In June 2017 we have started for our motorcycle world trip to visit and explore North, Central and South America on our Suzuki DL650 V-Stroms. Since then, we have driven the endless American highways, the sandy roads of Central America and also some major off road detours to amazing spots like Volcano Telica in Guatemala.
Beside some minor things like a broken indicator casing and bent panniers from dropping the bikes in difficult passages, some flat tyres and a leaking gas tank gasket we haven’t had a single major problem with our Vees. They appear to be trusty and tenacious travel companions.
Suzuki Colombia receives us for the „big“ service in Bogotá
After ten months on the road and roughly 26,000 km since New York we arrive in Bogotá, Colombia. It is time to do the „big“ service on our bikes to get them ready for the second half of our adventure – all the way down to the vast Patagonia.
We were all the more pleased to connect with José Hermes Torres, manager of Suzuki Colombia in Bogotá. When I wrote him on Facebook if we could do our service in his workshop he got immediately excited about our project and offered his full support.
When we arrived at Suzuki Bogotá we were surprised by the size of the site. As Suzuki provides motorcycles and service for the police (they all drive either DR650 or DL650) José has a full order book. Up to 1,300 patrol bikes are serviced here every month. A look into the workshop reveals a busy ocean of green police two-wheelers. Immediately we were warmly received by the staff and waiting police officers while our V-Stroms were moved to the hydraulic ramps for service.
DL650 V-Strom – a sturdy travel bike
Now it’s getting serious: the mechanics start to unscrew the bikes. Until now we only did „small“ services with oil change and the required minor repairs. How did the Vees handle the strain of the travel? With full luggage over the bad roads of Central America, poor gasoline quality of remote gas stations and last but not least the omnipresent sand and dust?
After removing the gas tank and the fairing we get a first glimps on the „collection of the year“: the complete interior of the V-Stroms is covered with dirt. Although the stock air filters are clogged completely the air box is as clean as it was new.
In the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico, we already lost some power because of the reduced air flow. As we are heading for the Andes in Peru it is about time to replace the filters. We are more than happy that K&N sponsors us with high flow air filters. Other than the stock filters they are washable and reusable. So if nothing goes wrong we don’t need new air filters in future!
Drive Chain and Sprockets
The next parts that definitely needs replacement are our drive chains and sprockets. Although we use a chain oiler and keep our chains lubricated – the dust and sand of Central America was a tough abrasive. Specially the drive pinions are completely worn out. Back at home I usually have to replace chains because of the chain’s elongation being out of tolerance. But I never had worn out sprockets…
There are various opinions on the internet whether one should use a „pre fuel filter“ or not on a world trip. Travelling Africa might be a different story, however, when preparing for The Americas I decided not to bring a separate pre fuel filter. They are quite expensive and the V-Strom fuel filters are known to be effective, cheap and easy to replace if required.
I don’t worry too much about water contamination of the gasoline as the DL650 is fuel injected. If there is some water in the gasoline the fuel pump will stir it to an emulsion with the fuel. Others worry about cavitation in the fuel injectors. I don’t believe this is a big issue either as the vapour pressure of gasoline is obviously lower than water. In Madison, Wisconsin, my Vee had a leaking gas tank gasket. After parking the bike in heavy rain on the side stand over a week the engine quit running completely. It turned out that I had one third water in my gas tank! A pre filter wouldn’t have helped at all.
So let’s have a look on the ten years old fuel filters of our bikes. Although the fuel pressure measurement doesn’t reveal any choking due to a clogged fuel filter at high revs, it is obviously time to replace them.
I have to admit I am really lazy with our spark plugs. On all our bikes we had during the last ten years I inspected them when required but always found them in good shape. So we continued using them because we found it a waste to replace them only because it was written in the service book.
Travelling the world somehow changes my perception of this topic. Fuel quality seems to be worse, Octane numbers are often lower than required by Suzuki. So its no big surprise that the spark plugs are – finally – worn out and need replacement.
Valve Clearance Adjustment & Throttle Synchronisation
The Suzuki team also measured the valve clearance on both bikes. While all measured values were in tolerance on my bike and unchanged compared to my last measurement prior to the trip, Felicitas‘ front cylinder finally needs adjustment on all valves as the measured values were already on-the-edge when we left home.
The mechanics also removed the throttle bodies for cleaning. I cannot remember any of our bikes being that shiny ever!
After the valve clearance adjustment the bikes are ready for throttle synchronisation. I am already looking forward to the smooth driving in low rpm!
The team of Suzuki Colombia is very enthusiastic to get our bikes into perfect shape to reach „the end of the world“. They also take care of our broken accessories. Our Touratech panniers need some hammering to shape, a power socket and a handguard is broken and my throttle grip is stiff. Felicitas lost her chain guard on a bad track in Costa Rica and needs a new one. The mechanics work two complete days on our bikes to check, adjust, replace and repair everything that is important for the reliability of our work horses.
Last but not Least: Oil Change
Final step – the oil change. After adventurous oil compositions in Central America I am very happy to have high quality oil in our engines again. Somehow it was not possible to find enough Liters of the same oil in Chiapas, Mexico, that fulfilled the requirements of our bikes. So we had to mix several brands which I didn’t really like. Beside all the service, Suzuki Colombia sponsored us with two oil fillings, too!
The Suzuki Service Manual is generous about the lifetime of oil filters. Suzuki requires filter replacement after 18,000 km. During our travel, however, I preferred to replace the filters whenever I found them – which wasn’t too often either. So we are really excited that K&N also sponsors us with oil filters for South America. Another topic we do not need to worry about in future!
Thank you Suzuki Colombia!
Two busy days later, our V-Stroms are well maintained and ready to hit the road again! By the way, after riding the first meters we are certain: Our bikes have never driven that smoothly before.
The Service of Suzuki Colombia was outstanding and the staff very dedicated to get our bikes into best shape. With an eye for details and quality we got a fantastic full service. And the fun part, we could have a close look over the shoulder of our mechanics while they worked on our bikes – and this in a garage of such an enormous size!
Furthermore, we have to say that communication and support of Suzuki Columbia exceeded everything we have experienced so far regarding professionalism and communication. While being in Central America, we contacted manager José Torres and when we arrived weeks later to our appointment at Suzuki Bogotá everything just went perfectly. Everyone was informed, our bikes were maintained immediately and we were greeted like old friends.
So, a big thank you goes out to our mechanics Cristhiam and Alex (and to all the other helping hands) for the excellent work and to José, Christhian and the management of Suzuki Colombia for sponsoring us with all working hours, the engine oil and 10% discount on all replacement parts. It was a great welcome to Colombia guys!
Interview with José Torres, manager of SUZUKI Colombia (Spanish)
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