Looking for some confirmation - Suzuki DRZ-400?

mnwanders

Member
Hi all, I'm in the process of looking for a used bike as my first ever motorcycle (I"m 44) and likely to take the plunge in the next month. I think I've settled on a bike choice but looking for some of you to sharpshoot my decision-making skills or confirm for me that I'm making a good choice. After looking at a bunch of options, I think I've settled on a Suzuki DRZ-400. Please tell me why I am right or why I am wrong.

About me: I'm 44 y/o, 6' tall and fluctuated between 180-220 all of my adult life (currently on the high end of that), I've spent a lot of time on ATVs and snowmobiles but not much time on motorcycles besides a couple of times around a field at moderate speed. I've never had a motorcycle mostly because when I was single I didn't have the money or space, and since I've been married my wife has safety concerns. Well after 20 years she has relented and agreed to let me get a bike. More about me: I like to hunt and fish and travel, I dream about wild places more than city jungles, but hope to use the bike for commuting purposes. A large part of me wants to use my future purchase for scouting out hunting spots (a couple times per year out west on rough trails) and maybe taking some day trips to go fly fish around home (1-3 hrs away via backroads or interstate). I currently commute daily on a round trip of 75 miles where much of it is 65 mph highway, but by end of summer I'll likely be commuting round trip of 20 miles through mixed city traffic (interstate and side streets). While I think it would be fun to take this bike on a long trip, I think that is unlikely and I'd more likely haul the bike in my truck bed or on a hitch-carrier for 90% of the way then use the bike in and around my destination. Also, I'm currently scheduled to take the MN Basic Rider course the first week of June.

I've researched and considered KLR 650s, KLX 250s, Honda CRF650 and CRF450, the Versys, the Vstrom, BMW F650 and G650, the Suzuki DR650 and DRZ400, the Yamaha WR250, XT250, TW200, Royal Enfields, and Triumph Tigers. I want this bike to be an entry bike where I buy used, don't pay much and possibly upgrade in the future. I've settled on the Suzuki DRZ-400 for the following reasons, it appears to be big enough for highways speeds, but small enough for me to learn and handle easily, small enough to put on a hitch carrier, agile enough to deal with rough trails. I decided 250s and 300s are probably a little small for highway commuting, and 650s seems to probably be a little big for beginner trail riding. As far as choosing between the Honda and Suzuki, the Honda seems higher priced and harder to find, and I like the Suzuki coloring better. Oh, one other thing, I have four kids (17, 17, 15, 13) and I'd like them all to learn to ride too someday. Even if I upgrade in the future, I may decide to hang on to this bike for one of them, and lighter might be better.

Now for helping me on price...I've found a couple of options around me locally. One option is a 2009 with 5k miles for $4500, the other is a 2012 with 1.5k miles for $5100. Both seem overpriced by $1000-1500 based on blue book values. Should I expect to pay above book value in the current market?

Thanks in advance for any advice.
 

mnwanders

Member
One other question, and actually a more pressing question. I'm looking for tips on a dual sport helmet. I need one for taking my test in June. I'm guessing right now the only real features I know I want are a full face shield, with bluetooth capability (I listen to a lot of podcasts), and good ventilation. Besides these things, I have no idea what I should be looking for besides the DOT sticker.
 

Shigeta

W6EXP
Former CA Motorcycle instructor here. I have extensive experience with most of the bikes you listed. Finding the "bike that does it all" is an elusive unicorn. A lot of it comes down to what you're willing to put up with as far as comfort and capability are concerned. The DRZ wouldn't be my first choice for the mix of riding that you're thinking of—especially the extensive highway commuting part.

With your parameters (body, riding experience, desired riding) a Honda CRF250L/CRF300L Rally would be my preference. It's not the most speedy on the highway, but it's pretty smooth and isn't any less "slab-capable" than the DRZ is—in fact, as a 6'3" fella, I much prefer it because of the windscreen. It also has pretty reasonable suspension and good aftermarket support. It's EFI and more modern models have ABS which is a brilliant safety feature on motorcycles, especially for new riders. It's still light enough to put on a stout hitch carrier, and is quite capable on the dirt.

For helmets, buy the best one you can afford. You don't need a $700 helmet, but it would behoove you to stick with reputable brands. I wouldn't futz with built-in bluetooth; the add-on units from Cardo and Sena are quite nice and can be transferred from helmet-to-helmet, or upgraded in the future.

