How’s this for a red-hot combination? Take the incredible versatility and performance of Suzuki’s renowned DR-Z400. Mix in street-legal capabilities and unmatched handling. Then add a double shot of aggressive Suzuki styling and attitude. The result is the 2008 Suzuki DR-Z400SM.
When created the 2008 DR-Z400SM, Suzuki aimed at exceptional performance on the street and the new-arrived product did featured remarkably smooth performance, along with a rush of torque across the powerband. For crisp handling, it features a lightweight, compact design, complemented by advanced suspension front and rear, including an RM250-derived inverted fork.
By the end of the ‘70s, specialization had transformed dual-purpose motorcycles from everyman machines to something of a cult item as their single cylinder engines were considered underpowered on the highway, and yet their four-stroke cycles were also viewed as too cumbersome for serious dirt excursions.
Dual purpose bikes were an inadvertent victim of encroaching specialization.
In 1990, Suzuki worked to change that perception with its introduction of the DR350S. Now called “dual sport” bikes, the DR was lighter, better suspended and delivered superior handling compared to its predecessors. Of course, the Europeans were offering competitive machines, but their bikes were relatively crude for street use. Ten years later, Suzuki again redefined the dual sport paradigm with the DR-Z400S, a liquid-cooled, DOHC machine that enjoyed generous functional commonality and established new standards in the class by being perfect for both street and off-road exploiting.
But Suzuki decided that it needed to go further for 2005, becoming the first of the Japanese Big Four to include a production supermoto bike for North America. The idea was that the new bike needed to be a turnkey street-legal supermoto that’s both refined and affordable. Suzuki used its reliable DR-Z400S dual-purpose bike as the stepping-off point for the new machine. The DR-Z’s motard makeover included all the basics: shortened and better looking front fender, front brake upgraded and wide 17-inch wheels dressed with sport tires. Taking the transformation to the next level, the new model’s conventional fork was upgraded to a fully adjustable Showa 47mm inverted unit and the swingarm was an attractive aluminum-tapered item, both suspension elements being taken right out the RM250 motocrosser and carefully fitted on the DR-Z400SM to satisfy the rider’s every need.
Another two aspects that improve the bike for strict road using is the racing-type supermoto muffler and the CDI mapping to match SM’s taller final gearing.
We’ve seen how Suzuki developed the 2005 DR-Z400SM, but has it changed? Apart from color schemes and decals, no. That’s pretty much it. 2008 introduces white color scheme instead of yellow and blue decals to improve the visual impact.
Being the first Japanese manufacturer that ever produced and sold a supermoto bike, Suzuki clearly has no competition coming from the rest of the manufacturers who together with Suzuki are known as the Big Four. But a strong opponent for the brave Suzuki model wasn’t hard to find at KTM ’s as they are known to produce extremely well engineered machines and the 450 SMR makes no exception. Suzuki’s competition in this case presents a sharp-looking model with great performance which proves that legacy really counts a lot, but we shouldn’t underestimate a Japanese manufacturer so easily!
Suzuki created the DR-Z400SM as a clear demonstration of power and capability for the other three Japanese manufacturers who didn’t included a supermoto model on their production lines and the bike’s design had to be aggressive and express power. In order to do just that, the bike featured right from the beginning a black color scheme which covered the side panels, aggressive front fender, exhaust cover and mostly every element apart from the aluminum pieces could feature any color as long as it was black. Don’t get me wrong. A yellow version was also available but it was replaced with white for 2008.
The most distinctive aspect that makes a motorcycle say supermoto and not dualsport or motocross are the wheels which at the DR-Z400SM feature 17” and grippy sport tires on top. Front wheel features a large diameter single disc brake (in case that you forgot what the bike can do) on its left, and the rear one presents a smaller but efficient disc brake.
The front of this supermoto is very aggressive mostly because of its inverted telescopic fork taken right out the RM250 and the mudguards which have the purpose of keeping dirt away from the oily surfaces. Headlight and mirrors are the same as at the dualsport which inspired the creation of the SM, DR-Z400S.
I’ve always thought that if the DR-Z400S would have featured an electric starter right from the begining, we would have had the opportunity to enjoy its supermoto version right from the beginning, but Suzuki knows better. The advantage of an electric-start is that it eliminates any worry of stalling the motor at a stoplight and holding up traffic while going through a tedious hot-start routine. The keyed ignition switch is located atop the triple-clamp and a pull-choke knob resides down on the carburetor and an automatic decompression system allows the engine to crank over freely.
When it comes to supermoto bikes, everything is about great response and awesome acceleration so I needed to know right from the beginning if it reasons for that “M” at the end of its name so I had the engine wormed up and ready to go. Engaging and going through first gear, which is fairly short and works in concert with the light and fluid clutch action to provide super-easy launches, I wasn’t disappointed. The other four gears give an exceptional shifting feel and the power remains constant as you accelerate and change them.
