The handling is OK, around town, but as the speeds pick up the 21-inch front wheel makes things feel vague and wallowy and the brakes on the Suzuki DR-Z400S are poor. The wide bars let you fling it around and off-road, once the standard tyres are swapped for something more knobbly, it’s quite easy for novices to get to grips with the DR-Z400S.
The Suzuki DR-Z400S's SOHC single is in a low state of tune, so it’s easy for beginners to get on and use. It’s reliable and easy to service at home. There’s enough oomph to lift the front wheel over obstacles and the low down shove makes traffic duties a cinch on the Suzuki DR-Z400S. This bike doesn’t do motorway speeds with enthusiasm, though.
Build quality is fair, but the frame paint is easily rubbed off and the cases look tatty quickly on the Suzuki DR-Z400S. The plastics are rugged and cheap to replace. Reliability on the whole is excellent and the DR-Z400S makes a pretty fair case for itself as an unburstable, unbreakable tool. Just remember to chain it up properly as the thieves love them.
A reader reports:
"In 2006 I bought myself an off road Susuki DR-Z400. Living here in Scotland this bike was the best all rounder I ever owned and I used it all year round - sun or snow.
Unfortunately it was stolen in December, 2008 and I decided to buy the newer DR-Z400SM.
"The SM is just as solid as the off road version, but in snow with road going tyres it was hell. Recently I fitted it with Avon Distanzia trail tyres and it has much improved the handling on the icy roads of Scotland.
"On the road they seem to grip just as well as any road going tyre also. However they are rather expensive, but well worth it for your own safety.
"One problem we seem to have with these bikes in the very cold conditions is carb-freeze. The SM did suffer from this problem in the beginning but now it seems to have cured itself and has done 7000 miles in 12months. In all weathers without a single problem.
"It is a great bike for touring Scotland during the winter months and a great traffic-buster around town.
They are really solid built bikes and well worth their weight in gold."
The Suzuki DR-Z400S is an excellent investment new or used. There’s nothing that offers the same degree of versatility for the money. There are bigger capacity options, like the Kawasaki KLR650 or Yamaha XT660R, but what they gain on the road they lose off it.
It's not a bike for open roads, but works well as an urban commuter (particularly with supermoto wheels and tyres) and brilliantly as an off-road bike.
Just watch for paint getting rubbed away frustratingly quickly and budget for security as it can be a favourite for bike thieves.
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The stock clocks are pretty basic on the Suzuki DR-Z400S, but there’s a readable rev counter and speedo and a tool bag on the rear fender. There’s a whole cottage industry dedicated to tuning and tweaking the Suzuki DR-Z400S from race exhausts to big bore kits.