Setting up a DRZ 250 for adventure riding
If a list was created that contained all the different types of motorbikes people use for adventure riding, no doubt it would have a large number of unusual entries. A DRZ 250 may not spring to mind as the most ideal choice for an adventure bike, however it has many positive attributes that make it a very capable and valid candidate for an adventure riding bike. If you are looking for a road oriented adventure bike with fists full of explosive power then the DRZ250 won't be for you, but if you are looking for a bike that is reliable, can be ridden hard all day, is lightweight making technical off-road stuff a breeze and generally a very on-road and off-road capable bike, then the DRZ250 will certainly tick all those boxes for you.
DRZ 250 Pros
From new it is a very affordable price, second hand even more so
At a curb (wet) weight of only 131kg it is one of the lightest ADV bike options on the market
Low seat height
A simple air/oil cooled engine, reliable and dependable. No fancy electronics that could potentioally pack-up out in the middle of nowhere
Very low cost bike to maintain. Can be maintained with basic tools
Low price parts readily available world wide
Electric strat plus kick start
Origionally designed for off-road so it performs well
Handles suprisingly well on-road with a good set of of dual purpose tyres
Low fuel consuption
Big bore kit
For those wanting a little more power a 300cc big bore kit is available
DRZ 250 Cons
Although the engine has fairly good power from its revamped TSCC DOHC 250cc engine and 100km/h is possible on the open road, a strong head wind can knock you back a bit. Riding in a group with riders on bigger bikes can leave you struggling to keep up on open road sections if they decide to open up
Open road riding
Alot of people make the comment that it is a very buzzy bike at 100kmph and in comparison to the likes of it's older brother the DR650 (and certainly smooth twin tourers) this is certainly true. Some days I happily clock up a few hundred K's and it doesn't bother me, other days I can feel it, it all comes down to your comfort expectations of a bike
A lack of aftermarket adventure riding accessories (eg panniers). A lot of fabrication is required if you want to deck it out fully
No purpose built large fuel tank available. One can be adapted but there is some fabrication work involved
Hard and uncomfortable. Common with many dual purpose bikes, I use an Airhawk cushion to overcome this
Handle bar height
Very low factory handle bar hight, may require bar raisers if you are tall
Low output stock headlight, ideally requires auxillary lighting for night riding off-road
The gearbox does not handle fully laden adventure riding and can fail prematurely (A gerbox rebild at 17,000km and aonther one at 24,000km was my experience)
Setting up the DRZ 250 for adventure riding
There was certainly a lot of hours involved to get the bike to the final completed stage, this was mainly due to lack of available accessories and having to design and fabricate many parts. Admittedly I got a bit over doing some of the time-consuming sections due to almost everything having to be fabricated, a few weekends went by with perfect weather for riding, fishing and hunting but here I was banging away in the garage working on my bike. However, once the bike was complete I was certainly glad I had put in the time because the end product was a well set up adventure bike that has certainly passed the test.
The finished product, was it worth it?
Being only 250 cc is a disadvantage however it can happily tick along at 100 km per hour (with a sports exhaust, re-jetted carb and an air box mod) but a really strong head wind can still knock you back to fifth gear at 90 km per hour. This is not a huge issue as the bike has so many other good attributes and the head wind issue doesn't happen all that often. The answer the initial question "was it worth it?" would be yes if the bike had longevity. The unfortunate truth is the DRZ250’s gearbox is not robust enough to handle adventure riding fully laden with gear. On this bike, the hardening on the gearbox gears prematurely wore out every 18,000km (on average). In 2 years of riding, including purchase/setup costs that bike cost me over $22,000 from two gearbox rebuilds and one top/bottom end rebuild. It will continue to need a gearbox rebuild every 18,000 km at an average cost of appriximately $2,500 each time. In short, although the bike has a range of great adventure riding attributes the weak link in the chain is the gearbox.
Long-range fuel tank
The DRZ 250 doesn't have a purpose-built long range fuel tank so one had to be modified to fit. The one selected for use was the Aceribis 5.8 gallon tank with full fitting instructions found here: DRZ 250 long range fuel tank
B&B bash plate
A couple of companies produce bash plates for the DRZ 250 but personally I liked the look of the B&B bash plate. A review can be found here: B&B Off-Road Engineering DRZ250 Bashplate Review
Searching the net high and low I couldn't find panniers for the DRZ 250 so these had to be fabricated. For a full article click here for: Alloy DRZ 250 panniers
The Ventura pack rack system used is one that is specifically designed for the DRZ 250. It is solid, stable and fitted up well with the ventura pack rack mounting brackets. Click here for: Ventura pack rack systems
DRZ 250 windshield and head light grill
A windshield is a back and arm saver for extended periods of open road riding, and the head light grille is vital when following other bikes off-road, or arguments with oncoming tree braches! This is a fabricated item with the full details found here: DRZ 250 windshield and head light grill
DRZ 250 Bar raises
The DRZ 250 has a very low handlebar height from factory and forces you to lean over. It's not a very nice position for extended open road riding so I bumped my bars up 35 mm with bar raises which made a huge difference to posture comfort. I used ARTRAX raisers as they were available at my local bike shop but any brand would be fine
Absolutely essential for riding through New Zealand winter rain and snow. The ones installed are not the heated grips as I don't like the fact they increase grip diameter, these ones are internal handlebar heaters with high and low settings. Worth every cent on those cold days!
I didn't really mind the factory yellow but once I put on the long-range fuel tank (only available in the colour white) the bike looked a bit fruit salady with yellow guards, white tank, and a blue seat. A quick phone call to my local Suzuki shop and white plastics were ordered. The only part that couldn't be ordered in white was the head light surround for the K7 model (the one with the larger headlight). A white one can be sourced for the off road version with the small headlight but this light is very inefficient for adventure riding. I took my yellow headlight surround into a local spray painter and had it colour matched to the other white plastics.
Rifle and rod rack
A lot of time effort and research went in to developing this rack and I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out. The panniers were also fabricated to accommodate for this rifle/rod rack so in the case of a spill there is some protection. Full information can be found here: Motorbike rifle rack
Performance exhaust full system
A performance exhaust is a nice easy way to ensure you get a comfortable 100kmph crusing speed. More info can be found here: DRZ 250 performance exhaust system.
AirHawk seat cushion
This thing is simply brilliant. The seat on the DRZ 250 is pretty rough for long trips due to being so firm, but firing on an AirHawk completely removes this issue allowing a DRZ 250 to be ridden for hours on end. Reviews of the AirHawk seat cushions can be found here: Airhawk - Seat Cushions