Racing the world’s best trailbike

Little known fact: Suzuki DRZs actually are the easiest starting four-strokes even when they don?t have the electric start option.

Better known fact: Who cares?

The truth is that the button makes life better. Why fight it? Understanding the fundamental concept that easier is better, we took the next logical step. What if we were to make the DRZ even easier to ride? What if we made it an Autozuki? Last month we tried a Husaberg with a Rev-Loc centrifugal clutch. We loved it. The clutch engagement was smoother and more precise than most riders could accomplish with their own hand. We immediately ordered a Rev-Loc for our very own DRZ for more extensive testing.
As for the rest of the bike: we dropped it at Larry Roeseler?s Stroker Racing. Larry gave it the treatment: not to make it a racer, but rather to make it a sweetheart. Between the clutch and Larry?s simple, effective mods, our project DRZ is now the next best thing to a magic carpet.

We never really thought the Autozuki would be a racer. It wasn?t designed for that. It was made for long days of leisurely trailriding. But then we started thinking: why not race it? The Los Anciano?s Tecate Hare Scrambles is a brutal affair and usually riders take them selves out of it by trying too hard. Arm pump is a local epidemic. The Lazy Boy was so easy to ride that it might well be a secret weapon. How can you get arm pump when you only have to use one hand?

First things first. The Tecate start is a dead-engine, straddle the front wheel procedure. Usually it?s a demonstration of sheer klutzhood as riders try to dance around the bike, start it and go. With the Lazy Boy the biggest challenge is not to get run over as the bike goes by. The start was definitely cheating.
After that, the biggest problem was deciding how to ride the bike. Remember, the clutch lever is still there and it still works. It?s just that it has a super-easy pull, since the only spring to overcome is a tiny one that just keeps the lever from flopping around. If you go into the sandy turns the way your instincts tell you, the bike is normal. You pull in the clutch going into turns and then blast out. But then you start feeling stupid for being such a creature of habit. So you tell yourself not to touch the lever and then things get kind of strange. At first the front end wants to push over every berm. Then you start riding better?not better in terms of technique for riding automatic bikes, but better overall. You become smoother on the throttle and get on the gas earlier. In the rocky sections you wouldn?t dream of touching the lever. Once you learn that the Rev-Loc is much smarter than you, it?s easy to let it do all the work.

The rest of the bike was perfect for Tecate. DRZs are powerful bikes, especially once you have a pipe and all the jetting sorted out. The two biggest problems are the soft suspension?Stroker installed Progressive fork springs to handle that?and the weight. We didn?t do anything about that, but luckily there were no steep downhills where the mass could take over. The race went well, despite an early learning curve. Jimmy Lewis won with enough time to drink a beer at the last check. Tim Morton was second and Ron was third on the Lazy Boy. Here are the two important parts: the bike was never stalled and Ron?s arms never pumped up.
The next week we took the bike on a fairly extreme trail ride. The biggest revelation of that trip was the fact that you can?t bulldog a bike down a steep hill if the bike freewheels as if it?s in neutral. You can?t control it. The solution was to stick a wrench in the sprocket to lock up the rear wheel. A more permanent solution would be to install a hand rear brake.

When you stay on the bike and keep the engine running, steep hills are no problem. Engine braking is normal, for the most part. The clutch disengages at such low rpm that it?s no factor. The only way to get it to freewheel downhill is to push the bike off the top without ever blipping the throttle. The first time you give it a little gas, the clutch stays engaged.

We took everything apart after the first few rides and the clutch plates looked like brand new. The Rev-Loc actually clamps the plates with much more force than normal springs, so plate life should actually be extended. The ball-ramp device looked new, too. The only real problem was that you have to remove about a zillion screws to take everything apart, and those screws can strip out. Get extras.

We have dozens of bikes in the Dirt Bike garage. Right now the DRZ is the clear favorite for any given trail ride. We never designed it to be a racer, but the fact that it can be raced is awesome. It?s just that it?s so much more fun to be lazy.

The Rev-Loc clutch is one of the simplest and most impressive products we?ve ever tested. It uses a centrifugal ball-ramp device (like that of a powervalve governor) to engage the clutch. After installing it and using it extensively, we can?t imagine how it could break, barring cannon fire. If you absolutely must use a manual clutch to make the bike turn, you still have one; the left lever still works as long as the engine isn?t at super high rpm. The price is $995, which isn?t that much more than a Hinson basket, hub and pressure plate along with new plates and springs. Contact Drussel Wilfley at (303) 292-1366.

The stock DRZ pipe is quiet and we love it for that. But there?s more power hidden in the engine if you uncork it. The Stroker SX1 exhaust is a full race system with a spark arrester. The pipe, along with Stroker?s head pipe, brings the DRZ up to a performance level similar to an older YZ400. That ain?t bad. Stroker also sells a breather kit that reroutes the crankcase vent. The stock vent goes straight into the airbox for emissions purposes even though the DRZ was never designed for green sticker approval. The pipe is $235, the head pipe is $140 and the breather kit is $49.95.

This is, without doubt, one of the coolest products that Stroker makes. The rear fender brace is made of stainless steel and keeps the fender from flopping around. This is a must if you press the DRZ into dual-sport service. Even if you don?t have a ton of junk hanging off the rear fender, the brace makes a good grab handle. Price: $99.95.

Here?s an interesting fact about having a centrifugal clutch: you can?t bump start the bike. Drussel does have a configuration that makes this possible, but you sacrifice the manual override. Normally, we wouldn?t worry. But remember, the DRZ has no kickstarter in stock form. We didn?t want to be stranded with a dead battery, so we installed Suzuki?s kickstart kit, which is available through any dealer for $200.

It seems weird, but the DRZ doesn?t come stock with handguards. This is the ultimate lazy man?s trail bike we?re building here, remember? Hand protection is a must, but since we weren?t going racing, we settled for the minimal 909 plastic guards.

Suzuki has such a great trail motor in the DRZ that we didn?t want to do anything that might screw it up. Protecting it from rocks and junk seemed smart, though. Stroker sells a beefy skidplate for $79.95. Contact Stroker for more info at (760) 948-2871.


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