could touch the ground with both feet while on his bike. Later in the summer, I rode Hal’s DR for over 60 miles while we were in the White Mountains.

All summer I kept looking on Craig’s List for a DR for me. There were a few good buys out there, but I never seemed to be able to go and see them. I guess I just wasn’t ready to buy one yet. I was going to have to give up my 2006 BMW F650GS, which I was hesitant to do. I had already been through this one time before; I’d sold my 2005 F650GS, and the minute I sold it, I had regretted it. I’d always thought it was such a cool looking bike, plus it had many features that should have made it work out well for me, and then when I got rid of the first one, I felt so disappointed. A year later, I bought my ’06, with 100 miles on it, and I never thought of selling it, even after the catastrophic engine failure of April, 2013. Once that engine failure was fixed, it was like having a new bike again. It was going to be hard to give the bike up, especially since it was the first bike I’d toured on regularly for any long trips, and there were a lot of good memories that went with it.

Finally, in October, I found a DR650 on CL again, and Hal talked to the owner on the phone. However, the owner was only in town certain days, up north in Prescott the other part of the time. It seemed like seeing this DR wasn’t going to work out again.

One Sunday in late September, while at a breakfast in Payson, Hal received a phone call from the guy that owned the DR. He asked if we could meet him at the Cordes Junction exit off I-17. Hal said “yes,” but the only catch was that it wasn’t going to be until 5 o’clock that afternoon that we could meet. So, what to do for four hours? Oh, easy. Ride to Flagstaff!

It turned out to be a great day of riding my GS bike, and I remembered why I love it so much. However, we turned up at the Cordes Lakes exit (re-named, I found out), at 4:15. We went inside the McDonald’s, which was the meet-up point, and had some coffee and junk food. (The coffee was the best part.)

Finally, Bob turned up, right at 5. His DR was a nice bike, with all the extras on it that I wanted. As usual, though, I couldn’t ride it because it was too tall. So, first Hal rode it, and then I rode it – with him, two up. We didn’t ride it too much, we didn’t have to. Hal said that it felt even better than his. I told Bob I would take it, and we agreed on a price. Hal and I rode home feeling satisfied that we’d gotten a good deal. However, the next day I got a text at work from Hal, “Bad news, Bob decided not to sell the bike.” I was mad, especially later when I heard that it was his wife who had persuaded him not to sell it. Bob had been going on a trip, and had wanted to sell the DR to get a DRZ400 to make into his own. “Just be patient,” Hal said, “he will get home from the trip and decide he wants to sell (the DR) after all.”

Hal was right. About a month later, he got a call from Bob. Did I still want the bike? Of course I did! Good thing I hadn’t been tempted by some of the other DRs that had turned up on CL in the meantime. Bob would sell the DR for the same price we’d agree on, but with a few more miles. Bob had put a brand-new rear dual sport tire on it, though, so it all balanced out. This time getting it was going to be easy. Hal and I would pick up the bike in north Phoenix with Hal’s trailer.

The story didn’t end there, of course. I got it home, and then began the process of outfitting and modifying the bike to suit me. It was almost how I wanted it, but there were a few parts that needed to be added, and it had to be worked on to get it low enough so my feet would touch the ground.

I called my dirt bike mechanic, Tom H., and since Hal needed work done to his DR, we put both the DRs on the trailer and delivered them to Tom. I took all the parts that needed to go on the bike with me. Tom asked me a few questions about it, we looked at it together, and he said the bike needed a new front tire, too. We chose the front tire that matched the rear tire, and I hoped for the best. Sometimes I can be fussy about how dual sport tires feel.

I had planned to take the DR on its first “shakedown ride” to someplace easy, like the Florence-Kelvin Hwy., but when the opportunity arose to take it on a long loop ride to Young, I took it. The Young road is an easy one, with about 40 miles of dirt, and the rest of the 200+ miles on pavement. It would be the perfect ride to try everything out. But would the bike be done?

I ordered the tire online, and Tom got the tire on Wednesday, then put it on. The other things were done in various stages over the week. There was still the question hanging in the air whether I’d need a lowering link or not, but Tom didn’t seem to think so. He is the master of suspension, having raced Ducatis for years, and I trusted his judgment. He is magic, he makes the suspension on any bike perfectly suit the rider.

The day of the ride I wanted to go on drew nearer. On Friday, I finally asked Tom if my DR was going to be ready. “On the lift now,” Tom replied to an email I sent him. Then, on that Saturday afternoon came the moment of truth. Would I be able to touch the ground, or would I have to wait, order a link, and ride it next weekend?

Fortunately, I was able to get my feet on the ground, and after I paid Tom for his work, I finally got my first ride on my own DR, all three miles or so. But I already knew it was going to be great for me. I felt a little intimidated at first, a little uncomfortable, but that’s how I know it will be great for me later.

“How did it feel?” asked Hal when I got it home.

“Fine, but it’s hard to pass judgment on a bike in three miles of riding.” The biggest thing I’d noticed was how well-balanced the bike is. I always know that is true when, as I coast to a stop at a light or a stop sign, both my feet touch the ground lightly and simultaneously. That happened with this bike.

I busied myself that evening with trying to pack the bike. Each bike is slightly different in how I carry things. I always have to take rain gear, extra clothes, and my clear visor and clear-lens glasses. Remember, I learned the hard way last January about the consequences of leaving those things at home. On the DR, though, it was easy to fit everything in. There were plenty of places to store things, and everything was secured and stored efficiently, thanks to Bob’s good planning.

I was going to love this bike!

**

Tomorrow: first ride on the DR650

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