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Suzuki DR-Z 250
Bush bash Sunday, ride to work Monday - Suzuki's DR-Z250 is a jack-of-all-trades, and a bit of a surprise in the bush, too...
A fun bike is a fun bike. It doesn't have to come in a big, flashy, expensive package, just as long as the ingredients for fun are there - in a road/trail motorcycle's case, a predictable chassis and usable engine mean the rider can get right on top of the bike's performance, and feel like a bit of a Daryl Hurley while they're at it.
In the $7990 Suzuki DR-Z250's case, it is a fun bike par excellence, with the improvements wrought over the out-going DR250 making the package even more practical, as well as better performed.
The original DR250 proved a reliable, if unspectacular, road/trail machine which did its intended job of being a dirt-capable commuter very well, even competing successfully in the Australian Safari in modified form, winning its class on occasion! A true all-rounder.
A TO Z
As such, the bike was in dirt-riding trim (see separate panel) when I picked it up from Suzuki Australia's HQ.
The conventional front forks and rear monoshock have been completely over-hauled, with rebound damping adjusters to go with the compression adjustment, giving the rider more scope to set up the bike to suit his/her needs. It is still on the 'compliant' side though - I had the damping on the slowest settings five minutes into the ride in the bush.
So while the spring and damping rates are underdone compared to an out-and-out enduro weapon, the DR-Z's suspension is totally predictable. This means a rider can adapt a riding style to suit - not charging over big logs or whoops for instance, but finding a way around is a more appealing option.
Ground clearance is good, though steer clear of the deeper ruts. It took me a few minutes of pushing and pulling to retrieve the 115kg (claimed, dry) bike from the depths of one such obstacle...
At a more sedate pace, the suspension is plush and forgiving, meaning a rider out for a leisurely trail ride won't be punished, and these are the riders the DR-Z is aimed at.
The kick-starter works well, though not as well as the magic button, which got the 249cc DOHC four-stroke single purring every time without fuss.
Being the sneaky bugger that I am, I didn't tell a ride companion what the little yellow button did, though he worked it out pretty quickly.
"That explains the mischievous look of mirth on your face every time I kicked it over," he laughed.
The ride position is comfortable, and I could still get well forward whilst seated without being too compromised for room. For those riders that like to stand, a change of bars may be required, as at 178cm I was forced to stoop a little when on the pegs.
When standing, the DR-Z is easy to grip with the knees despite the bike being quite slim, the extra 20mm of seat foam helping here, whilst raising the seat height by the same amount to 920mm.
The new 10.5lt plastic fuel tank (instead of metal) also assists in this department, the excellent seat/tank junction meaning my knees had plenty to grip, though lots of use and/or kneebraces will mean the tank stickers will suffer.
The plastic tank also means a low-speed oopsie won't necessarily mean forking out big bucks for tank repairs - a feature I certainly appreciated when a flat front tyre caught me by surprise, and saw me lying under the bike with my knee in between the ground and tank.
FLAT AT THE BOTTOM
There are holes for rimlocks pre-drilled in both rims, however, and I would definitely fit a set before taking to the dirt if it were mine.
The tyres themselves were Dunlop's excellent 756 soft-terrain knobbies, fitted especially for the dirt by Suzuki Oz. They suited the wet, muddy conditions perfectly, and meant the conservative power output could be overcome by just keeping the throttle open, and maximising corner speed instead.
The engine itself was still in fully restricted form, as per ADR requirements. Removing the large rubber flap in the inlet manifold would certainly unleash more power (for closed circuit use only of course!).
Power from a fully restricted 250cc four-stroke is never going to be startling, and the ADR-complying DR-Z certainly feels short of breath up the top end, though it meant I could just hold the throttle open and ride it. When combined with a little imagination, this can make the pilot feel like a bit of an enduro legend. The feeling wasn't lost on me...
While imitating people who have more talent than myself, I like to have a good set of brakes on my side. The DR-Z250 has just that, with more than enough power available at the front lever, and a well-modulated rear brake set-up.
They combine to haul up the DR-Z easily, although I found the rear brake pedal itself too small, meaning I missed it a couple of times.
Once things opened out a little, the Suzuki's restricted power output capped its abilities substantially - de-restricting the engine would certainly mean the bike could hold its head higher in this type of going.
Even so, I had to keep reminding myself that this bike is designed for road use as well, such was its competence in the bush.
Still in restricted form (of course), the bike none-the-less performed well enough to keep me out of harm's way, and cruising at 110km/h was quite manageable. I reckon around 130km/h would be about top speed, which is plenty for this type of bike.
Saying that, at 100km/h I was doing a great impression of a wind-sock, and the wind clutching at my shoulders introduced a gentle weave at times - pretty standard for a light, wide-barred dirtbike on the road.
The brakes are still effective on the bitumen, with the Dunlop Enduro D903 F front tyre chirping a protest before the brakes have reached their full potential.
The tyres do a good job of compromising mild dirt abilities with road duties - just don't go trying to get the knee down with them. You'll probably succeed, it's just that after you got the knee to earth, it will most likely be followed by your butt, back, elbow etc.
ON A DIME
In traffic is where the DR-Z excels. The seat height and upright riding position allow excellent vision all round (the mirrors are also very good), and the manoeuvrability makes traffic snarls a doddle.
If all else fails, you can always take to the median strip and roost off into the horizon.
The LED dash display is worthy of a mention, with an accurate speedo, stopwatch, two trip meters and the ability to adjust the trip meters, in case you take a wrong turn in the bush and need to reset to follow a map.
All the switchgear works well and, once adjusted correctly, the headlight does a commendable job.
Don't expect to carry a pillion passenger though - there are no pegs or grabstrap on the DR-Z.
Those who want a trailbike which will get them almost anywhere, in more comfort than a hard-edged enduro bike, may find the DR-Z250 is right where they want it. Useful items such as the plastic handguards and easily accessible air filter add to the value.
Whatever the reason for buying it, the DR-Z is one hell of a fun bike to ride, dirt or road.