RideApart Review: 2013 DR-Z400SM

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Category: Reviews

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

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