DR650SE Improvements for Reliability

As I’ve said before a properly set up air-cooled DR is the most reliable multisurface motorcycle you can buy. I have ridden more than 145,000 on/off road miles since 2002 on DR650SE’s and these are the changes I’ve made and why.

  • Approximately six months after purchasing my new 2002 DR650SE I was southbound on Highway 15, soon after leaving peak traffic in Los Angeles, when my engine quit. After coasting to the side of the road I soon discovered that the stock gas tank had an internal vacuum buildup caused by a plugged one-way air valve in the gas cap. Thankfully, the engine didn’t quit one hour earlier as I was riding through the LA traffic or I may not have been alive to make a repair! The Fix: Remove the one-way valve, buy a new cap, or install a high quality one-way valve on the cap of your new IMS 4.9 gallon transparent gas tank.
  • With 15,000 miles on my 2009 DR650SE I returned from a Baja ride only to find a quarter size hole in the frame where the upper chain wheel had once been. The Fix: I invented an upper chain wheel mounting bracket that is strong and puts the wheel where it should have been installed in the first place.  This new DR650SE Chain Master will soon join the KLR650 Chain Master that we now market mainly through MMP Sales on this website.
  • On a ride with Rod Morris my engine once failed to start after we had gassed up in Ojos Negros in Baja. It turned out that the stoppage was caused by a tiny “fuel filter from hell” which is located in the carb’s intake pipe next to the float bowl. The Fix: I removed the tiny plugged up filter, threw it away and replaced it with a higher volume, in-line filter between the petcock and the intake pipe. MMP Sales has a neat filter kit with a molded rubber fuel hose which I use to deliver clean fuel to my DR float bowl. No more trouble!
  • It didn’t take long to find out that the stock main air filter, located inside the air box, is made of cheap foam and should not be trusted beyond the first use. The Fix: When it comes time for the initial cleaning, throw the stock unit away and replace it with a Uni-filter or other high quality after-market air filter.
  • Located on top of your air box under the seat you will find a small cylindrical black item which is laughingly called a secondary air filter. If you are an off-road rider you will soon discover that the thin foam filter membrane which is inside the black cylinder will dry out and your carburetor slide will thereafter receive a constant supply of fine dust. The Fix: We at Top Gun install a cylindrical, pleated filter which is high volume and serviceable. Then we keep a cleaned and oiled spare standing by in a sealed “zip lock” bag. MMP sells our improved secondary air filter.

Top Gun believes that the five improvements discussed above are not optional. If you don’t address them, you are inviting big trouble sooner or later. A list of some other modifications are:

  • Detail the wiring harness and remove troublesome electrical components like the neutral sending unit (NSU) inside the engine (clutch side) that has been known to lose a fastener, which in turn can blow your engine.
  • Install grease zerks to brake pedal, swing arm, and suspension components, thereby greatly easing the periodic lubrication work.
  • Make front end changes like installing an Acerbis front fender. You can also make fork improvements, i.e. shorten travel and improve dampening per instructions given by Petterson Pro Suspension.
  • Install custom PPS/Ohlins rear shock custom built by Stig Pettersson to our specs.
  • Install custom rear lowering links built to our specs. (Our DR650SE has 8.7” of travel and more rake and trail resulting in the smoothest best handling DR you have ever taken off-road.)
  • Two aftermarket seats, one by Abe Ramos and the other by Seat Concepts, complement the great PPS suspension. The Abe Ramos seat is biased toward pavement comfort and the wonderful Seat Concepts foam rubber improves the off-road bump absorption. With 14 and 12 pounds of air in the knobby tires, PPS/Ohlins suspension, and Seat Concepts seat rubber, I am equipped with the best suspension triad since I started riding. And that was 60 years ago and over a million plus miles. At 80 years old this is what keeps me in the dirt.
  • Stock wheels are OK, but we install Buchanan stainless spokes and lighter weight EBC brake discs front and rear.

There are many other add-ons and changes we make on the DR650SE like adding a tach and having Vey at Vey’s Powersports bullet proof and seal the head and cylinder, but that is a topic that requires more detail than we can go into in this short article.

The fact remains that once properly set up, there is no multisurface motorcycle in the world that is as comfortable and reliable as the DR650SE. Part of the proof lies in the fact that the 18 year-old, air-cooled and carbureted so called “dual sport” can still pass a smog test in the people’s republic of California. Wow!!!