When shopping for a helmet, keep in mind that different manufacturers produce helmets for different head shapes. If you find one that, for example, puts pressure on the sides of your head, but you have space on the front and rear, it means you need a more round shaped helmet, not necessarily a larger size.
 

Cabrito

I come in Peace
Excellent post by Shigeta. He covered everything that I was thinking.

The DRZ makes an awesome woods bike. I had a coworker try commuting on one and he only lasted a few months before upgrading to something that can handle the highway speeds a bit better. I'd imagine that the CRF300's are better, but at the high speeds I feel more comfortable on a bigger bike. I've commuted a lot in the SF bay area and even though the speed limits are 65 the rest of traffic is often traveling faster than that. For commuting, backroads, and easy dirt I would suggest the V-Strom 650. It's a bit big for putting on a hitch hauler though.

It's tough to find one bike to fill all your requirements, believe me I've tried. The closest I've got was my KLR650, but it has limitations.

For helmets I'd check out the Scorpion EXO-AT950 modular Dual Sport helmet. It's got a middle of the road price and several friends like them a lot.
 

Willsfree

Active member
Good advice from above...I bought a KLR250 with a thousand miles on her for 1000 bucks back in 2008 to start riding again after a long hiatus while raising my kids. Now that I'm the kid I've gone through another 5 moto's. The 250 made a decent commuter for the 15 miles to work, but after a 300 mile weekend ride I bought a KLR650 for improved stability and a wider seat,. The 650 worked well for all round riding, including a 3500 mile loop to Cabo, but it's too heavy for my vehicle on a hitch. Now my daily rider is a 1290 Super Adventure KTM which is a great allrounder for long rides out to Colorado, Idaho and beyond, but again not great for a hitch carrier and too heavy for narrow trails.
I have been upgrading my van to haul a bike. For the short term I'll be hauling my 250 as it is my lightest machine, but I've been dreaming about what will come next. The DRZ400, WR250, CRF250 are all on the short list. Seeing that you are a new rider I think you'll enjoy all of them and should find one that you can afford and fit upon. You won't go wrong with the DRZ, but you might be happier with a new design, only you can decide. Realize that you might pick up another bike to increase your range and terrain at a later time once you get hooked. The Schuberth E1 helmet is on my short list as my next helmet, but I just bought a pair of HJC's for a quick replacement for my road rashed Scorpion; a snug fit is what really matters, earplugs or buds to keep the noise down.
 

mnwanders

Member
Thanks for all the feedback already. A lot has been said already that I hadn't considered.

...I have been upgrading my van to haul a bike. For the short term I'll be hauling my 250 as it is my lightest machine, but I've been dreaming about what will come next. The DRZ400, WR250, CRF250 are all on the short list. Seeing that you are a new rider I think you'll enjoy all of them and should find one that you can afford and fit upon. You won't go wrong with the DRZ, but you might be happier with a new design, only you can decide. Realize that you might pick up another bike to increase your range and terrain at a later time once you get hooked. The Schuberth E1 helmet is on my short list as my next helmet, but I just bought a pair of HJC's for a quick replacement for my road rashed Scorpion; a snug fit is what really matters, earplugs or buds to keep the noise down.

Willsfree, what about the XT250? I don't think I can shell out for a new WR250, and the used ones look to be hard to come by. Any thoughts on the XT250?
 
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Willard27

New member
Shigeta nailed it. I had a DRZ 400SM, moved up to a Ducati Hypermotard, but then got a CRF 250L to compliment it. Give one a ride if you can find one. It's got a lot of evolution over the Suzuki, lighter and feels just as quick. If you don't like it, or think you are ready for something bigger you can flip-it and trade up easier. They are hard to lose money on if you can find one.
 

Willsfree

Active member
Thanks for all the feedback already. A lot has been said already that I hadn't considered.



Willsfree, what about the XT250? I don't think I can shell out for a new WR250, and the used ones look to be hard to come by. Any thoughts on the XT250?

If I was going to buy a new to me used bike today I would make a short list and enter it into the search engine of Searchtempest.com (DR400|DRZ400|XT250|KLR250|KLX250|WR250|WR250R|CRF250|CRF300) or Facebook. Searchtempest is a a Craigslist/Ebay finder for the entire country. Set your price point and distance and go. I'd show up with my cash and start riding the bikes. When I find one that fits and puts a smile on my face, then I start to haggle...I test rode a dozen bikes before I tried out the big katoom; I came back from the test ride with a lip splitting smile on my face that I hadn't felt in a good long while :) IMOP you should still be able to find a great bike for under $3500 if you keep looking. Set your price point and go shopping, all these bike will give you a thrill. If you catch the fever you'll be getting another bike in a year or two anyways so save a few bucks now for the next one (y)
 
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tanuki.himself

Active member
Lots of useful information here that i won't bother repeating, but a couple of other considerations.

