2018 DR650SE – What’s new?

I wandered in and out of motorcycle shops in San Diego county, studying all the new models of every available brand for several months as the new two-wheelers were released last fall (2017) and this spring (2018). My hope was to find a bike good enough that I could easily develop it further until it surpassed my already highly developed KL650A’s and DR650SE’s, to which I have made more than three dozen improvements each over the past 28 years and more than a half million logged miles. (I’ve logged more than a million total motorcycle miles since 1955.)

There I was with a checkbook in my pocket that could handle anything on two wheels, and yet I was unable to find a worthwhile beginning platform that would lend itself to building a bike that was better than what I already have. In fact, in many cases motorcycles are getting worse, not better, especially in the suspension, ergonomic comfort and overall weight categories.

I had a further problem which required special attention. I have a 91 year old wife who declines to end her 40+ year multi-surface tandem motorcycling career. As long as Pauline can ride behind me I need a motorcycle set up just for her.

I ultimately decided to add a 2018 DR650SE Suzuki to the other three I already own (a 2009 and two 2011’s). The new street bike would be easier to set up because I had already done most of the development and had many of the parts: IMS 4.9 gallon tank, shortened and improved stock front forks, Ohlin’s/PPS rear internal piston gas shock, WARP9 rear cast wheel, Buchanan’s 19” spoked front wheel, Top Gun custom rear lowering link, Top Gun “Chain Master,” Top Gun tachometer, and a plush Seat Concepts seat among other things.

In April 2018 I purchased my new DR650 from Vey’s Power Sports in El Cajon, California. Even before break-in began I prepped and set up the new unit with all the great street stuff mentioned above. It’s now July and with 3000 miles on the clock I got an almost no oil consumption break-in, thanks mostly to my exclusive use from the start of Maxima Maxum 4 “triple ester” synthetic oil.

Although it would take several articles to describe all the changes, adjustments and improvements I’ve made to my new DR, I will mention several critical ones just in case you purchased a new one in stock configuration:

A) The one way air valve in the stock gas cap has been known to get plugged thereby restricting gas flow. If it gets bad enough it will stop your engine suddenly!

B) If you ride off-road, your tiny fuel filter from hell (located in the intake pipe of your carburetor) will plug up and stop your engine. Remove it and install a large high quality one inline. (Get the filter from M.M.P., the parts store located on this website).

C) If enough dust gets into your little black secondary air filter under the seat, you will suck dirt into your carburetor and ultimately into your engine. Replace it with a pleated one from M.M.P.

D) Your primary foam air filter is of poor quality. When it gets dirty, don’t clean it. Instead replace it with a Uni, which is also carried by M.M.P.

E) Exhaust systems on DR650’s are sometimes overstressed by poor alignment. I learned this the hard way when my 2002 header broke off at the head, a quarter of a mile from my garage at the end of a long Baja ride. Wow! To fix, loosen and back out the three 8mm fasteners holding the muffler to the header (approximately 3/8”) and starting from the header to muffler joint, use fender washers to shim from front to rear. (Note: torque one at a time from front to rear.) Upon replacing my broken header I needed shims at all three muffler fastener points with one up front and four at the rear. My 2018, however, only needed one shim at the rear.

I hoped my new 2018 DR would have some fixes like no more chronic oil leaks at the top end, but already I have a slight seepage around the front left bolt holding the head and cylinder to the crank case. Here we are 22 years later and Suzuki still can’t seal their DR650SE top ends. Kind of like the KLR650. It took Kawasaki 21 years (2008) to fix their so-called “doohickey” problem. Suzuki finally strengthened the threaded boss in the frame to which the upper chain wheel is bolted. It’s not as good as our “Chain Master” but it may work, at least on the street.

Wake up Suzuki! You’re still passing smog with the best air cooled 650 single in history. Reinforce the 6 mm valve cover fastener holes in the head (read “time certs”), seal the top end and add fuel injection if need be. Also get the overall weight down if you can.

At 83 years of age, I’m no longer in the mood to re-engineer factory screw ups in order to improve their motorcycles. I’ve got the best motorcycle I’ve ever owned in my highly modified DR650SE’s. Unless something better comes along soon, I’ll stay put.