DR-Z400SM Test/Review

 photos by Neale Bayly

What could possibly be better than rolling out of bed in the morning, grabbing a cup of coffee and a bite to eat, walking to your garage or shop, opening the door, and kicking life into your dirt bike because you are going for a nice ride around your neighborhood? With this scenario, you wouldn’t have to load you bike into your vehicle, drive X number of miles to a riding area, unload all your junk, and climb into your riding gear in the dirt and rocks.

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At this point I can think of one or two things that could be better but they might not be appropriate here. However, being able to go riding, legally, directly from your home is a luxury few of us mortals can afford. But, there is a glimmer of hope, a way to climb on a light, nimble, easy to ride dirt bike, well almost dirt bike and ride from home. Sounds like a dual sport right? It’s not, it’s the SuperMoto.

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We recently had the opportunity to just this. We spent the last two months with Suzuki’s 2014 DR-Z400SM in the EDM garage. Was it fun? Yes. Did we ride the wheels off of it? You bet! The DR-Z400SM is essentially the DR-Z400S with 17 inch wheels with super wide, grippy, street tires and a more rigid inverted fork/ swing arm – gleaned from the RM-250. Essentially it’s a dirt bike with street wheels and just as a dirt bike begs you to misbehave, so the DR-Z400SM does. The initial urge to pop wheelies and do stoppies at every intersection is too great to resist. After a few weeks this urge dissipates, but not much. The 400SM is a really fun bike to ride and would make a great local commuter. By local we mean anything under 35 miles.

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Rider gear: Boots, jacket, pants, and gloves – Joe Rocket. Helmet – HJC, goggles – Blur B1

Anything over this and you start getting bleacher butt, bad. The seat is narrow and firm, great for off-road but it transmits most of the engine buzz to your posterior and when ridden for extended periods is a bit rough. The final gearing on the SM is 14/44, perfect for around town commuting and romps in the twisties where speed limits are below 55mph. It allows for comfortable cruising at a max speed of around 65mph, anything above that is a bit on the buzzy side and feels like you’re being really unkind to the motor. Riding on the freeway isn’t great and can only be handled for 15 or 20 minutes, anything longer than this will leave you tingling for the rest of the day. Dropping a tooth or two on the rear sprocket would surely help this if you intend to spend more time at freeway speeds.

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IMG_4398Back to the purpose of the DR-Z, which is blasting through a series of tight twisties. You may be surprised to find out that we at EDM have spent a lot of time riding on the street on a variety of bikes, from cruisers to sport bikes. Of all the bikes we have ridden, few create the same level of comfort when diving into a corner. The balance between seating position and lightweight make the 400SM feel firmly planted when leaning deeply into turns. The Suzuki’s powerful front brake consisting of a dual piston caliper grabbing a 300mm front brake disc, compliant but firm suspension and confidence gained from the smooth power delivery encourages you to go in faster, lean farther, and come out faster than any other street bike we’ve tested. This is probably why whenever you see a guy on one of these on a mountain road, he’s flying! If you have buddies who ride street bikes you’ll be leaving them far behind with ease. The transmission is as smooth as silk making up shifting and down shifting effortless and finding neutral requires only one try in either direction.

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The Suzuki DR-Z400SM is a street legal bike for serious dirt bike enthusiasts on pavement roads. Do you have a series of trails nearby? Hit up Warp 9 for a set of MX wheels and you will have a very capable Dual Sport bike to get the best of both worlds.

What we like:
• Awesome brakes
• Really fun to ride
• Slick transmission
• Comfortable riding position

What we don’t like:
• Skinny, hard seat
• Final gearing could be lower
Photo description: Instrument cluster offers excellent visibility on the trail, and features a speedometer, odometer, twin-trip meters with addition/subtraction capability, clock, timer and stopwatch functions.
2014 DR-Z400SM Features
• Suzuki’s Supermotard model based on DR-Z400S – combines Supermotard style and features in a narrow, lightweight street-legal package.

Engine Features

• Automatic decompression system for quick/easy engine starts.
• Compact 4-valve cylinder head with 36mm intake valves, 29mm exhaust valves, narrow 28-degree included valve angle and shim-under-bucket valve adjustment system.
• Electric start with lightweight starter motor and a compact 6.5 amp maintenance-free battery.
• Forged aluminum piston is 10 percent lighter than a cast piston and receives additional oil-cooling to the piston crown through a crankcase oil jet.
• Lightweight 398cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled, dry-sump engine produces strong, tractable low-rpm power.
• SCEM-plated cylinder (nickel-silicon-phosphorous) is lighter and more durable than an iron liner with excellent heat transfer properties.
• Smooth throttle response with a Mikuni™ BSR36 CV-type carburetor fed by 6-liter airbox. The left side cover has quick-release fasteners for easy access to the air filter.
• Thermostatically controlled cooling fan mounted to the left radiator helps maintain consistent operating temperature in traffic.

Transmission Features

• Additional weight savings with magnesium valve cover, clutch cover, and magneto cover.
• Compact 5-speed transmission utilizes a cable-operated clutch with separate outer cover for simplified clutch maintenance.

Chassis Features

• A fully adjustable rear shock absorber with high/low speed compression damping adjuster and aluminum swingarm for precise rear wheel control.
• A bolt-on aluminum subframe helps reduce weight and simplify maintenance.
• RK Excel aluminum rims and radial tires: 120/70-R17 front, 140/70- R17 rear.
• Chrome-moly steel frame tuned for Supermoto style riding is torsionally strong with minimal weight. The backbone tube, front down tube, and steering head gussets form the dry-sump engine oil tank.
• Long travel, Showa-brand inverted front fork derived from RM250 – features adjustable compression/rebound damping and alumite coating on inner tube surfaces for smooth action.
• Strong braking performance supplied by a front disc brake with a large 300mm floating-type rotor and dual-piston caliper, plus 240mm rear disc brake with single-piston caliper

Additional Features

• Additional weight savings with magnesium valve cover, clutch cover, and magneto cover.
• Compact 5-speed transmission utilizes a cable-operated clutch with separate outer cover for simplified clutch maintenance.
• Compact digital instrument cluster with speedometer, odometer, twin-trip meters with addition/subtraction capability, clock, timer and stopwatch functions.
• On-road legal lighting with bright 60/55 watt halogen headlight, compact tail/stoplight, lightweight, rubber-mounted turn signals and horn.
• Renthal tapered aluminum handlebar for reduced vibration and an aggressive look.

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