2015 – 2017 Suzuki DR650S Review

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With a glance at the DR 650S from Suzuki and you might just dismiss it as an enduro bike. That would be doing it an injustice. It’s really a basic adventure bike that will get you off the pavement and into the woods with perhaps more gumption than a real adventure bike.

It’s not the most attractive bike in the stable, though it’s small and scrappy and so much fun to ride. With it priced so affordably, dropping it isn’t a tragic as it would be otherwise and it’s lightweight enough that you can pick it up and keep going.

Design

I would say the DR650S joined the Suzuki dual-sport lineup in 2015, replacing the DR650SE, but the truth is, the only real change was dropping the “E” from the name. It’s still a DR650SE; the “E” stands for electric start, but honestly, that designation is meaningless anymore. It’s like saying pneumatic tires are a mention-worthy feature. It’s really only noteworthy nowadays if it doesn’t have electric start. (Who doesn’t love a kickstarter?)

As far as I can see, the small fuel tank is the only thing really holding the DR650S back from calling it an entry-level adventure bike…

2016-dr650s-4_800x0w

When I mentioned that I was looking at the DR650S, two comments that folks made over and over was it has a small fuel tank and the seat sucks. Ask anyone out there who has one of these and they’ll tell you, so if you plan on some long distance adventure rides, this particular Suzuki may not quite fit the bill without a trip to the accessories catalog for the gel seat and a trip to the aftermarket for more fuel capacity.

As far as I can see, the small fuel tank is the only thing really holding the DR650S back from calling it an entry-level adventure bike — that and Suzuki doesn’t offer bags for it. For the price, if you have to throw on some accessories to make it your own, you are still getting an inexpensive ride. While you’re perusing the aftermarket, consider a set of mirrors if you plan to do a lot of off-roading . The stock mirrors stand prominent and are great for the pavement, but probably won’t last long off-road. They’ll either get whacked the first time you drop it, or get swiped by brush along the trail.

The bike has no electronics, which is a double-edged sword. Simplicity makes it easy to work on, but you don’t get the tech alphabet soup benefits. That doesn’t slow the bike down, though, as far as being ready to go whenever you are. It has plenty of torque for hill-climbing and cruises at highway speeds without sounding like its wound up tighter than Dick’s hatband — both pluses.

Seat height is a lofty 34.8 inches, but that isn’t a surprise on a proper off-road bike with gobs of ground clearance. Suzuki has an accessories kit to drop the seat 1.6 inches, but even that might be too high for the shortie-shorts among us.

Chassis

Suzuki DR650S

The DR650S definitely weighs in at the bottom of the range for true dual-sport machines at 366 pounds, wet. A single-downtube, double-cradle frame made from tubular stock with a rectangular downtube gets things started in the right (light?) direction, and I find the double-cradle arrangement to be more appropriate for rough terrain since it doubles as a sort of under-guard for the engine. Not quite the same as a proper skidplate (available as an accessory), but better than nothing, and certainly a better arrangement than a stressed-engine frame design that leaves the engine well exposed and vulnerable to terrain strikes.

Stock ground clearance is 10.4 inches, but this isn’t carved in stone by any means. Suspension height at both ends may be lowered through the use of an accessories kit, necessarily with a concurrent reduction in seat height and ground clearance. The suspension itself is definitely set up with true off-road work in mind, and the DR605S is not a soccer-mom equivalent.

Suspension travel is right at 10.2 inches front and rear, which is definitely in dirt-bike country, and the rear, coil-over monoshock comes with adjustable compression damping and preload for a little bit of ride flexibility. In an effort to increase the effectiveness of the suspension, Suzuki runs lightweight brake discs and hollow axles to help keep unsprung weight to a minimum, and reduce the amount of work the shocks have to do in order to keep the wheels on the ground.

A twin-piston front caliper binds a 290 mm front disc, not exactly the biggest disc available, but rather large by off-road standards. I expect this is to provide adequate braking effort on paved roads with greater available traction than you find on the dirt, and this keeps the DR from being just a dressed-up dirt bike. Another dual-pot caliper acts on the 240 mm rear disc to complete the brakes, and the lack of ABS or brake-linking keeps the operation simple and honest.

At 21 inches, the front wheel is definitely sized for serious off-road riding where large diameter front wheels are desirable, and arguably necessary. A 17-inch rim brings up the rear, and both wheels run an aluminum rim and hub with stainless-steel spokes. For years, off-road riders have preferred laced wheels for the extra give they provide, and Suzuki gives riders what they want at the hoops.

Drivetrain

Suzuki DR650S

An air- and oil-cooled, 644 cc thumper engine powers the DR650S. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with a simple engine like this. No water jacket or radiator to complicate things, no fandangled contraptions like ride-by-wire or traction control just waiting to fail and leave you stranded on the road/trail/service department, and what could be more basic than a single-cylinder, air-cooled, carbureted engine? That’s right, the mill aspirates through a good, old-fashioned, Mikuni BST40 constant-velocity carburetor, and I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to be a rocket surgeon or own the first piece of electronic diagnostic equipment to set things aright with this carb if things get wonky; keep that in mind if someone with a gizmo-bike decides to give you a hard time about your tomato-can, air-fuel control.

The jug measures out at 100 mm x 82 mm, typical for one-lungers, and it runs a relatively low compression ratio at 9.5 to 1, so I expect mid-grade to be the highest you will have to go at the pump. A five-speed, constant-mesh tranny and chain drive complete the drivetrain.

