Our Bikes and Mods

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The Bike
Andrea and I both ride the DRZ400S, we each concluded, independently that it was the best bike for us and the riding we like to do. It’s light enough that we can pick the bike up alone (unless we put 100lbs of luggage on it hmm), capable of riding long miles while still being relatively nimble in the dirt.  Plus it’s the second most popular dual sport bike sold (after the KLR650), so there are lots of accessories floating around! Here’s a list of all the farkles and mods we’ve done to ours!

Mandatory Mods
There are a few things every DRZ owner should buy right away, the costs are low compared to the price of the parts they protect.

It is a fatal flaw of the DRZ that the inside edges of the shifter and rear brake are sharp and the walls of the engine case so thin. One tip over at no speed and you might find yourself stranded on a hillside with your oil bleeding out. For a bit over thirty bucks you can grab a pair of case savers and never have to worry about it again. ThumperTalk DRZ Case Savers Set

Likewise you need a solid skid plate, one that wraps around the sides of your engine a bit to protect your coolant pump, lest you smash it on a rock like I did on this ride and have to ride down a mountain with the bike off in neutral. I use the one from Thumpertalk and recommend them, though the Moose on below is similar. 🙂

Other unfortunately delicate parts are the clutch and brake levers.  A pair of sturdy hand guards will protect your levers and hands too! Or take it a step further like Andrea and buy folding unbreakable levers. I have personally seen her eat it in the sand a half dozen times and so far, they live up to their names! These Cycra guards are my favorite, super sturdy. Be advised you need to get the clamps too to install!

Radiator guards are a good idea too, since they are fairly delicate and very expensive to replace. You can buy a set of guards or get a gas tank which wraps around the sides to offer better protection.

Gas Tanks
The stock DRZ400 tank is just 2.6 gallons, so a larger one is a must for any sort of real adventuring. Andrea and I both have 4+ gallon translucent tanks. The translucent is great because at a glance you can tell how much fuel you have left. I drew lines on mine for where the level is when I hit reserve as well. I like the added radiator protection the larger tanks provide, but you can go for the 4 gallon tank if you like the look of your stock radiator plastics…or if you like to wander far out into the wilds and never want to worry about gasoline, you can go all out with 7.4 gallon Safari tank.

4+                                       4                                      7.4

Andrea has a deep distrust for the DRZ stock petcock which I had at one time questioned…until mine failed in Alaska. I replaced it up there with another stock petcock which also failed, this time in Mexico, putting my engine in hydrolock and requiring an oil change before it could start. Now I have to unhook my fuel lines every time I stop or it floods my carburetor.  For most riders I would say just enjoy the stock vacuum petcock while it works (the one on my old bike never failed) and buy a new one if it croaks, but if you plan to take your DRZ out on a long journey like ours, replace it before you go or at least carry a spare. Andrea has a Pingel and swears by it.

Because we like to explore without the fear of being stranded without gasoline, Andrea mounted an extra 3 gallon Rotopax on the back of bike like a top box. We used the cheap mount, but the locking one is a good idea if you can swing it.


A quick note about the kickstarter kit for the DRZ400. Many of them say they are just for the DRZ400E, but this one works great on the DRZ400S as well, you just end up with some extra parts. The included instructions aren’t the most clear, but if you use them in conjunction with this tutorial and have reasonable mechanical aptitude, you probably won’t destroy your engine.

Andrea and I installed this kickstarter on my bike before leaving (under the guidance of a professional mechanic) and she really wishes we’d done it on her bike too. She’s carrying a set of motorcycle jumper cables, which are cheap, but difficult to use because battery access requires an entire unpack and removal of side racks and a plastic panel. Plus, if you are a solo traveler, you’ll need another bike to use them. My battery has died suddenly from plugging in too many electronics and being able to kick and go was way better than pushing Andrea’s bike up a steep driveway in a Mayan village so we could bump start it down.  I also switched to this little lithium battery before leaving. It’s great! Weighs nothing and holds a charge better too!

Lowering Links, Seat and Suspension
At 36.8 inches, the stock seat and suspension presents a challenge for 5’3 Andrea and 5’6 me.  I bought my bike lowered and added the awesome Dished Corbin Seat to get my toes closer to the ground. For Andrea’s bike she shaved the seat down herself since she was on a tight budget and then we added 1.75″ links. You also need to slide your forks up through your triple clamps to evenly lower your bike, it’s a fairly easy mod and being able to touch a foot down when things get rocky is a major benefit.

1″ Links                        1.75″ Links

Both of us are running Dunlop D606 rear tires right now. We installed them for Baja because they kill it in the sand yet take highway miles well and wear rather slowly compared to most dirt tires. Oddly, the D606 front tire wears extremely quickly, so for people riding hard dirt I recommend the Maxxis Desert IT front instead.

When our current tires go, we want to find TKC80’s, which have rave reviews for trips like ours…how likely it is we get our hands on some in Central/South America remains to be seen, oftentimes here, you get whatever they have.

Performance Parts
We both installed Extended Fuel Screws from Kientech before leaving. It’s a great idea if you plan to be riding at ever-changing elevations. Adjusting the air/fuel mixture without it requires a very tiny screwdriver and very dexterous hands, with this one you can easily reach down and adjust it at any time if my bike starts backfiring in the mountains. The Kientech website seems to have issues pretty often, but give it a shot www.kientech.com or better yet, just call them: 541-472-0835 They are a small family company and very helpful and friendly. Andrea ordered her Jet Kit from them too and they gave her a lot of helpful advice and wrote special instructions for what she was planning and included them in her kit. Now that’s service!

Andrea likes to tinker and tune so here’s a bunch of little things she’s done to get more power out of her bike. Every DRZ rider who takes her bike for a spin comments on how smooth it feels and how easy it is to lift the front tire, so if you’re looking for performance, here are some good places to start.
3×3 Airbox Mod
This popular mod enlarges the stock oval hole in the top of the airbox, to a 3″x3″ square for better airflow.

This is the Jet Kit you’ll want if you plan to do the 3×3 and rejet. It says it’s for the SM, but it’s the one you want for the modified S as well. It includes a 25 pilot jet and needle with more of a taper which she used with the stock 142.5 main jet in conjuction with the FMF full exhaust with Powerbomb header and K&N Air Filter for MAD POWER! The extended fuel screw will be very helpful for tuning as well.

Taillight, Turn signals and Mirrors
Andrea really likes to fall in the sand and break off all the sticky-outy bits from her bike. Now she has tiny integrated front blinkers and the UFO Taillight with integrated rear blinkers too. They aren’t very good in the visibility department, but at least they won’t break off. We replaced her mirrors with some cheap scooter mirrors, because it’s all we could find in rural Mexico. Turns out they offer superior visibility to the stock mirrors…hopefully she doesn’t break them off again!