Unlike similar street-biased dual-purpose bikes with enduro aspirations, the 2009 Suzuki DR-Z400SM is willing to do some serious work in the dirt. Derived from Suzuki’s popular DR600, the DR650SE is street-legal bike for serious off-road enthusiasts. In the 1990s, Suzuki revamped the DR650, adding an electric starter with an automatic decompression system, a narrower gel seat, and a smaller aluminum rear carrier to balance out the extra weight of the battery and alternator. The result? A fuel-efficient dual-sport beast that Suzuki has more or less left alone for the past eight years.
With the kick-started, air-cooled OHC engine developing 46 horsepower at 6800 rpm, Suzuki’s 640cc, four-stroke, single-cylinder DR650SE may not match the power of bikes with multi-pot motors of the same displacement, but this reliable thumper delivers a ton of bang for your buck, especially if you’re planning to play in the dirt.
Part of what makes the 2009 Suzuki DR650SE so competent offroad is its single overhead cam motor. Fed by a 40mm Mikuni carburetor, the 100 x 82mm bore-and-stroke engine puts out good power, with more zip than competing models. And screaming down rutted roads is easy with the Suzuki DR, because the motor can lift the front wheel on demand, though you’ll need a sturdy pair of tires underneath you.
At 366 pounds, the Suzuki DR certainly isn't a lightweight, but compared to other fearsome dual-sport singles like the Kawasaki KLR (432 pounds), the relatively light DR650SE handles tight twists and turns like a champ.
With a seat height of 34.8 inches, tall riders will feel right at home on the DR650SE, but off-road riders may want to have their dealer drop the seat another 40mm. With the high saddle, speed bumps are no problem for DR’s springy suspensions. And an aftermarket gel pad can provide additional support and comfort on the tapered seat—the narrow saddle is perfect for motocross, but commuters and city riders will probably want a little extra padding for long hauls.
The DR’s high-mounted front fairing, square headlight, and hand guards are reminiscent of the burly, rugged dual-sports cycles of yesteryear. Whereas Suzuki previously offered an optional half-fairing on DR models, only a pair of simple side plates and a headlight cover stand are available for graphic supports. The upright riding position takes some getting used to, but it gives you a nice high vantage when you’re cutting through traffic on your way to the track.
The Suzuki DR560SE features a compact, all-digital instrument cluster with a speedometer, odometer, programmable trip meter, clock, timer, and stopwatch. On-road legal lighting offers plenty of illumination, whether on asphalt, or dirt.
The 2009 Suzuki DR650SE may be a difficult ride for beginners, but riders with off-road experience should have no trouble swinging a leg through and gunning for the trails.