Building a bike rack for my DRZ400

We are super lucky to have access to an extended family member’s vacation house in Sedona, AZ, and we do our very best to take advantage of that.  We recently spent about 6 weeks in the small town between Flagstaff and Phoenix, which was a long enough stay that I drove my hipster camper van the 1600 miles from home in Bellingham, WA.  After I picked up my wife and daughter at the airport, we finally pulled into our place in Sedona about three days after I originally left home. 

Every morning while in Sedona, I would sneak out at dawn for a “dad ride”. I really enjoy these morning rides, and I often publish ride vlogs of these to YouTube. You can see a playlist here.

All was well for a few weeks, but the H trails in Sedona (Hangover, Hiline, and the Hogs) are just far enough away from us that they are beyond my usual morning ride scope.  

The Ripley AF’s adornment of the “AF” acronym means it gets an aluminum frame and slacker head angle.

While editing a vlog from one of these morning rides (https://youtu.be/prwWpn7RuJ8), I got bored and let my imagination wander while browsing Craigslist.  Sure enough, I found myself looking at a jalopy of a motorcycle- a 2001 Suzuki DRZ400s.  Perhaps the least cool motorcycle known to man, the bike would surely be worth a bit more back home in Washington, and these things are reliable enough that even with 26,000 miles, it should be plenty of bike to get me around town.  

$1700 later, I had a  project on my hands.  I was about to walk away from it, then I noticed it had nearly new Dunlop D606 tires, a fresh top end, the chain and sprockets were still good, and the air filter was actually clean.  All good signs that I could possibly ride the thing, and there was little chance I could get a bike of similar quality in this price range.    

First order of business was to get the mushy brakes up to snuff.  Some steel braided brakelines and fresh pads were a big help, but I had to replace the rear master cylinder.  Unfortunately, the unit I bought on eBay had a stuck piston, so I spent a night up to my elbows in Dot 4.  The bike could barely wheelie, as it had some really tall street gearing installed.  The crummy grips needed replacing, and with how cold it is (usually below 32°, often in the 20° range) before dawn in Northern Arizona, I got some extra large handguards, as these offer a lot of wind protection.  

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Since I kept freezing, I also treated myself to a $25 pair of goggles.  Arizona doesn’t have a helmet law for motorcyclists, so my MTB helmet was actually street legal.  Score!  Sort of.  

Anyhow, on to the bike rack!  The rear rack that was mounted to the bike seemed like it was missing something, as it used the rear fender for its support.  I did what any country raised kid would do and grabbed a 4’ section of 1” angle iron from the local Ace Hardware.  I cut two pieces to use as braces to give that rack a bit more structure.  The left side went from the rear battery mount bolt, and the other found a random bung on the right side of the bike.  This wasn’t super sturdy, but it was a heck of a lot better than a plastic fender supporting my whole idea.

Sufficiently appeased with the cargo rating of this setup, the next step was convincing myself to skip the milk crate and just go for a bike rack.  The local lumber yard gave me a scrap piece of 2×6 that would act as the main beam for the rack.  I had brought a piece of 2×4 that was just long enough to place above the beam, and the angle iron would attach the 2×4 to the seat mounts.  I had an Hurricane Components Fork Up bike mount that I was considering installing in the van, but this seemed like a much better use of the thing.  I had to cut a corner off the mount in order to clear the rebound adjuster of my Grip 2 fork.  

Once the bike was mounted up, I threw some spare cargo d-rings from the van under the rear of the beam, which allowed a bungee to hold the bicycle’s rear wheel in place.  Most of my bikes use E13 bashguards, so allowing the bike to rest on that worked well.  A single bungee secured the bike adequately, and a second allowed me to breathe more calmly.  I’d simply attach the front wheel with two more straps.  

Luckily, there was still room for a milk crate under the bicycle down tube, hallelujah!  I’ve seriously dreamed of a motorcycle with a milk crate for years- good riddance to back packs, and hello redneck self!  The milk crate would prove to be highly beneficial, as I could store all kinds of extra jackets in there.  

The rack worked decently enough, but after I posted this video: https://www.instagram.com/p/CI1v-upntZv/ folks started sending me links to the 2X2 Cycles website.  Sure enough, they make a metal version of what I had hack-fabbed myself, and they unabashedly used a couple tie downs to help pull the bicycle forward.  I used the $10 Harbor Freight tie downs that I had bought moments after buying my mistake DRZ400 and these worked great.

The DRZ400s is a terribly heavy, poorly underpowered beast of a motorcycle, but since it’s so heavy, the bicycle’s extra weight wasn’t a big deal.  Heck, even on the freeway the whole set up felt pretty ok.  I’m not a big fan of riding on the road, especially not the freeway, and definitely not with just MTB gear on, but this was just temporary so I sent it.  The biggest problems I had with this set up were that the rear wheel of the bicycle would hit the ground when I popped wheelies.  That in turn would often throw me back to the ground completely out of control.  After too many of these sketchy wheelies, both of the seat mounts on the aluminum subframe broke.  Turns out I have a DRZ400E subframe, which has far fewer supports and gussets for carrying cargo.  And a proper DRZ400S subframe is coin on eBay.

Turns out the bike has a Hot Cams Stage 1 camshaft in it, and after some minor carburetor work, it’s slightly less slow than the first few disappointing test rides might have shown.  I’ve actually come to really enjoy this bike- even with all its shortcomings, it’s cool for what it is, and I even started a YouTube channel based around my exploits with this thing: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZHov0zqt5FfGlwYVGk4HGw

After posting all this, a follower from California gave me a complete spare plastics kit he had for the DRZ, and a buddy from Seattle gave me a proper 2X2 Cycles rack.  I’m working on getting the bike inspected and registered in WA now, and will shortly have the subframe welded back together soon. Or maybe one of you has a DRZ400S subframe you can send my way?  We are planning a return trip to Sedona in a few weeks, and you can bet your knobbies that the DRZ- and that 2X2 rack- will be on the back of my camper van for round 2.  Only this time with a real motorcycle helmet!  

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