How to prepare your bike for adventure, part 1

Gear, How To -

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The thing about so-called “Adventure” bikes, is that they don’t tend to actually be ready for adventure out of the box. Getting them there typically takes thousands of dollars in add-on protection and performance parts. In this three-part series, we’re going to take a base Suzuki V-Strom 650 and build it into something more capable than the OE “Adventure” model for the same $1,500 premium. This is how you prepare you bike for adventure, on a budget.

You may remember from our review of Suzuki’s updated V-Strom that we really liked the bike, but we were less than impressed by some of the accessories that came standard on the Adventure package.

In particular, we took the chunky aluminum side cases off and left them at home, since they made the bike wider than a pair of Cam-Am Spyders trying to lane split. The crash guards were decent, as was the laminar lip-style screen. There were also some notable omissions in the Adventure spec, and we’d have preferred to address those during the test as well. As luck would have it, we happen to have a DL650 hanging about, so we put together a plan of attack and reached for the wrenches.

Before we could do any damage to the bike, we first called Twisted Throttle. Purveyors of many things adventurey and toury, such as SW Motech hard parts, they displayed their own fully kitted out 2012 DL project bike at several shows recently. If you decided to buy a stock model DL650 instead of the Adventure model, you’d have $1,500 burning a hole in your pocket. Let’s see how far that money can take this bike. Because stock sucks.

Let’s get a couple things out of the way first. Dynamically, the DL650 is kind of amazing. It’s got great brakes with really good ABS. It handles far better than it has a right to, makes good power and is very comfy, even on the stock seat. It will give full-on sportsbikes a good run on most roads and generally blows your expectations away every time you ride it. So we had no intention of throwing an exhaust system on this thing that would blow a grand of the budget to liberate 1.37 horsepower.

Instead, let’s talk about some things that didn’t make it on to the Adventure model from Suzuki.

How about something that should be the first purchase on any motorcycle that can fit one? Basically the sexiest part of any motorcycle: the centerstand. I love the humble centerstand with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. Why? Because as someone who actually rides their bike more than 12 miles each year, I need to be able to lube my chain and check slack without having to pull a paddock stand out of my ass. It’s also nice to know your bike will be able to park securely on soft ground… you know, like when you are out adventure riding far away from pavement. A track bike doesn’t need a centerstand, but every other streetbike in the world does. It’s a travesty that OEMs don’t even offer optional stands for the vast majority of bikes today. Suzuki does offer a centerstand for the DL650 but didn’t include it on their Adventure package. Probably because it costs most of $330. The OEM centerstand also compromises left-hand cornering clearance. Screw that.

Twisted Throttle sells SW Motech’s centerstand for the DL650 for under $220. It passes ze Germans’ muster to earn TUV certification and doesn’t require fitting a new super long peg feeler to the left side footrest. Install was easy enough, but make sure that you know how to use a torque wrench and that you have some locktite handy. Also, a few bolt heads get buried during the installation, which can be a bit frustrating but isn’t a deal breaker. Voila! $217.50 spent but we now have a centerstand. Now it’s actually a streetbike you can use!

Next up comes a rather large omission from the entire range of Suzuki’s accessories: a proper bash plate. You don’t get one on the Adventure model because Suzuki doesn’t sell one. All you can get from the OEM is stylish but flimsy plastic chin cowling. If you ever plan on taking your adventure bike into the unknown, you better make sure to protect the exhaust, oil filter and sump, otherwise you’ll be walking home. Another call to Twisted Throttle netted us SW Motech’s engine guard for $259.99. The coolest thing about this skidplate compared to others on the market is that it mounts independently of the upper crash bars (most require a matching set of crash bars as upper mounting points). I’m not sold on the crashbars, but I still wanted the sump protection. If I change my mind later, I can get a set of crashbars from whichever company I choose (Suzuki OEM being a decent option). This installation was about as easy as the centerstand: make sure you have a torque wrench and be prepared for a few frustrating bolt head placements that get hard to reach was the skidplate is in the way. Also, Twisted Throttle claims you can’t remove the oil filter with the skidplate fitted. There’s a drain bolt port and there appears to be plenty of room to get to the filter, so I’m not sure what they’re talking about here.

Cost so far: $477.49. And the bike is already more prepared for adventure than the OEM-kitted model.

Now unless sexy hard parts like centerstands and skidplates bore you, you might remember how the new centerstand makes lubing the chain so easy that you might actually do it regularly (for a change). What if you didn’t have to lube the chain at all? Surely this sort of technology is right around corner, being 2013 and all. Unknown to many riders in the states, reliable automatic chain oilers have been available in the UK for decades from an easy company to remember: Scottoiler.

Made in Scotland and invented by a guy named Fraser Scott (I see what you did there), the Scottoiler system uses a small reservoir of proprietary chain oil that drips directly onto your drive chain at a very slow speed, around 1 to 2 drops per minute. This tiny amount of oil is just enough the keep the chain lubed through capillary action without flinging any oil onto your bike or more importantly, your rear tire. Because the chain is constantly lubed, it stays clean compared to picking up grime with a sticky chain lube. Besides greatly extending the life of your chain and making your riding life sooooo much easier, a Scottoiler promises to all but eliminate chain tension adjustments.

