2011 Suzuki DR-Z400SM
Some motorcycling pundits maintain that supermotards such as the 2011 Suzuki DR-Z400SM are neither fish nor fowl as their motocross - enduro chassis are diametrically opposed to their relatively tiny street 17 inch wheels and slick tires. After all, is there really any reason to have a street bike with a front fender suspended a foot above the rubber and a center of gravity which is at about the level of a GSX-R600 rider's helmet?
Given the fact that most supermotard riders venture off road about as much as Hummer H2 blingmobile drivers, there would seem to be some credence to these street-inadequacy claims, but they will all vanish as soon as you swing a leg over the DR-Z400SM and crank it around your favorite set of twisty turnies. The Mikuni BSR36 CV-type carburetor-fed 398cc liquid-cooled, DOHC 4-valve motor churns out satisfying amounts of both horsepower and torque, and the GSX-R1000-sized 310mm floating type front disc provides wheel-standing braking performance.
The DR-Z400SM's chrome-moly steel frame was specially tuned for Supermoto riding by Suzuki engineers to provide remarkably stable road handling. Riding a trials tire version of a dual purpose bike on the road and then jumpin onto the DR-Z400SM is tantamount to going from a wallowing pogostick to a slot car.
The Showa inverted front forks and the rear shock absorber are derived from the RM250, but if it wasn't for the outlandish amount of travel, you couldn't be blamed for thinking that it was a native streetfighter setup. If you like to dial in your ride, the DR-Z400SM is the supermotard for you. Compression damping is adjustable 21 ways in the front and 20 ways in the back, while rebound damping is 19 in the front and 17 in the rear. Sheldon from Big Bang Theory would be happy to inform you that the number of different suspension set up combinations for a DR-Z400SM exceed the number of atoms in a median asteroid.
Although much of the DR-Z400SM is lifted from the DR-Z400S dual purpose enduro model, the overall look seems to fit the supermotard suit rather well. It could be argued that the side shroud wings on the radiator are a bit too aquiline, and that the lower fork guards simply add unsprung weight without doing much but deflecting kamikaze June bugs, but then you would be missing out on the spirit of supermotarding: It's supposed to be cool to ride an enduro that you can hang your butt off the seat in your best Valentino Rossi imitation.
There are many other supermotards and even hypermotards in dealerships across the country, but the 2011 Suzuki DR-Z400SM has to be ranked among the most affordable and most fun.
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2011 Suzuki DR-Z400SM At A Glance
Base MSRP: $8,399
Engine Type: 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC single
Bore & Stroke: 90 mm x 62.6 mm
Ignition Type: Electronic (CDI)
Compression Ratio: 11.3:1
Transmission Type: Five-speed, constant mesh
Final Drive Type: RK520KZO
Front Tire: 120/70R17M/C
Rear Tire: 140/70R17M/C
Wheelbase: 1,460 mm
Saddle Height: 890 mm
Curb Dry Weight: 146 kg
Fuel Capacity: 10 L
* Specs/pix apply to 2010 model, updates as released