I sold my old Guzzi Nuovo Falcone in May (despite a strange, coruna-virus-influenced market) and bought a used Suzuki XF650 instead (actually it was the other way around, but that’s another story). I decided, as interesting and exotic as the Goose was, it was going to be a bit of work and was not the best bike for commuting or going on long trips. I don’t know exactly what it was that made me lose interest in the bike, but once I get the idea of selling a bike in my head, there’s usually no going back. So I started to look around for an affordable, simple, reliable bike that would be good for both riding into the city and going on trips. Lots of world travellers swear by the Suzuki DR650, and I certainly do like the idea of a big single cylinder, so I started looking around for one. It turns out the DR, which can still be bought new in the US and Australia, hasn’t been sold in the EU for ages due to emmissions restrictions (they still have carburetors) and all the ones I found were either pretty beat or quite expensive. During my search I kept coming across the XF650 Freewind, which was a slightly modified DR (two carbs instead of one, bigger valves, 19″ front wheel, a fairing) made between 1997 and 2003 to compete with BMW’s successful F650 Funduro. I knew about these bikes but had always found them pretty uninspiring aesthetically and assumed they had a boring engine to match. When I realized they had the same motor as the fabled DR, I got more interested, and it turns out there are quite a number of them around for fairly decent prices.
So, despite some puzzled looks and derisive comments, I bought one from a guy I used to teach English to a couple of towns over, and chuffed on home with a smile on my face. Needless to say, it’s not a bike that gets anyone’s pulse beating faster, but it’s in great shape, has Japanese reliability, a comfortable seat, good brakes and suspension, is fairly light weight, and is simply a blast to ride! And as it only cost half what I got for the Guzzi, I had some money left over to play around with.
I quickly took off the god-awful Freewind stickers (How did they come up with that name? It sounds like the designer was preoccupied with some tricky bowel problems.), replaced the mirrors since one of the originals was kaputt, added some hand guards, changed the brake and clutch levers to more adjustable ones, took off the ugly top box (I know, I know, they are extremely practical, but I hate they way they make most bikes look, and when full, can add weight where you really don’t want to have it.) and added some racks in the rear to enable me to carry panniers (custom made by a great Polish company called Moto-Adventure-Tech). A change of oil and some new rear brake pads, and I was ready to hit the road! And now, some 6000 kms (3500 miles) later, I have to say the bike might just be the most enjoyable one I’ve ever had.
Ready to roll! I had some time off in July, so I headed to Slovakia. More on that later!