Saga of the DR650 and 2017 in quick review

Been nearly a year since I posted here on the blog.  Not sure why…I think life just gets in the way sometimes and the with all the rides and things, I get so far behind in updating the blog that I just say the heck with it and don’t bother with it at all.  I’ll try doing things a little different this year.

So, 2017 for a quick review:

  • Bought a DR650, a more off-road oriented motorcycle
  • Rode to the Pacific Northwest on the Alaska-ridden DL650, which was a trip of 6,991 miles with the serpentine route I rode (guess I could do a ride report on that later)
  • Came back and decided with almost 70K on the bike, to sell it and upgrade to the generation 2 DL650
  • Sold the beloved DL650 to a guy that wanted a bike to ride mostly to work within the city and occasionally take out of town
  • Put about 3,100 miles on the DR650 and sold it (reasons below)
  • Purchased a 2012 DL650, the generation two bike with the newer body style, which I managed to put about 3,500 miles on it the rest of 2017
  • Got in probably eight separate overnight and multi-day camping trips with some friends and the motorcycles

The DR650 I purchased earlier in the year was obtained because I always wanted to ride one and check out its abilities but didn’t know anybody locally that had one.  Also, my number one bucket list ride desire is to ride to Ushuaia in South America.  This ride has a lot more dirt, gravel, and mud riding than what I typically do here in the states.  I’ve already gotten my wife’s agreement to do this four-month long ride if I can figure out a way to pay for it and still cover needed expenses back home; so it made sense to get a DR and see if it was a potential motorcycle to use if I did ever manage to go ride that far south.

As I mentioned in last year’s posting, I bought it from a woman that had ridden it all over North America and has taken great care of it.  While I had it, it did have a cam chain adjuster gasket start to weep that was taken care of and a few other normal other maintenance needs.  I rode it numerous times to southern Indiana, where more accessible curves and hills against that contained a lot more harder dual-track roads.

Taking the DR650 through stream crossings and into places I wouldn’t feel comfortable with my more touring-oriented DL650, I found I really enjoyed it.  Riding on gravel and dirt was a lot more fun and it showed me that this model bike would be perfect to take down to Central or South America if the chance presented itself later.  Throw some semi-rigid side bags on it to carry gear, it performed just fine.What I didn’t like about it is the old-style fuel system, a carburetor, since I don’t like working on motorcycles.  Also, this isn’t the best bike for interstate speeds; in fact, it is a pain to ride at over 60 MPH or so.  It’s a very “buzzy” type of bike to ride long distances at fast speeds.  It would be good for the slower speeds south of the US border, but it would suck on the interstate for days getting out of the country.

All-in-all, I think the Suzuki DR650 is a good bike overall and a great choice to ride down south.  Besides the interstate system in the US, doing long stretches of the Pan-American Highway in Peru, or the notoriously windy Route 40 in Argentina, it’s going to a bike that would be a blast to ride to Ushuaia.

I gave a lot of consideration to keeping the DR650, but for the typical riding that I do not, it would have spent a lot of time in the garage.  While I did ride it a number of times to get better acquainted with it, I realized it would not get ridden as much later overall.  So, to free up space, I sold it to a guy that wanted a good running bike to play with on his farm.  If Ushuaia ever looks like it really can happen, I’ll pick up another good used DR, do some modifications to it, and head out down the road with it.

Hopefully, this post gets me fired up again to get this blog going once more.  I think it will.  Lots of plans for 2018 riding and motorcycle-related posts, so plenty of opportunities to provide content.  For now, the focus is to think about warm springtime temperatures again and hoping this winter passes by quickly!

I swear…it followed me home…

There’s been a new addition to the family just a week ago:

Suzuki DR650…2008…33K miles on the odometer.  Doesn’t look like much…but previous owner farkled it really good. I’ll put up a post down the road on what all comes on her.  Prior owner was an older lady who took very good care of this bike.  Like me, it also has been to Alaska…and parts of Canada…and a tour of Nova Scotia…among other places.


Goodbye Mistress.