To make sure the chain oiler activates only when you want it to, there are two options to control the oiling valve. One is a simple old-school vacuum arrangement that taps into your bike’s mechanicals to use a tiny bit of engine vacuum (3 CCs of air volume, your bike will never notice). The other option is newer and much higher tech: an all-electric controller that detects bike motion via accelerometer to deploy oil when needed.

Because the ESystem Scottoiler is easy to install but pricier at $279.99, I opted for a challenge and selected the trad VSystem for the DL650 for $129.99. The ESystem only need to hook up to the battery and then you’re done. For the VSystem, you need to track down a vacuum line in the engine bay to tap into with a T-fitting, then route the vacuum line and oil lines appropriately. This is definitely a “measure twice – cut once” sort of affair. If you know what the inside of your bike’s engine bay looks like, go for it, but if you aren’t skilled with a service manual, opt for the ESystem oiler kit instead! The included paper directions are very generic, as you are expected to go to Scottoiler’s website to download a PDF with your bike’s specific installation instructions. However, euro bike owners can look forward to co-branded specific fitment kits for their various bikes. You can now buy Scottoiler products with BMW part numbers on them, too.

Once you figure out where everything needs to go, use the supplied zip ties and hardware to fit both the oil metering valve and the oil delivery line as required. Then prime the system with the supplied oil and run the bike. It’s really quite awesome to see your chain get perfectly moistened without any fling. (Watch this space, as we’ll be updating how well the Scottoiler performs down the road as well.)

So far, we’ve spent $607.48, less than half of our allotted $1,500. For those six C-bills, our V-Strom is better protected and easier to live with than either version of the DL650. And to really sink that home, it’s as basically as easy to live with as a shaft-driven bike. More to come, so stay tuned.

  • contender

    How do I install a Scottoiler on my Buell?

    I joke. I look forward to the rest of this series.

    • Bruce Steever

      First, install the race kit chain and sprocket set for your particular model. Then…

  • http://twitter.com/threefour Victor Lombardi

    Great article idea.

  • Emmet

    This. More articles like this. Please!

  • FreeFrog

    Good article. Nice, practical advice.

    I’m not a fan of Scottoilers. Tried one of my first gen WeeStrom and more trouble than it was worth. Just carry a rag and small container of chain lube on the road for longer treks and only degrease when I get home (or if doing lots of off road). Easy enough to do every 400-500 miles (road) or 100-150 miles (dirt). IMHO it’s more about keeping the grime off and using the right chain lube… not over lubing it.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      It’s all about getting the rate of drip correct. Takes a little trial and error, but they work like magic once you figure that out. I didn’t know how to adjust a chain until like my 3rd bike, never needed to with Scottoilers fitted!

      • FreeFrog

        Good to know Wes. But still, just using DuPont Teflon Chain Saver (and matching degreaser) regularly seems to allow me to only have to adjust the chain every 4000-5000 miles (street riding), or a about 1.5k less for dirt. I guess I prefer the “hands on” process over the gadget solution, but to each their own. ;)

  • DucMan

    I have the Scottoiler eSystem on my ’04 V-Strom and it is absolutely spectacular!

  • DoctorNine

    Absolutely the best thing HFL does. More!

  • Kevin

    I know people who are flat out in love with that bike and rack up the miles. There’s no denying Suzuki really did well with that platform. One of the best values in modern motorcycling by all accounts.

  • yipY

    Neat efforts:sally forth.I like the fact that the case guard should not be affected by bent crash bars.The trick with Scottoilers is to run them at minimum oil flow with an o-ring chain.They are legal for use on I.O.M.race bikes so they can be worth the initial hassle.

  • Speedo007

    And then buy Trax luggage kit and theres another 1200$+ :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/arenn.doubleyou Arenn Doubleyou

      Jeesh! Why does it have to be Trax? My CycleRacks luggage rack, which is guaranteed to hold more than the bike can handle, cost me less than $300 with pannier mounts. A couple ammo cans later I’m in the whole set up less than $350. You’ve heard of the Googles, right ?

      • Speedo007

        Can you imagine that some people actually care about looks as much as function. I do have Google and looked up “obnoxious” and your post came up on top of search results. :)

  • magiced

    Just when i was complaining to myself that HfL hadn’t done any of the fantastic real world articles for people who actually ride, here one is! looking forward to the next ones.

    Who is Rideapart Staff btw?

    • Aaron Frank

      Suzuki employees.

  • Khali

    I have a Scottoiler installed on my GSX600F…great invention. I usually forget to check such things as oil level on the scottoiler so I installed the flexible reservoir “lube tube” under my rear seat. Now It has about 5.000-6.000km autonomy, which matches with service intervals. When I go for an oil change, I also refill all the system.

