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Suzuki's DRZ400 - an all round workhorse

Photographers Viewpoint by Steve Gregory: Suzuki DR-Z 400E

We took the Suzuki to the Nurburgring to enable me to get around the inside of the Nordschleife track, a myriad labyrinth of twisty trails leading to trackside viewpoints. We ended up arguing over who would get to thrash it round the track next. The first thing you notice as you swing a leg over this machine is just how far away the ground suddenly is! Yup it’s a stepladder on wheels. With a seat height of 37 inches getting on and off the thing is a bit of a problem for the vertically challenged. At a strapping 5’7” myself (although I’m tall for my height), I found the best method was to pop it into first and climb on as you pull away. Cool when you get it right and entertaining for the crowd when you don’t.

The enormous suspension travel (about a foot at both ends!) gave just enough with my weight on it for me to get one tippy-toe down but the whole thing is just so light anyway (119kg) that in practice, I could happily live with it. Under way, the bike is as sure-footed and nimble handling as you would expect from a race bred machine.

The response from the 400cc water-cooled four-stroke lump is mildly disappointing at first. I was expecting to stomp away from tickover as each power stroke thumped through the rear tyre. Not so. This new breed of four stroke single delivers its’ torque higher up the scale - and there’s plenty of it. It positively thrives on revs and there’s never a hint of harsh vibration. Once you forget any preconceptions about four stroke singles, you just wring every last one of those 7600 rpm to release smooth predictable power. Give it some stick and 40 odd horsepower catapults bike and rider forwards. The machine is so light you really feel the engine and brakes are operating on you directly and you can happily thrash it all day long. We know, because we did.

It wasn’t long before the bike was prised from my possession, coincidentally after everyone had scared themselves silly on the GSX-R 1000 on a freshly damp track. Now this is a no-nonsense motocrosser with lights, complete with trail style knobblies. Who in their right mind would choose to take a dirt bike around the Nurburgring when there’s a selection of Suzuki’s finest race reps to choose from? The answer surprisingly is - everyone who tried it!

The DR-Z is an absolute hoot around the track. You get wasted on the straights but find yourself looking right over the top of sportsbikes when you catch them under braking. Catching sportsbikes under braking? Erm, hang on a minute, this is a ‘crosser we’re talking about isn’t it? Incredible but true. In fact you soon learn to just blast around bigger bikes like some demented lunatic, hopelessly off-line and way too fast before bouncing out of the corner like Wile-E-Coyote from an Acme catapult. It corners like a diabolical cross between a pogo stick and a jet-ski, Newton’s laws of physics no longer apply to you.

Like everybody else who tried it, I found myself giggling hysterically, hurling it into bends with reckless abandon before deliberately grabbing handfuls of throttle at ludicrous angles of lean. It never occurs to you that you won’t make it and anyway you could always jump the curbs… Those knobbly tyres are remarkably well behaved and the suspension just soaks up everything you throw at it. So much so that my single claim to fame amongst these knee-down balls out racer chappies was that I once managed to get the footrest down without actually dropping it (and only twice when I actually did).

Now then: what’s this super-moto thingy? Sounds like fun...


Can I insure it?


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