2019 Suzuki DR-Z50 Review | Just In Time For Christmas
We are always happy to see new motorcycles for young riders, as the best way to get someone into motorcycle riding is to get them on two wheels at a young age.The all-new 2019 Suzuki DR-Z50 is designed for riders seven years or older and no heavier than 88 pounds, though parents should make the final determination regarding the suitability of a motorcycle for their child.
We recruited Associate Editor Jess McKinley’s seven-year-old daughter Tindra—an experienced rider—to test the 2019 Suzuki DR-Z50, with mom and dad keeping a close eye on her and the youth motorcycle. Here’s what we found out.1. Kids love electric start, just like adults. A key feature on the 2019 Suzuki DR-Z50 is electric start, as kickstarting can be daunting to new or small riders. Pushing a button to get things going means more energy devoted toward riding and less toward kicking.2. The choke knob is mounted on the center of the handlebar. It is usually needed in the morning, and patience will have to be practiced at the start of colder days. As is typical, the air-cooled motor’s 13mm Mikuni carburetor is jetted fairly leanly and needs time to get up to full operating temperature. We anxiously await the appearance of EFI on 50cc off-roaders—we already see them on scooters.3. The automatic centrifugal clutch is a great way to introduce a youngster to a transmission. The 2019 Suzuki DR-Z50 has a three-speed transmission, with the ratios perfect for a young rider. Shifting is easy—just nudge the shift lever and access the next gear. The motor won’t stall, and small hands won’t get tired working a clutch lever.4. With a seat height 22 inches, riders who are old enough to start riding won’t have a hard time handling the motorcycle. The last thing a parent should buy for a child is a motorcycle that is too big, with the expectation of “growing into it.” The motorcycle should either be perfectly sized, or a bit too small. Too large should not be an option. Young and new riders need to dominate the motorcycle—not the other way around—and the low-to-the-ground 2019 Suzuki DR-Z50 makes this possible.5. With a wet weight of 119 pounds and ground clearance of just 5.3 inches, most kids large enough to ride the 2019 Suzuki DR-Z50 will also be capable of picking it up. Tip-overs are inevitable, so it is important that a child be able to right the motorcycle without adult assistance—at least on level terrain. The DR-Z50 meets this standard in our testing, though a parent should have a child try to put the off-road motorcycle on two wheels after laying it down on the showroom floor as a test.6. Power is smooth and predictable. As you would expect for a motorcycle for a true beginner, the DR-Z50 is completely docile. Yes, if the child learns to hold the throttle wide open, the little dirt bike will get going at a good pace—especially in third gear. However, it also caters to timid riders with a smooth engagement of the automatic clutch and an unintimidating building of engine speed.7. The 2019 Suzuki DR-Z50’s suspension is perfectly adequate for the motor and intended rider. The suspension is not adjustable, and it doesn’t need to be. Travel is around four inches at both ends, and that gets the job done. Tindra didn’t complain about the suspension at all, and we kept a close eye on her; she wasn’t getting bounced around excessively. We are fully satisfied with the suspension.8. Evaluating handling on a motorcycle such as this is tricky. Very few young riders are going to pick up on handling subtleties, or be able to relay them to adults if they can. Again, we watched the DR-Z50 in action, and all was well. It was stable at speed, and didn’t appear to have over- or under-steering in corners. The DR-Z50’s chassis does precisely what it needs to do—provide fun for a young motorcyclist.9. Avoid rocks, as there is no skidplate. While the cases are probably fairly durable, you still don’t want your young rider to knock a hole in them.10. The hand and foot controls were friendly to our test rider. Tindra used the throttle, front brake lever, rear brake pedal, and gear shifter without any issues. As an experienced rider, she is familiar with the operation of the controls going in, and she had no problem controlling the functions of the DR-Z50. Every control is intuitive and did what she expected them to do.11. Safety features include plenty of heat shielding for the exhaust system, plus a throttle limiter. There is also a keyed ignition, so adults control when the 2019 Suzuki DR-Z50 is ridden.12. Maintenance is simple—anyone can do it. Grab a Phillips head screwdriver to remove the four fasteners to get to the air filter. The drain plug and filler hole are easily accessed for oil changes. It takes one wrench to adjust the chain. Putting gas in requires unscrewing the cap by hand. That’s about it. We expect the 49cc OHC motor to last through any number of kids.13. Newer tighter emissions regulations mean the 2019 Suzuki DR-Z50 is a Red Sticker motorcycle. There are a lot of things to love about California—the government’s science-challenged rules regarding OHVs and emissions are not one of them. Kids should be able to ride the DR-Z50 in California OHV areas without unnecessary restrictions. If you don’t live in California, this won’t matter to you—at least for the time being.14. Kids love the way the DR-Z50 looks. It’s a reasonable facsimile of the RM-Z450, and it comes in just one eye-catching color—Championship Yellow No. 2.15. The 2019 Suzuki DR-Z50 is a fantastic way to introduce a new rider to motorcycle riding. Everything about the DR-Z50 caters to a new young rider, and any child getting this motorcycle for Christmas, a birthday, Flag Day, or whatever, will be thrilled—and the parents will love it, too.Photography by Don WilliamsRiding Style
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!