Suzuki Still Has Carbureted Dual Sports

Pitting the fuel-injection fans against the carburetor fans, we score a point for the latter with the DR-Z400S and DR-Z400SM from Suzuki. Fuel injection hadn’t yet made an appearance in any of Suzuki’s 2017 dual-sport lineup, which was a good thing or a bad thing, depending on which side of the fence you’re on. For 2018, the DR-Z siblings haven’t yet been touched by the FI update. Sharing the same engine as the 500EXC from KTM, the DR-Zs come on a different chassis with progressive-link rear suspension. The “SM” — the SuperMoto of the family — and the “S” feature a six-liter air box with quick-release fasteners trouble-free access to the air filter and special low profile mirrors that rotate hoping to avoid damage, both are pluses when you’re playing in the dirt.

Continue reading for more information on the Suzuki DR-Z400S and DR-Z400SM.

  • 2016 - 2018 Suzuki DR-Z400S / DR-Z400SM
  • Year:
    2016- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Displacement:
    398 cc
  • Price:
  • Price:


2016 - 2018 Suzuki DR-Z400S / DR-Z400SM
- image 726331

Honestly, most dual-sport bikes lean one way or the other and the manufacturer will offer a street-oriented version and a dirt-oriented version of the same bike — maybe a difference in riding modes, with and without skid plates, with and without hand guards, et al. Both are capable on and off road, but setups and components kinda orient it one way or the other. Suzuki is no different here and knowing what you want to do with the bike makes the decision for you on which model to get without having to blow the budget in the accessories catalog.

The DR-Z400S is the more off-road oriented and under the heading of “we’ll sell you more stuff,” (aka the accessories catalog) Suzuki offers you hand guards, a cargo rack, toolbox and a low gel seat if the 35- or 36-inch seat height is too tall or too hard for your Goldilocks backside. The SM doesn’t get hand guards, but really, do you need them? I’m not being flip; I’m serious. Do you need them?


2016 - 2018 Suzuki DR-Z400S / DR-Z400SM
- image 726335

Suzuki starts off with thin-walled tubing made from a chromium-molybdenum alloy meant to keep things strong enough to handle the stresses placed on them by vigorous dual-sport activities while keeping things light enough for you to handle. The engineers cleverly used the backbone and single downtube as the engine oil bag to further reduce weight and eliminate a typically large, “hang-on” component.

While this is cute and all, I question the wisdom. You can limp home on a cracked frame, been there-done that, but not if it vents your engine’s lifeblood onto the ground in the process. This may not matter much on the streets, but it could be a serious problem if it happens when traipsing hither and yon across hill and dale. Pencil me in as “not a fan.”

The single downtube turns into a double cradle with a small skidplate to protect the engine cases from terrain strikes and brush, and a bolt-up, aluminum subframe to keep the tail section light as well. Both the S and SM models are dual-sports, but rather than compromise and target the middle of the spectrum, Suzuki aimed for just left and right of center as it were. The S model serves as the more dirt-tastic of the two, with the SM as its street-wise sibling, an assertion easily backed up by the pertinent metrics.

The DR-Z400S suspension pushes into true dirt bike territory on 49 mm forks with 11.3 inches of travel, adjustable spring preload and adjustable damping for both the compression and rebound stroke. An aluminum swingarm with a progressive-link monoshock takes care of the back, and while the rear comes with even more travel at 11.6 inches, it only allows for adjustments to the preload and compression damping.

Brakeage on the S model likewise reflects an off-road bent with a 250 mm front disc and 220 mm rear, ’cause let’s face it, you only have so much traction available on the brown, and it can be undesirable to lock up too easily to say the least. A twin-pot caliper binds the front disc, and a single-pot handles the rear. The hoops come with a street-knobby tread on an 80/100-21 up front and a 120/90-18 in back wrapped around laced rims.

And then, there’s the DR-Z400SM. Set up to minimize unsprung weight and maximize torsional resistance, the usd Showa front forks feature adjustable compression and rebound damping, and a low-friction alumite coating on the tubes. The tapered aluminum swingarm brings more weight savings to the table, and it rides on a monoshock with high- and low-speed compression damper adjustment.

