After a lot of reading, video watching and thought. I went with the DRZ 400. My decision was entirely based on reliability, availability of parts, and probably most importantly weight.
The basic parameters are: 1) I’ll be alone, 2) I don’t want to get in a situation where I cannot lift the bike. I can bench and dead lift about 250. A DRZ weighs around 300 with no gear, but I can horse it around a bit even loaded. In contrast a BMW 1150GS weighs well over 500 pounds, add a current and water weight and I think you have a problem. This is what it looks like with 3 guys in a river with a big bike
Now the DRZ 400SM, configured properly, has the advantage of being a pretty good dirt bike, so in a pinch it can get you through some tough terrain. The downside is its not nearly as comfortable on the highway. What I did was divide the trip into 2 large segments, everything west of Novosibirsk, where road riding dominates, and everything east and south (Road of Bones and Mongolia), where a dirt bike would be better. I’ve changed the gearing on my DRZ and have tires, etc. that are tuned to road riding, but in Novosibirsk, I”ll reconfigure the bike to favor off road. I’ll stop again in Yakutsk just shy of the Road of Bones to make any final adjustments prior to that attempt. Once I’m in Anchorage, I’ll reconfigure it back to a road oriented bike.
The mods I have made to the bike include:
- Carburetor jetting and air box changes
- wider foot pegs,
- add of custom road pegs
- better hand grips
- hand guards
- Better seat
- radiator guards
- skid guard
- better sliders
- add of rack and various saddlebags