Suzuki DR-Z400 Big Suzie Packs a Fun-Seeking Attitude Mixed With Off-Roading Prowess

Simply looking at this modded DR-Z400S fills our souls with a wild desire for off-road outings.
Suzuki DR-Z400 Big Suzie 10 photos
Photo: Grant Schwingle
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When you’re looking to craft a custom predator that can offer heaps of fun on both city streets and unpaved roads, few motorcycles can serve as a better base than the Suzuki DR-Z400. Built for a businessman and father of two, the bike pictured above had once been a stock DR-Z400S from the model-year 2005.

It now goes by the name of Big Suzie, and the transformation came courtesy of Federal Moto’s Chicago-based outfit back in 2019. Their job was made easier by the fact that Suzuki’s dual-sport comes with an array of desirable goodies straight from the factory, including adjustable Showa suspension, a 21-inch front wheel, and CDI ignition. Indeed, the Federal crew had an excellent starting point to work with!

They kicked things off by deleting the OEM subframe to make room for a handmade, loop-style alternative, which was fabricated in-house using steel. Conveniently, this module attaches to the standard mounting points on the main frame, so there was no need for the shop to fabricate new ones.

At the rearmost section, the subframe bears a flush-mounted LED lighting strip that performs both taillight and blinker duties. The thin saddle found up top was wrapped in perforated leather by Dane Utech, a local upholstery expert from Chicago. Peek a little further ahead, and you’ll spot the repurposed fuel tank of a Yamaha SR500.

This module was modified ever so slightly to fit atop Big Suzie’s framework like a glove and create a level bone line. Its color scheme was designed by an art director named Chris Paluch, and it was subsequently executed by Peter Gamen of KandyVan. Don’t assume Federal Moto had an easy time installing the SR500 tank, though, because it did create some clearance issues with the stock radiator.

As such, the latter made way for a Honda VFR400’s unit, which is paired with HPS high-temperature silicone hoses. The bike’s cockpit houses a Renthal handlebar and Biltwell grips, as well as digital instrumentation, subtle switches, and bar-end turn signals from Motogadget’s inventory. Rounding out the front-end equipment are adjustable MSR control levers and a Hella headlamp.

Federal gave the DR-Z400's suspension goodies a complete overhaul, while its wheels received stainless-steel spokes, dual-purpose Karoo 3 tires from Metzeler, and a layer of black powder coating on the rims. Additional stopping power is made possible thanks to aftermarket wave rotors at both poles, and the rear hoop is spun via a fresh sprocket and a gold drive chain supplied by Renthal.

One may spot a unique pair of aluminum fenders manufactured in-house, but most electrics are hidden out of sight beneath the gas tank. They are joined by an Antigravity lithium battery and Motogadget’s m-Unit control module. Last but not least, Big Suzie saw its dual-cam, 398cc single-cylinder mill fitted with Uni Filter hardware at the intake and tailor-made exhaust pipework ending in a Cone Engineering silencer below the seat.
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About the author: Silvian Secara
Silvian Secara profile photo

A bit of an artist himself, Silvian sees two- and four-wheeled machines as a form of art, especially restomods and custom rides. Oh, and if you come across a cafe racer article on our website, it’s most likely his doing.
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