Photos: Zac Kurylyk
The project so far: Zac’s gathered a load of parts, and started bolting them on to his DR650.
Now, he’s in the last stages of re-assembly. Read on!
Bear with me
There are two reasons why it’s taken so long to get this update out. The first is that I encountered several unexpected issues. I ended up having to replace the rear wheel bearings and sprocket carrier bearing, as well as the steering head bearings. I also accidentally stripped a bolt hole in the triple clamp and had to replace that assembly … and of course, the first eBay part I ordered was actually broken when it arrived, so I had to order a second part, and wait longer.
Such is life, when you’re patching up a bike.
I also did a bit of rewiring on the bike, plugging the heated grips into an auxiliary outlet behind the headlight, instead of a direct connection to the battery, and painted a few more parts of the frame where the finish was starting to flake off. I replaced some bulbs, wired in some new signals … all in all, standard stuff in any bike rebuild, but it all takes time.
New Leo Vince exhaust
With the engine in the frame in the last update, I hooked up the oil lines, the wiring, the carburetor, and then got to the exhaust.
I previously ran an FMF exhaust on this bike for several years, and liked the lower weight compared to the stock unit, and also the increased throttle response. I did not like the added noise, or the fact that the FMF required semi-regular rebuilds. So, seeing a new DR650 exhaust system on the market from Leo Vince (midpipe plus X3 can), I ordered it.
The Leo Vince exhaust has several advantages over the FMF system. First off, it’s aluminum, not stainless steel, which in my experience will still corrode eventually. Second, it doesn’t require a periodic rebuild. Third, it’s more quiet. Fourth, it comes with a selection of internal bits that allow you to customize exactly how you want the canister set up. You can add inserts to quiet the exhaust down or make it louder, and eliminate sparks (a requirement if you’re riding federal forests in the US, and likely a good idea in fire-prone areas in Canada too). Some of those pieces are optional with the FMF as well, but were not included with the original exhaust system I was shipped.
While I didn’t have any installation instructions for the spark arrester in my package, it was easy to figure out how to put it together, and a very short job.
Bolting the exhaust to the bike wasn’t tricky, although I had to buy a new OEM midpipe gasket to make the Leo Vince midpipe mate with the FMF Powerbomb header, which I kept on the bike. I did have to take a tap to the exhaust stud threads, as they’ve been severely galled over the years; I typically install exhaust studs with a healthy coating of Loctite rated for extremely high heat. Despite the naysayers predicting the studs will never come out with that treatment, I’ve found it prevents the galvanic corrosion that typically plagues exhaust header bolts, and also stops them from backing out if you’ve got a loose fit from worn threads. Your mileage may vary, of course.
While the bodywork on the DR650 was not cracked or broken, it was showing its age. DSA Concepts kindly sent me a set of replacement bodywork, including a new front fender, side panels, and rear fender with integrated LED taillight.
The front fender required I drill four holes for installation, but that’s easy. The side panels bolted right on. The two-piece rear fender took a few minutes of fiddling around to make it fit, but it wasn’t too tricky (DSA Concepts does offer a YouTube video to explain installation, so apparently a few people have found it confusing).
The new plastics look sharp, but alas, they’re blue, not yellow; for years, the DR650 was labeled “The Dirty Banana” for its bright yellow plastics, and now, it’ll need a new nickname. DSA Concepts does offer the kit in other colours now (Black, Blue, White, Yellow available), so if you want a different look, that’s doable. Personally, I think a red DR650 would look great, and confuse Honda fans everywhere, but so far, that’s not an option.
And while plastics aren’t considered a performance upgrade in most people’s books, I see two advantages to the new bodywork. The new front fender seems much more rigid than the previous stock unit, meaning less flapping around at higher speeds. Hopefully, it will also carry the weight of a tire repair kit better than the OEM fender. As for the rear fender, I’m a huge fan of the new LED taillight, as the stock unit looked like something from a bad B-budget ’80s sci-fi movie about robot police officers.
DSA Concepts is a branch of Seat Concepts. Seat Concepts sells both new aftermarket seats, and DIY-friendly kits for riders on a budget. They sent me a whole new seat for this bike, and I’m very, very curious to see how it works out, as I’ve already tried the stock seat and a Corbin replacement.
The stock DR650 seat is a holdover from medieval days, patterned after an ancient instrument of torture. While I’ve toured on it, I have no desire to repeat the experience, and I’ve actually read an account of an adventure rider who needed medical attention after long hours on the stock seat through South America. No joke.
As for the Corbin, it was definitely more comfortable than the stock seat, but still not super-comfortable. So, I’m interested to see Seat Concepts’ take on the seat, although it will take a few days of riding to determine how it works out. It took a bit of muscle work to jam it onto the bike, but I’m sure after a few miles, it will fit more easily. I like the seat’s profile; it’s obviously intended for solo riding only, with a narrower front section making it easier to get up on the tank, and a wider back end for more comfort. That doesn’t leave much room for a pillion, but I’ll worry about that if/when my wife decides to go riding again. And if that happens, I’ll take the RF900R …
Everything’s installed, but it’s winter—not optimal conditions to break in a new engine. So even though everything’s put back together, I am waiting until March or April to get this bike back on the street; then, we’ll see how the engine mods worked out, and at season’s end, I’ll have some thoughts on how happy I was with the project’s results.
Check out all the pics that go with this story!