If you are new to riding bikes it will take you a while to find your own riding style - do you want to keep the engine buzzing in a power band and stirring the gearbox, or be a bit more relaxed and rely on low down torque? As a heavy guy i personally favour the latter so found my old DRZ400 easier to ride than 250s and 300s that i tried out - it would lug me up a hill even if i was a gear too low. Accordingly, buy your first bike with a 1-2 year life expectancy and then plan to change once you know your style

Tyres are hugely important, and commuting and trail riding are very different surfaces. Off road bikes with long suspension travel, knobbly tyres and wide handlebars may seem a good choice for weaving around traffic, but actually narrower sportier bikes with gripper road tyres and better brakes may save **************** from sliding down the road on a wet commute

buy the best quality helmet you can, but fit and comfort is key - just because other people rave about a particular brand doesn't mean it will fit you, and manufacturers vary hugely. I happen to have a shoei shaped head - my wife's is arai shaped, and if we try each others same size helmets neither of us are comfortable. Find stores that will let you try different manufacturers and even models back to back, and don't be afraid to shop around to try a wide range before making a decision
 

mnwanders

Member
I realize now I should have posted this in the "getting started" area. So I posed this question over there, but will ask here too...what about good quality hitch carriers? Any recommendations? Looking for something that will stand up to some rougher road use. Not too rough as that will be what the bike get used for once I have that, but something that allows me to get a couple miles down rough gravel to park the truck in a good base camping spot to then offload the bike.
 

Cabrito

I come in Peace
I realize now I should have posted this in the "getting started" area. So I posed this question over there, but will ask here too...what about good quality hitch carriers? Any recommendations? Looking for something that will stand up to some rougher road use. Not too rough as that will be what the bike get used for once I have that, but something that allows me to get a couple miles down rough gravel to park the truck in a good base camping spot to then offload the bike.

I've settled on a 600lb capacity BlackWidow SMC600

It's beefy enough to carry different bikes and feels solid especially with the addition of a Anti-Rattle Stabilizer
 

jkam

nomadic man
I'm a fan of the Kawasaki KL250, Super Sherpa.
It's an old school 250,has a carb and is air cooled.
Simple bike to learn to ride on and is often used at MSF classes.
Weighs about 280 lbs. so not to heavy to load and carry around.
Finding one is the hard part. Way better than the KLR250, the Sherpa has a rear disk brake, a digital dash and is not water cooled.

As for carriers, I had one made. I wanted to use three 2" receiver points for stability and it was easier to have one made.
 

Shigeta

W6EXP
I had the Black Widow carrier before I bought a Versahaul. The welds were starting to crack after about a year of hauling a 250cc dirt bike on it, despite it's 600 lb carrying capacity. The Versahaul, rated for 500 lb, has been faithfully dirt bikes and street bikes (sub-400 lbs) for about 2 years now. (On average, 300-500 miles a month)

It's worth noting that there's more than meets the eye in regards to tongue rating when hitch-hauling a motorcycle. For example, the tongue rating on my 4Runner is 500 lbs. My Versahaul is ~95 lbs, but that doesn't necessarily mean that a 400 lb bike can be safely hauled. Tongue loads are rated (basically) at the hitch, but the majority of the weight on a hitch carrier is ~1+ foot away from the hitch.

Someone much smarter than me on ADV Rider did the math and because of the lever effect of having weight that far away from the hitch, it worked out to something like staying within 60% of your factory tongue rating. So, 500 lbs * .6 = 300 lbs. Since my carrier is ~95 lbs, rule of thumb states I have ~200 lbs to work with. If your vehicle is modified, it can likely sustain a greater load. I haul a 260 lb motorcycle around all the time to no ill-effect, but I also have airbag helper springs and take bumps extraordinarily carefully. Just some food for thought.
 
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Cabrito

I come in Peace
The BW is definitely more on the budget side and I'd love to have one of the nice Versahaul ones. I'll be checking the welds on my BW for sure from now on.
 

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