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Which bike?

The DRZ

The New Travel Bike on its first test drive from Houston to Colorado

On advrider, everyone is always which bike is the best to take for some trip.  Yeah, it is a valid question, but to me it doesn’t matter much and people spend way too much time thinking or planning and not enough time taking the trip.  That being said, I spent weeks mulling over which bike to take :).

The Oil Man DG

Dave in Southern Argentina on the BMW F650 GS

Of course I could take my trusty BMW F650GS that I rode to Argentina.  That bike did me well.  It has about 35,000 miles on it and I traveled through some pretty rough terrain for 17,000 of those miles through central/south America and the only problem I had with the bike was the starter button.  Just the botton.  Not the motor or anything.  Just the starter button.  Oh, well, I also blew a fork seal, but that was because I was running away from banditos who had 3 guns on me in Guatemala.

One lesson I learned on that last trip is that my F650GS was WAY TOO HEAVY.  I rode for several days offroad in Bolivia that convinced me that I needed a lighter bike.  The major trade off that people make when taking a smaller bike is that usually your max speed is reduced as well as is your carrying capacity.  No biggy.  I drive slowly in general and try to stay off the highways.  I pack super light.. so for me, the obvious choice was to take a smaller bike.

Why the Suzuki DRZ-400S?

I don’t remember exactly how I converged on choosing this bike as I never met anyone who had one.  I think it was just the first small bike that I saw online that could mount hard luggage onto it.

The DRZ is light at less than 300 lbs (135kg), has excellent ground clearance 11.8 inches (300mm), and has been around and proved to be a reliable machine.  Right.  I know what you’re thinking, it is a dirt bike!! Are you dumb?  No one runs a dirt bike more than a few thousand miles!  Yeah, well, I may be dumb, but according to the few others who have high milage DRZs, it seems like it’ll hold up well.  The other fact I came upon is that the same Suzuki motor is used in offboard marine motors for years.

Unfortunately, aftermarket accessories aren’t as good the DRZ as for any BMW motorcycle, but it looks like there are starting to become more and more good vendors out there as “Adventure Touring” people realize that if you want to actually enjoy riding offroad that you shouldn’t do it on a HUGE twin.

Specs?  Yeah, I’ve got em.

DRZ400S DR-Z400S K6 '06DR-Z 400 S 2006
Overall Length: 2,310 mm (90.9 in)
Overall Width: 875 mm (34.4 in)
Overall Height: 1,245 mm (49.0 in)
Seat Height: 935 mm (36.8 in)
Ground Clearance: 300 mm (11.8 in)
Wheelbase: 1,485 mm (58.4 in)
Dry Weight: 133 kg (293 lbs)
Engine type: Water-cooled 398 cc DOHC 1-cylinder, 4 valves. 48 hp (35 kW)/ 9,000 rpm, 41 Nm/ 7,500 rpm.

That’s what my motorcycle looked like originally.  My first real test of the DRZ was when I rode it from Houston to Colorado for the SALARR.  She did great!  Not only was I comfortable riding for 3 days in a row on the superslab of the highway, but was able to take my bags off the bike and ride some of the most challenging 4×4 passes in Colorado.  I want a bike that suites the most challenging and interesting parts of my trip the best– the offroad.  I’m making a pretty significant sacrifice for highway driving, but I think it’ll be worth it.  Afterall, my friend Cecilia said it best, “The nicest people live on gravel roads”.

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