For my GDT ride I’ve chosen what seems to be the Toyota Tacoma of enduro (dual sport) motorcycles: the Suzuki DR-Z 400 S. It’s quite often referred to as the “DRZ.”
The Toyota Tacoma is known for being remarkably resistant to any amount of damage one may inflict upon it. They used to be affordable, but their reputation has created a value which sustains itself even in the deepest, darkest corners of Craigslist.
The GDT is approximately 80% off-road. The DRZ 400 is, quite practically speaking, a street-legal dirt bike. Other options that directly compete in this category are the Husqvarna FE 350 & FE 501 S models, the Honda CRF250L, and the KTM 350 EXC-F & 500 EXC models. These four bikes are extremely capable when it comes to off-road rompin’. The smaller engine size allows for quite a bit more flexibility and forgiveness when riding off-road — it can be a hell of a workout depending on the difficulty of the terrain. These lighter bikes crash really, really well and it’s easy to pick them up and keep rompin’. The smaller engine size also provides surprisingly reasonable fuel economy on- and off-road.
The larger option falls almost single handedly onto the shoulders of the Kawasaki KLR 650, but Honda, too, provides an option with the XR 650 L. Both are great bikes. Their fuel economy with the larger engine is not great, but still decent. Being larger they are more difficult to manage off-road, but they shine on the open highway. The smaller bikes cannot sustain open highway speeds near as well as the larger bikes. If the adventure is at least 30-40% highway, the larger option is likely the best option.
There are two additional motorcycles that warrant mention, but are in the wildly-expensive-so-maybe-you-should-just-live-on-it category. KTM makes the 900 Adventure and 1190 Adventure R models ($19,000), and BMW makes the R 1200 GS Adventure ($22,000). They’re so adventurous they put it in the name. But because we all want to ride around the world in style, here’s a review of the two back in May of 2014 from Cycle World. If you need a tiny bit of man-justification for a bike like this, both the KTM and the BMW run the quarter-mile as fast a Ferrari 458 Italia ($235,000). Try taking that Ferrari off-road.
Back to reality.
Recently I was able to locate a 2008 DRZ 400 S for sale not far from home and bought it. It was bone stock with just under 900 miles. That’s not a typo. I could have waited and bought a DRZ with most or all of the modifications I would need for my GDT ride, but I need to learn the bike. Starting from a stock platform would allow me to write more blog posts… well, sort of. I’ll be performing many modifications to this bike to get it ready for my trip. I’ll do my best to cover each of them. Without these specific modifications the 2-week 2,600-mile trip would not be possible. Without these modifications I would be less prepared to conquer the mechanical challenges that will surely happen along the way. I’m also attempting to assemble a small-ish group of friends to come along. This blog might be of use to them.
Here’s a photo of my DRZ: