From frozen dual-sport to frontier weapon…
The Suzuki DR650 is one of the toughest, best-selling dual-sport motorcycles ever built. In a land like Alaska, it better be. When James Russell of Anchorage picked up this 2002 DR650 during the long dark winter of 2010, it was frozen in snow and needed work — just about everything that could wear out, had worn out.
James, who has been riding for more than 50 years, decided to build the bike as a tribute to the flat trackers he used to watch at Ascot Park — hence the AJS moniker on the tank. He stripped 60 pounds from the bike, lowered the suspension four inches, added a custom subframe, fiberglass seat and tank, and much more. We especially love his description of the number plate/headlight:
“I made the front number plate with dual headlights to be legal but have never ridden it in the dark because it is always light in the summertime here in Alaska.”
Such is life in the Land of the Midnight Sun!
The 300-lb DR650 street tracker won the dual sport category of the city’s annual bike show and ignited James’s passion for custom bike-building. He currently has three bikes on his build tables, and another three awaiting their turn beneath the wrenches. Also, last winter he converted the bike from street tracker to street scrambler, with the addition of more (2″) suspension travel, knobby TKC 80 tires, and a small front fender.
Below, we get the full story on the build from James himself!
Suzuki DR650 Street Tracker/Scrambler: In the Builder’s Words
I bought the bike in the middle of the long dark winter of 2010, frozen in the snow.
After getting it running and riding it a little that summer I discovered it needed more new parts than it was worth so I decided to build something special out of it.
I built it as a tribute to the old single cylinder flat trackers I used to watch race at Ascot Park, so it became an AJS.
I have been riding for more than 50 years but this was my first motorcycle custom build, I enjoyed it so much that I have three more bikes on my build tables now.
The bike needed lots of new parts because everything that could wear out, was worn out.
I ordered a new 19″ front wheel with a 320mm rotor disc from Warp 9 for stoppie power, and a pumper carb with a large K&N filter and custom exhaust system for more go power.
I installed Shinko 705 tires for their excellent dirt and street performance.
I removed the rear frame and welded up a new bolt on subframe to fit the new tracker seat base, then made a new fiberglass fuel tank to fit.
I also removed all tabs on the frame no longer used, and ground down the factory welds. The frame was then powder coated along with the swingarm.
I lowered the suspension 4″ which still left 6″ of travel, the shorter rear shock is a custom built unit from Cogent Dynamics and has a removable shock cover (made by my wife) to protect the shock shaft from dirt thrown by the rear wheel.
I made the front number plate with dual headlights to be legal but have never ridden it in the dark because it is always light in the summertime here in Alaska. When I made the headlight/number plate I had never seen one but they are common now.
I made fiberglass engine case guards and frame guards.
Originally it had flat track bend handlebars but I changed them over for ProTaper KTM bars with less sweep.
Simplified wiring and all electrical parts are in an aluminum tray under the seat. The Ballistic battery mounts under the tail on the rear of the electrical tray to be seen (by peeking).
With all the stock parts removed and the few new parts installed the bike lost 60 lbs bringing it down to 300 lbs with enough gas to get to the gas station.
The first summer after it was finished I entered the bike in our annual motorcycle show and it won first place in the dual sport category.
I have been riding the bike every summer since, and each winter I make a few changes, to try something different, or just for the fun of it. It is a real hoot to ride because it is so small and light for a 650.
The change for this season was to go from Street Tracker to Street Scrambler by adding back some more (2″) suspension travel, a change to knobby TKC 80 tires, and adding a small front fender.
I have a full build thread for it on Adventure Rider:
List of items bought for the original build with prices
(from my build thread)
- Warp 9 19″ front wheel with 320mm disc ($450)
- Used front caliper ($35)
- Brake pads front & rear ($75)
- SS brake lines front & rear ($100)
- Shinko 705 tires front & rear ($150)
- Tubes front & rear ($42)
- Fork Skins ($15)
- Dual headlight / numberplate (parts) ($35)
- Flat track handlebars ($75)
- Clutch & brake levers ($25)
- Bar end mirrors – mounted inboard ($25)
- Sigma electronic bicycle speedo ($17)
- Electronic tach/hour meter ($17)
- Throttle cables ($36)
- Steering head bearing kit ($44)
- Fork seals ($30)
- Fork bushings ($28)
- Engine oil fill cap ($12)
- Side cover gaskets ($36)
- Billet oil cooler (on back order) ($75)
- Engine SS cap screw set ($30)
- Exhaust gasket ($9)
- Muffler ($65)
- Exhaust tubing & bends ($48)
- Header wrap ($22)
- Ballistic Evo battery ($127)
- Jet kit with extended fuel screw ($75)
- Carb vent filter ($15)
- Choke knob ($18)
- Fuel filter ($4)
- K&N pod filter ($40)
- Silicone hose & aluminum tube for intake ($34)
- Clymer manual ($38)
- Suzuki manual ($78 )
- Magnetic drain bolt ($14)
- Gas cap vent valve ($12)
- Chain & sprockets ($140)
- Case saver chain guard ($36)
- Cush drive rubbers ($46)
- Cush hub bearing & seal ($16)
- Sprocket bolt set ($12)
- Rear wheel bearing kit ($24)
- Rear caliper rebuild kit ($35)
- Ball bearing lower chain roller ($16)
- Rear axle lock nut ($5)
- Warp 9 lower chain guide ($60)
- Swingarm chain slider ($42)
- Cogent rear shock with bling ring & reduced travel ($500)
- ATV shock cover ($24)
- Swing arm linkage bearing kit ($80)
- Swing arm bearing kit ($60)
- Wide foot pegs ($32)
- LED turn signals & tail lights ($50)
- LED electronic flasher ($30)
- Fiam loud horn ($14)
- Fiberglass front fender ($80)
- Fiberglass TT seat ($165)
- Fiberglass, epoxy, & supplies to make tank, etc. ($200)
- Petcock ($22)
- Gas cap ($16)
- Paint (fiberglass) primer, base, & clear ($150)
- Frame powder paint ($280)
- Forgotten bits and pieces ($150+)
- TM40 pumper carb ($450)
Total parts & items purchased = ($4,700+)
Cost of used bike needing work = ($1,500)
Since the original build I have added a Vapor electronic speedometer, a new Cerami-Coated exhaust pipe, muffler, fork boots, fork brace, knobby tires, handlebars, billet aluminum oil cooler with ss oil lines, and more paint…
It was so much fun to build, and fun to ride that I have other bikes I am working on now.
Current project bikes are:
1940 Matchless 350 G3L
2009 650 V-Strom
2002 XR200 pit bike
Projects waiting their turn:
1990 Suzuki VX800
2005 Honda VTX1800
2009 Suzuki RM250
As my build thread on advrider shows, the tracker was my first ever build and I did it with very basic tools. I learned a lot, enjoyed all except fiberglass work, and I look forward to completing the 3 current builds and starting the next. Eventually I will sell my bikes (I’m 64 so my time is limited to enjoy them) but for now I just build them for me to ride.
This is truly a beautiful build. i actually am quite fond of the black AJS beginnings but the refinement to actual practical us makes me like the bike more. not just something to show but use. I bike I would enjoy spending time on. Thank you for sharing this project!
Thanks Rick, I’m glad you like it.
I agree with you about the color, I like the black and gold AJS better so I will probably repaint before long.
I have a lot of fun with it and like to experiment and make changes, modifications, improvements…
What is that oil cooler? I want that!