First Ride: 2000 Suzuki DR-Z400E
It's Not Your Dad's DR
Suzuki invited the press corps to try out the bikes on the very private trails of the Soboba Indian reservation in Southern California. The site of a Grand Prix a few years ago, today the only time Soboba is considered "open" to the public is when Malcolm puts on his annual trail ride. Otherwise, Soboba is off limits. Of course, if you know the right people and have permission, Soboba can be accessed and it is an incredibly fun place to ride. We were fortunate that Suzuki pulled the requisite strings. Heck, it even rained a little a few days before the ride to make things even better.
|Yoshimura Gets Dirty|
|We first heard rumors about the Suzuki 400 about a year ago with our source claiming that the Japanese factory charged road-racing specialists Yoshimura R&D of America with developing the motor.
Apparently the rumors are true. Also present at the Soboba intro were Brant Russell and Don Sakakura of Yoshimura, which used its head start with the DR-Z to develop a line of exhaust systems as well as titanium fasteners, brackets, subframes and engine internals plus other engine hop-up parts, services and carburetion. Kiedrowski will be relying on Yoshimura for many of the modifications on his race bike.
For information, contact Yoshimura at 4555 Carter Ct., Chino, CA 91710; 909/628-4722 or visit www.yoshimura-rd.com.
The morning ride consisted primarily of fire roads, with a little single-track thrown in to keep things interesting. One thing apparent right off the bat, besides ease of starting and lack of noise, was how much sheer fun the DR-Z400E proved to be. It had quite adequate power with the typical broad spread, it felt comfortable and it steered and slid well.Without having other brands on hand with which to compare, it's difficult to say authoritatively how the Suzuki stacks up, but it'd probably give the WR400F a good run and feels like it might be just a little nimbler and more rigid than the XR400R. In other words, it falls nicely into that area between full-tilt YZ-F racer and some Brand X trail bike.
|So You Want to go Racing?|
|Interested in off-road racing and looking to make a little cash? Suzuki's putting up over $1,000,000 in contingency, and a substantial amount of that is earmarked for those riding DR-Zs. The lion's share of the total amount, $268,775, is set aside for the 13-round GNCC series.
Other series in which DR-Zs are eligible for contingency money are as follows: AMA District 37 Grand Prix, AMA National Hare Scrambles, Blackjack Enduro Circuit, ECEA Enduro Circuit, FTR Hare Scrambles, Mid-South Hare Scrambles, NETRA Enduro, NETRA Hare Scrambles, NMA Off-Road, Parts Unlimited Off-Road Championship, REMC, SETRA Enduro, SETRA Hare Scrambles and Texas Cross-Country.
See your Suzuki dealer for details.
Naturally, with a smaller group and faster riders, the pace proved more than quick enough, making for an even better test of both the bike and rider. Despite the 13-pound difference of the electric-start package (262-pound claimed dry weight for the 400E compared to 249 pounds for the 400 kickstart version), we saw the magic button earn major points several times after awkward moments.
One section of rocky creek bed left us flailing, but that was due solely to lack of talent. While the motor chugged along nicely, the suspension kept the Dunlop D756s in contact with the ground as much as possible while isolating the rider from the jarring terrain. If desired, a quick stab at the clutch lever produced the hit desired to wheelie over obstacles or spin the back wheel to set up for turns. Pounding through the whoops seemed to tax the suspension a bit too much for some; no doubt a few will opt for stiffer springs, especially in the West.
"Back East the standard coils may be ideal."
Early reports indicate that Suzuki dealers are ordering substantially more electric-start 400Es ($5349) than kickstart 400s ($5249). The E models should be available now, with the straight DR-Z400s hitting dealers in a few weeks. The dual-purpose DR-Z400S is slated for March release. There will not be a California-only version of the dirt models, but they will be eligible for red sticker OHV registration. In addition, Suzuki plans to offer a line of carbon-fiber accessories. So, which did we like better: Trying the new DR-Z400E or riding with Malcolm Smith? Hey, we didn't have to choose because we got to do both!Specifications
Manufacturer : Suzuki Model : DR-Z400E MSRP : $5,349 Engine: 398cc, DOHC, 4-valve, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled single Bore/Stroke : 90 x 62.6mm Compression Ratio : 12.2:1 Carburetor : Keihin FCR39 Lubrication : Dry Sump Ignition : Digital/DC-CDI Transmission : 5-Speed, #520 O-ring chain Overall Length : 2235mm (88.0in.) Overall Width : 825mm (32.5 in.) Overall Height : 1245mm (49.0 in.) Seat Height : 935mm (36.8 in.) Ground Clearance : 315mm (12.4 in.) Wheelbase : 1475mm (58.0 in.) Dry Weight : 119kg (262 Lbs.) Suspension, Front : Cartridge-type, oil damped, 14-way compression damping 18-way rebound damping Rear : Link-type, adjustable spring preload 26-way compression damping, 21-way rebound damping Brakes, Front : Single Hydraulic Disc Rear : Single Hydraulic Disc Tires, Front : 80/100-21 Rear : 110/100-18 Fuel Tank Capacity : 10 liter (2.64 gal.) Color : Yellow/White