We have completed a few excursions on the big Suzuki now, so let’s talk about the results.
The Project – What was once a nondescript 1996 Suzuki DR650 is now a far different animal. As for distinction, it now has it in spades, almost in excess. So is it heaps of good things, or just too much? One thing for sure, the Seat Concepts project has loads of interesting parts on it. Some are familiar and others new to us. Most are universal enough to be considered as options for any project bike.
My general opinion of all Japanese 650 dual sports bikes is this; love them for what they are because the return on investment for most modifications is very small. It just doesn’t pay to spend any real money on them. Make them faster, then the suspension and brakes are lacking and so goes a vicious circle. Let’s see how well this holds true for the DR790. For comparisons we used along a relatively stock Honda XR650L as a testing benchmark.
With a single cylinder thumper of nearly 800cc displacement, it is automatically the heart of the story. Again, unique would have to be the key word. From the instant the big bike fires to life, it sounds and feels like no other. There is a sense of life (and vibration) that pulses throughout the entire chassis. The vibration is not bad, but does get a little tiresome.
But the entire bike seems very much alive and begs to have the throttle twisted. The twisting is easier said than done. The aftermarket Mikuni carb suffers from a ridiculously heavy throttle pull. It is really designed for a different application, but other than stiff, performs quite well.
As I said the entire bike seems to be alive in a way that no stocker could match. Tractor like might be the best description for performance. There is loads of torque. It does not rev very fast or far. Real power is certainly better than the tiny original 650cc displacement. But it is not radically faster either.
Our comparison 650L has been jetted and has the small end cap removed from the stock muffler. In roll on tests the 790 would get a quick jump ahead and then the two would hold steady. Top speed was not terribly impressive on either. The Honda would rev quicker and farther. The sound level for the modified Honda exhaust was considerably quieter than the DR. The FMF Q muffler was overwhelmed by the displacement and too loud for my preference.
Where the 790 shined was in torque. Riding mostly old jeep trails, the DR would consistently be happy in 3rd gear for long sections of road. On some of the switch back climbs, the Honda required regular shifting between 2nd and 3rd and would spin the wheel too easy. On a twisty county road, again the DR would go from corner to corner without shifting, the big torque would pull hard on each corner exit.
Other than that. It was hard to find any distinct area where the 790 could be considered superior. As for big, yes it is really big and never lets you forget that fact. I cannot believe that I would actually say such a thing, but the XR650L felt like a 125 by comparison. Any where in the dirt the Suzuki feels large and seldom would it keep pace with the Honda. Perhaps with more riding time I could be comfortable with the weight and push it harder. It hits the scales about 325 lbs sans fuel. Discretion is a good plan for off road.
One of the bigger ticket items for the project was the suspension. I felt the fork was too stiff for nearly everything we rode. It only started to work well on a particularly rocky down hill two track. It felt better at higher speeds, but gave up comfort for most riding situations. The shock worked well, there was not much to notice, it just worked. Overall, the XR, while somewhat overly soft, seemed better matched to the terrain and speeds that match the bikes.
There are a lot of parts on this bike. Probably a few too many overall, but all interesting to consider regardless. Here are a few of the photos and my critiques of specific pieces.
My favorite part of the whole bike. Makes everyone say “wow” when they get on
Redesigned fenders give sleek look
Cleaner lines on body work
Excellent turn signals, LED tail light not bright enough for my taste. Yes it is turned on!
Squadron LED light has dimmer installed to make acceptable for street use, lots of power
Highway Dirt Bikes handguards work well
Folding mirrors work better than expected, practical for street use
Rigid mount on handguards contributes to overly stiff bar feel
Good odometer set up, easy to read, but hard to navigate screens while riding
Stabilizer is overkill for this bike
Bar risers don’t give good standing position, too high and far back
Adjustable levers have improved feel, nice touch, just enough clearance inside handguards
Oversized rotor worked good, but would be better suited to supermoto project
Fork valving did not suit me, too stiff for most use.
Too loud for a motor this large
Warp 9 black wheels with blue hubs and nipples look very nice
Adventure pegs are nice touch, but too long for this application as peg mounts stick way out anyway, I would just use standard size Evo Air pegs
Mikuni pumper carb starts and idles perfectly, has some stumble in whoops, just needs some fine tuning
Oil cooler guard is a simple design and nice fit
Oversize kickstand pad is a nice touch
The 790 certainly is a one of a kind piece of art, as an expression of excess. I love this project as a look at choices for your DR650 or almost any other dual sport bike. The big DR is a real looker too. Especially when you consider that it is just shy of a 20th birthday. But it is also a very hefty price tag for a bike that is heavy on bling. As for the performance side, it is tough to justify the gains over the cost.
Fenders, lights (except rear), levers, handguard/mirror and seat are all things I would consider for a similar project. I prefer the Rox Speed bar risers and Sicass Racing LED tail light to the choices here.
If I were on track for a motor rebuild, I might consider the big bore kit. But it doesn’t really merit it on performance alone. It is never going to be in the performance/sophistication realm of something like a KTM 690 or the short lived Husky 650 Terra.
So there you have it. I love when other people are innovative enough to create cool bike ideas like this. Never the less, at the risk of sounding too critical, I guess I have to fall back on the “stock is best” mantra for this class of bikes. Love ’em or leave them to someone else.
Suzuki DR790 Parts List
EarthX lithium battery $219
BajaD Squadron headlight $329, dimmer $59
Trailtech Voyager $280
Cogent Dynamics Suspension, Fork $176, Shock $589
Seat Concepts Seat – $260 with suede upgrade
DSA Concepts Fenders/Side panels, F $90, R fend kit $165, Side panels $105
Procycle Big Bore, pumper carb, case saver, BB kit $660, Carb, $460, Case Saver $40