    I think that the “dual injector” thing would be advisable, at least i find that on the outside only half of the chain is lubed. People says that internally everything gets lubed so I kept it with the single injector…but on a future bike I will use the dual one.

  • socalutilityrider

    vstrom owner checking in. so stoked on this article. been wondering what bashplate and centerstand to get as well, perfect timing. after flopping the bike down in dirt, put on some barkbusters hand guards. what a simple and great product.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Lindsay/715654562 Ken Lindsay

      Who did you buy from? I still don’t know who to trust in SD…

      • socalutilityrider

        You know, I checked everywhere and it looks like twisted throttle is the US distributor for barkbusters handguards. I couldn’t find them anywhere else so ordered them from there. Rock solid kit.

  • denim.rider

    YES! I too was getting tired of the reviews of expensive clothing I would never buy, pretty motorcycles I would never ride to work, and distant shows I had no time to go to. But this kind of thing is what HFL cut its teeth on and should find its way back to. Useful, frank reviews of stuff we can and do actually use. My 2007 DL650 has 85,000 miles of brutal SoCal freeways on it and has never skipped a beat (ok, fine, one TPS sensor). It’s a great urban platform, you can hang tons of junk off it and it still handles good. Best modern equivalent of the UJM’s of old (and better than the new UJM’s)

    • socalutilityrider

      “Urban Platform”: probably the best description of the DL650 I’ve heard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/neal.jacob1 Neal Jacob

    great article… I may have to trade in my 2007 (non ABS) VStrom

  • atgatthd

    Wes,
    Is an off road test to follow? Would love to see a write up like the Death Valley one you did on the Super Ten. Really enjoyed that one.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mugget mugget man

    Okay so if you’re going by the $1,500 budget you still have $900 for luggage. I think that’s possible…

    You don’t need heated grips and power outlets or a seat upgrade. Sheesh… what ever did people do before all these modern conveniences? People must never have toured before the invention of electrical outlets!

    • http://www.facebook.com/arenn.doubleyou Arenn Doubleyou

      I ride a light weight adventure bike, and the lights and electrics on it are all powered by magneto, so I agree with you on the heated grips and power outlet (I do carry a solar setup that I strap to the top of my luggage, the battery pack then charges my iPhone at night). But my seat gets uncomfortable after about an hour. A seat upgrade might not be a necessity, but having one would be a big plus.

      One trick I was taught by an old timer is to run an extra clutch cable and throttle cables right along side your originals. Tape off the ends. Then when your clutch or throttle cable snaps, you just connect the extra one and ride on. If you’re in the rain or hot sun, you’ll be glad you did.

      • runnermatt

        “One trick I was taught by an old timer is to run an extra clutch cable and throttle cables right along side your originals. Tape off the ends. Then when your clutch or throttle cable snaps, you just connect the extra one and ride on. If you’re in the rain or hot sun, you’ll be glad you did.”

        This is one of most logical and best pieces of advice I have ever heard and this was the first time I heard it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ratz.asstime Ratz Asstime

    Well done. However, the Scottoiler doesn’t do much to “all but eliminate chain tension adjustments” if you are doing much off-pavement riding. Every oil I’ve tried in my Scottoiler attracts dirt like a muck-magnet, which might actually increase chain wear. It’s a great road product, but only sort of useful off-road.

  • RyYYZ

    I agree on the bash plate. I’ve had a DL1000 since ’03, used for touring, sport touring, etc, on all types of roads. Never been inclined to take it on anything tougher than a dirt road, since tall 500 lb street bikes with limited suspension travel make lousy dirtbikes. Now, if one really intends to take it off road, by all means get the bash plate, but otherwise I don’t believe it is necessary – the little plastic chin spoiler will defect errant stones and such.

    Centerstand – definite necessity, IMO. Heated grips? If you expect cool weather they’re certainly nice to have, although heated gloves may work even better. I know I’ve certainly never regretted getting a heated vest and wiring my bike for it.

    For hard luggage, I would recommend taking a pass on anything Suzuki sells and going with Givi, Jesse, or similar bags on either a Givi rack on SW-Motech’s rack. Pretty much any large side bag will make the bike very wide, it’s true.

  • Jeff Pless

    OK I’m hooked on getting a wee Strom. When is part 2 and 3? Great article!

  • CeMx Martinez

    Thanks so much on helping me to decide which model of the V-Strom 650 I should get. I was leaning to the adventure model but your article opened up my eyes! Thanks for the awesome article! I’ll be sure to check out the rest!

  • Dai Eveleigh

    Great article but what happened to “more to come” ?? I’ve searched rideapart.com but nothing……. More Please!

  • Cufflink

    We’re still waiting for Part 2 :)

  • Jimmy Busco

    I agree, more articles like this would be great. How about a special issue, say end of the year, how-to, modify for all around better, use maintenance, which saves time money and performance. Really enjoyed the comments about the Honda being a better bike( opinion) than the 15,000 dollar BMW,.

  • Rob M

    Remember when they used to write articles like this?