SUZUKI DR800 S BIG (1991 - 1997) Review

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £50
Power: 54 bhp
Seat height: Tall (35.0 in / 890 mm)
Weight: Medium (490 lbs / 222 kg)

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

What do we have here? Why, it’s an as-new 1991 Suzuki DR800S, aka DR Big - Suzuki’s first big adventure bike and recommissioned in 2020 by the team at Suzuki GB.

The DR Big is fun, punches above its weight in charm and is surprisingly versatile for a big single, including a spot of touring thanks to its excellent range.

What’s more, it’s even better-looking than the latest 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT and as a second bike for a bit of fettling, running around and the odd moment of trail riding, the classic would be ideal.

But in 1991 the DR wasn’t the quickest in its class and in 2020 it’s woefully slow compared to a modern 1050.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Throwing bends at the DR shows its true 1990s origin as well as its off-road bias; the tall, gangly forks, rear weight bias and spindly front tyre (thankfully a modern Michelin Anakee Adventure) give the bike a lean-it-and-lose-it feel – you have to almost nudge the Suzuki through a corner, constantly testing front grip.

It’s a slow in, apex, and pin it style – or alternatively, just go easy all the way through. Hell of a turning circle and fantastic low speed balance though; the DR can U-turn feet-up in around three-quarters the width its modern Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT counterpart needs.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

While you might expect a hard-edged and angry, stiff and tall, and awkward-to-ride bike with a lumpy motor there is in fact found a soft and smooth, easy to use machine with an engine that doesn’t even vibrate very much.

I’d never ridden a DR Big before this 2020 ride; neither the original 750 from 1988 nor 1990’s DR800 and half expected big, thumping, single-piston truculence. Afterall, the DR remains the largest single cylinder production motorcycle engine and all that metal flinging about must induce some vibration, surely? Hope nothing falls off, including me.

A rear shot of the Suzuki DR800S Big

The five-speed gearbox doesn’t always make it across from first to second without dipping into neutral, but the motor pulls smoothly and cleanly through its twin carbs, and is nippy off the line. Not fast though; rated at 54bhp, it’s the laziest 54bhp ever and mid-40s would be closer.

The DR needs overtaking consideration because its paucity of mid-puff is so evident. It never labours – unless you ask too much of top gear – but 70mph is 5000rpm, 80mph is 5750pm and it doesn’t feel fair to ask more of a 30-year-old single. But, even cruising at those speeds only reveals a mild tingling through the footpegs. I could ride the DR a long way, reminding me of my lawn mower every time I shut off.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
3 out of 5 (3/5)

It’s like being followed by a madcap multicoloured Erasure video. It actually looks pretty cool, but maybe I’m showing my age. As well as looking cool, owners reviews online also report the bike to be relatively fuss-free – providing thousands of miles of care-free riding.

That said, some do report the bikes to use a fair amount of oil. Being almost 30-years-old, parts are also becoming increasingly hard to come by, with the DR Big not included in Suzuki GB’s Vintage Parts programme. Check used purchases for signs of crash damage, with many ridden off-road, or dropped – thanks in part to the quirky handling.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Rugged, durable and minimalist in features, the DR Big should be easy to run. That said, finding one at all is a challenge and expect to pay collector’s prices when you do. A scan of online auction sites found minimal examples, with one clean early 750 listed for a penny shy of eight grand (2020 prices).  

Equipment

2 out of 5 (2/5)

The immediate sensation on climbing aboard – with 890mm seat height it’s not daunting but requires stepping onto the left peg first to avoid putting a hip out – is how quaintly simple the DR is to use.

Fuel tap on, button choke on, lights off in case it takes a few turns to get going... ah, no decompressor or kickstart, turn key, check she’s in neutral – someone got the wiring diagram mixed up and the turn signal idiot light is wired up as neutral instead – and hey presto, the DR starts without any fuss, settling instantly into a lightly pulsating tickover. That’s easy.

No menus or modes, wireless ignition or waiting for the clocks to warm up. Blip the throttle a few times to get the oil flowing, and away we go.

The dash also harks back to a more innocent time when the only riding modes were throttle, gears and brake. It’s rugged, chunky and easy to understand – as are the switches, which are minimalist and simplistic.

