This project to turn a 1986 Suzuki DR600 into a competent long distance exploring package is born out of the potent combination of two things:
-A long held desire to 'build a bike'
-A niggling frustration at the vast size, weight and complexity of both modern 'Adventure Bike' packages and older bikes converted to the task of true overland off-road (or at least off metalled roads) exploring.
The desire is easy to explain; who doesn't!? But the frustration might take a little longer. Let's start by looking at three of the most highly regarded 'Adventure Bikes':
BMW's 108hp 1200 GS Adventure:
KTM's 150hp 1190 Adventure:
and Honda's new 95hp Africa Twin:
All three have been compromised by the demands of the market. Very few buyers use these bikes in the ways their looks might make you believe they're designed for.
All three are overpowered, complex, immensely wide when loaded and carry that load very high. Let's think about each fault in turn...
The modern motorcyclist expects vast amounts of torque and power on demand, perfect for fast road use but totally unnecessary off road, especially long distance.
Neither buyers nor manufacturers can really be blamed for this. EFI and ECUs all make a lot of sense with garages and breakdown services never more than a phonecall away but make things rather harder to fix if anything goes wrong far from your local dealer.
Luggage packages for these bikes must fit onto racks, and these racks must fit around panels. And these panels must go over exhausts. And the stock silencers on these exhausts are generally large.
To retain space for a pillion passenger these bikes are forced to move a lot of the luggage far back and high up which compromises handling which would be much improved by a more centralised weight.
Probably the most enlightened of modern manufacturers when it comes to 'proper' adventure bikes is CCM. Yet even their best effort, the GP450 Adventure isn't ideal in some areas.
It's certainly not overpowered with the 40hp it derives from a 400cc single borrowed from Suzuki's water cooled DRZ, a figure I think is probably close to the realistic ideal for off road riding. The GP450 is also very light thanks to its aluminium frame, a benefit which cannot be overstated when it comes to terrain where the bike is guaranteed to be dropped at least a few times.
However it is still compromised in terms of how it carries it's luggage (forced to fit above and around all of pillion, frame, and exhaust) and also by the complexity of its water cooled EFI and ECU controlled engine. The last is only a very minor niggle though.
So what's the solution to all these compromises? A topic for the next post.