Suzuki DR-Z70 | Motorcycle Review

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Fun for Kids

Environmentalists love to use backdoor methods to ban motorcycles from public lands. If it’s not so-called endangered species, it’s some other canard. The most recent attempt has been to regulate the meager amount of emissions from off-road bikes. The result has been a move from two-strokes to more easily de-smoked four-strokes.

Kids bikes were the last to feel the pinch of the tailpipe-sniffers, and the Suzuki DR-Z70 mini-thumper is the replacement for the long-running JR50 two-stoke. The venerable JR was a design that dated back to the 1970s, so an update was long overdue, regardless.

Besides the substitution of a 70cc four-stroke for the old 50cc two-stroke, a big change is the implementation of an electric starter on the DR-Z70. Now, while you might think an e-button is unnecessary for a 70, rest assured that any child will inform you otherwise. Kids love pushing a button to get things moving, just as adults do. In case the battery dies, a kickstarter remains as a backup.

The other big change for the DR-Z70 is that it is a much larger bike than the JR50. Seat height is raised 3 inches to 22 inches. Ground clearance is up nearly an inch and the wheelbase is nearly three-inches longer. Dry weight is up considerably—a 38% increase to 116 lbs. The price is also up, with the $1499 DR-Z70 running $400 more than the final issue of the JR50. All things considered, however, you are getting a lot more motorcycle for the money.

Certainly, the tractable DR-Z70’s motor is up to the task of hauling young, beginning riders around. It’s perfectly matched to a three-speed, manual-shift/auto-clutch transmission, and if a child is willing to twist the throttle, he’ll be surprised at where the Z70 will take him. The IRC tires on 10-inch hoops do a good job of putting power to the ground and providing good turning manners.

Handling is more than sufficient. The bike is stable at its top speed and goes where it’s pointed. Remember, however, this is a bike for trail riders and beginning riders, not competitive motocrossers.
Suspension is minimal, as you’d expect, though the Z70 has a single rear shock, compared to the dual shocks on the JR50. It does its job, and few new riders will think to complain. Small jumps are not out of the question, and the type of minor bumps a bike like this is likely to face are absorbed capably.

A key allows an adult to control the starting of the Z70, while a triple-clamp-mounted choke makes it easy to fire-up the cold-blooded little mill. Be sure to budget in about 5 minutes of warm-up time. We always used that time to suit up test rider Shaun Merritt in his A.R.C. riding apparel.

It’s a new model, but we expect reliability of the DR-Z70 to be outstanding. The JR50 it replaced was as reliable as a Snap-On flathead screwdriver, and the Z70 looks to be of a similar build quality. Everything is overbuilt and sturdy doesn’t begin to describe this bike. All it needs is a clean air filter, the oil changed occasionally and the tire pressure checked now and then.

So, the environmentalists tried another sleight of hand to ban off-road motorcycles, and it backfired. We might have been stuck with the JR50 for another 30 years, but they forced Suzuki’s hand back to the drawing board and the DR-Z70 is likely to inspire yet another generation of youngsters who enjoy experiencing the great outdoors from the seat of a motorcycle. Testing by Shaun Merritt and Bill Merritt

Helmet, goggles, jersey, gloves, pants and boots: A.R.C. Corona