News flash: Suzuki is still selling the DR-Z400SM. Can you believe it? One of the early adopters of the street-legal supermoto craze, Suzuki had a lot of people excited with this bike. Unlike former MOron Sean Alexander in his ride story below, I was less than thrilled with the bike. Anemic and heavy, it dulled the sensation of how cool a supermoto for the street (or just supermotos in general) could be. In fact, I still feel this way, and Suzuki isn’t doing itself any favors by keeping the bike exactly the same over the course of nearly two decades while KTM has gone and made some insanely fun street-legal SuMos.
Enjoy the read and tell us what you think about the DRZ down below.
You’re minding your own business really, just tooling along a winding suburban road in an upscale neighborhood. You know the type; lush lawns rolling down to the street, driveways every hundred feet or so, leaves in the gutters, fancy mailboxes and soccer moms blasting out of their driveways at mach one, cell phone to ear and eyes on the back seat.
Say your final prayers, buddy, because this is it, the motorcycle accident everyone always warned you about. Your number is up and you’re getting ready to screw that pooch. Aren’t you glad you’re on Suzuki’s street-legal Supermoto, the DRZ 400 SM? Squeeze the front brake to transfer weight forward, simultaneously dropping three gears and feathering the clutch.
The back tire starts to howl and chatter now as you press the right grip forward, slamming the bike to the right and sliding sideways as you aim for the S.S. Soccer Mom’s tail. The nimble bike makes the direction change in the nick of time and shoots you into her driveway just as she roars clear. Now, you’re traveling at a 45° angle from your original path, just missing her mailbox and getting ready to plow into her hedges. Even though you’re still traveling at 33.6 mph, a touch of throttle and a quick prod on the left grip gets you transitioned right-left and lined-up down the sidewalk.
Damn that was close! Now that you have a millisecond to relax, you look to your left, only to see Mommy the SUV Racer flipping you off and screaming “get off my sidewalk!” Happy to oblige, you hop off the curb and plant your MX boot squarely into the passenger door of her Escalade. The poor lady can’t even figure out what she did to tick you off, but it’s not your problem, because you’ve already ridden through six lawns, wheelied through the local preschool’s playground and lost her long before she decides to floor the accelerator and run you down.
Hackies, wheelies, burnouts, endos, soccer mom terrorizing and interviews with red-faced police officers… these are the visions we had in mind as we warmed up Suzuki’s new DR-Z400SM. Turns out, the SM is more of a Street Machine with a touch of Sado Masochism than it is a real Super Motard. Don’t let that throw you, however, as the DRZ makes a far better real world motorcycle than any supermoto racebike ever could.
Suzuki’s DR-Z400 series has enjoyed a healthy following in the five years since its introduction. The off-road only versions were joined by a DR-Z400S dual-sport version in 2001. Now, thanks to a burgeoning interest in Supermoto racing, Suzuki has decided to make a DR-Z400SM supermoto replica. One might logically assume that Suzuki simply slapped a set of 17″ wheels, stubby front fender and a big front brake on a 400S to create the SM, but that assumption would be incorrect. Instead, Suzuki completely overhauled the bike, endowing it with a more rigid 47mm inverted Showa cartridge fork and new tapered aluminum swingarm similar to the suspenders found on the RM motocrossers.
Suzuki uses the same dry-sump 398cc DOHC single that’s found in their 400S dual sport. Unfortunately, this means it’s tuned for torque and low-rpm response, meaning the bike falls a little short in the motor department when speeds rise above 45 mph. It’s still fast enough to stay out of trouble on the highway, but acceleration tapers off rapidly as speeds approach 60 mph. It’ll even buzz along at 80 mph on the freeway, but any acceleration from that speed requires a full tuck and a lot of patience. No, this motor isn’t like the ones you see at the X-Games or AMA Supermoto races, it’s happiest in parking lots and on surface streets. It’s also limited by its 5-Speed gearbox, which makes higher speeds feel a little too buzzy for sustained cruising. As a city commuter or messenger’s bike, the DRZ’s motor makes perfect sense, with its less-intimidating power delivery ensuring good reliability and reasonable fuel economy.
It’s not just an engine the DRZ shares with the dual sport version. Both bikes share a common frame, steel gas tank and cool electronic instrument cluster/computer, with speedometer, odometer, dual trip meters, clock, stopwatch and timer functions. You’d think this comonality would help keep the SM’s price low, but at $6,099 I’d expect the SM to have an aluminum frame, six gears and a hands-free function for the stop watch. Then again, I’m a bit out of touch, because Suzuki is selling these things as fast as they can make them. What do I know?
