QUIKSPIN: Suzuki DR-Z400E - The Doctor

17 April 2012
While manufacturers dabble with upgrades to out-do their competitors, it seems the best way to sell a dirtbike is to do the opposite. The Suzuki DR-Z400E doesn’t have the forward-facing fuel injected engine of a Husaberg, nor the single-function fork found in Kawasaki’s KX250F.
But in 2010, ‘The Doctor’ was the fourth best-selling motorcycle in Oz, and second bestselling off-road motorcycle behind the Honda CRF50F. It was also number one in the endure category. Despite being outdated, The Doctor is still popular – but why? According to Suzuki’s Eoin Black, the reason for its sales success over the past decade is the result of two things: price and reliability.
At $8990, Suzuki has successfully marketed the Doctor at the average trailblazer who can’t afford the exorbitant prices of a race-spec enduro bike.
An adjustment with the cam-chain tensioner and an electric leg to pass ADRs in 2000 are the only upgrades to speak of since it was first imported in 1999. The Doctor has developed a priceless reputation as a familiar bike renowned for its low maintenance, requiring only a spark plug, oil and filter change every 60 hours, and a coolant flush every couple of years.
The bike is such a success that Suzuki has no intention of changing any component on the bike in the near, or even distant, future. Because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The bike can adapt to any environment, from tarmac with the highly successful DR-Z400SM motard, or as an agricultural mule. Suzuki offroad race team guru Jay Foreman even managed a race team that experienced much success aboard The Doctor in 2001 and 2002. The Doctor is no match for the enduro-spec racers littering the bush nowadays, but is still capable of devouring the loamy, open single track with its strong manageable engine and plush suspension. In technical terrain, The Doctor may have struggled as it is a heavy bike, but through the fast, open, smoother trails the bike is comfortable and can be ridden fast.
As you would expect from a bike which hasn’t been upgraded for more than a decade, it looks heavy and outdated, with a beer gut and awkward looking radiator shrouds that bolt to the tank. Starting The Doctor is a cinch and, living up to its indestructible reputation, it never hesitates.
While The Doctor does not have the performance capabilities of the bigger 450 enduro range, it is a uniquely reliable and affordable bike in an age when every cent counts.
The DR-Z400E doesn’t try to be anything more than it is: a simple and trusty trail companion.
Is The Doctor the only reliable, grunty, low maintenance, inexpensive trail beast left? And has Suzuki cornered a neglected market which is paying some serious dividends? I think so –reliability sells.
Configuration Single cylinder
Cylinder head DOHC, four-valve
Capacity 398cc
Bore 90mm
Stroke 62.6mm
Compression ratio 11.3:1
Ignition Digital, CDI
Cooling Liquid
Fueling Keihin carburettor
Oil capacity 1.9L
Type Five-speed
Primary drive Gear
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Final drive Chain
Frame material Chrome-moly steel
Frame layout Cradle
Rake 27?
Trail 112mm
Wheelbase 1485mm
Front: 49mm cartridge-style, fullyadjustable,
288mm travel
Rear: Monoshock, fully-adjustable,
295mm travel
Wheels Aluminium alloy, wire-spoked
Front: 21 x 1.6 Rear: 18 x 2.15
Tyres Bridgestone Gritty
Front: 80/100-21 (51M)
Rear: 120/90-18 (56M)
Brakes Nissin
Front: 250mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Rear: 220mm disc, single-piston caliper
Weight 138kg (dry, claimed)
Seat height 935mm
Max width 825mm
Max height 1235mm
Fuel capacity 10L
Power 29kW @ 8500rpm (claimed)
Torque Not given
Fuel consumption 5L/100km
Top speed 150km/h
Simple to maintain
Super reliable
Sub nine-grand price
No kick-starter
Dated by today’s standards