CMG Project: DR650 Update #4

Photos: Zac Kurylyk

The project so far: Zac’s gathered a load of parts, and started bolting them on to his DR650.

He’s repainted the weatherbeaten engine, rebuilt the clutch, and installed a new stator.

Then, he re-assembled the top end with a new high-compression piston and a hotter camshaft, along with new camchain and other bits.

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.

It’s finally installed! Bolting in the spark arrester was simple.

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.

The new sidepanels aren’t quite as good a fit as the originals, but they look good, and so does the new tailpiece.


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.

Some assembly required! The new front fender required I drill four holes, but that’s pretty basic stuff.

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.

From right to left: the stock Suzuki seat, aka “The Sawhorse; the Corbin aftermarket seat I ran for years; and the new Seat Concepts replacement.

Seat time

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.

Definitely aimed at the solo rider.

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 …

Wrapping up

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!


  1. Hi Zac,
    I had a question about the DSA side panels, I’ve heard that the left hand panel as you sit on the bike has what looks like a wrinkle under the surface (surface is smooth but wrinkle distorts light) about 2cm from where the edge of the seat finishes.
    Is this the case on yours as well?

    Thank you

  2. Good work, I’m doing up a 94 DR650RE and can empathise with your challenges.

    Quick question, where did you source the headlight cover and rack from, it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for,

    Happy riding

    • Hey, I’ve got doubly bad news … the headlight guard and and rack/windshield bars came from Turbo City (TCI Products). However, TCI no longer makes them, although you might find might still have some in stock.

      The second bad news is that these pieces were made for the 96+ DR650SE model, and I think you’ll have to adapt them to fit the RE model. Having said that, the guard is good piece of mind and the rack mount bars add a lot of functionality.

  3. I also love the big DR. Old school simplicity in a reliable, do-it-all motorcycle. I’m a little surprised you went with an aftermarket exhaust. I know it helps uncork the bike a bit and I’m not against a little added sound, (admittedly, the DR is a little wimpy sounding in stock form), but the FMF is just ridiculously loud. Not good for anyone. I’ll be interested to hear how the Leo Vince compares but it looks too small to much better for a big thumper like the DR. I hope I’m wrong.

    • Physically, it’s the same size as the FMF, or pretty close.

      If I was doing this on a budget, I’d go with the GSXR can.

      I had no problem with the stock exhaust sound, but it’s twice as heavy as it needs to be, and restrictive. The FMF went too far the other direction, at least for me. I’d be sitting in traffic, worrying if I was blasting the eardrums out of everyone around me.

  4. Nice, but translucent tanks sure are ugly. Too bad they don’t make them coloured but with a translucent strip down the side close to the seat. Or add vapor permeable decals.

    • Matter of opinion. I always wanted the see-through tank, and when I had a choice, that’s what I got. It’s my colour of choice for adv bikes. I think the translucent stripe would be uglier.

      I do think the coloured ones look fine too, but are less practical.

      • Some say they are more secure than directly threaded aluminum; or a used Ebay chunk of bike that’s been through – uh, who knows. But we all decide on our own risks. 🙂 Very interested in your project since three friends of mine have DR650s. Keep us posted.

        • I actually did a project bike out of this DR650 way back in 2012? 2011? For ADVMoto, which is why it had the FMF exhaust, the pumper carb, the Corbin, the Ricor suspension, etc. All those modifications were very easy. The Pumper carb in particular transformed the bike.

    • I have the 350 and the 650, and spent a lot of time on that Konker, which is a DR200 copy. I’ve never ridden the 400, but have thought of getting rid of the 650 and 350 for one.

Join the conversation!