Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


Motorcycle TourMagazine

About On The Mark

Having piloted a motorcycle for many years, Mark has many thoughts floating in his helmet and he's ready to share them with us.

Name: Mark Byers

Current Rides: 'Honestly, his stable is in such a constant flux that we can't keep track of it. If you need to know, just ask him.

Favorite quote:

If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

- Winston Churchill


I missed my Suzuki DR-Z400 dual-sport. “Spike” was too tall and heavy for me on the tight offroad trails at my disposal in Maryland and she liked to sit on top of me rather than the other way around when we went to ride the Hatfield-McCoy trails in West Virginia. She was great for the Shenandoah 500 dual-sport ride, but otherwise would kick my butt in the hairy stuff; however, as a commuter bike, she excelled. Not fast enough to get me in real trouble with the bronze, she was snappy on the back roads to work and nimble in town. One winter night, I was accosted by a cash-waving lunatic and sent Spike to a different home, where her pretty blue and white clothes were ripped off and she ended up looking like her green Kawasaki cousin, the KLX. What’s done is done.

I was constantly reminded of my DRZ fetish by Dangerous Dan, whose deft use OTMof a DRZ as a woods weapon never ceases to amaze me. His eight-foot legs and athletic ability are perfect companions for the big gal on the trails. When we went to CLASS at VIR in October, DD decided to put some roadworthy tires on his DRZ and play supermoto, a prescient move considering what happened: heavy rains passed through central Virginia in the days prior to CLASS, so on the first day, we were confined to the South Course, a tight, 1.65-mile circuit perfectly suited for the DRZ. Needless to say, DD made the best of it, dicing with instructor Aaron on HIS DRZ.

The Buddhists say “When one door closes, another one opens” and so it is with motos. The door that opened was the front door at Morton’s BMW, where we stopped on the way back from VIR. In front was a grey, low-mileage 2016 DR-Z400SM that they’d taken in trade from a good source. The SM is the supermoto version of the DRZ, with sweet, gold, 17-inch wheels designed to hold sticky street tires. Dangerous and I were both immediately in lust and after much deliberation, the following Saturday she came home with me, but only after I promised DD visitation rights.

I took her out on a shakedown cruise around the county and my first ride confirmed everything I remembered about the DRZ: fun on the twisties, but on the open roads, you’re looking for a sixth gear. Pulling away from stops is fun, but first is low and short-shifts are needed. The smaller wheels and road tires definitely made a difference in smoothness and the “DRZ Dance” in the handlebars at higher speeds was absent. Overall, I was back in love, but the seat still sucked – like sitting on an old fence rail.

Some new Continental Attack SM tires are already installed, along with new tubes, and some Barkbuster handguards to make sure my hands stay toasty and I never have to worry about a broken lever. An LED taillight and license assembly cleans up the factory mess in the back. As soon as I install the new seat foam and cover, I will be back in the land of DRZ happiness again! A still-legal, but more open muffler and accompanying jet kit will probably appear to reap some benefits typically neutered away. But overall, there isn’t much to farkle on a DRZ.

There’s a rumor going around that CLASS will once again make use of the short, snappy South Course at VIR in 2019 and if so, it is an almost certainty that there will be TWO DRZs in our trailer, mine and DDs. Or should I say OURS and DDs? That whole visitation rights thing is still to be worked out… I also haven’t named her, which is another of my weird rites of passage for new-to-me motos. I called the last one “Spike” after the Roller Derby Queen in the Jim Croce song because of her propensity to kick my butt. This bike has better manners, at least on the street, so I need to think of something a little more refined. My publisher would probably like “Kara Zor-El” in homage to the name of Supergirl in DC Comics, but my jury is still out. Maybe I’ll name her “Ramona” for the woman in Ray Wylie Hubbard’s song “Snake Farm.” Or maybe, she’ll be the “Horse With No Name” and I can ride her through the desert. I think Rathjen would like that one too.