A couple of years ago we bought a DRZ400S
with the intention of taking to the fields. Sadly about
three days after buying it the foot and mouth crisis broke
and we were left using it for commuting to work. Anyway,
I got sick of puttering around on the DRZ, its not the most
exciting road bike, so I thought I'd get rid of it - but
then I felt that I hadn't been fair to it and that I should
at least give it a crack off-road. Any right minded person
would have joined the TRF and taken in a few green lanes...sadly
I don't posses that level of common sense.
Flicking through Trials and Motocross News I saw an event
called "slow Pete", an enduro event for Novices,
run by the Cotswold Enduro club at Hope under Dinmore -
about 20 miles away from where I live. I gave them, a call
and said "is this the sort of event for a complete
novice on a trail bike..." they said yes, so I paid
my £28 and signed up, all I needed now was to get
the bike ready....
|Now, I've never done an Enduro before
(in fact I've only ever seen one) so I flicked through
a few mags and websites to see what I needed to do.
Our esteemed editor gave the benefit of his considerable
experience and said "its all in the tires".
So I figured, fit some new tires and take off all the
road bits and hey, ho here we go. First problem, which
tires. Reading around the consensus seemed to be that
Pirelli MT21's were the best on/off road compromise.
Did I forget to mention that I don't have a van so I'd
have to ride the bike to the event? OK, so after many
phone calls to the local tire emporiums I began to realise
that this wasn't meant to be - nobody had a pair that
fitted, some guy 40 miles in one direction had a rear
tire and another guy 30 miles in the opposite direction
had a front, apparently there is a world shortage of
MT21's. Why not get them mail order? To be honest I
just didn't want to fit them myself (the honest truth
was that I left it far too late). OK, so what to do
- I know I'll leave the current tires on, it hasn't
rained for two weeks so I'll be OK right? No, the current
Bridgestone Trailwings had covered 2000 miles and were
|Fitting the tires:
|OK so I've got myself a set of (allegedly)
road legal enduro tires (Michelin CompIII) so now all
I need to do is fit them. The DRZ doesn't have a centre
stand so you need to get a stand and get the bike on
to it (not that easy as it isn't that light. We used
a rear stand (like the ones you use on road bikes) to
get the back end up and remove the rear wheel then lifted
it onto a box stand to get the front out. The next step
after removing the wheel is to get the old tire off.
The level of difficulty here depends on how long the
tire has been on. First you need to break the "bead",
i.e. the tire sticks to the rim and the longer its been
on, the harder this is to break.
Within an hour we'd fitted them both (if you ignore the
20 minutes it took us to fit and remove the rear having
put the tire on facing the wrong direction).
|Lowering the DRZ:
|Having sorted the tires we moved
on to lowering the suspension. Now, there are several
ways of doing this (e.g. reducing the pre-load) but
the only way to get significant change is to change
the linkage in the rear suspension.
So that was it, fit the wheels and we were ready to go.
A brief blast down the road and the poor road characteristics
of the compIII's was confirmed - but we only needed to get
to the event on them, the enduro was all off road...
Not having ridden an enduro before you tend to take
all the stuff on your entry form seriously. So we
turned up before 9:30am to sign on and get through
scrutineering. The ride to the course was OK, but
the tires weren't really up to hammering along A roads
- any surface imperfections had them squirming all
over the place. Anyway, scrutineering went OK - "you
rode it here, it must be OK" and at least there
was a burger van. So, now to just sit and watch the
quads go off and contemplate why I decided to do this.
A few guys wandered by and asked if I was doing the
event on "that" bike. Much concern was expressed
that this would break and had I gone 1 down one on
the front and two up on the back (talking about gearing,
something I hadn't considered - dohhh!). Anyway, the
course looked dry and not too mental. It started in
a field, went along a stream bed and then up a hill
into the woods - five miles in all I was told. I didn't
believe this as the wood only looked about 1/2 a mile
long. As I later found out you can fit a lot of trail
in a little wood...
OK, so I watched the quads go off, pretty impressive
seeing 20 quads all pile into a hairpin turn. Some
of the quads were very loud - a bit unnecessary really.
I then walked a little bit of the course (I'm not
fit enough to walk the entire five miles) and it seemed
OK, bit of a slippy bank coming out of the stream
but nothing too bad. So I went back to the bike and
gaffer taped the tank and vulnerable plastics, put
on the race numbers I had bought and had a chicken
sarny while I waited for my pit crew to turn up with
his lawnmower's supply of petrol...
The format of the event was simple, no time cards
or special test, just see how many laps you can do
in 2 and a half hours...little did I realise that
I'd struggle to make 1 lap...
This pattern repeats itself until I get the hang of slipping
the clutch constantly on the climbs. Suffer the indignity
of falling off twice in front of a Marshall, who kindly
tells me that the rider in front is a 15 year old girl...but
I have to thank him for helping me pick up the bike, cheers.
We have time for a chat as the bike won't start. Religiously
following the Suzuki instructions not to touch the throttle
when starting doesn't work - it's not until I open it half
a turn that the motor fires again. A couple more falls and
we are in to the woods.
Now I know how the course gets to be five miles, its tight
and twisty through the trees - again the gearing really
isn't helping. As I progress through the trees the course
gets gradually tighter and then I realise how slow I must
be going as the leading riders start to pass me, Christ
I'm not even half way round. Eventually get to a bit of
a descent and stop at the top. Its only the laughing of
all the kids watching that persuades me I'd better get down
to the bottom before they wet themselves. The Suzuki is
great going down hill, the lowering link makes it easy to
get your weight back. More wood, more trees, fall off a
couple of times trying to let faster (i.e. everybody) riders
get past. There's a strong smell of burning coming from
the clutch. Finally I get out of the trees and make it back
to the pits.
I am exhausted. I stop for a fag and a drink and contemplate
why I did this. I'm reluctant to go for another lap as the
clutch is smelling strongly and slipping a bit and I have
to ride the thing home. I'm tired and figure I'll make more
mistakes. Having had another fag (should indicate my fitness
level) I decide to at least ride the stream again and see
how it goes. Having got through the stream I spot the editor
chuckling at the side of the stream. He doesn't look impressed
so I decide that maybe I should call it a day, he reckons
he could run quicker round the course and I had to agree
with him. I have had a great time (surprisingly) and decide
to quit while I'm ahead...OK so one and a bit laps is pretty
pathetic, but if you're on the heaviest bike, with the worst
gearing , with the least training and preparation then I
guess you can't expect too much. It's a bit like entering
the London Marathon and doing no training.
|About the DRZ 400 S
|The Suzuki DRZ has been around for a
couple of years and a few are finding their way onto
the second hand market at around £2500. The bike
comes in several flavours, the trail version we have
(the S) and two enduro versions (with and without electric
start). The enduro versions have slightly more power
and a plastic tank plus proper off road gearing, tires
etc. A new DRZ can be had for between £3500 and
a lively forum with an area for DRZ owners
suppliers of our tires and other bits and pieces
Ok, so the total costs are pretty high but everything but
the Entry fee and numbers will last for more than a single
race, so on the whole we felt it was good value for the
amount of time you get to compete.