The Nomad: Suzuki DR650 Rally Bike

Suzuki DR650 Rally

BCKustoms builds a DR650RS rally bike…

In 1990, Suzuki introduced the DR650, a big-single dual-purpose machine destined to become one of the most versatile and bulletproof do-anything bikes in modern history. The DR has the ground clearance and suspension travel for rough terrain, while the commanding riding position makes the bike a solid urban commuter. What’s more, the simplicity of the air-cooled, carbureted engine is refreshing in today’s digital world:

“There’s no fancy high-tech fuel injection or ride-by-wire system or computers to leave you stranded far from home. Simple air cooling is used, with an external oil cooler on the right side to take away engine heat. This reduces weight and eliminates the need for a water pump, thermostat, plumbing, a radiator and fan, all of which are subject to damage and failure.” —RideApart

Suzuki DR650 Rally

It’s a testament to the bike’s DNA that it remains available in the States, relatively unchanged 30+ years after its introduction. In Europe, however, the DR hasn’t been available for quite some time, where stringent emissions make it nearly impossible for non fuel-injected bikes to be sold.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

One of favorite builders on the far side of the pond is Yann Le Douche of Breizh Coast Kustoms, aka BCKustoms. Yann has quite the pedigree for a bike-builder, including stints as a race mechanic for Ducati France, a team coordinator in World Superbike, and a MotoGP journalist before he caught the flat track bug on a trip to the USA.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

During the initial lockdown last year, Yann built a BMW F650 rally bike that we featured:

“After building that previous BMW F650 ‘Dezert Runner’ in March 2020 — the first lockdown period — my aim to go out for long rides has become stronger.”

Suzuki DR650 Rally

This time, Yann decided to start with a Suzuki DR650. He says the choice was easy, as he’d worked with Suzuki during his career in the World Superbike Championship (2002-2009):

“This bike is kind of a tribute to all those engineers working so hard around the Ryuyo facilities back in the day. I still have much respect for that period…”

Suzuki DR650 Rally

Since the DR650 is no longer available in Europe due to those aforementioned emissions regulations, Yann wondered what a 2021 Suzuki DR rally edition would look like:

“So, as the DR is no longer sold in Europe due to pollution rules, I was wondering what a 2021 Suzuki DR would look like with all new technologies, LED, digital instruments screens, and new rally fairings.”

Suzuki DR650 Rally

Below, Yann takes us through the research, thought process, parts supplier communications, and hands-on labor that transformed this 30-year-old dual-sport into the BCKustoms DR650RS “Nomad” you see here.

Suzuki DR650RS Nomad: Builder Interview

Suzuki DR650 Rally

• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.

After building that previous BMW F650 “Dezert Runner” in March 2020, the first lockdown period, my aim to go out for long rides has become stronger.

Though I’m still inspired by flat track racing, I needed to have some off-road practice to improve my rookie riding skills, as I still have no oval track around to train on. The Funduro opened new possibilities to get some time in the area riding off-road and I thought a lighter version of the Bavarian bike would help me improve.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?

This is a 1991 Suzuki DR650RS. The choice for me was easy. When it comes to custom motorcycles, you have Harley-Davidson riders and others. For sport bikes, you have Ducati lovers and others. For long off-road trails, you might go for a KTM Rally replica. But all non-KTM owners love to ride a Suzuki RMZ for enduro or DR650 for trail motorcycles. And lucky you are in America to have it on sale still… That’s what I’ve noticed on Instagram pages and blogs around.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

And building a Suzuki-based project makes a lot of sense for me, recalling my race career with the Hamamatsu manufacturer in the World Superbike Championship (2002-2009). This bike is kind of a tribute to all those engineers working so hard around the Ryuyo facilities back in the day. I still have much respect for that period, so yes, the choice was easy — also because the DR-RS has that high front fairing which suggests much minor modifications to turn the bike into a rally project.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

• Why was this bike built?

After the Funduro build and the comments I got on it, I wanted to go farther down the adventure path. I’ve tried to push that nineties big trail motorcycle homemade rehab concept to its limits, starting with a lighter trail bike. So here’s the new BCKustoms show bike.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

Not much to invent again — just checking around and learning from motorcycle history as always. Most trail riders still look at the Dakar Rally bikes as the start of it all in the early 80s. This rally’s always been a racing laboratory to develop trail motorcycles for the market, and finally those bikes were returning the year after their release to the Mauritanian and Sahara desert for racing. The Honda XLVs, Yamaha Tenere, Suzuki DRs, and others were designed in the desert.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

So, as the DR is no longer sold in Europe due to pollution rules, I was wondering what a 2021 Suzuki DR would look like with all new technologies, LED, digital instruments screens, and new rally fairings.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

I took inspiration from the latest ADV concepts and Dakar race bikes, chasing the most accurate details that would make sense for this project.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

• What custom work was done to the bike?

I could have tried to adapt a compete aftermarket KTM kit to the DR. But most comments on the BMW F650 I built before was that how well I modified the original fairings — it looked kind of like the original manufacturer’s design. So I decided to keep most of the OEM parts here and just create a modern looking rally windshield. This one also had to be a “display case” for a full custom dashboard and instruments set on a homemade instrument tower.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

As for instruments, you’ll find a full digital dashboard in the middle slot, a cell phone mount in the bottom place, and a video mirror with the camera located next to the taillight.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

The second big part done at the workshop was the extra rear fuel tank. The original DR exhaust, which carries two mufflers under the seat, was a big extra weight to save.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

After modifying the late DR-SE Delkevic stainless tri-oval exhaust, I decided to use the free space in that rear left section to try and build a (first) custom alloy tank.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

The bike has a Suzuki RMZ450 front end (complete fork, wheel, brake).

