Hessler Motorsport’s “Yellow Rally Monster”…
In 2002, the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 (DL1000) hit the market as a large-displacement dual-sport / adventure bike boasting a 996cc liquid-cooled 8-valve DOHC 90° V-twin originally designed for the TL1000 superbike.
“The name V-Strom combines ‘V’ referring to the bike’s engine configuration with the German Strom, meaning stream or power.” [via]
The V-Strom would be classified as everything from a “Road Trailie” to “Sport Enduro Tourer” — but no matter what you called it, the DL1000 won fans all over the world. In 2020, the V-Strom 1050 (DL1050) arrived with a larger 1037cc engine, updated electronics / traction control, and styling that recalled the legendary Suzuki Paris-Dakar rally racers of yesterday — bikes like Gaston Rahier’s DR Zeta and DR Big.
If we had to pick one man who knows more about Suzuki adventure bikes and rally raiders than anyone else in the world, we’d put our money on Stefan Hessler of Hessler Rallye Team. Trained as an electrical engineer, Hessler raced his first international rally raid in 1995, riding his DR Big Rally racer, and never stopped:
“The rally bug that made me buy the DR Big hasn’t let go of me today either. I’ve been doing rallies non-stop to this day — I’ve won many, some as overall winners.”
Over the years, he opened DR Big Shop, becoming the world’s go-to resource for Suzuki DR Big parts and expertise, and his crew build some of the baddest, maddest Suzukis on the planet — sometimes for the parent company themselves:
“In our highly specialized workshop, we build special Suzuki adventure and rally raid bikes for our customers worldwide — like our Dakar bike, the RMR450 — based on the RMX450. Suzuki itself had us build a DESERT EXPRESS prototype for the V-Strom 1050 at the EICMA in Milan.”
The bike we’re featuring today is the mightiest of all, Hessler Motorsport’s V-Strom 1050RR — aka the “Yellow Rally Monster.” The idea for a V-Strom rally raider came to Stefan when a team of Suzuki V-Strom engineers visited his shop to learn from his builds and experience:
“At that moment, this idea came into my head. A V-Strom needs to go on a rally — to prove it’s tough enough! We built the first prototype of a V-Strom DESERT EXPRESS RR (Rally Racing) in record speed, used the bike in the Hellas Rally, and took 4th place. Of course, our experience with large Suzuki rally bikes helped us.”
The modifications are dizzying, and Stefan gives us a comprehensive breakdown below. The base is a V-Strom 1000 with a 1050 engine. Highlights include 270/250 mm suspension travel — around 100 mm more travel than stock — along with 21 / 18″ Haan wheels with mousse-filled rally tires, newly developed exhaust system, completely reworked electronics with reprogrammed injection map / traction control, a full navigation suite installed in a rally tower, custom nose / windshield / tail / saddle, tank protection and skid plate, special Desert Express livery, and much, much more.
This rally monster makes 120 bhp and weighs exactly 234 kg (516 lbs) with 20 liters (5.3 gallons) of fuel and all rally tools and accessories. As you might imagine, that makes the V-Strom Rally quite the beast in the dirt — it can tackle most anything, but it’s especially scary when something goes wrong:
“If you ride off-road with 120hp — mostly without traction control, combined with 234kg weight from a seat height of 110cm, it’s like Jekyll and Hyde. You are enthusiastic, fascinated, and the bike seems to take it all with ease. But you also know you’re doomed if you ever lose control: your feet rarely touch the ground and when 500lbs fall from a high center of gravity…fuck off :-)”
Suzuki V-Strom Rally Racer: Builder / Racer Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’m Stefan Hessler, born in 1966, grew up in East Germany. Only 20 kilometers away there was one of the largest manufacturers of motorcycles in the eastern bloc, the Simson company. Simson was also active in enduro sports for advertising and was very successful. Every little boy wanted to be a factory pilot – me too 🙂
We drove like crazy to the disco and also raced, all with one bike. I didn’t become a factory pilot (that’s another story) but I came back to Simson after my studies as an electronics engineer, my hobby and my job became one.
However, after the reunification of Germany, the end of Simson was in sight, and as a young engineer and in the meantime even head of the testing department, I could not stop what had determined the global economy.
On the other hand, I bought a DR Big in 1990 — for me THE bike with the greatest Dakar spirit (next to the Africa Twin) and perfect…. But I hardly rode the bike for two years after I started to improve everything about it, just like on my SIMSON and MZ before.
In 1995 I raced in my first international rally raid. I finished 8th. The rally bug that made me buy the DR Big hasn’t let go of me today either. I’ve been doing rallies non-stop to this day — I’ve won many, some as overall winners.
There were inquiries about my bikes, and I delivered — in the first few years by letter — to friends of DR Big, whom I got to know at meetings. Over the years, the world’s most extensive online shop for the Suzuki DR Big and today Suzuki adventure bikes was created. From DR350-600-650-750-800-BIG to Freewind, DRZ, RMX450, and of course the V-Strom 650-1000-1050, and from January of course also the 800DE 🙂
In our highly specialized workshop, we build special Suzuki adventure and rally raid bikes for our customers worldwide — like our Dakar bike, the RMR450 — based on the RMX450. Suzuki itself had us build a DESERT EXPRESS prototype for the V-Strom 1050 at the EICMA in Milan.
