DRZ400 adventure bike build
A lot of time and effort was put into researching my next adventure bike. The fact I do a lot of solo adventure riding means that weight is a primary issue, being able to pick the bike up by myself is a must, especially if bad luck leads me to having an off when crossing a river or some other equally unpleasant situation. With riding in remote places reliability is an important factor plus a kickstart was an essential item for counteracting a potential flat battery in an area with terrain making it difficult or impossible to crash-start. Because of the multi-day/week trips I do the periods between oil changes and general maintenance etc was also a factor, so, after weighing up a long list of pros and cons on many possible adventure bike candidates, a DRZ400E was selected.
To ensure I didn't get caught out by purchasing a used, abused and neglected bike I visited my local Suzuki shop and bought a brand spanking new DRZ400E. To be fair, a brand-new DRZ400 isn't too much more than some of the tidy second-hand ones advertised so for peace of mind I decided to spend the extra few dollars and go new.
Let the adventure bike modifications begin!
Anyone familiar with the DRZ400 will no doubt agree it is a fairly capable bike on the trails, but as for adventure riding a DRZ400 over long distances with all the required gear, a bit of work is needed. To get the ball rolling I ordered all the parts at the same time and stripped down the bike ready for their arrival and bike reassembly. Due to the number of stuff-ups from suppliers and freighting companies (items that mysteriously vanished into thin air or the wrong ones being sent) it was a painful four month wait before all the compatibility issues were ironed out and the correct items arrived.
DRZ400 stripped and ready for the rebuild
DRZ400 in dayride mode
DRZ400 geared up in adventure ride mode
DRZ400 adventure modifications
There was no mucking around or cutting corners with this adventure bike build, the focus was quality. Below are the main mods to the DRZ400 in more detail...
Custom built DRZ400 adventure screen
There aren't really that many options for aftermarket DRZ400 screens that can accommodate the room for a GPS, gauges, switches etc. After failing to find the perfect solution the decision was made to custom build a unique screen and dash. Here is an article with start to finish build info of the adventure bike screen and dash.
DRZ400 custom built front screen
The electronics in the dash left to right are:
- Garmin 62s GPS
- Trail Tech Tacho/Hour meter
- Trail Tech Temperature – Radiator
- Trail Tech Temperature – Radiator hose lower
- Trail Tech dash lights (High beam / Neutral / Turn)
- Digital Volt meter
- Trail Tech Striker Unit (with temp sender from block)
- Switches X4
- 1 – Heated grips
- 2 – Auxiliary lighting 1
- 3 – Auxiliary lighting 2
- 4 – Kill switch override
- OEM ignition
I've used the stock DRZ400 digital speedo before and found it to be a good unit, but for this build I was looking for a little more functionality. The Trail Tech Striker unit was installed and set up with a block temperature sender to trigger an amber warning light at 70°C and a red warning light at 90°C plus high and low voltage warnings.
DRZ400 custom built dash
Steering stabilizer, triple clamps, bars and barkbusters
The benefits of having a steering stabiliser were too great not to bang one on, and besides, as far as farkels go they look the business! The Scotts SUB DRZ400 stabiliser and triple clamps were selected and I couldn't be happier with the result, the quality of the triple clamp machining is top-notch, the finish is outstanding and the install was smooth and easy. The Scotts SUB DRZ400 stabiliser runs 1 1/8" bars (fat bars), and given the fact the SUB triple clamps are 1 inch higher than standard bars a set of Rental 790 bend fat bars were selected giving a really comfortable seating position on the lower profile Corbin seat. Finally a set of Cyra CRM handguards were installed to complete the steering setup. As to be expected the steering and handling is simply beautiful, the bike is a real pleasure to ride on all terrain.
One thing to note regarding the CRM handguards when being installed on the DRZ400, two 25 mm spacers are required (featured in the above image) so the handguards clear the front brake master cylinder. This is not a biggie, especially if you or someone you know has a lathe to whip a couple up.
The stabilizer, triple clamps, bars and CRM handguards were purchased directly from Scotts and the service was absolutely brilliant. Start to finish Jake Hulsebus from Scotts was brilliant to deal with, extremely helpful.
Scotts steering stabilizer, tripple clamps, Renthal bars and CRM handguards
DRZ400 long range tank and radiator guards
Big tanks are great, they make planning trips so much easier and allows for rides that are simply not possible with a standard tank. There are a good number of long range tank options for the DRZ400 but I ended up going with the 28 litre Safari Tank. The side impact protection of the radiators is a bonus but this still doesn't combat large rocks, branches etc coming square on and damaging the radiator core so for this a set of DRZ400 Force radiator guards were installed. One thing to keep in mind here is that installing both of these together makes the removal and reinstallation of the tank an absolute prick of a job due to the Force rear bracket hardware that mounts in behind the radiator. With my build, I simply left out the rear bracket. This bracket adds great strength to side impact when running a standard tank and radiator shrouds but because the Safari tank already does this these brackets were left off making tank removal/reinstallation easy again. The front section of the Force radiator guards still bolt up securely and supply great protection against flying rocks, branches etc.
