We have a 2023 Suzuki DR-Z400 in the test fleet right now and we forgot how much fun it is. This Is a bike that we once knew very well. It first came out in 2000 and we did a number of projects with it over the years with great results. It’s still Japan’s second best dual sport bike in stock form. It was, in fact, the best of its kind until 2019 when Honda released the CRF450L. Now, the Suzuki sells for $7099, which is about $3000 less than the Honda. There’s no dual-sport bike on the market that offers so much for so little.
It is, of course, very much a bike of a bygone era. It still has a carburetor. It still has what we used to call a “right-side up” fork. It has a steel tank, a steel frame and a steel handlebar. Think back to when this bike arrived. There was a dirt version back then with an FCR carburetor and more aggressive performance. You could even get the stripped down version with a kickstarter if you wanted. At the time, there was no Honda CRF450R, and no serious motocross four-strokes from Suzuki or Kawasaki, so the DRZ acted as the Suzuki off-road race team’s primary weapon out west. Mike Kiedrowski won back to back WORCS championships in 2001 and 2002 on a Yoshimura-built DR-Z against a field of Yamaha 426s.
Today, you have to dig pretty deep to find Kiedrowski’s DR-Z in the dual-sport version. It’s still in there, but you would have to spend a lot to reach the level of a modern 450–and it’s probably not possible. It would be kind of funny, though, to show on the line at a motocross with the only electric start Suzuki.
Suzuki is smart to keep the dual-sport DR-Z around and hold the price down. The performance is pretty good! It actually makes only 2 hp less than a Husqvarna FE350S at peak and does better down low. I know, a stock Husky FE isn’t a very high bar, but it’s easy to find cheap power. The first stop is a Keihin FCR carburetor. You can find them easily on the used market and the air boot and manifold from the dirt version make this an easy conversion. A more serious limitation is that the Suzuki weighs over 300 pounds and there’s very little you can do about that.
The Suzuki’s handling and suspension are surprisingly good after you swap out the stock tires for knobbies. The ergos are almost modern feeling–definitely more up to date than a Honda XR650L or a Suzuki DR650. And the bike is super comfortable. You would have no trouble taking this bike on a 100 mile that sends you on everything from single track trail to open highway. Look for a full test of the Suzuki DR-Z400 in the July print edition of Dirt Bike.
OUR BIG LIVE STREAM PROJECT
Last week we ventured a little out of our comfort zone to produce a live stream of the Two-Stroke World Championship at Glen Helen. It was basically a network quality TV show presented live on our Youtube channel. We, of course, know nothing about making a TV show, but we had help from pros. Ross Fitts is a director/editor for MAV TV and he took us through the whole program. Bud Feldkamp underwrote the project because he feels, as we all do, that this race deserves national attention. In the end, we were quite proud of the final results, and plans are already in the works to do more. Stay tuned!
MORE DUAL SPORT
We also have a Beta 500RR-S, a HondaCRF450RL,a Husqvarna FE501S and a KTM 500EXC in the hangar. All of the bikes have new Dunlop knobbies and are ready for a shootout. It’s going to be fun!
TRIUMPH RIDERS ANNOUNCED
Triumph has been teasing us about its upcoming motocross effort for a long time now. The latest development is the announcement of more riders and coaches. Here is the official press release, although we still haven’t gotten a first glimpse of the bike. As a consolation, we know that Ducati is working on a similar project, and they have given us absolutely nothing!
As preparations for Triumph’s debut in the 2024 MXGP/MX2 and SuperMotocross World
Championships intensify, Triumph Racing confirms it has signed two top class riders to lead its race development testing.
Clément Desalle joins as test rider for the Triumph Racing MXGP/MX2 Team, run by Thierry Chizat-Suzzoni, and Ivan Tedesco comes onboard as full-time test rider for the Triumph Racing US SuperMotocross World Championship Team, led by Bobby Hewitt.
CLÉMENT DESALLE – TRIUMPH RACING MXGP/MX2 TEAM
Clément Desalle (‘MX Panda’) competed at the highest level in the MXGP World Championship for 15 years. One of the most consistent racers in the series, he claimed three Vice Champion finishes, was third in the World Championship three times and twice finished fourth. The Belgium national finished on the top step of the podium 23 times in his career, as well as being crowned the Pro open Belgian champion in 2009. He retired from racing in 2020 and turned his attention to test riding and developing race bikes – and is already making a major contribution to Triumph’s progress with its new race bike.
Clément Desalle: “Joining the Triumph MX2 programme allows me to make use of my years of experience as a professional racer to help take the stock bike to a full factory race bike, ready for the MX2 season in 2024. Working with Thierry and Vincent, I know that Triumph have joined with the best people possible to deliver winning results in the quickest possible time, and I’m excited for what the future holds.”