Gearing is well suited to city riding, where zipping from light-to-light sees you working to the top of the five speed gearbox within a block. Running at 50 mph in high gear is where the SM’s sweet spot is found. At this speed, very little engine vibration is felt through the handgrips and fuel tank. As I speeded up a little bit, the bars developed a mild buzz, while the tank and seat are dead calm and when I was going really fast, the buzz heads through the chassis, but relative to most four-stroke Singles, the DR-Z mill is incredibly smooth at any speeds.
The pace was kept even on the freeway where in the fast lane, the engine really revs up and the vibrations are practically inexistent.
If I had to name one aspect that the DR-Z400SM covers best, I would mention handling which can be a great advantage in the city once you’ve got used to the bike’s aggressive behavior which can be a bit scary at the beginning but again: it will be only a matter of time until you’ll master the machine.
But gaining a certain level of experience on the SM involves powerful braking and a lot of suspension movement, as it has a up-set riding position and other unique features only encountered on supermoto machines so even if you’ve ridden other kind of motorcycles, the DR-Z400SM will do its job and give you a one-of-a-kind riding experience, arm stretching included.
A great package should also involve a great deal so the 2008 Suzuki DR-Z400SM can be the next toy in your garage for a retail price of only $6,199.
All this performance at a value that earned the DR-Z400SM the title of “Best Bang for the Buck” at the “Motorcycle of the year” awards in 2007.
Suzuki couldn’t pull it through better than it did with the 2008 DR-Z400SM. Great response over the rpm range, awesome handling and reliable brakes, all concluded under a aggressive build bodywork which really makes a statement on the its performance.
Engine and Transmission
Type: four-stroke, single cylinder, DOHC, 4-valve, liquid cooled
Bore x Stroke: 90 x 62.6mm
Compression Ratio: 11.3:1
Fuel System: MikuniT BSR36
Lubrication: Dry sump
Final Drive: #520 chain
Chassis and Dimensions
Suspension Front: Inverted telescopic, oil damped, adjustable compression and rebound damping
Suspension Rear: Link-type, fully-adjustable spring preload, adjustable compression and rebound damping
Brakes Front: Single hydraulic disc
Brakes Rear: Single hydraulic disc
Tires Front: 120/70-17
Tires Rear: 140/70-17
Overall Length: 2225mm (87.6 in.)
Overall Width: 855mm (33.7 in.)
Overall Height: 1200mm (47.2 in.)
Seat Height: 890mm (35.0 in.)
Ground Clearance: 260mm (10.2 in.)
Wheelbase: 1460mm (57.5 in.)
Dry Weight: 134 kg (295 lbs.)
Fuel Tank Capacity: 10 liter (2.64 gal.)
Color: Black, White
-Suzuki’s Supermotard model based on DR-Z400S – combines Supermotard style and features in a narrow, lightweight street-legal package
-Lightweight 398cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled, dry-sump engine produces strong, tractable low-rpm power
Compact 4-valve cylinder head with 36mm intakes valves, 29mm exhaust valves, narrow 28 degree included valve angle and shim-under-bucket valve adjustment system
SCEM-plated cylinder (nickel-silicon-phosphorous) is lighter and more durable than an iron liner with excellent heat transfer properties
Forged aluminum piston is 10% lighter than a cast piston and receives additional oil-cooling to the piston crown through a crankcase oil jet
Compact 5-speed transmission utilizes a cable-operated clutch with separate outer cover for simplified clutch maintenance
Additional weight savings with magnesium valve cover, clutch cover, and magneto cover
Smooth throttle response with a MikuniT BSR36 CV-type carburetor fed by a 6-liter airbox. The left side cover has quick-release fasteners for easy access to the air filter
Electric start with lightweight starter motor and a compact 6.5 amp maintenance-free battery
Automatic decompression system for quick/easy starts
Thermostatically-controlled cooling fan mounted to the left radiator helps maintain consistent operating temperature in traffic
-Renthal tapered aluminum handlebar for reduced vibration and an aggressive look
Compact digital instrument cluster with speedometer, odometer, twin-trip meters with addition/subtraction capability, clock, timer and stopwatch functions
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
A fully-adjustable rear shock absorber with high/low speed compression damping adjuster and aluminum swingarm for precise rear wheel control
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
Black-painted RK Excel 17” aluminum rims and radial tires: 120/70-R17 front, 140/70-R17 rear
New front and rear axle sliders
On-road legal lighting with bright 60/55 watt halogen headlight, compact tail/stoplight, lightweight, rubber-mounted turn signals and horn
Narrow profile with smooth transitions between the tank, seat and bodywork
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 from the dry-sump engine oil tank
A bolt-on aluminum subframe helps reduce weight and simplify maintenance
Chrome-moly steel footpegs, aluminum rims/hubs, plus engine guard and rear disc guard