Test riding a Suzuki DRZ400 SM

Posted: March 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

400sm logo

Today my local Suzuki dealer had the demo truck show up.

I overslept… then piddled around… then took the wife to lunch.

SO… I got in on the last ride of the day.

But that’s OK… I was mainly wanting to toss a leg over Suzuki’s Super Moto, the DRZ400 SM.

Caryn is almost ready to go shopping for her next bike… a street legal one.

The DRZ400, in some form… SM or DS… is in the running.
She goes for her license next week, so she wasn’t able to take one out… to I took one for the team.

Now… the DRZ has been around for a few years, about 12 if I remember right, with very few changes.
For change… you have to get the SM which gives you an inverted fork, big brakes, 17″ rims, and street tires.

Pretty much any Dual Sport is a fun bike, slim, light, and able to take some abuse… kind of like the cheap hooker at the dive bar last weekend.

The SM takes the DS, and puts sticky street rubber, brakes, and faster handling rims into the equation.
The one I took on this ride stayed stuck up a Hayabusa’s ass on the twisty sections… mainly because we were instructed not to pass each other.

Guys who ride small sportbikes know one of the important truths in life… It is more fun to ride a slow bike fast than it is to ride a fast bike slow.

The Hayabusa and DRZ400 probably have the same top speed… as long as the ‘Busa never gets out of second, and it will more than likely still pull away from the little 400.

BUT… yes… BUT, in the real world this doesnt matter much.

For all of its power, the 1300 is a porky beast… around 550 lbs.
The DRZ, about 320ish… and it isnt LIGHT for a dual sport.

Light, narrow, wide bars for good leverage… on a tight road that supersport will be running scared.

However, this isn’t about road racing… this is about an entry level street bike for a new rider.

Looking at it as such, the DRZ has much to offer.

It’s biggest con is seat height in the dual sport version, those with a shorter inseam may find themselves on their toes.

The SM is lower and negated this problem for most.

400sm right1

Now that this complaint is out of the way… on to the pluses!

Like I said before… weight.

Bikes that are looked at as beginner bikes, 300 Ninja, CBR 300, etc… are heavier.

They also put you into more of a tuck… and have narrower bars.

This gives the new rider less of a feeling of control.

New riders have a tendency to drop motorcycles at low speeds, no bodywork to cry over on the DRZ.

Good low to midrange power, less clutch slipping and need to be in the correct gear… the 400cc piston just chugs along.

Also, it is less likely to be stolen than a sport bike.

Now, my impressions of it on this ride.

It fired right up with a poke of the start button and settled into to the familiar thumper idle.

As it is a single it does not idle sewing machine smooth, there is only 1 piston and it makes itself known.

I ride a DR 650 normally, and the DRZ was less of a paint mixer than my bike.

Throttle response was good, as was take up on the clutch… very easy to get moving off the line.

The upright seating position combined with the wide bars made for easy low speed maneuvering.
Easy maneuvering, good off idle torque, and a smooth clutch makes it very nonthreatening.

Pulling out onto the road the thumping of the engine quickly turned into a nice surge of power, kept right up with the much larger bikes I was riding with.

On the backroads around Birmingham I never felt that it was underpowered.

The brakes are good, much better than my 22 year old DR.

The seat however… I would have to change that, hard and narrow.
It never got uncomfortable on this short ride, but I wouldnt want to stay on it all day.

The shifter snicked right thru the gears… all 5 of them.
This is a bike that would benefit from a 6th gear.

I had it up to 86, and never felt like I was abusing it… but another cog would make interstate running more relaxing.

Off the normal surface streets and onto a curvy backroad and the bike was in its element.

Snapping side to side, over rises, down hills… the seat and missing gear didnt matter.

It transformed from a friendly beginner bike, to a bike that a guy with 35 years of experience ended up giggling inside of his helmet on.

Grip, lean angle, a willing torque biased engine, and a natural seating position makes this a must ride.

I was saddened at how short the ride was, I could have spent all day on the country roads around here.

So… would I suggest this to a beginner?

I certainly would.

Its friendly and easy to ride manner is perfect for the novice rider… as is its crashworthyness.

As they gain experience and confidence, they can explore its handling and backroad manners.

This is a beginner bike that you dont outgrow.

Hell, grab some regular DRZ400 wheels and tires… and you have your dual sport dirt bike.

I would love to see one of these in my driveway, look in my mirrors and see it chasing me down a 2 lane country road, and kick back at a camp fire and see the shadows from the flames dancing on the paint.

Should YOU look at one?

Only if you ride to have fun.

400sm on

Keep the greasy side down.


  1. John says:

    What’s the saying – How do you know they’re a happy biker? By the bug’s in their teeth…

    Looks like things are going well for you – glad to see it.

    – booksmart

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