Specs

Engine size 779cc
Engine type 4v single-cylinder
Frame type Steel tube cradle
Fuel capacity 24 litres
Seat height 890mm
Bike weight 222kg
Front suspension 41mm non-adjustable telescopic forks
Rear suspension Single shock, pre-load adjustable
Front brake 280mm disc with two-piston caliper
Rear brake 220mm disc with two-piston caliper
Front tyre size 90/90 x 21
Rear tyre size 130/80 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 40.6 mpg
Annual road tax £96
Annual service cost £50
New price -
Used price -
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term -

Top speed & performance

Max power 54 bhp
Max torque 44 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 190 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 1988 – Suzuki launch the DR750S, complete with Dakar-inspired pointed nose taken from Gaston Rahier’s DR-Z racer of the time. This 727cc single-cylinder bike is now considered to be the rarest on the used market, due to only being produced for two years.
  • 1990 – Suzuki replace the 750 with the DR800S. The engine jumps up to 779cc – to date, the largest-capacity single ever made for a production bike.
  • 1991 – Suzuki alter the DR800S, altering the fuel tank design and lowering capacity from 29 to 24 litres. The clocks were also updated, as was the exhaust. It was officially dropped by Suzuki in 1997. 

Owners' reviews for the SUZUKI DR800 (1991 - 1997)

2 owners have reviewed their SUZUKI DR800 (1991 - 1997) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your SUZUKI DR800 (1991 - 1997)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Engine: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Reliability & build quality: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Equipment: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Annual servicing cost: £50
5 out of 5 The DR Big ride one you’ll love it
22 August 2021 by Tim eardley

Version: Sr43B

Year: 1993

Annual servicing cost: £50

Very comfortable for long distance and I’ve tested that to the extreme often travelling from the midlands to the far flung areas of Scotland with ease

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Both models have more then enough braking power to lock up or stand it on its nose As for riding I’ve done 4 hours in the saddle but that’ll go very you numb bum but two hour stints between stops s a good happy medium Wouldn’t say they carry passengers that well

Engine 5 out of 5

The engine is punchy and can give the a smile but is no speed machine Happily does motorway speeds but is at its best around the lanes ride to trust it and it will do what you ask

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

I have both the 750 SR41 and 800 SR43B Both are super simple to work on and rarely have any issues especially on the 43 it just keeps going Just make sure you batteries good and it’ll always start and change the oil regular and your done So super cheap to maintain No rust issues at all on 43 But tanks can be and issue on the early 41’s on the inside

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Brakes are pennies to fix and very simple to do yourself As for engine service 50 will do it all Just do it often and they’ll run for ever

Equipment 5 out of 5

Good tyres work well Equipment is super basic But add what you want

Buying experience: Owned the SR41 for many years and paid next to nothing got it . But I have put a lot into a complete ground up resto As for the 43 German import that had been well looked after at £2500 delivered to my door form a dealer Just because you rarely find then in this country

4 out of 5 Biiiiig Sensation
20 July 2020 by Chris Valavanis

Year: 1996

Annual servicing cost: £50

Great feel from the biggest thumper ever made. A true sensational bike as they build themlate 80ies-early 90ies with all the adventure spirit of Paris Dakar (the real one!). Yes, DR Big could have adjustable suspensions, more top power and better air coverage. But then, it wouldn't be Dr Big. If you find one just GRAP it!

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5

Brakes could be better. Start with changing the front cable and if that's not good enough try the pomp. Second disk? Yeah, that could be perfect!

Engine 4 out of 5

Till 120 km/h the most sensational mono cylinder bike I ever ridden. And I rode them all since I am a motorcycle editor since 1995...

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Build to last, that's how they made'em back then. It's not like the Ηonda quality of that era, compared to an ΧRV650-750 for example. Still looks slick though. Made in Japan. What else to say?

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

You can do almost everyhing by your self since it's a very simple bike compared to any injection bike. Just bend and take a look. See how easy to adjust, fix, regulate? Τhat's the only way to make a long lasting relationship with a bike. DR Big gives you the opportunity...

Equipment 3 out of 5

Ha, ha, equipment I heard? Nice joke. What do you need them for? To add more weight? No thanks, I prefer the Spartan way!...

Buying experience: Privately bought for 1.800 euros, it is the only one at my home town (Thessaloniki, Greece) so I just couldn't let her go by...

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