The DR650SE: Reliability Is Its Middle Name

We recently heard from Emily and Jay Wilgus, who are continuing on their ride from Ann Arbor, Michigan all the way to the southern tip of South America. They have already logged about 7500 miles as they ride into Colombia. As mentioned in a previous article, they are riding twin DR650SE’s set-up and prepped by Jay with technical input from Top Gun. Their decision to ride DR’s on this incredible journey was a good one, because we at Top Gun know that a “properly” set up DR650SE is the most reliable multi-surface motorcycle in the world.

Why are they so reliable?

1.) They are electronically simple (ask world’s greatest Suzuki parts specialist Paul Tomlinson of Cochise Motorsports in Sierra Vista, Arizona how many DR electrical parts he’s sold over the years other than light bulbs). With more than 225,000 miles logged on DR’s since Paul’s reliability speech to me in 1990, I have yet to suffer a failure of any kind.

2.) The DR650SE’s air/oil cooled engine is so good that in 2015 it can still pass smog without fuel injection or liquid cooling.

3.) The DR’s carburetor is still the best way to go where long distance and reparability in the field are concerned. It’s even better if you remove the tiny fuel filter found in the carb’s fuel intake pipe, followed by replacement of the secondary air filter with one from Top Gun.

4.) The chain drive system on the DR650SE is more reliable than a shaft except for its upper chain control wheel, which is prone to tear out of the frame. But Top Gun now has an easy to install Chain Master upper chain control unit that fixes the problem.

5.) The wheels, brakes, chassis, and suspension on the DR are superior except for the rear shock spring, which won’t handle heavier loads. Top Gun now carries a DR specific 7.2 kg spring made of the best quality material.

6.) The DR650SE comes with components that allow it to be lowered slightly more than 1½ inches for the “inseamed-challenged” rider.

7.) DR’s rear suspension design makes it easy to increase rake and trail for improved off-road handling. With a little luck the job will soon be made even easier by some new Top Gun parts.

In his e-mail Jay had a question concerning spark plugs. To answer you, Jay, if you have kept both your primary and Top Gun secondary air filters clean and you have been able to avoid bad fuel, your spark plugs should go the factory suggested 7,500 miles, and maybe even more, without a problem. When I do a long Baja ride I carry two inline fuel filters, two extra spark plugs and one spark plug cap for emergencies. My DR650 dirt bike has 5,000 miles since the last plug change, but I’ll be changing them before my next ride. Since the bike has 36,000 miles on the clock, I’m also going to install fresh spark plug caps even though the factory doesn’t mention cap replacement.

Also, Jay, if you reach a major city that has incoming air shipment service from the U.S. we would be happy to obtain and ship you whatever parts you need.

The key to long distance motorcycle reliability, as Jay and Emily understand, is to prep the bike thoroughly before you start a long trip. Pay special attention to keeping the fuel and air clean, and do whatever periodic maintenance you can en route to your destination. And don’t forget to check for loose fasteners at each service.

Good luck, Jay and Emily. Keep in touch!