I do know that this thing is a hoot in the right environment. It is ultra-nimble and light enough to allow short stops and quick evasive maneuvers. If I had a motorcycle riding teenager, this is the bike I’d want them riding to school. For myself, it’s a bit too tame, though it might help me keep my license a bit longer than I could on a “real” supermoto.
Speaking of keeping my license, let’s get back to the test ride. I was really at a loss as to how to properly test this bike. Take it to a track day? Nope, power is going to be an issue. Go to a Supermoto race and enter a class? Nope, with 17″ wheels this thing would be placed in the S1 or Premier class and would get spanked like a red headed step-child. What to do, what to do…
When in doubt, go for a ride, that’s what I always say. Rides tend to clear your head and make ideas spring forth like teeth from a crackhead. Sure enough, as I made my way through a quiet seaside neighborhood, the idea came to me: “I’m an overgrown paper boy and I’ve got to get my papers delivered ASAP!” Eureka! With one fanciful notion, I’m now on the greatest motorcycling tool ever devised.
I make my way through the houses at a speedy clip, weaving to the gutter when I reach each a driveway and laughing merrily through the cul de sacs. For some reason, as I continue my mock paper delivery route, the neighbors begin to take note. Are those screeching tires and sirens I hear approaching? Why yes, I think they are. Time for an exit strategy, cause when the cops finish whatever urgent business they’re attending to, they might turn their attention to me. I’m a good citizen and would never run from the PO Lice. Nope, I feel it’s best to run before I see them, so I’m not actually running from them. Call me a coward.
Unfamiliar with this neighborhood, I quickly find myself at a dead-end and with sirens fast approaching, I resign myself to preparing a lengthy explanation. Wait, what’s that, a dog walking trail in the corner right at the very end of the street? Yes! This looks like a great time to test the SM’s offroad ability. I fan the clutch and loft the front tire over the curb, then seat-bounce to unweight the rear so it’ll gently glide over the concrete obstruction. I barely feel a bump and I’m on my way down a narrow dirt path with a backyard wall 2′ to my left and a chain-link fence 6″ from my right elbow. The DRZ-SM feels right at home on this trail, more like a fully-suspended mountain bike than a street-legal motorcycle.
The trail is rising gradually to the West and I’m beginning to wonder if it goes all the way to the ocean when, whoa, cliff! Think fast! The trail ends abruptly over a little rise and I barely have time to stop the bike. I slide to a halt within a few inches of the drop-off and listen for sirens. Nothing… just peace and quiet. This is sorta nice, the breeze is blowing and the surf is crashing far below me — Catalina Island is off in the distance. I think I’ll take a moment and… is that the yapping of a small dog? I look to my right and notice that the trail continues along the cliff face at the corner of the chain-link fence. There’s more exploring to be done. Since I’m on dirt, I figure I’ll skip the electric start and kick this baby to life like a man! Foiled again, there’s no kick-starter, though there is a cute little plug where the kick-start shaft should be. Oh well, I thumb the button and the SM meekly rumbles to life.
The turn is tight, but the SM has good steering lock, so it isn’t very hard to make the 90°-right at the end of the fence and continue along the cliff face. With a hard-packed surface and some room to run, the SM and I are quickly up to freeway cruising speeds as the waves undulate on my left and the fence waits patiently on my right. The street tires are working well on this surface and I have plenty of confidence in the DRZ’s ability to keep me out of trouble. Woof!
Cujo is on a collision course, his owner another hundred feet behind him screaming for him to stop. Of course, Cujo can’t hear her, because his ears are layed-back in the wind as he charges headlong for the bright yellow dear that’s galloping towards him at 60MPH. Being the deer in Cujo’s headlights, I quickly ascertain that an immediate course reversal is my only ticket to salvation. What the hell was I thinking, riding on a dog trail? The forks dive as I start squeezing the front brake and when the speed drops to about 10MPH, I lock the rear tire and slide the bike about 120° through my emergency U-turn. Cujo is almost on me, so I have little time to waste. Revs-up, clutch-out, the rear starts to spin and I complete the other 60° of the turn with a nice rooster tail into Cujo’s snapping jaws. I’m safe, cause it seems your average St. Bernard isn’t capable of running 60MPH.
Busy gloating, I run out of real estate back at the beginning of the cliff trail and I execute the third panic braking maneuver of this brief dirt excursion when I reach the corner of the chain link fence. This time, I brake-slide the bike 90° to the left coming almost to a complete-stop, as the bike clears the fence corner already pointed back up the trail away from the cliff. I gas it along the path and next thing I know, I’m back in the residential neighborhood. Revs-down, I troll quietly out of the area, waiting for the police to nab that hooligan.
