Suzuki DR-Z400S Review

Welcome to the Adventure Motorcycle Traveller Reviews. Here’s a 40,000-mile review of the Suzuki DR-Z400S by Heather Sinclair.  

Suzuki DRZ400S Review Heather Sinclair


Picture of By Heather Sinclair

By Heather Sinclair

Motorcycle adventurer and traveller.

Quick info

  • Bike: 2011 Suzuki DR-Z400S 
  • Purchased for: £3,600 used in 2017
  • Miles covered: 40,000
  • Years owned: 3  

Suzuki DR-Z400S specs

  • Engine: Single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 398cc, carburettor
  • Power: 39 bhp
  • Torque: 29 ft-lbs
  • Kerb weight: 144kg
  • Seat height: 935cm
  • Tank capacity: 10 litres
  • Tyres: 21 and 18
  • Front suspension: Telescopic
  • Rear suspension: Link type


Why this bike?

I didn’t really know much of anything about motorcycles when I bought the bike – I just knew my old BMW 650GS, the first and only motorcycle I had owned in the 3 years I had been riding was far too heavy and in too poor a condition to survive a long trip. Looking on forums the most common advice was to get an old, carbureted bike (terrible advice for a beginner!) and on paper the DRZ looked by far the best option available out of smaller bikes. 

Suzuki DRZ400S Review Heather Sinclair


I spent a year learning how to wrench and completely rebuilding the bike between my trips so major current modifications include the IMS 4 gal tank, Corbin seat, and Britannia Composites front fairing. On top of that I’ve modified the jetting, camshafts, airbox, added a kickstart, renthal bars, 3 finger levers, tank filter, HD clutch springs, case savers, braided front brake lines. and swapped my rear cylinder to a honda CRF, petcock to yamaha raptor, and reg-rec to SH775 mosfet. I tried getting a Lectron carburetor even – but could never get it to work right so went back to the stock Mikuni. Some of these mods are definitely recommended for overlanding, others were just upgrading as I replaced worn or broken parts. It’s a fair bit of work to adventurize a DRZ properly, but it does pay off. 


I use Adventure Spec Magadans with the locking SteelCore straps, a Lomo 20l roll bag and a Pelican case attached as a topbox.
Improbably Adventuring



I hadn’t realised that the bike was in relatively poor condition when I bought it, and so on my first trip my clutch gave out almost immediately. I had a lot of carburetor problems that were exacerbated as I bounced around various local mechanics who kept doing random and mostly ineffective “repairs” until I finally discovered the carburetor needed a complete rebuild. My stator and reg rec burned out at different points,and I glazed my clutch plates trying to ride through the sand dunes of Darvaza crater in 42 degree heat. 

After rebuilding, I got sand intake into the engine in Morocco after the boot had come off the carburetor, and I’ve not been able to get it to run properly after that even with new piston rings, my speedo drive gear and cable failed, my temperature sensor died, and then of course endless punctures and rear wheel bearings!  

Suzuki DRZ400S Review Heather Sinclair


DRZs are relatively hard on the oil system with only a 1.7l sump, and riding high revs in high temperatures means that you have to change oil much more frequently than the recommended interval – I’m usually changing about every 2000 miles. Other than oil though, the DRZ is easy on its wear parts – I use reusable air and oil filters, and my brakes and tyres last much longer than they would on big bikes – I last changed my brake pads in Kyrgzstan 2 years and over 20,000 miles ago and they’re barely halfway worn. 

Maintenance and parts

The DRZ is probably one of the easiest long-distance capable bikes out there for self-service – I can strip a top end in about 2 hours. This can be a bit of a double edged sword – it can sometimes require a lot of faffing to keep it running! 

Spares for the DRZ like many bikes are impossible to find in South and SE Asia and Africa, and touch and go in Central Asia. I’ve not done South America yet, but I understand there’s some availability in some countries. 

Long distance comfort

A 400CC single-cylinder 5 speed dual sport is never going to be a bike that’s designed as “comfortable”, but with a comfort seat, sheepskin, and screen it can be tolerable if you don’t mind vibrations.

Suzuki DRZ400S Review Heather Sinclair

Good and Bad

What's good?

You won’t find any other bike at that weight, price, and horsepower combination except the sister model Suzuki DR650 – you’ll lose a lot of horsepower going down to a Honda CRF,  you pay a lot more for a high-strung KTM or Husky enduro, and you’re adding an extra 40-50kg for a Honda CB500X, Royal Enfield Himalayan, or Yamaha XT

Furthermore, it is almost impossible to find terrain that a DRZ cannot handle. I’ve run into so many people who have gone the distance on their big BMWs, but when they finally encountered the interesting tracks that they rode all that way to see, lost their nerve and wished they had my DRZ! The bike is incredibly capable and sure-footed off-road, so much so that it may still be the perfect TET bike. 

Suzuki DRZ400S Review Heather Sinclair

What's not?

DRZs haven’t been sold since 2008 in Europe, and the stock there has mostly lived hard lives,  and even if you’ve found a good one you need to do a lot of preventative maintenance and other mods to make it overland ready so I’d only recommend a DRZ for someone who was already mechanically competent and doesn’t mind spending a lot of time getting a bike ready for travel.

