Skip to content
HOME » MOTORCYCLE GRAB BAG » More Comfort, Less Money : Upgrading a DR650

More Comfort, Less Money : Upgrading a DR650

Bugs is what I am calling my DR650, because it reminds me of that big “wascally wabbit.” There are many folks that like to name their bikes. Kevin Marshal (who lays claim to being the oldest Suzuki salesman in Canada) gives some good reasons in his book Motorcycles and Mysticism. I don’t always name my bikes (well, not sure swear words count, they are usually just temporary when things go wrong) but it just felt right this time. A few things needed to be addressed before I made a trip into British Columbia. So, what’s up Doc? Well, I had to make Bugs comfy and able to haul some stuff. I added these bits:

Rox risers: To get the DR650 bars in the right place for me. There was just enough slack in the cables; it was close but they went on.

Sargent seat: I almost went with a Corbin and may regret not doing so but the Sargent with its “Atomic Foam” is very comfy. The issue may or may not be durability, they seem well enough made but the Corbin is much heavier and stronger in construction. The Sargent ‘s instructions seem to spend too much ink warning you about things like not setting the seat down unless it’s turned upside down, maybe an issue with complaints? Anyway it feels very good and can easily accept a larger tank, which may come later. 

Protection: On the highway Bugs needs a windbreak of some kind or the sail effect will get tiring in a hurry. (That’s probably why many people will choose the KLR). After deciding it was too late to order one (my budget was blown anyway), I was inspired by a guy on YouTube who making his own fairing with a sheet of plastic and some Velcro. I started looking around the garage for something to try. Hey, this old double bubble sportbike windshield might work if I turn it upside down. Having seen everything from Velcro to duct tape fairing mounts I settled on plastic tie straps. The shield already had the holes. To my surprise it works pretty well: no movement or vibration, no turbulence, not sure a store-bought would work that much better. The wind still catches me at shoulder level but overall it’s a lot less tiring, leaning forward a bit takes the pressure off almost completely. Easy to remove, I just need to remember to bring some ties to remount for the trip home.

Storage: I settled on a Scaggs tail rack. It’s ready to accept Givi mounts or an auxiliary gas container. Nice piece of machining, good design, and lots of bungee spots as well. 

More storage: Got some side racks from These are the light-duty ones meant for throw-over bags. Although plenty strong, they have a two-point mount instead of the heavy-duty version that ties both sides together. They are also capable of being used as mounts for auxiliary gas containers. (Use the side opposite the exhaust!) They seem very well made and as a big bonus these guys are out of BC. They also have a good slogan: “stay dirty.”

Soft bags: For now I will for use the Nelson Riggs Silver Streaks, which I scavenged from my Hayabusa. Not quite the perfect bags for the racks but will work well enough and since I already own them the price was right. 

Foldies: The stock mirrors were just a bit too far inboard for me, besides the folding items I purchased look cool.

Cold comfort: Oxford heated grips take the chill out of the morning. I love these although I am sure there are other good brands. 

Rev counter: I got this idea from my buddy Earl Simpson, whose son Nathan races. In fact, at 15-years old, he is running out of space to display all his trophies. Anyway Earl put an hour meter on Nathan’s RMZ250 mostly to track maintenance time. In the case of his Suzuki, recommended rebuilds should happen at 50 hours. The one he got also showed peak rpms—in this case 14,400. That Suzuki single can rev! I figured a tachometer might come in handy for Bugs as I try some tuning. If he will pull a few more revs going up a certain hill, I know the power is better. Just kind of makes it a little less subjective. Power is sometimes gained in very small bites.

This was the cheapest way to get a rev counter and was ridiculously easy to install. All I needed were a couple of tie straps, which I also backed up with a little Velcro. Just make at least three wraps around a sparkplug wire with the tail and you are in business. 

Once you set it for the correct application (i.e. single-cylinder four-stroke) it reads the voltage going by induction to the sparkplug. It knows if the bike is running—that’s the hour meter part—and how fast the crank is spinning. 

The one I got (eBay) was less than $30, has a continuous tachometer feature, and is powered by a long life lithium battery. I am hoping it lasts a year or two, it doesn’t even have a brand name but it seems to work fine.

Well that’s good for now. The future may see some improvement to power and suspension for the DR650 although there is no hurry; Bugs works pretty well as he sits. So far I am into the farkel for about $1,030. That may be a lot of carrots but now the bike can add traveling to its almost universal appeal. 

by Rich Burgess Canadian Biker Issue #309


Keep independent motorcycle journalism alive! If you found this article interesting or useful, please consider sharing.