2014 Suzuki DR-Z400SM - First Ride

The last of a dying breed? We hope not.

Missing from Suzuki’s lineup for three years, the DR-Z400SM returned for 2013. We’re stoked to have it back, as it’s the only street-legal, lightweight, small-displacement, 17-inch-wheeled supermoto still available in the US. It seems the light supermoto trend has largely played itself out, and when combined with the recession, these ultra-niche bikes might have seemed pretty impractical to a lot of consumers.

But the reality is that the DR-Z is anything but impractical. Despite its relatively small 398cc engine, the SM is a very entertaining motorcycle, whether you are commuting in an urban environment or heading out into the twisties on the weekend. About the only place that the 400 feels out of place is on freeways, especially if the trip is longer than 10 or 15 minutes. When Southern California freeway traffic actually flows, it does so at about 75 mph, which is about where the Suzuki starts letting you know you're approaching its maximum velocity. Pushing it to 85 for any length of time almost feels abusive.

After a few quick minutes on the choke in the morning, the 36mm Mikuni carburates crisp and clean. Around town, steering is light, neutral, lively, and fun. The bike’s single biggest drawback? Its 35-inch seat height might be too high for riders less than 6 feet tall. And although short final gearing helps the 321-pound Suzuki leap off the line, don’t expect roll-on performance to be as peppy because torque is definitely lacking versus bigger bikes.

We’re happy to report that the SM is returning for 2014. But for those on a tight budget, the $7,189 price might be a bit steep, especially when considering the number of other new bikes available for less than $7,000.

ENGINE TYPE|dohc Single

On-road action shot #1

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On-road action shot #4

Static left-side view.

Static right-side view.

Front wheel.

Right-side view of engine.

Left-side view of engine.

Swingarm/rear wheel.