In addition, the bike does have certain weak points. Obviously a carbureted bike is going to be trouble at altitude, the 5 gears means that the engine is screaming by the time you get up to motorway speeds, and a high oil burn rate means that you have to keep an eagle eye on your oil if you don’t want to destroy your engine. The electrical system is a bit dodgy, with connectors prone to corrosion and a stator that burns out after around 15,000 miles You can work around most of these issues, but it does require some extra prep and maintenance. 


Suzuki has entirely neglected the dual sport market for 20 years now – a 6 speed fuel injected DRZ400/DR650 would fill two very empty holes in the market and I have no idea why they don’t seem to be making any progress here. 

Suzuki DRZ400S Review Heather Sinclair


If you’re handy with a spanner and don’t want to spend a lot of money to get a bike that will tackle the hardest of overland routes, or simply aren’t strong enough to manhandle a 200kg bike a DRZ is an option well worth considering. If you’re not confident mechanically though, please just get the Honda. 

About the author

Heather Sinclair

Heather is an avid adventure bike rider and traveller. In 2018 Heather completed a 10-month, 22,000-mile motorcycle journey across Asia from Indonesia back to the UK. Since then Heather set off for an overland trip across Africa to Cape Town, got stuck in Morocco due to Covid border closures, changed plans and is now riding somewhere in Europe!  

Follow Heahter’s adventures on Instagram: Improbablyadventuring

Read more about Heather’s trip here: Trapped by Coronavirus

Improbably Adventuring

Read more on adventure motorcycles

Thanks for checking out this Suzuki DR-Z400S Review. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on motorcycle reviews that we recommend you read next. 

Try these next…

Are you planning a motorcycle trip, interested in the Suzuki DR-Z400S or have any questions? Let us know in the comments below. 

6 thoughts on “Suzuki DR-Z400S Review”

  1. I appreciated Heather Sinclair’s honest review of the DRZ400S. My current project is outfitting a DR650 for my upcoming TAT adventure.

  2. Great accomplishment Heather, l think
    your final summary was spot on until you mentioned that for reliability get a Honda. Which one are you referring to? The Drz400 is phenomenally popular as dual sport adventure bike in the western US and none of the aircooled Honda’s are as durable, the 300 is too small and the 450 doesn’t appear to be as reliable as the Suzuki. A few things I would stress the low oil capacity (still more than the race derived bikes though) means oil breakdown from heat is much more likely so l run the highest quality synthetic l can find as resistance to heat breakdown is the biggest strength of a synthetic. Continuous high rpm running on the road blows oil out of the breather so most oil loss isn’t burning it is from venting. I personally don’t like reusable oil filters as a brand new paper filter is completely clean when you install it at your oil change. The stainless screen permanent types are as clean as you can get them and metal particles in a metal screen are pretty well disguised. Next I don’t install heavier clutch springs as I find better results with new frictions and drive plates and replacing notched out baskets. At 40,000 miles unless you have replaced it your stock basket is certainly heavily notched. Last the only carb that we found to work better on the street legal US model in stock form was from the US spec offroad model.
    Again 40,000 miles on any single cylinder machine ridden the way you ride yours is a tribute to your abilities as a rider and mechanic.

  3. Reliable buy the Honda? My 2000 DRZ400E has had the dog poop run out of it for over 20 years now. Still running strong and none of the problems you’ve had. Maybe the operator?

  4. Spot on review! DRZ 400 is my very first bike and it will always have a special place in my heart. I still miss its amazing off-road capability and this unique way of handling the dirt roads…like it was designed just with this idea in mind – to chew up dirt roads of any kind and yet to be capable of some road miles and hard enduro sections if the situation requires it.

    Unfortunately, as a long-term owner of a well-worn Dizzer, I just knew how much additional work, fiddling and additional upgrades would require the bike to be turned into an adventure machine. Even if I have done all the needed upgrades there would still be this need for 6th speed and FI…things that you can’t upgrade in the DRZ 400. However, the proper carb for the bike is the Keihin that comes standard with the E & Y versions of the bike.

    Nowadays in Europe there is only the AJP PR7 & KTM 690 Adventure that comes a little bit closer to this well-needed upgrade from Suzuki but with much higher costs of purchase.

    • Well, for the period I had mine, those are the things that broke:
      – Head of the engine needed replacement due to excessive oil burning;
      – The dipstick detached from the oil cap and felt somewhere deep in the frame;
      – The excessive oil container/reservoir (a little black box from the right hand side) was burned from the exhaust somehow;
      – The engine side cover was cracked and oil started leaking;
      – The stator caught fire in the case and burned (honestly I don’t remember if I changed the rectifier/regulator back in time);
      – The tank was punctured by the fairings’ bolt in one of the drops.
      – There was one big problem with the wiring and the electrical system.
      Other than that, everything else was pretty ok for a bike produced in Y2K.

      Probably you guess that the majority of those problems were caused by the usage of the bike as a enduro motorcycle and in some occasions keeping up with the pace of a racing KTMs. However, every KTM was more capable and better designed in the hard core stuff than the DRZ. In one moment I just realized that the Suzuki is amazing if you use it according to what it is intended to do – any kind of open wide dirt roads, wide single tracks, nice paths, commuting for short distances on the pavement…the hard core enduro things aren’t for it.

      And if you want to “adventurize” it, then you need to do a lot – even with a Corbin seat, I couldn’t do more than 200 km on pavement without my ass and legs to become sour as f*ck, I was getting constantly cramped in the knees and just looking where I can turn to some dirt road to enjoy the bike.


Leave a comment