Exploring the red roads of Prince Edward Island on a Suzuki DRZ400SM

Veering left off of Route 20, I was following a familiar route home on the north shore of Prince Edward Island. Pulling away from the shore onto the 103, I was looking for one of the Island’s many County Line roads.

 

It was a path to which I’d grown accustomed in the summer of 2019, my first year (at 35 years old) of motorcycle riding. Leave the beach at Branders Pond or Cousins Shore or Thunder Cove; criss-cross parts of Lots 18, 19, and 20; eventually arrive home after pointless meandering.

But on this early May ride, I’d forgotten which bike was under me. My 2018 Suzuki DRZ400SM, which is essentially a dirtbike turned into a street bike, and which I turned back into a street/trail by fitting it with off-road-worthy tires, up and sold itself in April.

So here I am at the bottom of County Line Road, and as you might expect in rural PEI, it’s dirt. My traditional alternative is Holmes Road – also dirt. Old Princetown Road? It is both old and dirt. Backtrack to St. Andrews Road? It’s dirt.

Evidently, it’s time for new paths on a new bike that’s not remotely intended for dirt or mud. Which makes me wonder – why did I sell the perfect Prince Edward Island motorcycle after just one year of ownership?

It’s a good question. And though the DRZ had a handful of demerits, it deserves no blame for being thrust into the hands of its new Nova Scotian owner. The DRZ’s gone simply because, well, I’m a hopeless gearhead.

Oh, sure, the traditional gearhead’s eclectic tastes are evident in his driveway, or garage, or barn. He, or she, buys wheeled machinery and actually keeps it. The traditional gearhead – make sure you genuflect when you find one – shifts between 911s and antique Volvos and Geo Metros and V8-engined BMWs without ever even contemplating a sale.

I, on the other hand, am of a different species. I’m of the belief that the grass is always greener on the other side.

That other engine revs more smoothly. Those tires have more tread. Its horsepower deficit is cancelled out by its efficiency gains. Its gas-guzzling nature is counteracted by its horsepower surplus. It’s prettier. It’s tougher. It’ll hold its value better.

Whatever my reason, it all boils down to wanting a different experience.

That’s why the DRZ is gone. If I kept it, I would always be wondering if there’s an experience out there that I’m missing.

I loved that bike. I loved that it was my first. I loved that we spent the first light of Saturday mornings alone in the forests of central PEI, warily weaving toward Cavendish and Rustico on as little pavement as possible, always disoriented but never truly lost. PEI is so small and so littered with roads paved and unpaved that eventually you’ll re-orient yourself at a familiar intersection.

True, the DRZ’s firm seat initially seemed unkind to a beginner’s hind quarters. (I got used to it.) The lofty height meant swinging your leg up and over required jeans with a bit of give. (My denim typically isn’t too skinny.) Power from the carbureted single-cylinder powerplant that seemed more than sufficient at first – and rather weak after spending a day on a 2019 Honda CRF450L – isn’t exactly destined to wow avid riders. (But I averaged 4.5 L/100km.) And the DRZ was always a bit finicky about starting on crisp mornings. (I learned its quirks and loved the Suzuki all the more because of them.)

Overall, I grew increasingly fond of the DRZ because of its all-around appeal, its relatively light weight, grippy-in-all-condition Continental TKC80 tires, vintage styling, and the way it could happily cruise on the highway or juke and jive in Summerside “traffic.” It was the do-it-all bike that begged to take the extremely long way home on dusty red dirt where the only traffic I’d meet would be a potato truck headed into Freetown fields.

Nod. Smile. Wave. Back on the throttle.

If it sounds like wistful regret, that’s because it is. And it lingers until I walk outside and see a KTM Duke 390 in the garage. After spending the last three summers in a Miata, then an FR-S, and then on a DRZ, maybe I’ve found a keeper.

Maybe.

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2 Responses

  1. Hey Ross. I had the DRZ delivered to me on Continental TKC80s, which was a really nice balance. I kept the wheels stock. TKC80s are sort of an automatic choice for the mix of on/off-road Island riding a lot of people are into these days.

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