Suzuki DR 800

Owner updates aged Suzuki DR 800

  • Everyone’s heard of the bullet-proof Suzuki DR 650, but how about this labour-of-love 1990 Suzuki DR 800 belonging to Shane Kuhl of Horizons Unlimited! We’ll let Shane tell you about his bike:

Owning an older bike with a few miles on it comes with its own set of challenges. Problems with worn parts, poor quality work by the previous owners, even poorer quality work by the current owner and a lack of aftermarket parts all create frustration.

While at times I have been tempted to simply go out and by a new bike, persistence with the many fixes, modifications and repairs have been well worth it. I am very interested in fully understanding and maintaining the bike, there is not much left that I haven’t tackled.

My wife Karen gave me the bike as a 20th wedding anniversary present. She bought off her younger brother Brett in November 2009 who was unable to ride it as often as he would have liked due to some health problems.

Suzuki DR 800

It’s a 1990 Suzuki DR 800, imported from Japan through a West Australian importer who had dealt in DR 750s through 1988 to 1993 when imports stopped. Only about 100 remain running in Australia

The DR 750/DR 800 line is known as the “Desert Express” or “DR BIG” and was originally designed to race the Paris-Dakar rally.

The 800s are the largest mass-production single-cylinder motorcycle. It has air/oil cooling which provides simplicity but also means you need to keep the air flowing through it.

Other unique features include twin spark plugs, twin carburettors and a decompression system to aid starting without which you would undoubtedly damage valves and camshafts.

Just like the Yamaha XTZ750 Super Tenere of the 1990s, this is a bike built to be tough, solid, fast and fun. If you have the patience required for any old bike, it is really worth the effort.

Suzuki DR 800Here is a list of some of the major mods and work done on the bike in chronological order:

  • Replaced front disc and pads
  • Acrylic/Perspex screen added in front of standard screen.
  • Most of the switches had been replaced with car accessory switches.
  • Handlebars replaced with Pro Taper tapered bars with a Ricky Carmichael bend, the insides filled with silicon.
  • The bars gave been raised about four centimetres, heated grips and slide on grip covers (also known as grip puppies) added. Bark busters with bar end weights and custom plastic handguards.
  • The gear shift lever has been replaced by a MCS DR650 replacement.
  • Replaced the stock foot peg hangar bolts with longer high-tensile bolts and moved the hangars out by using some washers as space really provides a sure footing.
  • Seat professionally lowered 4cm and a DIY sheepskin seat cover from an old car seat cover added.
  • Rebuilt a large part of the wiring loom.
  • The clutch lever is a three-finger aftermarket MCS lever for a DRZ400.
  • A headlight cut-out switch has been added to save power when starting.
  • Laser ProDuro exhaust saved about 6kg and is still legal.
  • Wolfman saddlebags fitted.
  • A small lockable box is bolted to the rear rack and power outlets plumbed in to recharge phone etc and run the tyre pump.
  • New rivet chain and sprockets.
  • Rear brake calliper fully rebuilt with new fluid seals and wipers.

I also plan to mount a fan on the oil cooler similar to a popular modification on DR 650s and DRZ 400s and I’ll also switch to a lithium ion battery which will save about 3kg.

The bike has done 95,000km and I figure that if I keep replacing the worn bits, by the time the odo ticks over to 00000, it will be a new bike!

Seriously, I have a bike that has great sentimental value, is an absolute hoot to ride and now, finally, can be ridden all the time. It is my daily driver and yet I can still take it off road when I wish.

Suzuki DR 800
Shane’s Suzuki DR 800 at a Horizons Unlimited event

I’ve ridden it on single track following our son on his TTR90 and then his XT225, no problem. I have also had, and still have, a bike that allows me to tinker and experiment with. I will be riding this bike to the annual Horizons Unlimited meeting in Boonah in September where there will be plenty of others to share their love of motorcycle adventure travel. Funnily enough, I will be leading a workshop on DIY modifications and another one on basic electrical repairs including how to NOT set your bike on fire.

More details of this amazing event can be found here.

After Horizons Unlimited at Boonah, I hope to ride the dirt roads from Brisbane to Canberra and back again. After that, I should have the confidence to take the bike anywhere; perhaps the Great Australian Ride across the centre of Australia.

Horizons Unlimited - Suzuki DR 800
Shane Kuhl and Susan Johnson at Horizons Unlimited meeting
  1. All motorcycles manufactured prior to 1960 with a cubic capacity up to and including 6c, and currently available fully electric powered motorcycles are also approved for use by novice riders.

  2. I have a 91 DR750 requiring a collection of parts. I’m in West Aust and am having trouble finding the most basic items (brake repair kits, plastics etc). Can anybody provide a contact for sourcing any Dr Big DR parts. I’m reluctant to start adapting other model components at this stage.

    1. Check out Megazip, they have a lot of old genuine parts for all the 4 jap brands. Also just punch in DR750 Suzuki and keep searching.

  3. hi there.l have dr big 750 have owned for 20 years plus.lm not getting much of a chance riding for 3 years.l ride to the mail box to keep it happy and me but its sad but thinking of letting my love if any one there interestered give a yell.56,000 km new disk tyres piston rings bore top end valves ect oilpump fuel pump muffler its a good thing. l have been very good to big.have been going to do this for a year or so keep saying no l not let big go.well ive doneit

  4. Hello, I live in Barcelona Spain. The price is 1500 euros. I do not know how to attach the photos on this site

  5. Hi Guys,
    Good to see an older bike being used like this. i am currently (painfully?) returning to the road as compared to restoring, my 87 DR750. Shes got 26k on the clock and has proven a challenge to get parts for but hopefully she will be back on the road soon

    1. Hi Fellow DR BIG owners. I think we should pool together and exchange ideas like create out own face book page. Share spare sources etc. I have a 1988 DR750S that I am restoring.

      1. It is great to see people hanging on to the old-school bikes, I have 2 1985 DR 600s. One has done over 100,000 klms and only been pulled
        down once to give it a rebore. I have found a lot of parts genuine and non genuine on the internet.
        I wanted to buy a DR 800 when they first came out but couldn’t afford it.

        1. hello, I have a suzuki dr 750 big of the year 1989, it has 53000 kilometers, it works well, I need to sell it, to restore it or in parts, are you interested?

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