Although Suzuki categorizes the DR-Z125L off-road motorcycle as a "kids" bike, I am here to tell you that there is quite a bit of fun lurking there for adults. As someone who stands 5′ 6" and weighs 115 lbs, the DR-Z125L is a perfect cross-training bike for me.
My current competitive passion is Observed Trials. I have a Scorpa TY-S125F Racing, which I love. While the bike was at the shop getting a new front rotor, which I managed to bend in an unexpected get-off, a 125L mysteriously showed up in my garage with the explanation that it needed testing. I have raced off-road grand prix in the past on a Suzuki RMX250 two-stroke, so I was dubious that a little 125 thumperette could keep me entertained-I was wrong.
The private area that I enjoy for trials training also has a natural-terrain motocross track with plenty of turns and elevation changes, but no whoop sections or nasty double/triple jumps. Given that the 125L has limited suspension travel-the trade-off for the manageable 32-inch seat height-the lack of supercross-style obstacles on the track is a welcome relief. Sure, it’s not hard to bottom both ends over relatively small jumps, but the suspension is certainly adequate for its intended use.
Powering the bike around the track is a tiny air-cooled, SOHC motor fed by a diminutive 20mm Mikuni carb. Tuned for torque, but still willing to rev, the 125L scoots around nicely if you keep the throttle pinned. In the corners, the IRC motocross tires stick far better than you might expect. But, with limited power output and a claimed wet weight under 200 pounds, the tires don’t get overmatched. If I managed to wear them out, I would probably look for some pure race rubber optimized for my local terrain. The 125L uses a 16-inch rear and 19-inch front-both Mini Expert standards-so this is easily achieved.
The tight, challenging trails in the area are a blast on this bike. Again, we are looking at a low seat height, not much weight and an agreeable motor that absolutely cannot surprise you. The front end was easy to (wo)manhandle through the rocks and ruts, and I could lift the front end with a blip of the throttle and some body English. The 5-speed transmission shifts flawlessly and has no gaps, so it’s a piece of cake to find the right gear. As long as the rider is familiar with the operation of a clutch, you can’t be intimidated.
One might expect that the motor would be overmatched by large hills, but it will go places that you would never expect. Simply let the motor wind up-it will find traction and keep chugging. You will not beat anyone up the hill with speed, but you may pass someone on a larger bike that dug a hole due to an inopportune traction-to-power ratio. Getting down the hills is trickier, as the tires are narrow, engine braking is limited to 125cc, and the rear brake is a drum (but the front disc is from the RM85 racer).
The 125L turned up at the perfect time, as I needed help rehabilitating some strained ankle ligaments (I had crashed out in the dirt on a dual-sport bike). I could have tried making a comeback on a 250F of some sort, but the smaller bike was the perfect ride for getting my feet back in the dirt while I was feeling less than invincible. An EVS AB05 Ankle Protector, compact enough to fit inside my Alpinestars Stella Tech 6 boots, gave me needed physical and mental support.
So, dads, feel free to buy your growing child a Suzuki DR-Z125L (the non-L version has smaller wheels for younger, smaller riders), knowing that you and your wife can sneak a ride on it when nobody’s looking and have a great time!
Photos by Don Williams
Helmet: Suomy Spectre Vegas
Goggles: Scott 89Xi
Jersey, gloves, pants: Shift Vixen
Ankle: EVS AB05 Ankle Protector
Boots: Alpinestars Stella Tech 6