DRZ400S Engine Rebuild


As a motorcyclist living in a city, there’s always the opportunity something may happen to your beloved bike, and in some scenarios, you. There are a lack of garage spaces, forcing us to resort to street parking.

I purchased an older DRZ400s, in anticipation of the street’s woes, but what I didn’t anticipate was the high lust rate among thieves. After waking up from a nap, I walked out of my front door to see an empty space where my black beauty sat just an hour prior. Within weeks, I realized that mine would be just one of eight stolen in San Francisco. In a moment I lost both my bike and a few thousand bucks, and my insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of the front headlight. (Lessons learned here)

Within two weeks, my social media skills went into major effect, blasting the web universe with photos and pleas for her return. I often say this is my second best marketing campaign ever, especially when my ROI came in the form of a call with a location of the bike from a fellow motorcycle enthusiast who saw a Facebook post about it. Within 24 hours I’m at the tow yard picking her up. I had the key burning in my hand and went to see if she still ran…. and she did…. except for that insane rattling engine noise which made my heart sink deep into the empty space in my chest.

Clearly these thieves found my bike to be a hoot; doing stoppies and burnouts until the tire threads were visible, and despite a fresh oil change, managed to burn through it until the engine ran dry. I did have some satisfaction knowing they rode it to death instead of parting her out. But now I had a choice to make; get rid of the bike and cut my losses, or rebuild the engine and ride her once again. After pondering my options for too long, Moto Shop offered me a spot in one of their engine rebuild classes and my decision was made — I will revive her from the dead.

The class took about 10 weeks total, including waiting on part orders and things taking longer than you expect them to. Fortunately, I had a single cylinder and a plan; a big bore and stroker kit, and a head rebuild by Kibblewhite. (what could go wrong?) I might as well add some horsepower while I’m at it, right?

Look through the gallery below to see the process. As a female, this felt empowering, especially since I left the project with a new found sense of confidence when discussing motorcycle components. I have a lot more to learn, but my foundation has been properly laid. I certainly needed the oversight and literal muscle that the class environment provided me, but never felt “like a girl” in any instance. Thanks to Moto Shop for being such a rad place, too.

Lessons learned:

1. Always lock the shit out of your bike when you park on the street (particularly overnight). Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass, but better than the headache of having it stolen. Since I’ve gotten her back on the road I do a rear disc lock, front wheel lock, cover and cover lock. It’s a total pain, but so is filing a police report. When possible, just spring for a garage space.

2. When taking on a rebuild project, add more power when possible, and read the forums. It’s the one thing that made this worth it for me, aside from the actual financial savings I ended up having by a) doing it myself and b) going with trusted aftermarket components.

3. Allow ample time for parts delivery. That $2 washer will take weeks to arrive. I promise.

4. Organize. Organize. Organize. There are a TON of small parts. Everything goes together intuitively, assuming you’ve kept a clean workstation and labeled your parts properly. Also, clean everything as you go along. It’s rare you’ll get the opportunity to detail the bike as well as you can with the engine out. Simple Green is your friend.

5. Ask for help if you need it. The manuals get 95% of the way there, but the eyes of a seasoned mechanic is priceless.

6. Have fun with it.

DRZ Engine Rebuild - Tearing the bike down

Tearing the bike down to get the engine out. I had no idea how much of this bike I’d have to take apart just to access it.

DRZ Engine Rebuild - Pulling the engine apart

The beginning stages of pulling the engine apart.

DRZ Engine Rebuild - Cleaning the engine

This may have been my favorite part. There’s something so satisfying about cleaning a dirty engine.

DRZ Engine Rebuild - Prepping for the rebuild

Getting everything ready and organized for it’s soon-to-be assembly

DRZ Engine Rebuild - Big Bore and Stroker kit has arrived

Early birthday! The new piston, cylinder head, and stroker kit has finally arrived.

DRZ Engine Rebuild - Brand new piston and cylinder head attached

Look how shiny that new piston is. It will never look like that again.

DRZ Engine Rebuild - Head attached and the engine almost completely assembled

Nearing completion. Received my awesome new head back from Kibblewhite with Black Diamond valves and spring kit. Too bad you can’t see them here, but trust me, they are hot.

DRZ Engine Rebuild - Leftover parts in a bag

My artistic interpretation of why you should stay organized during a project like this. Bag of “leftover” parts. Who needs these, anyway? To be clear, most of these parts were replaced and not from the engine.

DRZ Engine Rebuild - Engine is back in the bike

Engine is back in the bike and I’m anxious to get her started. Unfortunately, I had to wait another week before I could see if she worked or not.


… and here’s my 15 seconds of heaven

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