Dual Sport- Suzuki DRZ400S Long-Term Review

Dual Sport- Suzuki DRZ400S Long-Term Review

Posted by Team Motorcycle on Oct 9th 2016

Hoolaginaism: It's what riding a DRZ400 is all about. It's one of those bikes that always tends to bring out the wild side in whoever happens to be riding it. Classified as a dual-sport, it straddles the line between street and dirt elegantly but tends to lean a bit more heavily towards the dirt side. It's the second model of motorcycle that I've owned and in this long-term review we'll examine the character it's shown me over the years. While this may not be the most practical bike on the market for a daily rider it's definitely one that will put a smile on your face. Not because of speed or power--it's because the DRZ will have you going places and doing things you'd never even consider on another motorcycle, much less try! Let's take a deeper look at why this bike has become so famous for fun.


The most obvious benefit of the DRZ is its ability to go from street to dirt effortlessly. Equipped with full-size off-road wheels and a long-travel suspension it's about as close to a legitimate dirt bike as you'll get for a street bike from a dealership. Slightly lighter than a Ninja 250 and with gobs more torque it's an absolute blast to ride around town. Potholes, curbs, gravel alleys... The DRZ confidently eats it all up and asks for seconds. When taken off-road the bike shines in a whole new way. It is fully capable of crossing rocky, two foot deep creeks, popping over large overturned tree trunks, or climbing steep and rutted single track trails in the mountains. Of course, being a dual-sport means that when you're done you can hop right back on the highway and head home.
For the most part the DRZ is very easy to work on. Plastics are sparse and most important components are easily accessible for quick trailside repair. The chain adjustment mechanism is the easiest to use I've seen personally and makes mistakes nearly impossible. Used and new replacement parts for repairs are plentiful and there is a huge amount of after market support for this motorcycle. Upgrades from third parties are available which fix the majority of this bike's few shortcomings. The DRZ has a long track record of reliability and is not known for leaving people stranded despite generally being ridden very hard.
While the DRZ400S configuration leans slightly more towards dirt-riding Suzuki also offers the DRZ400SM which is their supermoto package. This version leans more towards street riding with 17" spoked wheels, less ground clearance, inverted forks and slightly modified bodywork for a more aggressive look. Since both bikes were built upon the same platform bolt-on conversions between the two are easy and very popular.

Since dual-sports have a somewhat specialized design some of these negative aspects are simply a result of being a dirt-focused machine. The seat is an obvious example. It's very narrow, which is great when standing up on the pegs but not so great on an hour-long highway commute. The tank is also quite narrow and small so fuel capacity is limited without an upgrade. Because the bike is so light and because of the seat it's really not very well-suited to carrying a passenger. Though I have done it myself many times, it's just not an ideal situation for either rider.
While so far the cons have been the result of the bike's specialization there are some legitimate shortcomings that have cropped up in the years I've spent with it. My and many others' biggest complaint is that the transmission has 5 gears instead of 6. The DRZ feels like it's revving significantly higher than it needs to at highway speeds and another gear would go a long way towards solving that problem. It would also bring the gas mileage at those speeds up a bit. The fueling is my next biggest complaint. At the time of this writing the DRZ is still sold new carbureted! The motorcycle is fairly refined in every other aspect so the more primitive technology really stands out here. Finally, adjusting the valves doesn't need to be done often but the shim-under-bucket setup makes the job much more difficult that it needs to be. Plan on spending some time on this job and buy extra shims just in case your measurements or math are a little off.
While maybe not the most practical ride in the garage, the DRZ400 is a motorcycle that will take you places that you never even thought possible. Dirt riding is an entirely new experience with its own dynamics and challenges and the DRZ gives you access to that world without sacrificing streetability. It's affordable, reliable and has tons of aftermarket support so that you can customize it to your liking. You're truly missing out on a big slice of what riding a motorcycle can be if you never get your bike muddy. So long as the necessary trade-offs are understood the DRZ is a great choice for riders looking for that kind of fun.