DRZ400 Force rad guards
The Corbin seat was selected due to its wide profile and potential comfort increase, however, if I were to address the seat again I would not go with a Corbin. Unfortunately I was majorly mucked around when purchasing, I ordered and paid for the seat, I then enquired 4 weeks later to check on progress and was told that up to 6 weeks was normal, no problems that's fine. 1 & 1/2 months later I see an email in my inbox, naturally I thought this would be confirmation the seat is done and on its way... alas, not even close! The email said “the fabric you selected is not in stock, it will take a further month to arrive in our warehouse, you could change the fabric selected to speed up the process”. Are you kidding me, 1 & 1/2 months on and you tell me this?!? I changed my fabric selection and was told that my order would be expedited and would be completed within a week. This didn't happen. 2 months and 2 weeks later the seat finally turns up. Immediately the first thing I noticed is how heavy Corbin seats are due to their solid base, without actually weighing it, it feels at least 2 maybe 3 times heavier than a standard seat, this is extra weight right up top which is exactly where you don't want it. Guys I ride with have had their factory seats professionally modified to be wider and recovered in a nice fabric, they look just as good if not better, the stitching is tidier, weigh less than half the weight, cost one third of the price, are completed in under a week and they are more comfortable than the Corbin. I know what I will be doing for my next build, lesson learnt, move on...
DRZ400 FMF Q-4 PowerBomb full system
The factory DRZ400 exhaust was replaced with a FMF Q-4 PowerBomb full system. The sound is more subdued and a lot nicer than the factory pipe. It was a straightforward install and it is a nice looking unit.
The FMF system was purchased from ProCycle
I have drowned bikes more times than I would like to admit, but hey, it happens to the best of us right? The only problem here is if you are solely electric start and you don't get the bike restarted before the battery goes flat (or it goes flat for any other reason) you can end up in a prick of a position. Having a kickstart for solo adventure riding is on my must-have list. The DRZ400E doesn't have a kickstart from factory but both an aftermarket and OEM one is available. The install takes around an hour start to finish and can be done without specialised tools, for the low price and straightforward install it is easy to see why this is a popular addition to many DRZ400 bikes out there.
The kickstart was purchased from ProCycle
The DRZ400 kickstart sitting tidily in the tank cavity with plenty of clearance from the FMF exhaust
B&B DRZ400 engine protection - bashplate, caseguards and casesaver
B&B products are fantastic, they are constructed solidly, last forever and have great customer service. On previous bikes their bashplates have stood up to me smashing and bashing over thousands of rocks that would undoubtedly have led to smashed engine cases without them. Aside from offering more protection for the DRZ400 the bashplate, caseguards and casesaver look good. I also installed their DRZ400 speedo eliminator as it is a nice tidy option to address the front wheel spacer when moving to an aftermarket speedo.
All of these were purchased direct from B&B Engineering
Rekluse DRZ400 EXP Clutch
Used for adventure riding the Rekluse clutch is great. The three places where I really enjoy using this clutch are crossing slippery or boulder studded rivers, navigating riverbeds or similar boulder fields and climbing steep loose rocky sections. The added traction and the fact the wheel won't light up like a standard clutch is amazing. Of course there are pros and cons with such an extensive change in clutch functionality, one of those is wearing through clutch friction plates a lot quicker due to a combination of the additional weight of adventure riding and often times less RPM when casually ticking through new places on undulated terrain and the focus is on looking at the surrounding country rather than riding hard and keeping the EXP clutch fully engaged. To me the pros far outweigh the cons and although they are not the cheapest to buy and will add to the bike's running costs, in my opinion they are worth every penny. Installation of the Rekluse clutch on the DRZ400 takes about 30 minutes.
The New Zealand/Australian agents for the Rekluse Clutch is Suttos in Australia, good service from a nice bunch of guys and girls (even if they do talk funny!)
DRZ400 Rekluse EXP Clutch
DRZ400 suspension lowering
With being mildly vertically challenged and the DRZ400 not being the lowest of seat heights, the bike was dropped with a 1 inch Moose Racing lowering link in the rear and the forks equally lowered in the Scotts triple clamps up front. The Scotts SUB triple clamps were selected as they can accommodate for up to 1.75 inches of lowering. The rear lowering link alters the architecture of the rear suspension with the result being a slightly more plush action. Not really the ideal direction for setting up a bike to aggressively tackle whoops, but for adventure riding the result is a more comfortable ride and still plenty of effective and usable suspension
The lowering link was purchased from ProCycle
Rear top rack based on the DRZ400 Pro-Moto Billet Rack
The DRZ400 Pro-Moto Billet Rack support arms are such good quality I chose to use these arms for the custom-built large top rack also. Now it is a simple case of removing/installing four bolts to the support arms to attach either the original Pro-Moto Billet top rack, or the large custom-built top rack. It is a convenient set up that allows me to quickly change racks to suit a day ride or a multi-day adventure ride.
The top rack itself is quite light weight made of only 12mm mild steel tube. Because the spread of the Pro-Moto Billet Rack support arm bolt points are quite wide it distributes most of the weight straight into the support arms and can handle loads well beyond my requirements. A major focus when designing the rack was to have large rounded edges with the aim to minimise rider damage in the case of a big off.
