Famous in the dual-sport category thanks to its unbeatable combination of street and off-road excitement, the Suzuki DR650SE stands for both adventure and practicability and still ads a distinctive touch in 2010 thanks to the white color scheme. Also, with great price and fuel economy, you’re in for one great bang for the buck.
Suzuki seems to have got it all right with the biggest DR as the model hasn’t been the subject of major modifications in these past years, but does manage to stand out each and every time, gaining the consideration of riders. Modern and reliable, the Suzuki DR650SE features up to date chassis and suspensions. The light weight materials and ingenious thin-wall/large-diameter tubing used both at the frame and front forks increase rigidity and reduce weight while the aluminum swingarm works closely together with a link-type rear suspension featuring piggyback-style shock absorber to keep the rear end stable during corners either you take them on or off the road.
A dealer will easily lower the seat for you with a significant 40mm, but the reason you’ll be buying the DR is most likely the bulletproof air-cooled 644cc four-stroke, OHC engine. It won’t help at doing burnouts, but it is fuel efficient, especially in the low and mid-range, where the best of power is being delivered. Much to do with the engine tuning has the “Slingshot” Mikuni 40mm carburetor and the five-speed tranny is indeed the proper unit to mate the potent engine with.
With shiny paint schemes and painted stainless-steel exhaust, the Suzuki DR650SE looks new for 2010, just the way every model year up until this one also did.
Derived from the previous DR600 model, the 1990s DR650 saw two approaches towards a highly competitive market, the “Djebel/Dakar” model and the “RS”. The first was more of a desert racer while the second was tempting for street use, but both bikes were versatile and could make an impression in the other’s domain as they shared the same features. Beginning with the kick-started air-cooled 640cc single-cylinder four-stroke, OHC engine developing 46 hp at 6,800 rpm, but, more importantly, 56.6 Nm at 5,000 rpm, and finishing with the 172 kg, the machines were heavy into business.
The Djebel and RS carried on to 1991, but Suzuki added the electrically started DR650RSE. The new starting system required an automatic decompression system, a 12 Ah battery and a 200 W alternator, adding a total of 15 kg at the overall weight. But that wasn’t to make a negative difference as the 5mm shortened trail and wheelbase makes up for the extra weight.
Suzuki continued refining the DR650 and in 1992, the now “R” and “RSE” claimed an 8 kg lower dry mass as a result of a smaller aluminum rear carrier and gas tank. A new exhaust system retuned the engine for better torque in the low and mid rpm range and the rear suspension was now upgraded.
1996 Suzuki DR650SE
The 1996 revision saw the DR650SE alone in the lineup, but more able to perform off-road. Now weighing only 147 kg, featuring a narrower seat and yet again revised engine, the bike looked pretty much like it does these days, but developed less power and torque: 43 hp at 6.400 rpm and 54 Nm at 4,600 rpm.
The year 1997 brought the XF650 Freewind based on the DR650SE technical features in an attempt to revive the two-models, same specs lineup enlarging method, but in 1998 Suzuki was back at the DR650SE.
Color scheme changes followed, but this model hasn’t undergone any notable upgrades for the next decade. The 2009 model year was the first to receive a total White coloring after the combinations of Black, Yellow and Blue that succeeded during the years.
Honda remains faithful to the way old-school dual-sport bikes were built decades ago and manages to accommodate the XR650L in today’s very demanding market. But that only applies in the design department as the air-cooled 644cc dry-sump single-cylinder four-stroke, SOHC, RFVC (Radial Four-Valve Combustion Chamber) engine is more potent than ever before. The smoothly-operating powerplant, also tuned for low and mid-range grunt is among the few you’ll find featuring that much background (around 30 years) and having the guts to go against the Suzuki DR650SE.
While Yamaha isn’t in for one piece of this cake, the Kawasaki KLR650 is more of a V-Strom competitor rather than a DR one as it features a half fairing for great wind protection and comfy seat for city commuting. The engine is indeed a competitive liquid-cooled 651cc four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve single-cylinder unit with much to prove against more advanced bikes rather than the one reviewed today.
If you’re willing to pay serious bucks (over $8K), the BMW F 650 GS is here to supply European style and a powerful liquid-cooled, parallel Twin, DOHC, four-valves per cylinder engine. While other bikes only feature five-speed gearboxes, the Beemer has a six-speed unit, setting it closer to activities such as commuting and mountain road weekend riding rather than off-road exploring. The F 650 GS is worth being mentioned as most Japanese bike owners consider it a fancy alternative to their bulletproof bikes and they are not wrong a bit (just look at those rims).
2010 Suzuki DR650SE
As mentioned earlier, the styling isn’t any different than when the Suzuki DR650SE was making a name for itself many years ago, but small design tweaks and new color schemes do manage to make for a decent revamp each and every year. 2010 makes no exception, so the middleweight Suzuki all-rounder looks ready to hit the trails with its spoked 21, respectively 17-inch rims and heavy duty forks. A high-mounted front fairing, square headlight and handguards remind us of early tough motorcycles and we like to thing that there isn’t much difference between past and present, though, mechanically, we saw that there is.