Sad day today for me, yet jubilant day for another.  After nearly seven years, almost forty thousand miles, many dozens of charity rides, and literally tens of thousands of curves, the Mistress has left the garage for the last time.  Backing her down the driveway and putting the ol’ girl on the sidewalk to bask in the sun one more time was a little tough.

Fueled up and ready to go...

It’s a machine made of cold steel, plastics, wires, fiberglass, and leather.  Building attachments to such an inanimate object sounds stupid…but the memories the Mistress provided for all these years will never be forgotten.  I vividly remember the anticipation as I stood at the dealership to pick her up…the virgin machine waiting for the owner to mount it and ride her into the wind.  The dark blue pearl beauty only got prettier as many thousands of dollars of chrome and aftermarket accessories found their way to adorn her majestic being…and bringing about many, many compliments and words of envy from many strangers during those fuel-ups or rest stops we occasionally found ourselves at together.

The look of concern on my mother’s face was unforgettable when she first saw it due to the size of the beast…but she never said a word about it and simply always wished me a “be careful” whenever I went out on it.  My mom lived here for the last several years of her life as she fought one illness after another, and we had lots of good conversations when I’d reminiscence about the latest journey the Mistress and I had taken together.

The many miles for charitable causes.  Helping raise funds for the local animal shelter, domestic violence victims, the various cancer and multiple sclerosis causes, and helping children and families in need.  Can never forget escorting the 9/11 World Trade Center beams to their new home or running presents to the so many deserving children at the local children’s hospital.

The Blue Ridge Parkway was tackled multiple times, as were world famous roads like The Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway.  She’s towed camping gear down south and taught me the world of going into the woods to find a campsite.  We did the 25th anniversary of Rolling Thunder in Washington DC together with some of our riding acquaintances and with two million other people who took some time out of their lives to pay homage to those that served…and those that never came home.  Her old POW/MIA plate now hangs on my Vstorm, lest we forget that freedom comes with a heavy price.

We were together in 100 plus degree heat…and in the freezing cold.  There were days that the thunderstorms were so bad I could barely see past the front tire…for hours….many miles from home.  Some of the world’s largest potholes were surmounted by the Harley yet she never allowed me to lose my grip of her.  Even in those times that bad gas went through her veins, she still always managed to get me through that next desired mile.

In all those years, she never left me stranded.  Sure, we had some rough times…but she always limped me to the nearest dealer when she had to get me somewhere safe.  The Mistress always safely got me back home…even when other bikes might not have.  In my eagerness to push riding limits, the bike always found a way to make that next curve at impossible angles and speed and bounce back up to be leaned into the next one immediately afterwards.

So yes…a sad day today for me.  But a very happy day for a young gentleman named Colin, who worked all day long watching the clock on the wall barely moving, to reach the time in which he could could come over to the end of my driveway and walk over to touch his new machine.  My sorrow was quickly replaced with happiness knowing that the Mistress would once again bring immeasurable amounts of joy to somebody that would appreciate her.

Ride safe, Colin.  If you find only half the joy that I did with the Mistress, you’ll drop a tear when she leaves your driveway for the last time as well.

Been on many camping adventures...


...and sat next to many a sign for a picture.

187 days

One holiday down (Thanksgiving), one holiday (Christmas) to go in 2014.  It’s been a rather mediocre year, seeing motorcycle rides to Utah, Colorado, and Virginia.  None of those journeys were without problems though.  I am hoping that 2015 brings about a journey that touches my soul and provides opportunities for many new discoveries.

All of the work on Vstrom is now finished.  The new front and rear suspension are dialed in and the Suzuki is being ridden when opportunities present their self.  I really can’t think of any thing that it needs before heading out on a great adventure, other than a final checkup before leaving next summer.

Weather has been cold and wet so I’m trying to prevent getting a case of pneumonia and the bike is connected to its battery tender in the garage for now.  I am hoping to get it out and ride to work a few times this winter once the precipitation disappears.  I don’t mind the cold, wet, or windy…but I do not take the bike out of the garage intentionally when all three exist.

187 days to go until departure for Alaska!

Hey buddy, can you hand me that wrench?

