The DR-Z440w Report
The first DRZ I bought was a 2001 S model that I had for a little more than a year. My intent was to use it as my dual sport adventure bike, riding it in places like Mexico, Big Bend, and the Ozark Mountains. While I really liked the DRZ I described it’s narrow transmission as “the Achilles Heel of the DRZ”.
Here’s my first DRZ in Adventure Mode
Despite all the positives with the DRZ I was dissatisfied with the transmission so when a deal I couldn’t resist popped up on a Husqvarna TE-610 that required me to trade the DRZ I didn’t hesitate. What a revelation the Husky was. The engine & transmission combo on the TE610 is the best I’ve ever experienced on a dual sport adventure bike. Certainly the TE610 had other issues – no bike is perfect – but the engine & transmission were not one of them. The wide ratio tranny on the Husky is fantastic. You really can ride it on hard class 3 stuff and then ride it on the freeway at 80mph if you so choose. All without having to change gearing.
I had the Husky for about four years when I found out about the ACT wide ratio transmission for the DRZ. You know what happened after that.
Now that the project is done I’m calling my bike the DR-Z440w (w for wide ratio transmission).
Here she is, project completed, and ready for a 5 day adventure ride in Mexico.
For several years now I’ve been reading posters on ADVrider wishing that one of the Big 4 Japanese companies would produce a new dual sport bike. Generally they want a 300 pound, 50 horsepower, fuel injected, wide ratio 6 speed transmission bike with a strong subframe and reasonable maintenance intervals capable of adventure touring. (It should be noted that those clamoring for the Japanese to build the perfect 450 dual sport are ignoring the fact that the Husqvarna TE610, Husqvarna TE630, and KTM 690 are all very close to meeting their stated requirements. It should also be noted that no 300 lb bike is likely to be a very good long-distance, high speed pavement tourer). Every so often a thread pops up on ADVrider claiming the imminent release of a new Japanese dual sport bike. Alas, to date all of those rumors have been just that – rumors.
Since the Japanese won’t build a new 450 dual sport bike, I built my own. It seems to me the DR-Z440w is very close to meeting the desires of many riders clamoring for a new 450 from the Japanese manufacturers. Admittedly the DRZw model doesn’t have a wide ratio 6 speed but the ACT wide ratio 5 speed seems to me to be more than reasonably acceptable. Getting to 50 horsepower isn’t an obstacle, assuming you really must have 50 horsepower (I think most would find 40 horsepower more than adequate). Accepting this, then the only thing really missing is fuel injection. I don’t know how important fuel injection is but getting the DRZ jetted correctly isn’t particularly problematic.
And the price is right too. Low mileage used DRZs aren’t exceptionally difficult to find at fair prices (I paid about $2000 for the 2003 model I bought) and adding a big bore kit, pipe, jetting, and a ACT wide ratio gears will run you less than $2000. Even if you bought a new DRZ for $6000 you could completely outfit it for adventure riding for the same or less than the $11,000 cost of a new KTM 690. (And as soon as you bought the KTM you would have to spend even more money converting it into a dual sport adventure bike). Just food for thought.
In summary, the DR-Z440w has easily met my expectations. The wide ratio ACT transmission significantly improves the DRZ as an dual sport adventure bike and the addition of a big bore kit on top of an aftermarket pipe, correct jetting, and some airbox mods make it sufficiently powerful for my needs and riding style.
These pics are of the DR-Z440w in Mexico, courtesy of my friend RacerJohn.