While it gets the laced-wheel treatment as well, the SM rolls on gold-anodized, 17-inch rims front and rear. Suzuki can say what it wants about the SM being as capable on the brown as it is on the black, but I ain’t buying it, at least not out of the box with the stock tires anyway. The 120/70 and 140/70 hoops run a street-bike profile for SuperMoto-style riding, not dirt bike shenanigans. Brake disc diameter likewise comes set up to take advantage of the greater traction on the blacktop with a 300 mm and 240 mm disc, front and rear, respectively.


2016 - 2018 Suzuki DR-Z400S / DR-Z400SM
- image 672006

Suzuki powers the pair with a liquid-cooled, 398 cc thumper, and uses a shim-under-bucket, DOHC system to actuate the four valve heads. As a mechanic, I feel compelled to mention the shim-under method of valve adjustment is my least favorite of the available evils, and I know I’m not alone. Just something to remember if you do your own maintenance. That said, the 38 mm intake and 29 mm exhaust valves are large enough to really open up the combustion chamber and let the little engine breathe, and an automatic, mechanical decompression feature bleeds off some pressure to give the electric starter a break.

Forged pistons ride on Suzuki’s nickel-silicon-phosphorous SCEM bore treatment, and a pressurized oil jet sprays engine oil onto the bottom of the piston crown to carry away heat from that hottest of spots. A simple-but-effective, 36 mm Mikuni carb manages the induction, something I’m definitely glad to see, and something that can certainly be worked on by even a modestly-tooled, Bike-owner Joe. In the end, a five-speed, constant-mesh gearbox and tough, O-ring chain drive sends the power to the rear wheel.


2016 - 2018 Suzuki DR-Z400S / DR-Z400SM
- image 672007

MSRP on the 2016 DR-Z400S was $6,599 and the DR-Z400SM ran about $600 more at $7,199 and Suzuki carried those prices over for 2017. For 2018, Suzuki bumped both prices up $100 and covers your DR with a 12-month, unlimited mileage, limited warranty with the option to extend that through Suzuki Extended Protection.


2016 Beta 430 RS
- image 672258
2015 KTM 500 EXC
- image 672310
2016 Husqvarna FE 450 / FE 501 / FE 501 S
- image 672256

Finding a competitor for dual-sport bike isn’t a problem as there are plenty of them out there, but finding one around 400 cc is more of a challenge. In the 650 cc family, I have quite a few to choose from, but when you get down to the 400 cc market, you’re getting into more specialized stuff. It’s an enduro bike or a supermoto bike or some other dirt-specific bike in this engine-size arena. What is a dual sport if it isn’t a street-legal trail bike, yeah? So let’s look at street legal bikes in the 350-to-500 cc range that aren’t afraid to go off-road.

The DR-Z400S is a capable off-road machine that doesn’t compromise its road worthiness as much as some of the others, so let’s look at the “S” against something like the 500EXC-F from KTM, the 430RS from Beta or how about a couple of dual-sport bikes from a long-running, tried-and-true name in dirt sports, Husqvarna.

Husky offered two dial sport bikes that fit my criteria of what I consider a 350-to-500 cc dual sport: the FE 350S and the FE 501S — dual-sport versions of their popular four-stroke enduro bikes, the FE 350 and FE 501. These dualies from Husky are probably the most capable dual sport bikes right out of the box, so even though the 430RS is closer in engine size, I’m going to go high/low with the Huskys.

Visually, the DR-Z400S carries a more dual-sportish look and stance than the FEs, which have a typical enduro look — just a dirt bike with mirrors and lights. The Suzuki carries a gentle swale in the top lines, and I suppose the Huskies do too, difference being the rise on the fuel tank gives the DR-Z400 its shape, while the seat alone seems to do it for Husky. Beyond that, meh, what can you say? These rides weren’t built to look good on the curb, yeah?

Now for the lumps. The FE 501 S comes out a skosh bigger at 510.4 cc, and with bigger exhaust valves at 33 mm over the 29 mm valves in the 398 cc DR-Z400 mill, which are really closer to the 349.7 cc engine in the FE 350 S. Husky also takes the high road with an electronic Keihin engine management system instead of a carburetor, which is great but, I’ll take the carb any day thank you. Both run chain drives, but again Husky goes for broke with a six-speed gearbox and damped-diaphragm clutch versus the five speed Suzuki transmixxer.