Today the temperature got to around 55 degrees; a far cry from the temps in the teens that we have had much of the week.  This morning it sure felt like the garage was below freezing in temps, so the electric space heater got a workout for hours trying to warm the environment up so that I would be able to enjoy some time in one of my home’s man-caves, the garage.  Took over three hours to get temps comfortable enough that a hoody sweatshirt was the right clothing to wear.

Pulled all the tools off the Ultra, which is destined to be on the trading block sometime next year.  Looking at my records, it got ridden under 300 miles in 2014, it’s worse year ever.  After all the expensive work done on it last winter, it seems a shame that it just is not getting ridden.  Somebody will end up with a very nice Harley who will love riding it the way I once did.  Probably even more so now, since the entire suspension has been custom modified to make it ride even more like a Cadillac.

So the tools were pulled and laid on the floor along with the sporadic tools that had found their way into spaces on the Vstrom.  After an hour of messing around with everything, eliminating unnecessary duplicates, and ensuring that I had the correct tools to fix somewhere around 57% of the problems I could encounter while out on two wheels, I settled on the following:

Item Product Qty
Bike Tools
Locking adjustable wrench Stanley 10″ MaxiGrip #85-610 1
Vise grips – needle nose Pittsburgh 10″ 1
Needlenose pliers Ideal #35-1071 1
12mm front axle hex tool 1
24mm axle nut wrench OEM 1
22mm axle nut wrench OEM 1
8mm combination wrench Craftsman #42912 1
10mm combination wrench Craftsman #42914 1
12mm combination wrench Craftsman #42916 1
14mm combination wrench Craftsman #42918 1
17mm combination wrench Craftsman #42929 1
8&10mm ratcheting wrench Craftsman #21932 1
3/8″ regular size ratchet Craftsman #44811 1
3/8″ stubby ratchet Performa 1
3/8″ 6-inch extension Craftsman #44261 1
JIS stubby screwdriver Hozan D-69 1
Ratchet screwdriver Craftsman 47144 WF 7 1
Portable driver bits Craftsman 25-piece 1
Hex key set – metric Craftsman #46698 1
10mm socket Craftsman #43542 1
11mm socket Craftsman #43543 1
12mm socket Craftsman #43544 1
13mm socket Craftsman #43545 1
14mm socket Craftsman #43546 1
15mm socket Craftsman #43547 1
16mm socket Craftsman #43570 1
17mm socket Craftsman #43548 1
18mm socket Craftsman #43579 1
11mm deep well socket Craftsman #50668 1
4mm hex head socket Craftsman #42674 1
5mm hex head socket Craftsman #42675 1
6mm hex head socket Craftsman #42676 1
7mm hex head socket Craftsman #42677 1
8mm hex head socket Craftsman #42678 1
10mm hex head socket Craftsman #42679 1
7/32″ hex head socket Craftsman #46662 1
5/8″ spark plug socket Windzone CR-V 1
3/8″ to 1/4″ adapter socket Craftsman #4256 1
Threadlocker Blue Medium strength 1
Baling wire Coil 10′
Electrical wire 14 gauge 10′
Flashlight (3) AAA batteries 2
Digital multimeter Mastech MS8216 DMM 1
Mini fuses 5A, 10A, 15A, 20A, 25A, 30A 5 each
Air compressor MotoPumps Mini Inflator 1
Tire plug kit Dynaplug Ultralite 1
Tire plug kit Nealey MINI tire repair kit 1
M/C jumper cables Emgo 84-96306 1
Fuel canister Rotopax 1.75 gallon 1
Trash bags kitchen sized 4
Ziplock bags quart sized 6
Duct tape Duck brand 1
Tie-wraps 4″, 8″, 14″ (quantity each size) 20
Multitool Leatherman Wave 1
Steel reinforced epoxy putty J-B Weld 8627-S SteelStik 1
Steel reinforced epoxy putty Blue Magic 16002TRI QuikSteel 1
Extra tools storage Speeco canister S24087600 1

The above list looks humongous and almost as if I need to carry a large Snap-On rolling toolbox on the back of the bike.  In actuality, most of the tools fit easily under the Vstrom seat in a spacious compartment between the battery and the rear light assembly as well as in a hidden container strapped to the underside of the actual seat itself.    The mini air compressor, jumper cables, zip ties, and the emergency tape all fit at the bottom of the left pannier without taking much room.

