Introduced in 2000, the Suzuki DR-Z400 quickly gained something of a cult following. On paper, the specs were not the most impressive, but the liquid-cooled middleweight dual-sport proved itself to legions of riders:
“The Suzuki DR-Z400 was a great bike. It had a wonderful engine matched with a so-so chassis — and lived with a slight weight problem. But as they often say, its sum was greater than its parts, and it offered plenty of bang for buck.” –Rust Sports
Soon they were looking for a motorcycle for Fleur. They compared several models, looking for a machine that could handle the enduro / off-roading that Casper loves so much, and be built to have a more classic look for riding with friends in their vintage motorcycle club.
Despite the pandemic restrictions, they sneaked just over the border to import a low mileage, mint condition 2003 Suzuki DR-Z400 dual sport in the E model. The bike already had more performance than the standard model thanks to a 39mm Keihin FCR carb, aggressive cams, and only 119 kg dry weight with 48 hp on tap. The bike was made street legal again to receive its license plates before starting the scrambler build.
They already had plenty of inspiration for the build from posting more than a thousand bikes and female riders on their Instagram page @bikerchicksgram, which has grown to +100k followers. But as first-time bike builders, they soon discovered the challenges they’d face to achieve the desired look.
They started the build outside during summer, but the bike was moved to the living room when it began to get cold, where the project proceeded all winter long. With both Casper and Fleur working in online fashion and marketing, they were happy to spend so much time off their screens on most evenings and weekends.
Soon they discovered the build was way more complicated than simply ditching the plastic bodywork. The original radiator mounts didn’t leave room for the gas tank from xlmoto. After some time puzzling it out, and even considering cutting the tank, they found the solution by creating relocation brackets and twisting the coolant tubes, while maintaining maximum steering lock. The radiators are protected from front and side impacts by steel brackets and shields. The stock overflow reservoir was removed and replaced with a transparent tube behind the radiator.
They welded three new brackets for the tank on the frame. Hidden underneath are the relocated CDI, fuses, and control unit from Elektronikbox.
They cut the aluminum subframe and reshaped it with custom-sized tubing from Cacko Garage, welded by frame specialist BZS Racing Parts. The result is 250mm / 10 inches of wheel travel. The seat pan was created with a partially cut-out space to relocate a new 5Ah Lithium battery from Super B to go along with the compatible stator and rectifier from Rick’s Electrics.
The fine oxblood leather seat from Miller Seats added even more comfort. Underneath, the original air box was kept for real off-roading, such as TET routes. It partially holds the battery without affecting the 3×3-inch inflow to the Funnelweb air filter with Vrooam red oil.
The plexiglas panels were measured, 3D modeled, and produced to size. The subframe bag from Kappa Moto is just big enough to fit the alarm chain lock from Oxford Products. It was mounted at the same height as the new muffler. Compared to the original exhaust and battery, this also reduced the weight by a couple of kilograms.
Then brackets were created for the new headlight, speedometer, blinkers, fenders, and muffler. In total, over 30 wires run through the handlebar.
The push-button controls are from Rebelmoto with red LEDs and electric heating pads underneath the red grips.
The gas tank, fenders, and radiator shield received six layers of fresh paint from bike artist Santin Lensen. The look was planned to be clean — let the mud splashes be the offroad artwork. Fleur designed the DRZ tank emblem, which was created by our friends Joyride Motocamp — and it now also stands for “Dirty Red Zuki.”
The original wheels were wrapped in Mitas E-10 (off)road tires.
The result is a fun ride which Fleur uses as a daily commuter. She also joins Casper on his enduro trips through singletrack forest routes, green lanes, and off-road parks. She says the bike’s power brings the front up or lets the rear step out in a smooth way. It feels light and has nimble handling both on- and off-road.
If you ever come to The Netherlands, Casper and Fleur are eager to show you the (unpaved) routes all the way to the Belgium border. Videos of the bike running off-road can be seen here: instagram.com/atelieradrenalin.