Suzuki DR200S: Town and country commuter
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The Suzuki DR200S has been around for a number of years with little in regards to updates. Its lineage can be traced back to the DR200 of 1986. Sure, the styling was recently tweaked to inject some of the RM-Z MotoX line’s cool factor to the model, but it is still the basic, no-frills machine it’s always been at heart.
With the Auckland petrol tax soon to be imposed, if those at the top have their way, plus another recent rise in the price of fuel, the frugal little Suzuki makes sense in more ways than one.
With a solid 199cc air-cooled SOHC single-cylinder engine, a light weight of just 126kg fully fuelled, and dirt-ready 21in and 18in spoked wheels, it isn’t the most high-tech of motorcycles but that in itself speaks volumes.
As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and Suzuki’s little DR200S is as rugged and reliable on the open road, as the farmer’s version — the DR200SE — is on the farms of the nation.
Suzuki claims a spectacular fuel economy figure of just 2.22 litres per 100km from the carburetted single cylinder engine, which works out to over 500km of potential range from the 12.5 litre tank. Sadly there’s no way I’d get anywhere near that with my near-on 100kg weight, long, open road commute and the bike arriving with just 6km on the old school odometer.
Going for the full miserly economy run in those conditions just doesn’t return accurate consumption figures, especially with the little engine singing its heart out at 100km/h.
That said, the DR200 managed to ride for a decent distance on a single tank, with 2 litres still to go when I chickened out at 235km. Sure, it’s not the quoted economy, but on the highway, it managed to hold the legal speed limit while sipping a wallet pleasing amount of gas. Especially when compared to a car doing the same distance.
When it comes to stopping the featherweight Suzuki, I have to say I wasn’t expecting much from the small disc and single piston caliper up front, and the rear drum brake didn’t help in setting my braking dreams alight.
However, when it came to pulling the little Zook up to a halt, they did the trick just fine. And, on the highway, using the combined braking method alleviated the strain on the little front brake when trying to stop in a hurry.
The basic set-up carries on to the suspension, with non-adjustable telescopic forks up front and a link type monoshock out back, which does offer preload adjustment. Both have 205mm of travel, and for my weight they soaked up the bumps and potholes in the road fine without bottoming out. They do show their trail bike origins when grabbing a handful of front brake, but the little DR doesn’t have the same wallowy ride of other bikes I’ve ridden from the class.
But what’s this little congestion buster like to live with?
Swinging a leg into the low (for a trail bike) seat is simple, and I was easily able to plant both my feet flat and firmly on the ground when at a stop.
The controls fall easily to hand. The clutch and brake levers are at a span that is easy to reach, and both could be operated with one finger.
While acceleration isn’t the DR200S’ forte, it will happily cruise at the posted lower speed limits in fourth gear without hesitation. While getting up to 100km/h takes a while, it’ll stay there until you come to a decent incline, where a change back down to fourth gear from top will be needed.
While it isn’t the most technologically advanced bike available, its basic nature is an asset for the learner rider looking to beat the traffic.
The lack of bodywork means dropping the bike won’t cause an eye-watering trip to the shop for repairs, and the air-cooled engine is so simple it needs only the basics in terms of maintenance to keep chugging along.
For the more dirt-oriented riders out there, stretching the budget to Suzuki’s higher spec DR-Z250 wouldn’t be a silly idea for the added capability offered. But if you’re looking to park the ute up during the week — and save a lot of money in road user charges and fuel — then the DR200S makes a heck of a lot of sense.
Not only will it beat the traffic on “The Great Southern Carpark” during the working week, it’s capable enough to run the local trail ride with the kids on the weekends or go for an explore for some alone time.
Engine: 199cc SOHC single-cylinder
Pros: Cheap to run, great first bike, incredibly simple to use
Cons: Basic, low power, trail bike aesthetic is not for everyone