The DRZ Chronicles

The Beginner's guide to the Suzuki DRZ-400

 

 

Introduction:


So you want a Suzuki DRZ…

Despite being outsold 2:1 by the versatile Kawasaki KLR650, the Suzuki DRZ remains an affordable dual sport with tremendous popularity.  The Dizzer makes a good starter bike, but it is surrounded by numerous myths that often cause the bike to outlive the legend.

Before I delve into the possible modifications for this machine, let me caution you.  If you are buying a brand new DRZ with the intention of immediately adding several thousand dollars in modifications, you may be better off buying a better motorcycle instead. I’m not trying to dissuade you from purchasing one of these fine 400’s but simply letting you know of the other options that exist.  If I had known what I know now, there is a chance I would have bought a better bike from the get go. Unless of course I found a used one at a great price.

 

Dirt

  • For the dirt rider, eight thousand dollars will buy you a KTM 450/530 EXC-R, which will be lighter, faster, handle better, and be better suspended than your modded DRZ.  Pay now or pay later.
  • If you are short on cash, but love the dirt, also consider the previous generation Racing Four Strokes (RFS) KTM’s like the 2003-2007 450-530 EXC, of which the 2007’s were street legal from the factory.
  • If you are very short on cash, also consider the Honda XR400R.  Although an older design than the DRZ, the kickstart-only XR is a simplistic and reliable machine and generally available for $500-1000 less than a comparable DRZ.
  • The new Husqvarna TE450/510 also fit into this category, however their close ratio transmissions and vibrations leave them best suited to almost exclusive off road usage

Dual Sport

  • For a dual sport rider, also consider the Husky TE-610 or Suzuki DR650.  Due to their increased displacement they will cruise better on the highway and give up little to the smaller DRZ once off road.
  • The new BMW X Challenge is a possible contender, now that it has been available at heavily discounted prices. 
  • KTM’s new 690 Enduro on paper, is an excellent heir to the throne, however reviews are very limited at this point.
  • The Honda XR650L is another possibility, however having owned one, the DRZ is virtually a better bike in all categories.  The lack of a 6th gear in both the L and R models is, to say the least, “disappointing” - a 6th gear with a magic button on the R model would make it a serious contender in the desert.

Adventure Riding

  • For the long distance adventure rider, consider the popular Kawasaki KLR-650.  In its newest iteration, the large Kawasaki is slab oriented, but can also handle mild offroad adventures.
  • The now discontinued KTM LC4 would also be worthy of consideration, however the vibes on low mileage models are considered excessive to some.
  • If you have the green, the KTM 950/990 Adventure/SE series feels as light at times as the DRZ, but has close to three times the power.  To quote Ferris Bueller: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
  • For 90/10 (Street/Dirt) riding, one may also consider picking up a used Buell Ulysses, Triumph Tiger, Ducati Multistrada, Suzuki Vstrom or the like.  These will provide much greater street comfort and capability than the DRZ, but have much lesser offroad credentials.

The DRZ is best compared to the Honda Civic in the automobile world. The number of mods available allows one to spend more money on a bike that it is worth from both a value and performance standpoint.  I’ll admit I fell victim to the DRZ craze.  I bought my bike and proceeded to spend over $4000 in modifications.  I ended up with a good solid dual sport, but was disappointed with it after riding a KTM 525 EXC, a bike cheaper than my modified DRZ.  I ended up selling the bike and mods and purchased a KTM 530EXC.  DirtRider’s Jimmy Lewis is telling the truth, there is “no reason to build up Japanese dual sports anymore, buy a KTM”.  Forums that tell you otherwise are simply looking to increase their revenue at your expense.  Consider that such forums have multiple links- imbedded in your forum postings – to sell their goods. 

That said, there will always be those that want to purchase a bike and modify it.  For those people I would recommend finding a good, clean, mostly stock DRZ and then using the money saved versus new to buy the modifications you desire.  It is possible to buy a cherry used bike for $2000-4000 and add numerous modifications, while still being cheaper than buying a bike at MSRP.  The following is a guide to help you determine what you need to make your DRZ be the best it can be, while saving you money.

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