Never one to miss an opportunity for some proprietary acronyms and ever-so-basic of techno alphabet soup, the factory packed in its Suzuki Advanced Cooling System (SACS) that squirts oil onto the bottom of the piston crown, then runs the oil through a cooler to carry off the waste heat. As usual, we see the Suzuki Composite Electrochemical Material (SCEM) treatment in the bore that reduces wear and friction while maintaining good heat transfer capabilities. The result; cooler internals in the engine, and a cooler engine is good, m’kay?

Pricing

Suzuki DR650S

MSRP in the 2017 DR650S is $6,499, same as it was for the last two years. For 2017, get your DR650S in Solid Black. Suzuki covers your dual-sport beauty for 12-months with an unlimited mileage, limited warranty and offers extensions through Suzuki Extended Protection (SEP).

Competitors

Honda XR650L

BMW G 650 GS

There is no shortage of competitors in the 650 cc dual-sport/adventure market. Right off the bat, I can think of the XR 650L from Honda , the G 650 GS] from BMW, and the KLR 650 from Kawasaki . Don’t slam me for not thinking of your favorite 650 cc competitor. I know there’s more out there; these are just the first ones that came to mind. Which to go with? I’m going to go head-to-head with the KLR650.

Let’s get right down to the brass tacks, shall we? The DR650 mill displaces a total of 644 cc, a few cubes shy of the 651 cc Kawasaki lump, but close enough for government work. They both run single-cylinder thumpers, but Kawasaki opted for the quieter, but heavier and more complicated water-cooled option, no doubt where some of the difference in weight comes from.

The DR weighs in at 366 pounds, while the KLR tips the scales at 432 pounds. In addition to the weight of the water jacketed engine and radiator, the Kawasaki carries a little front fairing and flyscreen and a huge, 6.1-gallon fuel tank, almost twice the capacity of the 3.4-gallon tank on the DR, which is desirable considering the intended use.

This situation reverses when we consider the suspension. True enough, the KLR is within the bounds of the lower end of the off-road scale with 7.9 inches of fork travel and 7.3 inches of travel on the monoshock, but the DR opens that up by several inches to a whopping 10.2 inches total — numbers that put it within a stone’s throw of Supercross travel.

Bottom line here is; the Suzuki product comes ready to handle significantly rougher terrain. That’s the good news. The bad news is while the KLR looks like a proper dual-sport, the DR comes off more like a motocross bike on steroids. In this respect, it’s fair to say the DR is in fact a dual-sport, but the Kawasaki is more of a light adventure bike given its greater range and comfort amenities. It all comes down to how you plan to use it.

Pricing is close enough to almost suggest a conspiracy. With only a single Ben Franklin between the MSRP, the Suzuki DR650S goes for $6,499, and the Kawasaki KLR 650 rolls for $6,599, not much difference, and a price that leaves me with the impression that you get a lot more bike for your buck with the Kawasaki.

He Said

My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Sorry Suzuki, I really ain’t feeling the DR at all. Although I like the simplicity, it looks a little too much like a day-tripping dirt bike than a dual-sport proper, especially side-by-side with the Kawasaki. It’s probably good for what it’s good for, but striking out on multi-day, off-road adventures is certainly not at the top of that list.”

She Said

“Unlike my husband, I’m feeling this bike. Maybe it’s the mechanic in me that likes the simplicity. If you like to tinker with your own stuff without needing expensive diagnostic equipment, this is your Huckleberry. It’s light and scrappy and while the numbers don’t look impressive on paper, you can really feel them in the seat when you twist the throttle. Spend a little money in the accessories catalog and the aftermarket to make it your own and this could be the ’I-wanna-have-fun’ bike you’ll hang on to.”

Specifications

Engine:
Engine: 644cc, 4-stroke, air-cooled, single cylinder, OHC
Bore x Stroke: 100.0 mm x 82.0 mm (3.93 in x 3.23 in)
Compression Ratio: 9.5 : 1
Fuel System: MIKUNI BST40, single carburetor
Starter: Electric
Lubrication: Wet sump
Drive Train:
Transmission: 5-speed constant mesh
Final Drive: Chain, DID525V9, 110 links
Chassis:
Suspension Front: Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Suspension Rear: Link type, coil spring, oil damped
Brakes Front: Disc brake, single floating rotor
Brakes Rear: Disc brake, single rotor
Tires Front: 90/90-21 M/C 54S, tube type
Tires Rear: 120/90-17 M/C 64S, tube type
Fuel Tank Capacity: 13 L (3.4 US gal) / 12 L (3.2 US Gal) California model
Electrical:
Ignition: Electronic ignition (CDI)
Headlight: 12V 60/55W (H4)
Tail Light: 12V 21/5W
Dimensions and Curb Weight:
Overall Length: 2255 mm (88.8 in)
Overall Width: 865 mm (34.1 in)
Overall Height: 1195 mm (47.0 in)
Wheelbase: 1490 mm (58.7 in)
Ground Clearance: 265 mm (10.4 in)
Seat Height: 885 mm (34.8 in)
Curb Weight: 166 kg (366 lbs)
Warranty:
Warranty: 12-month, unlimited mileage, limited warranty
Extensions: Extensions available through Suzuki Extended Protection (SEP)
Color:
2015: Solid Special White No.2 / Solid Iron Gray
2016: Solid Black / Solid Iron Gray
2017: Solid Black
MSRP: $6,499

(topspeed.com, https://goo.gl/uAiWT0)

 

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