The Pro-moto billet rack was purchased from ProCycle the rest of the racks are custom built.
The DRZ400 Pro-Moto Billet Rack support arms with the large custom-built top rack bolted on
DRZ400 Pro-Moto Billet Rack selection note
This was one of the products ordered that was a stuff up on my part. Misinterpreting ambiguous model selection details on the website lead me to order what I thought was the correct rack for a DRZ400E. The confusion comes from the DRZ400E road registered version having a different subframe to the DRZ400E off-road version which is different again to the DRZ400S and DRZ400SM subframe. The road registered DRZ400E has a simplified S/SM extended subframe that is void of pillion passenger peg lugs and extended mounting points used in many S/SM mounting applications. To remedy this I simply modified and welded the mounting point extensions that come with the DRZ400E off-road version rack and we were good to go. Ordering the DRZ400S or DRZ400SM will avoid this hassle, oh for the joys of hindsight!
Modifying the spacer by checking out a section accommodating for the subframe square tubing
The spacer welded in place
Wolfman pannier racks and modular toolkit racks
After previously running aluminium pannier boxes I thought for interests sake I'd give soft luggage a whirl. After a lot of research into something suitable for the DRZ400 I chose to go with Wolfman. Because Wolfman have a specific way of affixing their bags to the racks I purchased their racks rather than making my own.
On the rear of each Wolfman rack I fabricated removable toolkit racks specifically designed to suit the Wolfman small rollies. To keep weight low, previously I would carry my tools right at the bottom of my panniers. This meant whenever you needed to perform any maintenance or repairs your panniers had to be emptied to reach the tools and then repacked again, this soon becomes a real pain if you have two use your tools a few times in one day. With this setup it is simply a case of undoing the top rollie buckle and you are straight into your tools, absolutely brilliant! Because of the weight of the tools I incorporated a small hoop at the base for better support. Due to the room on the inside of the racks I fixed bottle holders to carry my MSR cooker, fire extinguisher and an extra bottle of water. Both toolkit racks are setup to be bolted to the Wolfman pannier racks with a support bar in behind the number plate. They can be removed and reinstalled in a matter of minutes.
The main pannier racks are Wolfman purchased direct from Wolfman the tool kit racks were custom built.
The modular toolkit racks with bottle holders fitted to the inside
The Wolfman racks only fit the DRZ400S and DRZ400SM subframes as they use the pillion passenger peg lugs for the lower mounting points. To remedy this obstacle two lugs were welded to the DRZ400E subframe and Wolfman racks bolt straight on. This image shows the new right hand side lug mated with the existing exhaust lug
Right hand side Wolfman rack installed
Left hand side lug
Keep in mind you can just switch the suframe to an S or SM model subframe to avoid the welding and hassle. Ebay is the best place to pick up a second-hand subframe, the go for a varying price with the best I've seen for around $200.
Wolfman soft luggage
As we all know there are pros and cons with both hard and soft luggage, admittedly I do miss the security of being able to securely lock up my aluminium boxes, but as far as soft luggage goes the Wolfman gear is simply brilliant, great quality, well thought-out functionality and a really good price.
The Wolfman Expedition Tank Bag is such a convenient item for adventure riding. After mounting it for the first time I was dubious whether or not I would actually use it due to the fact it makes for a tight seated position but after riding with it I simply don't notice it and find it is great to have all the items too large for my jacket pockets such as spare batteries, rain gloves, anti fog spray etc right at my fingertips without getting off the bike, its brilliant!
All the Wolfman luggage was purchased direct from Wolfman, a super friendly buch of guys!
Fitted with all the Wolfman luggage ready to set off
In this image you can see my two fly rods slid under and attached to the underside of the top rack with large hose clamps
Mitas tyres front and rear
After trying numerous tyres the Mitas E09’s are still my favourite. With New Zealand forcing you to travel many K’s on tarmac in between off-road sections tyres that don't wear well are chewed out in no time flat. The E09’s however allow me to get high K’s even when given a thrashing and perform brilliantly in the rough/muddy/rocky terrain. The quality casings are another bonus.
All the Mitas tyres I run are purchased from DAS, the owner Linton is a great guy and has all the time in the world for his customers.
Mitas E09 Dakar front and E09 rear
Final DRZ400 mods
Above are the main modifications to set up for adventure riding, the list below are the other minor mods that were done: Everything in the below list apart from the No-Toil and motor oil was purchased from ProCycle.
- HID light kit (H4)
- High output lighting stator
- Fuel filter
- DRZ400 slim number plate kit
- Mini indicators
- Magnetic drain plug
- Oil Filter Magnet
- Moose Triple Layer Air Filter
- No-Toil air filter oil
- MOTOREX semisynthetic oil
A photo from the debut 1 month adventure ride of New Zealand. The bike is great fun to ride and very capable in all terrain situations, very happy with the finished result
DRZ400 adventure build update
After a decision to move back to hard luggage here are two articles on: