RideApart Review: 2013 DR-Z400SM

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After a short absence from the American market, the Suzuki DR-Z400SM has been reissued. A supermoto for everyman?

What’s New
Stickers. The 2013 Suzuki DR-Z400SM is exact same one that was last on-sale in 2009, from the engine down to the toolkit secured to the back, just with different plastics and stickers. That’s no bad thing, the DR-Z has always been the only real supermoto available from a Japanese manufacturer, over 250cc.

The Ride
I have been using the Dr-Z400SM to get between and around Los Angeles and Long Beach for the past few weeks. As I mentioned, I’ve also spent a lot of time on the dual-sport version, the DR-Z400S. Instead of rehashing every issue, I’ll just be touching on the ways the two bikes compare.

One of the main differences is the suspension. The SM version uses Showa inverted front forks instead of the 49mm cartridge-style forks with protective rubber boots of the S version. Both feature adjustable compression and rebound dampening, but the inverted forks reduce unsprung weight and help to improve the super moto aesthetic.

The other main difference is with the brakes. The DR-Z400SM includes a front disc brake with a large 300mm floating-type rotor and dual-piston caliper plus a 240mm rear disc brake with single-piston caliper, while the DR-Z400S has a 250mm front disc and a 220mm rear.

The super moto version comes with a 120/70 R17 front tire and 140/70 R17 rear, while the dual sport version has a 80/100 R21 front and 120/90 R18 rear. The super moto comes wrapped in Dunlop D208s while the dual-sport comes with Trailwings stock. The difference in tires, wheel size and suspension, give the DR-Z400SM a ground clearance height of 10.2 inches and seat height of 35 inches, while the DR-Z400S comes in a 11.8 inches and 36.8 inches respectively.

Other than that, the bikes are basically the same. Same 398cc liquid cooled thumper. Same 2.6 gallon tank. Same skinny seat. Same instrument panel. Similar weights (321 for the SM, 317 for the S). Same Mikuni BSR36 carb.

The Good
Again, refer to the DR-Z400S article for a more broad review on the DR-Z400 as a platform, this is more about the change that transform it from dual-sport to supermoto.

While I loved riding the DR-Z400S, my biggest complaint about it was the brakes. The DR-Z400SM’s upgraded brakes work brilliantly on the street, exceeding my hopes in this department. Feel is good, as well as bite and grip. It raises an interesting question when determining which model is right for you, the brakes on S being a little easier to manage in the dirt (less power means they wont lock up in the dirt quite as easily) but the brakes on the SM better for street. If you were looking to buy one just for the street, the SM is the obvious choice, but if you were going to try and split duties, an SM with a second set of wheels might work better than the reverse.

The lower overall height makes the SM a little more accessible, though it is still quite tall with a seat height of 35 inches. While it’s a good thing the bike is a little easier to get a leg over, I actually liked the height of the S model for lane splitting.

The USD forks and 17 inch wheels help a great deal with stability at high speeds. Where I had incredibly intense speed wobbles on the 400S at speeds over 70 (amplified by the dirt-focused Dunlop D606s we fitted), the 400SM handled freeway speeds much better and I felt much more planted with wobbles only on rough pavement or in areas with high winds.

The Bad
While part of the fun of riding super moto is the long and soft suspension, I found that to be a little too soft for my liking on the DR-Z. The front nose takes a huge dive anytime you apply the front brakes and you could feel the instability during moderate to high speed cornering. Some of this can be modified by playing with the suspension settings, but we’d like stiffer suspension overall for a bike this capable.

The range, while the same as the DR-Z400S, felt more frustrating on a bike oriented more for the streets. When I found myself riding the DR-Z400S around town or out to dual sport rides, I was not as annoyed to have to stop every 80-100 miles to fill up. The DR-Z400SM presents itself as more of an all rounder and commuting tool, so it bothered me a little more to have to stop and fill up every other day, but that’s probably just me whining.

The Price
The DR-Z400SM has a MSRP of $6,999, while the DR-Z400S retails for $6,499. We think $500 is well worth the upgrades to the brakes, suspension, and wheels. If I were deciding between the two, I’d go with the SM and get a set of dirt wheels and tires instead of getting the S and then trying to get street wheels and tires and then trying to fix the brakes. The lighter Yamaha WR250R retails for $6,700 but makes less horsepower and torque. The new 2013 Honda CRF250L has a suggested MSRP of $4,500, but it weighs the same and only makes 18bhp. If you look bigger, the Honda XR650L retails for $6,700 but it weighs 30 pounds more while making similar power to the Suzuki.

The Verdict
Is a supermoto for you? If you’re looking for a fun bike to get around town or to play with on tight roads, you can’t really do better, but the vibey single-cylinder motor and limited high-speed performance mean you won’t want to be hopping on the highway for much longer than half an hour. The DR-Z400SM takes everything that great about motards — the light weight, insane handling and punchy engine — then puts all that in a package that’s actually reliable, accesible, fun and easy to buy and own. As good for beginners looking for a practical commuter as it is experienced riders looking for a fun bargain.

RideApart Rating: 8/10

  • JC Maldonado

    Those blue wheels are sexy.

  • Guest

    Lemme guess… This is Anna’s lol.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      Stock press loaner like everything else we do our reviews on.

  • Tyler 250

    Nothing against the Suzuki, but I’d rather Yamaha bring back the WR/X.

  • Jay

    The DRZ comes with a 5-speed, extremely narrow-ratio transmission that isn’t very suitable for the street and the carb doesn’t deliver the power, response, or gas mileage of its fuel-injected competitors. If Suzuki would correct these two faults, I would probably already own one.

    • Piglet2010

      Selling a carbureted bike in 2013 just seems wrong unless it is dirt cheap – Suzuki should do better. I would only buy one used, or wait until next year and get a Duke 390 instead.

    • markf

      There is no competitor for the drz400sm. The wr is only a 250 and it’s weak motor is pathetic. My drz400sm is killer is reliability and torque is incomparable. You cpi;d go with one of the other larger displacement SM’s but then you have all that maintenance and reliability issues. Get the DRZ400SM, you won’t be disappointed. I sincerely love mine. These things will go over 40,000 miles without a rebuild.

  • Jay

    Howd you get all those cool designs on the ground?

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      Photoshop

      • NIGHTSCOUT

        LOL that’s some PS experience right der……

  • Mugget

    The XR400 M never made it to the States?

    I know what you mean about the forks diving under brakes, same on my XR400 motard. But I think it only stands out if you’re used to riding sportbikes or have a road bike with tuned suspension (my other bike is a GSX-R1000 with tuned suspension). Also if you keep focusing on that, it’s going to stand out a LOT more and seem much worse. I just kept riding the XR as it is, it’s really no problem. Yeah the front dives, but it never bottoms out and surprisingly it’s even comfortable to trail brake on.

    What did you mean by moderate to high speed cornering? Cruising through a high speed corner, or taking a slower corner at blazing supermoto speeds? I’ll bet the suspension can’t be worse than my 7 year old XR, I’d also bet that the instability you’re feeling is just because it’s a feeling that you’re not used to. That’s the thing with motards – their capability far exceeds what most people would believe possible.

    The positive side to having super-plush suspension is that you can whip around corners crazy-fast, even if the road surface is choppy. I’d say that makes motards the best kind of bike for around town. By having stiffer suspension you remove some of that capability. I found that the key to riding a motard is to just ride and not worry about what the tyres and suspension are doing underneath you. If you feel the suspension (and even tyres) moving, don’t sweat it – they’re just doing their job keeping the wheels on the ground!

  • Bill Bengtson

    What a timely review. This is the exact bike that I’m hoping to go test ride tomorrow.

    Emotionally (& financially), this is the exact “used bike” that I’m wanting to replace my Yamaha Warrior cruiser with. But the big lingering question is… how uncomfortable will it be on 55-mph highways?

    On any bike that I’ve had, I’ve always tried to avoid the Interstate/freeways… so that’s not really a factor.

    But I do want to be able to ride around 200 miles of backroads & county highways in a day… plus of course playing around town & etc. Coming from riding & racing both sportbikes & dirtbikes… this cruiser just doesn’t have enough “play” to it… hence my interest in the DR-Z400SM.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      that depends on how fast you ride on these 55mph highways…

      • Bill Bengtson

        LOL, of course ;)
        I typically only do 6 or 7 over in my part of the country. Well cruising speed that is. Occasional short bursts above that happen for fun.

        • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

          should be fine then. I rode about 60 miles the other day at about 75-80 and that was kinda pushing it. perfectly happy at 65 though.

          how’d the test ride go?

          • Davidabl2

            Are you running the stock sprocket combo on it?

            • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

              everything on it is completely stock, as with all the press bikes we write reviews on

              • Davidabl2

                Right, I don’t know why I forgot that it was a press bike. Somehow all the donuts in that one picture must have made me think it was yours ;-)

  • Davidabl2

    Heavier oil in the forks would/would not help?
    There IS one caveat emptor on these things..seems like they are the only late model Japanese bikes that i see ads on CL for ones with blown engines, or rebuilt after. I would suspect, while I haven’t really researched it is that these things get blown by riding at high freeway speeds with that close-ratio 5 speed trans. That said a DRZ is on my short-list of “bikes wanted.”

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      would def help. it isn’t awful, it’s just something I would address if i owned one.

    • Ken Lindsay

      Change your rear sprocket for lower revs at high speeds if you aren’t trying to do stuntish behavior… That will take care of that problem very cheaply.

      • Davidabl2

        Yep. I suspect that these things are geared for the test ride at the dealers, just like the metrics seem to be,

    • markf

      I haven’t seen a lot of them blown around here although I would like to since they would be nice to fix and resell for a profit. If ridden on the highway a lot going 1 or 2 up on the front sprocket makes a huge difference in rpm and really settles the motor a lot. I did that on my E model but haven’t on my SM yet. These motors are very close to bullet proof. You want to see finicky and unreliable get a ktm or husky.

  • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

    check the forums. the guy i talked to who was on one at taste of dakar said there were a lot of common upgrades people did to get more out of the engine. the seat KILLS my butt, but i’m sure there are plenty of aftermarket options

  • NIGHTSCOUT

    I had a 2007 DRZ400SM, and the bike was great for off-road riding, and sub-40MPH on streets, but when you get on the freeway, the thing felt like it would fall apart, and took 3 minutes to reach the embarrassing top speed of 90MPH. Carburetors suck!

    • Davidabl2

      That’s actually what they’re made to do. Carbs suck, FI spits and the cylinders swallow ;-)

      • jack mehoff

        suck, squeeze, bang and blow!

    • markf

      90 huh geez. I will admit that getting to top speed takes about a minute to get there but my top speed was just over 100 with totally stock gearing. Passing at 70 was a breeze though. Go figure.

  • Ken Lindsay

    Sean is right, there are a ton of aftermarket goodies for this bike. Some of the most useful are sprockets, seats and gas tanks.

  • Tim

    I am having the same issue. I am riding a 2009 warrior midnight edition and i cant stand how uncomfortable the thing is. I thought with how the seat was that i would be happy with it but im ready to get off the thing in less than an hour riding it. the only thing i am worried about with the drz400sm is the power. Yeah there are plenty of mods for it but then you are just sinking a lot of money in a bike that still wont compete with some of these newer stock ktms. Not sure what to do about it. Did you end up getting the 400? I am thinking about trading my warrior in on a new 400.

    • Bill Bengtson

      I’ve been trying to sell my Warrior still… no luck so far. But it’s still my plan to buy a drz400sm. I like the KTMs… but question if they’ll need more maintenance than the Suzuki. ..plus I’m guessing that they would be more uncomfortable than the drz as well.

  • chris

    anyone know how much a new one is in the uk please?
    email if so
    c_r_2k7@hotmail.com

    • markf

      £4339 I think

  • Brian Murray

    I own 6 DRZ400sm’s currently and use them for Socal Supermoto School. As far as bang for the buck, and best tool for our purposes, there just isn’t a better bike. For the street the bike desperately needs a 6th gear, but 16/39 gearing gets you pretty much there. Desert tank stops fill up stops every 5min. For the track our suspension set up is super scientific: take flat head and spin everything all the way clockwise, add a touch of preload in the back, raise the forks in the triples a touch. Combined with some sticky Dunlop q2′s and it’s a whole new bike. Now if they’d just bump it to 500cc and add a 6th gear you’d have the world’s best cheap streetbike imho.

    • Justin McClintock

      500cc’s would be nice, but 450 would be alright if they went with FI. And yes, 6th gear needs to be there…and a tach too. I know you can get an aftermarket tach (trailtech), but I don’t get why the DR350SE had both a tach and a 6 speed tranny and the DRZ has neither.

  • markf

    Fuel injection is great for cold weather starts but, worse on gas mileage. Adding power to the drz is easy. There is a rejet kit for carb that is cheap. There is an FCR pumper carb and pipe that can bring the power up to about 45hp, that’s a big jump in power. If that’s not enough there’s a big bore kit as well. My first drz was the E model with the big cams, pumper carb and a pipe which made big power over the bone stock drz400sm I have now. Besides killer looks, the reliability factor is top notch Suzuki. I run down the highway on my 08 drz400sm at 80 mph no problems but, my trip is only about 22 miles to work.