Sunday, May 27, 2012

DR650

BMW R1200GS
Having decided that I would buy a motorcycle for all the reasons listed previously in Part 1, I began a many month long project to purchase myself a bike and prepare myself to ride it. Buying a motorcycle of course requires deciding on exactly what I wanted. The BMW R1200GS that I admire so much is also very much out of the question as a motorcycle for a beginner and as something I could even remotely afford. Knowing this I first started by looking at the other offerings in BMW's adventure line up. The only one that could be had for my money and wouldn't be too much of a handful for a beginner would have been the G650GS. While these could be bought second hand a reasonable prices, I still felt that they were a bit too spendy for myself. In truth I wanted to avoid taking out a loan and would rather buy the bike with cash I had on hand, saved up over the winter.

With adventure bikes out of the price range I turned my eyes to the determined mules of the adventure world, the dual sports. Most average folks would glance at these motorcycles and immediately label them as dirt bikes, or motocross bikes. While this isn't correct, its not too far off. Dual sports are a natural development of the MX type of motorcycles into a larger, more road ride-able product. Their engines are usually larger and possess 4 stroke instead of 2 stroke motors. They are also a bit more comfortable to operate on the road with different suspension and all the required by law amenities (turn signals, headlights, brake lights, license plate, etc.). The price range on these bikes used was just right, and I would feel too bad if/when I managed to drop it. Plenty of adventurers have used these types of motorcycles to cross the world, so I wasn't too worried about their abilities. They all have their pros and cons though, so I would have to choose the one that I felt most comfortable living with.

I first began the journey down the dual-sport path after seeing a Suzuki DR-Z400 at the local dealer one day. It immediately intrigued me because it was quite off-road capable, but still able to operate on the street. I began looking at dual-sports on line and it didn't take me long to discover the DR650. Like an older brother to the DR-Z the DR650 trades some off road ability for a better ride on the pavement, and a better motor. Its powered by a 650cc single cylinder 4 stroke engine, that produces about 37 HP. Not a 100 HP BMW bike, but enough to get around, and plenty to learn on. I looked at many other bikes, including the Kawasaki KLR650, and the Honda XR650L, but I always came back to the DR650. The DR had an air cooled cylinder combined with an oil cooler, and the engine is carbureted. This makes the bike crazy simple to maintain, which is great for the wallet and peace of mind when you're 100 miles from anywhere.

Okay, decision made. Now I need to figure out if I could even ride a motorcycle before I dropped any sort of coin on one. Have I not mentioned yet that up until this point I'd never actually ridden a motorcycle in my whole life? Yeah. Thankfully there exists the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. I can't recommend this class enough. In two days I went from never having ridden a motorcycle to getting a perfect score on my riding test. If you're going to learn to ride, or want to get back into riding, MSF is the way to go.

With my newly endorsed license in hand I hit the listings hard trying to find a deal on a DR650. While it is a popular bike in the Northwest, finding one nearby was another matter. I finally settled on one outside of Yakima, and after a day trip down with my buddy Jake, we came back to Spokane with the prize nestled in the bed of my truck. For my troubles, and my money, I had gained myself a 2009 Suzuki DR650 with 1,200 miles on it, and most of its original parts. The oil had never been changed, and the chain was rusted up, but this only helped me get a better price.

With the DR home I immediately got to work on it. First a new chain and an oil and filter change. Some replacement hardware in the mail to fix some bits that were replaced...poorly. Tail light conversion and a new license plate bracket and LED license plate light. Then it came to additions. New hand guards to replace the stock floppy plastics, new tires to replace the completely worn down stock ones, and a new Sargent seat to replace the stocker that killed me after just 30 minutes of riding. There's plenty more to go, but for the most part I think the bike is ready for the equipment it will need to start adventure riding on. This will include a tail rack and side racks, plus their relevant cases, bags, and panniers. Its all quite an investment but well worth it in the end.

The DR650 with the mods mentioned.

 I ride the bike as much as I can on a daily basis. Mostly to and from work, as it's great on gas mileage (47 mpg). I'm becoming more and more confident while riding it, and I definitely feel at ease on it. Today I drove the truck for the first time in maybe five days to get groceries and I was surprised by how different I felt in it. The freedom of the motorcycle is such a mythical thing to those who don't ride, but I'm beginning to see what it really is. The prospect of taking a great journey is getting closer and closer, and my excitement grows in kind. Adventure awaits.