Recently I was invited on an offroad motorcycle trip to Morocco with a couple of friends. I didn't have a suitable motorcycle so I took the occasion to try to find something for the trip. The trip would be in several months so I had a bit of time to prepare for it.
Initially I had thought that I might take a big dual purpose bike such a BMW GS (as I have owned several of these in the past and liked them) but my friend had a much lighter KTM 690 Enduro and my off road riding skills are not as good as his; so I started looking at lighter bikes.
When I look for a motorcycle I don't only look for the practical aspects of the bike, I look for something that particularly attracts me to it, in this case I had been trawling secondhand bike classifieds for some time and couldn't really get excited about any of the newer bikes that we in my price range.
I've always liked the old Dakar bikes from the 80s and 90s and I saw a few mixed in with the newer bikes for sale, initially I started looking at the older Yamaha XT600 bikes and I saw a couple of the early large tank versions for the dakar in the eighties, I also saw some really nice TT600 belgarda bikes and I would probably have bought one but the petrol tank size was not really suitable for many kilometres between fuel stops on the moroccan trails.
After a bit more browsing along those lines I came across some Suzuki DR600's, XR600's and KLR's, then I found a Suzuki DR Big (800)
The DR Big immediately caught my eye as a bit different and quirky so I started looking into it a bit more.
There were at the time very few of these bikes on sale and I had read that the earlier 750 version was a better adventure bike.
Almost immediately I found a very early 800 version of the bike to look at (basically the same bike as the 750 model but with a longer stroke, and I almost bought this model, the SR42 but when the seller messed me around a lot and I had the impression he was hiding something from me so I (a bit sadly) continued my search.
After a couple more weeks, I found a version of the later model (SR43) for sale that apparently didn't have much interest in it.
The colour of the bike was a dark metallic green and it was one of the last models made of the DR800 in 1997 before Suzuki gave up on the bike, although I did not like the colour and the bike had some problems (rotten exhaust and burning some oil) I managed to negotiate with the seller and get it for what I considered to be a very reasonable price (700 Euros), so I bought it!
Here is a picture of the bike on the day that I bought it
I wanted to start off by giving the bike a little service, I already knew when I bought the bike that it would need a new exhaust so I had order holeshot stainless steel one with a Sebring end can from Stefan Hessler in Germany but much to my surprise and horror when I removed the two spark plugs, one of them had small pieces of metal on it :(
This bike clearly needed at least the top end looking at
No problem I thought I'll simply take off the head and have a look, that shouldn't take long, sadly after looking at the workshop manual I learned that for this bike removing the cylinder head means first removing the engine from the frame :(
So that was the first step of what was quickly becoming a much larger project than I had anticipated.....