The trip back to the office involves traversing a nice curvy road up and over a 1,500′ hill. This gives me ample opportunity to sample the little motard on the type of roads that make street motards famous. We already know that it isn’t going to explode out of corners like a racing 450, but it will carry great corner speed and the smooth (tame) power delivery lets the DRZ rider get on the gas early to minimize the beating he’s about to receive on the straight. Big power isn’t really what these bikes are about anyway.
No, these bikes are for picking your line, jumping onto it, then changing your mind and grabbing a different line mid-corner. They accomplish this, by being very light and having high-leverage handlebars that allow the rider to man handle them. The supermoto responds well to man handling, because the dirtbike geometry helps to keep them from getting too twitchy with abrupt steering inputs. The result? Effortless command of where the bike is headed. And the DRZ-SM is no exception. It handles like a real Supermoto, diving-in with confidence and supreme control.
So, it’s no racer. However, the DRZ is outstanding as an off-the-rack city blaster, commuter bike, or the ultimate choice for the bumper rack on your motorhome or SUV. Of course, Suzuki could have utilized the aluminum frame and 450cc engine from their outstanding RM-Z450 motocrosser. But then you wouldn’t want your kid or your wife riding it to the store. Nope, as it sits, the DRZ-SM is just about perfect for its intended usage.
|SPECIFICATIONS: Suzuki DR-Z400SM (K5)|
** Spec Provided by Suzuki **
|MO Measured Horsepower: 34.65 Hp @ 7,750Rpm|
MO Measured Torque: 25.91 LbFt @ 6,000Rpm
|Engine Type:||Four-stroke, DOHC, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled.|
|Bore and Stroke:||90.0mm x 62.6mm|
|Front Brake:||Single Hydraulic Disc|
|Rear Brake:||Single Hydraulic Disc|
|Wheelbase:||57.5 inches (1460 mm)|
|*Claimed* Dry Weight:||295 lbs. (134 kg)|
|DIMENSIONS AND DRY MASS|
|Overall length:||2225 mm (87.6 in)|
|Overall width:||870 mm (34.3 in)|
|Overall height:||1185 mm (46.7 in)|
|Wheelbase:||1460 mm (57.5 in)|
|Ground clearance:||260 mm (10.2 in)|
|Seat height:||890 mm (35.0 in)|
|*Claimed* Dry mass:||134 kg (295 lbs)|
|Type:||Four stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC|
|Number of cylinders:||1|
|Bore:||90.0 mm (3.543 in)|
|Stroke:||62.6 mm (2.465 in)|
|Displacement:||398 cm3 (24.3 cu. in)|
|Air cleaner:||Polyurethane foam element|
|Lubrication system:||Wet sump|
|Idle speed:||1500 +/- 100 r/min|
|Clutch:||Wet multi-plate type|
|Transmission:||5-speed constant mesh|
|Gearshift pattern:||1-down, 4-up|
|Primary drive ratio:||2.960 (74/25)|
|Gear ratios:||Low – 2.285 (32/14)|
2nd – 1.733 (26/15)
3rd – 1.375 (22/16)
4th – 1.090 (24/22)
Top – 0.863 (19/22)
|Final drive ratio:||2.733 (41/15)|
|Drive chain:||RK 520KZ0, 110 links|
|Front suspension:||Inverted telescopic, coil spring, oil damped|
|Rear suspension:||Link-type, coil spring, oil damped|
|Front fork stroke:||260 mm (10.2 in)|
|Rear wheel travel:||276 mm (10.9 in)|
|Trail:||94 mm (3.70 in)|
|Turning radius:||2.6 m (8.5 ft)|
|Front brake:||Disk brake|
|Rear brake:||Disk brake|
|Front tire size:||120/70R17M/C (58H), tube type|
|Rear tire size:||140/70R17M/C (66H), tube type|
|Ignition type:||Electronic ignition (CDI)|
|Ignition timing:||7° B.T.D.C. at 1500 r/min|
|Spark plug:||NGK CR8E or DENSO U24ESR-N|
|Battery:||12V 21.6 kC (6 Ah)/10 HR|
|Generator:||Three phase A.C. generator|
|Turn signal light:||12V 21W x 4|
|Brake light/Taillight:||12V 21/5W|
|Neutral indicator light:||LED|
|High beam indicator light:||LED|
|Turn signal indicator light:||LED|
|Water temperature warning light:||LED|
|Fuel tank, including reserve:||10.0 L (2.6/2.2 US/Imp gal) / 9.5 L (2.5/2.1 US/Imp gal) CA Model reserve:2.3 L (0.6/0.5 US/Imp gal)|
|oil change:||1700 ml (1.8/1.5 US/Imp qt)|
|with filter:||1800 ml (1.9/1.6 US/Imp qt)|
|overhaul:||1900 ml (2.0/1.7 US/Imp qt)|
|Coolant:||1.3 L (1.4/1.1 US/Imp qt)|