Vincent Bereni – Triumph Racing Team Manager – MXGP: “When Triumph asked us to join this MX project, we knew that the bike R&D and testing was a going to be major part of the success. Clément has a lot of experience of MXGP tracks, the requirements for the race disciplines and is still very fast.
“We have worked with Clément for many years and he is a very demanding rider, who pays attention to every aspect of the motorcycle, so in our opinion he is the perfect candidate. We know and understand each other very well and he has already brought a lot to bike development, for both the production and racing application. We are very pleased that he joined the programme.”
IVAN TEDESCO – TRIUMPH RACING US SUPERMOTOCROSS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM
Ivan Tedesco (‘Hot Sauce’) began racing motorcycles at the age of eight years old and turned Pro in 1999, with a career that spanned 14 years. In his racing career, Tedesco won the AMA 125cc West Coast Supercross series twice (2004 and 2005), the AMA 125cc National Motocross series (2005) and the Motocross of Nations three times with Team USA (2005, 2006 and 2009).
After his retirement from professional racing in 2014, Ivan turned his talents to coaching up and coming racers, and becoming one of the very best manufacturer development test riders of the current era.
Ivan Tedesco: “I’m super excited to be part of the new Triumph racing programme and to be working with Ricky and Bobby again. To have the opportunity to work with a new brand in our sport, to take a new bike and develop it to a race ready package, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“The team that Triumph is assembling to compete in the SuperMotocross championship is second to none, and together with the support of the engineers at the Triumph Factory, I’m confident we will line up with a competitive bike for Anaheim 1 2024.”
Bobby Hewitt – Triumph Racing Team Principal – SMX: “I’ve known Ivan for many years now, as a multi-time AMA SX Champion and AMA MX Champion who has raced at the highest level including being a member of Team USA multiple times at the Motocross of Nations.
“Adding someone with his experience to the program adds another layer of quality and racing experience to an already strong foundation at Triumph Racing here in the US. In 2014 I had the privilege to have Ivan as a team member and pro-rider on one of my previous racing programs before he retired. During that time, I personally had the opportunity to work with him as a rider, experience his attention to detail as a test rider, and more importantly see first-hand how he works and would mentor upcoming riders.
“Today is a great day and I’m very excited to add “Hot Sauce” to the program. I truly believe this is another example that the future here at Triumph Racing is very bright!”
Ricky Carmichael – Triumph Off-Road Ambassador: “This is so exciting. It’s just another example of Triumph’s dedication to the development of the off-road line of motorcycles. I have no doubt, that with guys like Ivan Tedesco and Clément Desalle and the knowledge they bring to the table from an R&D standpoint, that these bikes will be top of the line, from a race bike perspective as well as a production model. These guys know what it takes to win at the highest level and will be a huge asset to the development of a great product!”
ABOUT TRIUMPH RACING’S OFF-ROAD PROGRAM:
SMX: Triumph Motorcycles will enter the Monster Energy AMA SuperMotocross World Championship at the start of the 2024 season, with a fully supported factory race program established in the United States to run motocross operations under the all-new global Triumph Racing banner.
Set-up and operated in partnership with Bobby Hewitt, this new Triumph Racing team will field three of Triumph’s all-new 250cc 4-stroke MX bikes in the 2024 SuperMotocross World Championship West and East Coast series before entering the 450cc premier class in 2025.
MXGP: Similarly in 2024, Triumph Racing will also debut in the prestigious FIM Motocross World Championship with a factory supported race programme.
This landmark new Triumph Racing Team has been set-up in partnership with Thierry Chizat-Suzzoni, one of the sport’s most experienced and successful team owners, who will field two of Triumph’s all- new 250cc 4-stroke MX bikes in the 2024 MX2 class, and will add an entry into the 450cc MXGP class in 2025.
Triumph Racing is based at Triumph’s Global Headquarters in Hinckley, UK, where the brand’s off-road design engineering department is located – responsible for the concept and development of the powertrains and chassis for the all-new Motocross and Enduro motorcycle range.
The MXGP/MX2 World Championship team will be based at Thierry’s race facility near Eindhoven in Holland, while the SuperMotocross World Championship operation will be based at a dedicated new state-of-the-art race facility in the USA.
Engineering groups at the Triumph factory and the race teams are working closely together on continuously enhancing chassis and engine performance through an intensive testing schedule, led by Ivan Tedesco and Clément Desalle, underway in the USA, UK and Europe, building towards the competitive World Championship debut in 2024.
See you next time!
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