Suzuki DR-Z 250
Suzuki DR-Z 250
Air/oil cooled, four stroke, single cylinder,
DOHC, 4 valve per cylinder.
Bore x Stroke
73. x 59.6mm
5 Speed / chain
Telescopic, oil-damped, 12-way
adjustable compression and 17-way rebound damping
fully-adjustable compression/rebound damping and preload
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,
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
For 2001, the DR became the DR-Z, and with the new name came a number of updates
- including new suspension - which I was keen to sample in the bush, in order to
see how well the all-rounder DR-Z could cope in dirt mode.
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 DR-Z250 also scores a kick-starter to back-up the electric leg, a practical
addition, and one which also points to Suzuki taking a more serious tilt at the
'trail' component of the road/trail all-rounder.
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
"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
Speaking of flat tyres, the DR-Z250 doesn't come equipped with rim locks (which
keep the tyre locked to the rim), so the front tube was destroyed as the tyre
turned on the wheel.
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
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
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.
The DR-Z really shone in the tight stuff, the low centre of gravity, good brakes
and easy to use power making it quite nifty through the trees, enough to keep
more narrow-focused bikes honest.
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
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.
Being a road/trail bike, once I had finished covering the DR-Z in mud, I
returned the 250 to road-spec for a week of commuting and freeway riding.
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
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
Fuel economy is good in city usage, making for a reasonable fuel range from the
10.5lt tank. The well-padded seat grows teeth after half an hour or so due to
being so narrow, so only the iron-cheeked will be able to make use of this range
for long periods.
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.
All-in-all, the DR-Z250 does what it's designed to do very well. For somebody
looking for an economical, value-for-money commuter which is equally at home on
the dirt after a few mods, the DR-Z is worth a close look indeed.
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.
Note: Special thanks to Frankston City
Motorcycle Park, tel (03) 9786 4543, for our photoshoot venue.