• Does the bike have a nickname?

Of course it has! Mosko Moto shipped me some high-quality luggage to mount on my BMW Dezert Runner (not Desert but Dezert Point as for my friend skate shop which supports me also…). These are great quality products, really. Designed in the USA, tested on desert long rides for weeks before being finalized and produced, I’ve been convinced these products should be on my new build. So, as the White Salmon-based company’s website bloggers around the world are called Nomads, the nickname was found.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

I’ve spent a couple months designing every night to create the project. Daytime was spent at the workshop with ongoing builds. When I thought the idea was there, I searched for the donor bike. My friend Luc from la Grange Mécanique had one in his backyard.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

Then came the restart moment after three years left in a corner.

After that, even if the design was there, every single detail has been checked, parts chosen, limited necessary instruments functions and elements integrated like on a manufacturer homologated bike.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

Also, choosing parts for that build, I’ve been doing an off-workshop communication job to check if any other high-quality parts could be on the bike.

I then found a new deal with Heidenau tires who provided me with a set of K60 Scout tires and Supersprox was happy enough with that project to ship me Stealth sprockets to complete the bike.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

This is really appreciated for a small workshop like mine to have such support from great brands known for their quality products. Thanks to them.

Last point, the “paint scheme”… Semi paint work and semi stickers.

I know the topographic theme has been seen since Husky released the Norden 901 concept. But I thought it would help to place the bike in a period in terms of graphics.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

So I provided my own interpretation of that curvy design applied on a 30 years old Suzuki DR, with the Mosko Moto blue, some Motul red stripes, and a mix of stars for my long term now loyal partner Daytona 73. And the design was complete then.

Suzuki DR650 Rally

Follow the Builder

Website: www.bckustoms.com
Facebook: facebook.com/breizhcoastkustoms/
Instagram: @bckustoms/
Pinterest: www.pinterest.fr/yannledouche/boards/
Youtube: Yann Le Douche
Flickr: Yann Le Douche / bckustoms

Special thanks to my sponsors:
Daytona 73: @daytona73
Mosko Moto, tough gear/luggage: @moskomoto
Motul France: #motul
Heidenau Tyres, German quality tyres: @heidenautires
Delkevic Ltd, motorcycle exhausts: @delkevicUK
Supersprox, motorcycle sprockets: @supersproxusa
Noline France, cleaning wipes: @noline.france #phoenixinnovations
Bell: @bell_powersports
Racer: @racergloves
Makadam Kulture, Bike & Breizh event
Dezert Point, local skate and wear shop #dezertpointshop
Le St Mathieu, Beef bar and grill Quimper
Cap Enseignes – Stickers and advertising support – Chateaulin (Fr)

5 Comments

  1. Absolutely stunning bike. Unfortunately, this is a 1st gen DR650. They’re hard to find, because they weren’t super popular bikes. Because they existed prior to the blow-up of the internet age any typical issues with them are not commonly known. In other words, these are arguably much better bikes than the current, 2nd gen (they’re supposed to be more powerful, for starters). While the 2nd gens are very popular and have a huge aftermarket of parts they have a host of issues:
    – Pre 2000 or 2001 did not have starter clutches, and if the engine kicked back on startup you’d sometimes get cracked engine cases.
    – The typical 4th gear transmission failure issue (rare, but I had a 1,000 mile one that I split the cases on, and most of the transmission gears were pitted, especially the higher gears).
    – The need to secure the neutral sending unit screws and verify the torque/loctite the primary drive nut (DRZ400 also has issues with nuts in right side of crankcase needing to be tightened/loctited, stupid Suzuki crap).
    – Pre 2003 had leaky base gaskets.
    – If you really put serious mileage on them the cush drive bearings in the rear hub go out and cause issues.

    Many, many bikes have design and reliability issues, but some just seem to need more sorting than others, and the 2nd gen DR650 is one of those bikes. There are tons of them out there that people never have problems with, but the internet has a lot to say on what can go wrong.

    My bottom line rant is that this is a custom bike and is awesome, but if you have a DR650, and most likely a 2nd gen one, you’ll want to make sure you address ALL the known issues before you attempt the same as Yann Le Douche.

    • The thing is, in Europe, the DR-RS (before the RSE with electric starter) is quite common. Bought two same color, same year in a couple months for nothing. Bulletproof, waterproof, a nice bike you can ask everyting and really reliable. For that project, could not expect better with a OEM fairing which value minor modifications to give it a modern front face. This one is 63000km and no troubles. Really. Second one has been left with only 24000… Nearly new. Just need to take care about new engine troubles !! Next project will be that one… Stay tuned.

  2. This is the type of custom bike I would be happy to own. You took a very practical, unglamorous bike and made it absolutely beautiful. It leaves me asking: “Why can’t the factory deliver something this appealing?” [OK… I know the answer, to produce a bike of this quality takes incredible time & money. LOL]

    • Maybe not… Working with Suzuki for 7 years. This base, the DR-SE as still sold in USA/Canada is a most well known base. Needs to get an injection and pollution matching elements to get in the game. Fairings and accessories are here for fun and the standard 2021 OEM bike would be perfect with GPS options added. Not a big game… But Suzuki is not a ‘big’ factory. Needs time and market sensors. One day maybe…

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