Back when I kept upgrading my camping gear a few years ago, I would buy something cheap, use it, and realize I wanted something lighter or smaller.  So, I’d buy the next model better, and sell the lightly used item for way below what I paid for it on a certain auction site we all know.  After a while, I learned what everybody else does….just buy the best of what you are looking for…once.  Buy once, cry once.  So, all of the tools I have acquired are the best of the best….they are light, work great, and take up much less room than other offerings.  Yes, some of it is expensive and there are other offerings out there.  But I want to make sure my stuff works when I need it.  For example, a tire air compressor that cost $20 at WalMart is not such a great deal when it overheats one minute into the use of it and it internally melts like many do.  Paying the $80 for the MotoPumps was hard to swallow…but I know it will work if I’m on the side of the road hundreds of miles away from help and need air for the tires.

The Speeco canister is strapped to the left side pannier rack, and holds one of the tire repair kits, some microfiber towels, one of the epoxy putty sticks (two brands are carried as each work better in certain circumstances over the other), and a few miscellaneous.
Canister is seen in orange circle at back of bike between pannier rack and tire

I have gone through my Vstrom service manual to look at bolt sizes of the majority of the issues I can think may occur.  The sockets and wrenches cover all of these areas on the bike.  In addition, I have made sure to carry some tools that fit the optional accessories that have been installed over time as well.  For example, the Vstrom uses mostly metric tools since it is a Japanese made motorcycle.  The Enduro Guardian skid (or bash) plate uses SAE bolts since it’s made in the USA, so in order to do an oil change (which will need to be done in a Walmart parking lot in Fairbanks on this trip), the tools to drop the bash plate are required to make the journey or will need to be purchased on the ride.  A $7 wrench here could easily cost two or three times as much…if not more…up north.

The Rotopax is a indestructible (nearly of course) fuel canister used on motorcycles to carry extra gasoline.  Made to withstand crashing, or high temperature venting, it allows a safe way to carry the bike’s life juice so it’s available when not watching one’s fuel gauge or the distance is simply too far away to reach on one tank full.

The trip to Alaska has two areas in which the distance is over 240 miles between gas stations…Coldfoot to Prudhoe Bay (which I am not currently planning on doing but if I change my mind I may need the extra fuel) and Dease Lake to Hyder (there are gas stations, but if they are closed for whatever reason I’ll be thankful for the fuel).  Extra fuel can be a lifesaver to the motorcycling traveler and a precious resource for anybody that runs out.

One thing that some motorcyclists carry are tire spoons.  Spoons look like their name…long handle tools that allow you to take a tire off the wheel when on the road.  Since I am not carrying extra tires on the bike, so far I have decided not to take any.  But, this may change and if I have the room when pulling out of the driveway for the trip, they will probably come along.  Just in case.

I also spent some time considering what extra motorcycle parts to carry.  On some of the online forums, people go totally OCD and bring along almost another motorcycle with them in case they need parts.  Yes, this big adventure takes me to an area where it can take days to get even the most basic items delivered to a stranded rider…but sometimes sanity must prevail when making choices.  One cannot prepare for all contingencies without having a trail of support trucks and personnel following you, but if there is room, nothing wrong with packing a few extra things.

From my preliminary packing of all the gear/clothing/tools I plan to take, I’ll have some room left over.  Besides the spoons I mentioned earlier, I will bring along an extra clutch cable and a set of front rear bulbs.  Bikes can be taped, tie-wrapped, or epoxied back together enough to allow you to limp to a repair shop if the worst were to happen.  One is not going anywhere with a broken clutch cable and depending on the break, can be impossible to fix.  So a backup clutch cable comes along, tucked into the interior of the left saddle bag for the journey.

This post got long, so time to drop off and go do something productive.  Like made a sandwich for dinner, put on  Big Bang Theory, and have one of the dogs jump into my lap in the recliner for the evening.  Almost under the 200 day mark until departure!