The compact gas tank is characteristic to the DR while the flat and narrow seat isn’t quite the thing you’d wish to ride on for a big number of miles. While in the first years after its introduction, the model would have featured a half fairing, now only a pair of simple side plates and a headlight cover stand for graphic supports.
Now painted, the stainless-steel exhaust remains a Suzuki DR top notch characteristic as it is positioned high on the right rider side in order to allow riding through water and to give a nice aggressive touch to an overall docile looking motorcycle.
For 2010, the DR65SE is sold either entirely black (not even “number plates” are excluded like on the 2008 model year) or white painted, enhancing the never going old looks.
Impressions on the bike didn’t stop coming from the moment I got on that narrow seat and up until those nasty trails tried to get me off of it, but ,fortunately, without success. At a 366 lbs curb weight, the DR feels light and reassuring despite the 34.8 inches of seat height, but I have to admit that having not ridden dual-sport motorcycles lately puts its fingerprint on one’s riding skills and requires a little bit of getting used to, at least with the cornering. In this case, the DR, despite being an off-road bike on pavement (that’s where I got it, that’s where I started testing it), manages to inspire confidence.
The engine, which by now became famous for the low-to-mid rpm power due to carburetion and exhaust settings, is very responsive and starts purring nicely when you get it above 3,500 rpm, especially out of tight corners when commuting in the suburbs.
Also, speed bumps are children’s play for the soft suspensions, so up until this time you won’t be feeling the need to get the seat off your private areas. In that certain stage I found myself when hitting the highway. Suzuki must have that seat done a little bit more spacious as it steels from DR’s versatile character.
I didn’t even felt the need for a screen when riding at 70 mph as the now razor sharp seat (in my head…and in yours pretty soon) simply retains you from mentioning any other dislike that you might have. Even so, the engine didn’t prove weak on the highway as it is backed up decently by the five-speed gearbox and the suspensions make you feel like you’re floating on the thing.
Finally, the DR650SE was out of the streets and into the dust. There, after a short brake to check on your lower back, the bike feels in its natural environment. Have it climb a steep hill, go through a small river or pass over logs and you’ll be satisfied with the work horse-like character.
Here, the high-mounted fenders make a point as well as the handguards, spoked wheels and even that hated narrow seat as it allows moving from side to side easily as you prepare for fast turns better than you would not normally approach like that on a Beemer, let’s say.
The upright riding position now even feels relaxing and the bumps are still being properly soaked up, but one of DR’s not so hidden talent just one that I haven’t by now mentioned is braking. With both front and rear braking systems, there will be no need to worry as going downhill. Just make sure to have a nice grippy surface to roll the off-road tires on and there you go. Efficient stopping power is provided instantaneously, leaving no doubts about DR’s efficiency on everyone’s own paths.
Suzuki hasn’t yet announced the US price tag for a 2010 model, but if you’re lucky, you can still get a 2009 one, which starts at only $5,699, making the Suzuki DR650SE the cheapest middleweight dual-sport motorcycle, but definitely no anemic alternative to a class leader.
As long as you don’t take it out for a long cruise, this Suzi is a very enjoyable motorcycle with many benefits waiting to be uncovered by everybody individually. My only advices are: wear protective gear and do not spare it a minute!
Painted stainless-steel exhaust system is light and corrosion-resistant, and tuned specifically for strong low and midrange power
Wide-ratio 5-speed transmission with O-ring sealed final drive chain
Electric start with automatic decompression system
Low-maintenance, digitally controlled DC-CDI ignition system provides accurate ignition timing and more consistent spark at all engine speeds
Lightweight and compact maintenance-free battery
Adjustable seat height - seat height can be lowered 40mm (1.6 in) with suspension modifications performed by a dealer
Compact & lightweight frame. Use of thin-wall/large O.D. tubing reduces weight while increasing frame rigidity
Short wheelbase and low seat height provide nimble DualSport® performance
Front fork combines the best features of conventional and inverted designs: Smooth and progressive action. Large diameter, thin-walled tubes reduce unsprung weight while maintaining high rigidity - minimal below-axle extension
Link-type rear suspension with piggyback-style shock absorber and adjustable compression damping provides stable damping performance
Lightweight aluminum swingarm
Large diameter hollow-type wheel axles are lightweight and rigid. Rear axle features welded-on snail cam chain adjuster for simple axle/wheel installation
Lightweight 290mm diameter front disc brake with 2-piston caliper
Rear disc brake with lightweight drilled rotor and two piston caliper
Special design tires with on/off road tread pattern fitted to 21" front and 17" rear wheel
Full on-road lighting system with bright 55/60 watt halogen headlight
Frame-mounted luggage rack for additional carrying capacity