Dan’s DR-Z400SM

Dan’s bike is based on the supermoto version of the DRZ for a couple of reasons – higher spec suspension, stronger, lighter handlebars and  bigger brakes as standard.  This particular bike was an ebay bargain picked up in Summer 2009 whilst only 11 months old and with just 106 miles on the clock, looking like this:

Dan's DRZ as bought - 106 miles from new

The first change to be made was replacing the standard rear light and numberplate mount with a DRC Edge unit – mainly cosmetic but replacing incandescent bulbs with reliable LEDs always feels good.  What followed was more functional – a huge 28 litre Safari tank replacing the stock steel tank – quite an increase in capacity as you can see from the picture…

Then came the second hand Corbin seat, proper bash plate (Guard-It from Adventure Spec) a Scottoiler strapped to the right hand fork leg and a Scorpion exhaust system and James Dean jet kit.  Rather unusually for a modern bike – and perhaps betraying the ancient heritage of the DRZ – this actually makes a noticeable difference to the performance of the bike.

DRZ luggage rack constructionMany cold, dark, late-night hours in the man cave transformed £8 worth of steel tube into a home made luggage rack based on the original Suzuki parcel-carrier and added both some structural reinforcement to the aluminium rear subframe and support for panniers at the side.  Once it had been welded up it was blasted and powder coated silver for a further £12 – probably the best bargain of the entire prep phase.

A secondhand set of dirt wheels and a longer sidestand from a DR-Z400S rendered the bike ready for rougher roads, though the larger discs from the SM model were retained to provide more reassuring braking when laden.



At the front, twin headlamps from a Buell Lightning fitted with a 35 W HID in the dip beam side provide massively improved lighting, and an MRA highway screen provides shelter from the breeze.  A home-made fibreglass front cowl based on the top part of the original Suzuki headlamp cowl mounts to fabricated brackets with quick release fasteners and hides the disorganised mass of electrical gubbins between the two.

An Acewell 1100 was added to the dash to provide a rev counter and battery voltage monitoring (a paranoia gained during the Cape Town trip) along with oil temperature monitoring functionality.  As the stock DRZ battery can be a little marginal, a common mod is to fit a larger unit.  Dan was lucky enough to find a tatty but serviceable set of kick-start parts taken from an early DR-Z400K for sale, and fitted the required gearbox parts and lever – and the bike started first kick.  The battery was left stock.  Ed is poised to point and laugh the first time Dan struggles to kick over a DRZ with a dead battery half way up a Mongolian goat track.

A final mod borrowed from our Africa bikes is the über-horn – a Stebel Nautilus Compact air horn.  These were easy to house near the prow of an Africa Twin, but a little more tricky on the baby DRZ.  These may seem like overkill, but when you’re hidden in the dust trail of a slow moving truck there is no better way of telling the driver that you’re overtaking.  If you happen to sound like a freight train, so much the better.  The compressor unit was separated from the horns and the two parts were mounted on either side of the front cowl, with flexible hose linking between the two.  Based on experience in Africa of one ailing and one failing horn, a small filter intended for a crankcase breather has been added to the compressor inlet to cut down on dust ingestion.  Will it help? Only time and travel will tell…

Back to The BikesEd’s WR

23 Responses to Dan’s DR-Z400SM

  1. Andy says:

    Is ur standard tank for sale?

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  3. Mike says:

    Hi Dan,
    I’ve seen a post on HU about the DRZ and I was wondering what your overall experience was with this bike. I want to go to Japan and back and I am looking for the “perfect” bike – which I will never find – and I am going mad!
    This post (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/which-bike/how-suzuki-dr400-around-world-58966) says all sort of things about the DRZ, including a change of oil every 1500 miles or so. Was your ride reasonably uncomfortable? Are the vibrations so unbearable? Is it right that you can only do 55 on the motorway? Any help will be a great gift!

    • dan says:

      Hi Mike,
      I can reassure you that there is no such thing as the perfect bike, but thankfully until someone builds the bike that is all things to all overlanders there are a few perfectly acceptable ones we can be making do with. There are all sorts of tin-foil-hat wearing conspiracy theorists out there telling anyone who’ll listen to them that a DRZ’s oil must be changed every 15 miles or 20 minutes whichever comes first but there are also hundreds of thousands of contented owners subjecting their bikes to moderate use (like overlanding) adhering to Suzuki’s 3k mile intervals with good quality oil and suffering no failures. My ride was smooth (with either the OE late-model SM Renthal FatBars or the higher Renthal Twinwalls I fitted), and I found my bike with tatty secondhand Corbin seat pretty comfortable. All things are relative: trailbikes will always be more vibey than goldwings and I’ve done a fair few miles on a touring bicycle fitted with a Brooks saddle – so I’m a fan of the “firm and supportive” ethos of seat construction, not the soft-and-squidgy crowd pleaser. You can do 80 on the autobahn if you want, but it doesn’t feel very pleasant and feels like you’re working the bike hard, which you are (maybe even enough to justify a shorter oil change interval…). Cruising at 70 on the motorway is perfectly possible, but cruising at 60 on A-roads is even further within the performance envelope and hence more fun and less stressful to both dinky-trail-bike and rider.

      In short, no, the DRZ isn’t perfect, but then again it is cheap, simple, reasonably tough yet light enough to be pretty capable, widely available and has a wide choice of aftermarket adventure bits available for it.
      Exactly what else is it you need? :)

      Hope this helps, and all the best for your trip – should be a belter.
      Cheers chap,

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  5. Fern says:

    Hi Dan

    You swapped the SM wheels, I’ve been looking for non-SM wheels on ebay with no luck, and trawling thumpertalk for advice. Do you know what wheels are compatible?



    • dan says:

      Hi Fern,

      All the DRZs have the same hubs – so the wheels from any of the off-road versions will fit properly and connect with the speedo-drive on the front spindle. You do then need the speedo-drive from one of the off-road versions to make the speedo read correctly with the larger front wheel. With a bit of patience some dirt wheels will come up – usually plenty for sale in the summer when people in the UK are less focussed on riding their dirt bikes and more on their road bikes… I missed out on a few ebay auctions before I got my set at a price I liked.

      As for other bikes with the same wheels, I think some of the RMs have similar wheels but without the speedo drive capability. The rear wheel I think is also DRZ specific, though I could be wrong. You could opt for (new) aftermarket wheels (like Talon etc) but for overlanding that doesn’t make a lot of sense – they’re a bit pretty when new and they won’t be by the time you get back!

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    • dan says:

      The bike did pretty well, my take is as follows:
      Small bikes make better overlanders than big bikes. Less weight opens more doors in terms of where you can and cannot go (for a given level of riding ability). No one can get a bigger, heavier bike up the hardest trail they can get a small bike up. In terms of the DRZ in particular…

    • The DRZ is available pretty cheap as it’s been around a long time
    • I didn’t suffer with the same level of vibration as Ed did on the WR – and that’s not just my Renthal Twinwalls, as my pegs were no problem either
    • With a decent seat and a big tank, big miles are no problem – my longest day on the DRZ? 965 miles from Stockholm to Cologne on the way home
    • Upgrade or commonly used replacement parts are cheap and easy to find as it’s such a well known and well-used bike
    • Against:

    • Not as reliable as the more modern Yamaha
    • Not as economical as the Yamaha
    • Carbs are rubbish at altitude, and less reliable than fuel injection everywhere!
    • I still like my DRZ and, if no one brings out a more modern, light-weight, fuel injected 400-ish cc trail bike before I do another trip, it may get another outing…