Husky definitely has the upper hand with more techno alphabet soup, which is reflected in the price. Priced at $10,599 for the FE 501 S, the Husky is a half again more than the DR-Z400S at $6,699. Even looking at the FE 350 S, the price is still a wide gap. The 350 will set you back just $200 less than the FE 501 S. If you don’t have sights on some competition riding, can you justify that price difference? If your goal is some casual fun in the dirt and you like to tinker with your stuff without needing expensive diagnostic equipment, the DR-Z400S might be your Huckleberry.

He Said

My husband and fellow writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Wow, another light dual-sport with a smallish engine and minimal appointments, and a SuperMoto built with same. I like the big adventure bikes, truly I do, but these kind of bikes do little for me. Not capable enough for a manly-man trip across the desert or mountains, and not really different enough from the available enduros and dirt bikes to really blip my radar. Just not my cup o’ tea.”

She Said

“I think I tend to like these dual sport bikes, big and small, more than my husband does. Maybe that’s because I have some dirt-bike-riding experience in my younger days whereas he has always been strictly a pavement guy. If you need to scoot up the road a short way to get to your favorite trails, the DR-Z400S is a good choice. It isn’t comfortable as a street bike, but it is road worthy enough to take you 50 miles or so. I mean, it is road worthy enough, but not comfort-wise. I’m not sure your butt will last longer than that without the gel seat.”


Model: DR-Z400S DR-Z400SM
Engine: 398cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, single cylinder, DOHC 398cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, single cylinder, DOHC
Bore x Stroke: 90.0 mm x 62.6 mm (3.54 in x 2.44 in) 90.0 mm x 62.6 mm (3.54 in x 2.46 in)
Compression Ratio: 11.3 : 1 11.3 : 1
Fuel System: MIKUNI BSR36, single carburetor MIKUNI BSR36, single carburetor
Starter: Electric Electric
Lubrication: Semi-dry sump Semi-dry sump
Drive Train:
Transmission: 5-speed constant mesh 5-speed constant mesh
Final Drive: Chain, RK520KZ0, 112 links RK520KZO, 110 links
Suspension Front: Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped Inverted telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Suspension Rear: Link type, coil spring, oil damped Link type, coil spring, oil damped
Brakes Front: Disc brake, single floating rotor Disc brake, single floating rotor
Brakes Rear: Disc brake, single rotor Disc brake, single rotor
Tires Front: 80/100-21 M/C 51P, tube type 120/70R17M/C 58H, tube type
Tires Rear: 120/90-18 M/C 65P, tube type 140/70R17M/C 66H, tube type
Fuel Tank Capacity: 10.0 L (2.6 US gal) / 9.5 L (2.5 US Gal) California model 10.0 L (2.6 US gal) / 9.5 L (2.5 US Gal) California model
Ignition: Electronic ignition (CDI) Electronic ignition (CDI)
Headlight: 12V 60/55W (H4) 12V 60/55W (H4)
Tail light: 12V 21/5W 12V 21/5W
Dimensions and Curb Weight:
Overall Length: 2310 mm (90.9 in) 2225 mm (87.6 in)
Overall Width: 875 mm (34.4 in) 855 mm (33.7 in)
Overall Height 1230 mm (48.4 in) 1200 mm (47.2 in)
Wheelbase: 1485 mm (58.5 in) 1460 mm (57.5 in)
Ground Clearance: 300 mm (11.8 in) 260 mm (10.2 in)
Seat Height: 935 mm (36.8 in) 890 mm (35.0 in)
Curb Weight: 144 kg (317 lbs) 146 kg (322 lbs)
Warranty: 12-month, unlimited mileage, limited warranty* 12-month, unlimited mileage, limited warranty
Extensions: Extensions available through Suzuki Extended Protection (SEP) * Extensions available through Suzuki Extended Protection (SEP)
2016: Solid Black / Solid Iron Gray Solid Special White and Solid Black
2017: Solid Special White No.2 and Solid Iron Gray Solid Special White and Solid Black
2018: Solid Special White No.2 Solid Black
2016, 2017: $6,599 $7,199
2018: $6,699 $7,299



2015 KTM 500 EXC
- image 672310

See our review of the KTM 500EXC-F.

Beta 430RS

2016 Beta 430 RS
- image 672258

See our review of the Beta 430RS.

Husqvarna FE 501S

2016 Husqvarna FE 450 / FE 501 / FE 501 S
- image 672256

See our review of the Husqvarna FE 501S.

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