The most extreme V-Strom is our V-Strom Rally. With this bike I won 4th place at the international Hellas Rallye Raid, after the KTM pros and as the first non-KTM 🙂 Details on that in the next block.
In 2017, when our DR Big business was already fully developed, Suzuki went into business for the first time with a yellow V-Strom. We already had close ties with Suzuki and proposed to Japan that they build a more off-road capable V-Strom. We got the order from Suzuki to build our V-Strom 1000 DESERT EXPRESS prototype.
The bike has suspension travel of 200/200 mm (instead of 160/160) and with 21-18 inch wheels (instead of 19-17) — it was really suitable for off-road use. In addition, we have also made further, thorough changes to the bodywork. The changes weren’t the work of a hobby garage; our claim was serious engineering right from the start. Take a look at our triple clamps…even a layman understands 🙂
Suzuki visited me and the engineers asked many things: why we build the Suzuki Adventure bikes like this — and not differently. At that moment, this idea came into my head. A V-Strom needs to go on a rally — to prove it’s tough enough!
We built the first prototype of a V-Strom DESERT EXPRESS RR (Rally Racing) in record speed, used the bike in the Hellas Rally, and took 4th place. Of course, our experience with large Suzuki rally bikes helped us. (I’d already ridden the legendary DR ZETA by Gaston Rahier in rallies, and also my own DR Big Rally, which now only consists of titanium and carbon 🙂 )
The Corona period interrupted most of the rally activities, including ours. Nevertheless, in the meantime we have further revised and “fine-tuned” the bike. It got the outfit of the new V-Strom 1050 with our DESERT EXPRESS decor.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
The motorcycle is a combination of a SUZUKI V-Strom 1000 and V-Strom 1050. The pictures show the current development status for the 2022 season.
• For what class of racing was the bike built?
With this motorcycle you can (and I have) ridden everything that includes off-road, adventure, and racing: from adventure tours (it has homologation for public road use) to adventuring events (for example the Hardalpi Tour San Remo-Sestriere) to national and international rally raid races (Hellas Rally). This monster even survived a motocross race with ease.
• What custom work/upgrades have been done?
It would take a few more pages to list all the specifications 🙂
Let’s start with the most important elements:
1.) Suspension! Changed from 160/160mm spring travel to 270/250mm, with the help of a WP Cone Valve Closed Cartridge fork at the front, which is fitted in triple clamps that we have specially milled. At the rear, a shock absorber specially developed by us together with WILBERS works on a lever system that we have completely newly developed.
2.) Wheels with EXCEL rims in 2.15-21″ and 3.00-18″ (alternatively 4.25-18″), developed together with HAAN WHEELS for the V-Strom. We ride rally tires with mousse.
3.) Newly developed exhaust system with its own manifold system and a MIVV silencer in HESSLER Edition.
4.) Completely reworked electronics (sorry, I’m an electronics engineer 😉 ) Since we believe from our own experience that a gas roller with Bowden cables is more resistant, we use the (simpler) injection and electronics of the V-Strom 1000. Removed from the programming among other things: ignition lock with immobilizer, side stand switch, exhaust flap, exhaust gas recirculation, lambda sensors, ABS. The injection map, traction control, and wheel sensors were reprogrammed.
The dashboard of the V-Strom 1000 is used as a supplement for the navigation RNS Tripmaster, CARPEITER Pad (or alternatively a classic road book) and of course a GARMIN GPS.
Lights at the front are Baja Squadron PRO for rallies, and LED flashing lights at the front of the hand protector — we also make these ourselves.
5.) Rear frame shortened, seat changed, rally tower and nose with windshield from our own production.
6.) Tank protection bar (needed for such a heavy bike, unfortunately) and skidplate — this one developed in-house in an aluminum-carbon compound.
7.) Just fine-tuning the engine — it’s now 120hp, but do you need this off-road?
8.) Of course the decor, our DESERT EXPRESS design.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
The Yellow Rally Monster.
• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?
- The engine has 120 hp, whether it’s one less or more — not important for off-road.
- The total weight with a full 20 liter tank is exactly 234kg.
- All (additional) navigation elements such as CaprePad, GPS, Tripmaster are taken into account — as well as spare parts (hand lever and gear lever under the seat) and 1.5 kg of on-board tools.
- Axle load distribution with a full tank is 122kg at the rear and 112kg at the front, fairly balanced for a monster.
- Suspension travel front rear: 270/250mm
- Wheel sizes 2.15-21″ with 90-90-21″ and 3.00-18″ with 140/80-18″ for racing (alternatively 4.25-18″ with 150-70-18″).
- Ground clearance 250mm
- Seat height 110cm!
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride/race this bike?
If you ride off-road with 120hp — mostly without traction control, combined with 234kg weight from a seat height of 110cm, it’s like Jekyll and Hyde. You are enthusiastic, fascinated, and the bike seems to take it all with ease. But you also know you’re doomed if you ever lose control: your feet rarely touch the ground and when 500lbs fall from a high center of gravity…fuck off 🙂
• Anybody you’d like to thank?
I want to thank my wife and family. It’s not easy to love a maniac 😉
And thank you for your interest!
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