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 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.
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 low
- 2 – Heated grips high
- 3 – Auxiliary lighting
- 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 80°C and a red warning light at 100°C plus high and low voltage warnings.
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.
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.
Safari tank brace mod
Because the supplied tank brace is prone to bending, I fabricated a more heavy duty one.
Fuel Tank Protectors
In a perfect world where no one crashes these wouldn’t be needed, but in reality we all have ugly moments and the bike can be unorthodoxly ditched. To save the tank from gouges, custom tank protectors were built and installed.
KTM EXE front guard
There is no doubt the KTM EXE front guard has a nice look about it, much to the disapproval of some KTM owners, I modified a mounting bracket and on went a nice shiny black one.
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. Boooooo! 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. I also had to modify both side plastics to make it fit. 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 power improvements of the Q4 on a dyno certainly aren’t anything to write home about but the main benefit and reason for installing this system was to get rid of the horrid droning sounding factory exhaust . 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 kit was purchased from ProCycle
Moose Triple Layer Air Filter
There are no know faults with the OEM air filter but knowing the importance of giving the engine the cleanest breath of air possible I upgraded to a Moose Triple Layer Air Filter.
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.
All of these were purchased direct from B&B Engineering
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 and side racks
The DRZ400 has a number of options for tops racks and side racks but I custom built my own to securely handle pannier boxes and also cater for my two fly rod tubes.
I initially set this bike up with soft luggage but I soon decided I was not a fan and decided to switch back to hard panniers. I custom built my own fiberglass boxes of which have performed fantastically regarding both functionality and durability.
Rear plate holder - tail tidy
The stock plate holder is gigantic and hideous, any option is better than OEM. I installed the ProCycle tail tidy with mini indicators.
Oxford mini indicators
Oxford mini arrow indicators were fitted to the front to match the rear. These run halogen 12v bulbs, not LED.
Aftermarket DRZ400 rims / cush drive wheel set and tyres
There are not too many cush drive options for the DRZ400, RAD MFG produce a nice set so it was a full wheel set consisting of black RAD MFG hubs front and rear, RAD MFG spoke nipples and black Excel Signature rims.
Tyres: I am a Mitas man through and through. I enjoy trying new tyres of all brands (and often do) but I simply have not found a tyre to outdo the mixture of performance + longevity from Mitas. Fitted here is the Mitas C02 rear and the C17 front
Zeta Pivot levers
To get a nice two finger clutch and brake lever position the standard levers simply had to go so on went a set of Zeta Pivot Levers. They are easy to adjust to the right position, they have a very comfortable feel and nice to ride with. Zeta produce these pivot levers that fit into the factory DRZ400 perches.
Heated grips changes riding through cold/snowy New Zealand conditions from a bitterly cold experience to a non-issue; put simply they are a must for being able to enjoy winter riding. I used a set of internal ceramic bar heaters I am familiar with so I could retain my choice of grips.
AirHawk seat cushion
Both the OEM seat and Corbin seat are as comfy as a plank of wood, this thing is a butt saver and allows me to ride 10+ hour days no probs.
Wolfman Large Expedition Tank Bag
Wolfman Large Expedition Tank Bag. By looking at mounted on the bike you’d think there would not be enough cockpit room but surprisingly it does not really get in the way even when pushing weight forward for fast/tight off road cornering. It straps down and sits very securely in place, it is quick and easy to get in and out of; this bag is the business! It holds all the little items I reach for regularly (batteries, gloves, tyre gauge, notes/coins, etc) allowing be to stay on the bike and minimise stoppage time.
Purchased from Wolfman (Dusty) directly: Large Expedition Tank Bag
Rear luggage setup
There are a number of options for luggage but I have found a solution that suits me perfectly. Hard panniers, soft rear bag, 2 X drysacks strapped to the top of the panniers plus a large tank bag. The two hard panniers have set items that go in them, this makes for both easy location of gear plus also that they are continually full so gear does not rattle around in the panniers and self-destruct.
The rear top bag is a custom made bag with an extra heavy duty zipper that both lasts a long time plus can be padlocked. This is like my glove box, it holds a few items all the time but I allow enough spare room to throw whatever in it just in case I need to take extra food, come across something interesting to buy etc
The two large drysacks are made by Sea to Summit. These are great, hours on end ploughing into torrential rain and items inside stay nice and dry. Quick to get on and quick to get off.
4 X bottle holders on the back of the panniers allows me top carry things I’d rather not carry next to clothes, food etc such as my MSR cooker, spare cooker fuel, spare oil etc.
So that’s pretty much the list of all the mods done, it is now setup to be a very capable adventure bike and has proven to be a great bike for the job. Another article will soon follow with a full review of the bike with the above upgrades…