Suzuki DR200 | Bike Reviews
Riding dirtbikes is not all wheelies and skids, as our trail newbie Paul Andrews found out.
If you’ve never thrown a leg over a dirtbike it can look fun, exciting and even easy from the outside, but the reality is riding a dirtbike not only requires a unique skill set but a particular form of stamina not found in any other sport.
ADB: How old where you when you got your motorcycle licence and why?
Paul Andrews: I didn’t get my licence until after I started working at AMCN. I’ve had my L’s for 12 months, which reminds me I better go and get my P’s! My early 30s was pretty much the first time I’d ever ridden on the road.
ADB: So why the sudden interest in dirt?
PA: I attended one of those Christian motorbike camps when I was about 10-years-old, and loved it. I wanted to get into motocross because my older brother had picked it up as well. But he had a big crash and broke both his collarbones so mum pretty much put a stop to anything motorcycles.
Sitting next to ADB in the office and through the magazine and listening to all their stories after a weekend ride it looked like so much fun and so easy!
I did a one-day Honda HART rider course. They had a mini track there we were allowed on at the end of the day for 30 minutes, which was awesome. I went straight home from the HART course and immediately began looking for utes to buy.
ADB: So you bought a ute before a dirtbike?
PA: Yep, I thought I’d found my next hobby. In the same week I bought the ute, AMCN got a Suzuki DR-Z400 to test. So AMCN’s Sport and Road Test Editor and gun enduro rider Paul Young took me for a ride out at Warburton, Vic.
ADB: Once you’d pushed your way through the imaginary tunnel of women, how was your first ride?
PA: Youngie took me through some flat singletrack that cut through trees. It was quite wet so I spent a fair bit of time blasting through puddles and I still couldn’t get the grin off my face. Compared to road riding, the bike just does its own thing underneath you. It was like riding a bucking bronco, but in control.
ADB: So you survived your first real ride, what next?
PA: Before I bought a dirtbike I went on another ride with Klaus Mueller. It was a one-day tour High Country ride near Lake Eildon. There were six other blokes on the ride, all with their own bikes and gear. The first 10-15 minutes was great.
I had about four or five wipeouts. I crashed repeatedly on the downhills trying to brake. And because of all the crashes I even slowed the tour down and we missed lunch. Sorry guys.
My next ride was with you guys [ADB] on a Suzuki DR200 you said was perfect for beginners. I thought it would be easier because it was smaller, lighter and had electric start. I thought this would revive my passion for dirtbike riding! How wrong I was.
I was a little nervous knowing I was with ADB and there was certainly more pressure. The boys tore off into the first trail and in the first corner I was down and sprawled out in a bush. The ground was like sand and they didn’t even notice it. To me it was impossible. My confidence was back to zero.
We got to a hillclimb that nearly killed me. Looking at it scared me. I got up the first half all right but then lost momentum on a boulder. I had to abandon ship and then use all my energy to straighten the bike up and start again. I was running on empty and already over it! But I eventually dragged the bike to the top.
After leaving the bike switched on while I lay down for a rest the battery went flat and with no kickstart I had to push the bike out of the bush. After about one hour of pushing I cried “stuff this, let’s just leave it here!”
ADB: So tell us what you learnt and is this the end?
PA: Dirtbikes are awesome fun and the most exhilarating thing you can do except jump out of a plane. But it is damn hard work and the skill set to ride fast is so foreign. I have so much more respect for dirtbike riders now. The dream is over for now while I try and rebuild my ego. I will be back it might just take some convincing (and a glass of concrete).
Having minimal time in the dirt on two-wheels, the Suzuki DR200 was perfect for the most part.
It has a low seat so I can touch the ground at all times which is crucial for all beginners and the seat is wide, soft and flat, which means my tender arse didn’t get sore. Unlike most dirtbike riders, my arse isn’t used to getting pounded for hours.
It had a key and a button to start it which is a lot easier than a kickstart when you’re stalling it as regularly as I am. A kickstart would have been handy when it ran out of battery.
The clutch felt light because the bike was so small. The engine was so easy to manage because it didn’t have a huge amount of power. This was a good and a bad thing. I’m nearly 100kg with gear on so I need a fair bit of power to get moving but too much power and I would end up in a tree. The DR200 stores all its power in the bottom-end so it was really easy to use until I needed some meat in the middle to get up the steep hill.
When I came to a boulder in the middle of the hill I needed a little extra power to get up and over it but when I opened the throttle nothing much happened. The power curve levelled out really quickly. The power is useable and good for a beginner but needs to be a little stronger all the way through the rev range.
The suspension was great. I’m not at a level where I can jump so I didn’t need heavy-duty suspension. The stock set-up just absorbed every little bump like a lounge chair, without bucking or kicking me sideways. It’s super soft and a little agricultural but for a beginner you don’t want it any different.
The brakes were okay despite being drum rear and the ergonomics, levers and grips, while out-dated an agricultural, worked fine and looked fine for the ride we did.
See the full feature in ADB issue #433
WORDS AND PHOTOS // MITCH LEES