Suzuki DR800 Gaston Rahier Tribute from La Oveja Negra…
The late Gaston Rahier remains one of our favorite off-road racers of all time. Known as “the little man with the giant reputation,” the 5’5″ Belgian bantam punched well above his weight class in multiple disciplines.
He won three consecutive 125cc Motocross World Championships (1975-77), multiple Trophy des Nations as a member of the Belgian team, and the Motocross of Nations.
In 1982, his motocross career ended with a serious accident in which he nearly lost his hand. However, he returned to compete in the Paris Dakar Rally, taking victory in both 1984 and 1985. The sight of the pint-size rider aboard the two-wheeled Clydesdales of the era was quite a vision to behold.
In 1988, Suzuki introduced the original DR Big, the DR750S, which took inspiration from their DR-Z rally bikes. The DR Big has over 9″ of ground clearance, 9.4″ / 8.7″ of front / rear suspension travel, and a lofty seat height of 34.5″.
In 1990, they unleashed the mighty Suzuki DR800S. The bike would quickly cement a long-lasting reputation as the largest single-cylinder mass-produced motorcycle engine ever built, and it earned a cult following that continues to this day:
“Great feel from the biggest thumper ever made. A true sensational bike as they build them in the late 80ies-early 90ies with all the adventure spirit of Paris Dakar (the real one!). Yes, DR Big could have adjustable suspension, more top power, and better air coverage. But then, it wouldn’t be Dr Big. If you find one just GRAB it!” -Actual owner, MCN
Enter our new friend Diego Meda, who is founder, co-owner, and “director general” at La Oveja Negra (The Black Sheep) — a workshop located in the Basque Country of northern Spain.
“In the four years that we have been in business, we have made more than 40 motorcycles…always trying to maintain the image and the lifestyle and the way of making the motorcycles that characterizes us, making ‘black sheep’ motorcycles recognizable anywhere just by seeing them.”
The DR Big you see here is a part of Diego’s personal collection, a tribute to Gaston Rahier and the Marlboro Racing rally bikes of the Paris Dakar’s air-cooled early days. While it isn’t as extensively customized as many of the workshop’s client builds, it has a perfect balance of vintage and modern technology, including upgraded suspension, electronics, and wheels.
The frame has been painted and the fairings clad in the Marlboro Racing colors — still as red-hot as ever — and a custom seat upholstered for the bike. Diego loves to ride it in the mountains of northern Spain, where such a bike is right at home — a two-wheeled reminder of days gone by:
“This motorcycle does not have any traction control or ABS, and no assisted clutch system — it is all hard and authentic, as things were done before.”
What’s more, the thumping heart of the DR Big never gets old:
“The most outstanding curiosity of this motorcycle is that it has a single cylinder of 10.5 cm in diameter, being a world record for the largest single-cylinder production engine ever made.”
Below, we talk to Diego for more details on his DR Big Gaston Rahier tribute.
Suzuki DR800 Rally Bike: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
We are a workshop located in a small town in the north of Spain in the Basque Country. The team is made up of Diego (me), the manager, and three people who eventually help Eneko, an engineer, and Andoni Mecanico and Nacho Asesor, but basically I work alone.
In the four years that we have been in business, we have made more than 40 motorcycles. We only work to order and according to the wishes of the client, always trying to maintain the image and the lifestyle and the way of making the motorcycles that characterizes us, making “black sheep” motorcycles recognizable anywhere just by seeing them. Our strong point is the Royal Enfield. We really like working with BMW and the K series is another of our specialties. Our company motto is: We make fun motorcycles. It is important for us to make fun motorcycles. We like the authentic, the real…
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The motorcycle in question is a Suzuki DR Big, 800 cubic centimeters, from 1988.
• Why was this bike built?
The motorcycle is for the use and enjoyment of the boss and builder of the company, Diego Meda (me), and I intend to leave it in my private collection forever.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The motorcycle has not made any major modifications beyond the painted chassis and the Marlboro decoration. The handlebars have been changed, giving a more pleasant height. The seat has been upholstered and all the electrical parts of the motorcycle have been renewed.
The central shock absorber and the geometries of the front suspension have been modified, studded wheels have been put on, and all the components have been given a general review.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?
The motorcycle does not have any traction control or ABS, and no assisted clutch system — it is all hard and authentic as things were done before.
The most outstanding curiosity of this motorcycle is that it has a single cylinder of 10.5 cm in diameter, being a world record for the largest single-cylinder production engine ever made.