The bike I’m piloting is a 2000 Suzuki DR650SE, with, at the start of this journey, a little over 16,000 miles on the odometer. I chose this machine for a number of reasons:

  • The design hasn’t changed since 1999, making it essentially bulletproof
  • Its single-cylinder air-cooled engine makes it very simple to work on
  • Since the design of DR650 hasn’t changed in so long, parts are readily available everywhere
  • It was damn cheap, which meant I could spend money on sweet sweet upgrade lovin’


I’ve done a ton of mods to my DR650; none original, most culled from various website and forums around the internet. For a full list of items I’ve installed (and their cost), check out my Google spreadsheet.

Big Stuff

  • Replaced the gas tank with a plastic translucent Acerbis 5.3 gallon, for increased range and an easy at-a-glance “how much fuel do I have left” gauge. (oh man, and now I see they have a 6.6 gallon tank! Oh well)
  • Weak rear shocks were replaced with a Cogent Dynamics ‘Mojave’ shock, sprung for 7.6 kg/s
  • Front forks were rebuilt with straight rate .55 springs and DDCs, which do better fork springy things.  I’m not sure, but they have performed much better than the stock forks.
  • The seat is not stock, however it came preinstalled and is made by Sargent.
  • The heavy stock lead-acid battery was replaced with a Shorai LFX1944 lithium-iron battery. It is heaps lighter and has great cranking power, the only drawback is it takes a while to ‘warm up’ in cold weather.
  • The stock exhaust (which weighs around 17 lbs) was also replaced with a used right-side Suzuki GSX1300R ‘Hayabusa’ muffler (any from 1999-2007 will work), and a mid-pipe from Kientech Engineering. The mid-pipe is about 5 times as expensive as the actual exhaust, funnily enough. Weight savings are worth it though!


I hemmed and hawed for a long time over what type of luggage system I was going to use; you basically have two choices, soft or hard.  While hard luggage provides more security (hypothetically), there are many stories of people falling over or crashing with their legs being crushed by the panniers.

Since I like my legs, I decided on soft panniers, but I wasn’t completely sold on the security aspect until I found these ‘Magadan’ panniers made by Adventure-Spec:

Image taken from

What sold me on them was the fact that you can lock them with cable locks, and they are pretty huge.  Inside each bag is another waterproof dry-bag that can roll down to many sizes.  I affixed a Master Lock Python adjustable cable lock to each bag, through the loops stitched onto each bag, and while I should have bought the  4- or 6-foot locks instead of the 8-foot, they’ve worked great so far.

You can see how the lock reaches all the way around the bag, and you can cinch it down.
You can see how the lock reaches all the way around the bag, and you can cinch it down.

The huge pockets are a big plus as well; you can fit a quart of oil in at least 2 of them.

To mount the luggage, you also need some racks, and one can spend just as much on rack as you can panniers.  Luckily I found some good ol’ made in ‘merica racks from Precision Motorcycle Racks, specifically their Side Luggage Racks and their Rear Case Utility Rack.

IMAG0298 IMAG0299

On the rear (or top) rack, I mounted a Seahorse SE630 case, where I  keep all my electronics and valuables.  It’s locked down by two Master Locks as well. It’s a bit smaller than cases others have used, but I’ve managed to fit most everything I use inside.

It's fastened on their with 4 screw bolts and weatherproof seals. Pretty sturdy so far.
It’s fastened on their with 4 screw bolts and weatherproof seals. Pretty sturdy so far.

Also, the tires I had strapped down have since been installed, saving me a ton of weight and reducing the windjammer nature of the fully-loaded DR650 in heavy crosswinds.


Besides the luggage, I’ve taken a number of precautions to secure my motorcycle and belongings.

Most importantly, I’ve got a motorcycle cover; hey, if you can’t see it, you don’t know how good or bad it is, so why bother, right? I’d show you a picture, but it’d be pretty boring. Imagine a tarp over a motorcycle, done.

I also have a longer cable lock that I use to pass through the frame and some larger object; I debated on using a massive chain but couldn’t justify the weight.

For the large green bag that contains all my camping gear, I have a PacSafe 85L Bag & Backpack protector, which is essentially a large wire mesh that you can lock down.  I’ve yet to use it as I’ve either camped or taken my stuff into a hotel room, but I’m hoping it’ll work out well.

Finally, I use a Xena Disc Lock with Alarm, that’ll blast an annoying repeating tone at 120 dB if disturbed. The only problem is that sometimes I forget I left it on the motorcycle as I drive off. 😉

disc lock


Finally, for personal protection I have brought a M32 MGL (Multiple Grenade Launcher), as well as my wit, charm, and a Spanish phrase book.  Here you can see how I mounted the M32 to the motorcycle with $1.99 neon green bungee cords.

It only bangs into my left knee every single bump; luckily I ride with it unloaded. Usually.