2019 Suzuki DR650S Review:
Lowered, and Dirt and Street Tested
I love me a single. There’s nothing quite like the satisfying, secure pull of all that torque, especially on a mid-size engine, so it’s no surprise I was immediately at home and happy on the 2019 Suzuki DR650S dual sport motorcycle. Yes, I am predisposed to the genre, having started my two-wheel street life on a dual sport bike, so I’ll make that disclaimer upfront.
There is nothing sexy or particularly modern about the DR650S. The basic model has been around for nearly 30 years, with precious few upgrades. The turn signals, headlight, mirrors, plastic, and dash look rather last century. But who cares? What’s important is how well the DR650S does its dual jobs—handling commuter and around town duties during the week, and hitting the dirt on weekends for a bit of play. The DR650S a great package, as it is reliable, low-maintenance, and will take you just about anywhere with a smile on your face.
The SOHC air-cooled motor with an oil-cooler uses a 40mm Mikuni carburetor, so you will need to use the choke when starting on all but hot summer days. Once warmed up, the 644cc thumper is ready for duty. Yes, you will have to keep tabs on how many miles you’ve ridden since you last put gas in the 3.4-gallon tank, as there is no fuel gauge. Just reset the tripmeter and make sure you can reach the petcock without looking in case you need to flip to reserve while on the freeway. (Yeah, that might have happened to me once.)
The 2019 Suzuki DR650S is tall, as one would expect from a true dual sport machine. The standard 34.8-inch seat height is too big of an ask for me, especially in the dirt. However, Suzuki designed the DR650S to be easily lowered, and gifting back 1.6 inches, I can touch more than toes down at a stop.
To drop the chassis, spacers are removed from the fork legs and shock, and the upper shock mounting point on the frame gets moved. Suspension travel is lowered to 8.7 inches at both ends, compared to 10.2 inches in the standard configuration. Ground clearance is also reduced from 10.4 inches to 8.9 inches. When doing this, the Suzuki Low Side Stand ($60) must be installed, and we added a Suzuki Accessory skid plate ($160), as reduced ground clearance means the cases are more susceptible to impacts.
At 366 pounds, the DR is reasonably light as street-legal 650s go, and it’s not an issue for me and my 30.5-inch inseam. Suzuki also offers a Low Gel Seat ($200), but it has the effect of raising the relative height of the handlebars and footpegs, thus changing the original well-conceived ergonomic rider triangle. Also important is that the lowering process is factory-approved, so it doesn’t produce undesirable handling or suspension behaviors.
It’s difficult to over-emphasis how different the DR650S feels with the lowered chassis. Years ago, I tipped over a DR650 on an uneven street when I was unable to touch down to the tarmac at a stop. In this lowered configuration, the DR650S actually feels more like the novice-friendly DR200S than a big thumper.
Dual sport bikes make great commuters, and the DR650S is no exception. The upright ergonomics and taller saddle, even with the lowering kit, give me excellent visibility when I’m mingling with four-wheeled traffic, and the long-travel suspension takes care of the poor road conditions both on the surface streets and freeways. The DR650S is also narrow, making it easier to navigate traffic and confidently maneuver at slow speeds, even without being flat-footed.
At freeway speeds, the upright seating, wide handlebars, and lack of windscreen make themselves known, but only when the needle on the analog speedometer is dancing in the mid-70s. I don’t find the windblast to be a big problem, though my commute is under 20 miles each way. Reassuringly, the motorcycle is totally stable at these speeds. The counterbalancer does a good job of managing the single cylinder’s vibration, with little buzz translated through the pegs, bars, or seat. The sensible square mirrors—as vintage as the speedo—reflect a sharp image at almost all rpm.
The Bridgestone Trail Wing tire combo handles the diamond-grooved freeway surface surprisingly well with their semi-knobbed tread pattern. So, even though the DR is too narrow in the tank area for me to get a good grip around with my knees, I feel totally secure on the motorcycle. It does not wander or feel vague at speed.
Adding to freeway speed confidence is the well-matched 290mm single disc in the front. With less rubber touching the road courtesy of the blocky dual sport tread, one rotor gets the job done. There’s the expected front-end dive when you get hard on the brake, but I wouldn’t give up the plush ride.
One of the most enjoyable things about the DR650S is its torquey engine. It pulls from idle all the way up through the top gear, and I don’t find myself needing to downshift to overtake on the freeway. Even though it’s a five-speed, I never found myself hunting for a sixth gear. The powerband and wide-ratio transmission are perfectly dialed, making the DR an easygoing ride just about everywhere. There is so much satisfaction from a bike that needs no minding, yet can accelerate smartly.
On the weekend, the DR650S does a fine job on moderate dirt roads and trails. I expected I might find it a bit of a handful as it’s not the lightest dual sporter available, and it’s a 650. I usually stick to smaller engines when I tackle the dirt. At 115 pounds, I don’t need the extra power, nor the seat height that comes with a full ten inches of suspension travel. Thus, I was particularly happy to be testing the lowered version of the DR, as the confidence that comes from being able to touch down when things are shifting under your tires is huge.
Losing 1.5 inches of travel due to the lowering is immaterial relative to the suspension’s capabilities, and brings the center of gravity that much lower. The DR’s 21-inch front wheel tracks over rocks and ruts reliably, with the aired-down Trail Wing rubber doing a better-than-expected job on slippery hard-pack, and when picking through loose, rock-scattered conditions. I wasn’t riding technical single-track, but I wasn’t sticking to fire roads, either.
The DR’s willing and agreeable manners are especially appealing off-road. The low-end grunt and smooth power delivery allow me to pick my way through tricky sections, then roll on the throttle and shift up for a hill climb. Feel at the front brake lever is appropriate for off-road conditions with a soft initial engagement. Similarly, the rear pedal doesn’t overreact to input.
When transferring between off-road sections, the Suzuki DR650S makes for a very fun canyon motorcycle. The dual-sport rubber works for this application, and the motor makes everything easy. Even with the soft suspension, the DR650S holds its lines through corners well. Once you get used to it, you can make pretty good time on the DR due to its relatively light weight and abundant torque.
As expected on a dual sporter, the DR has hand guards, dirt-bike style handgrips, and a firm narrow seat—though nothing like the high-performance Euro dual sport motorcycles. The handguards are more for wind protection than taking on errant branches on trails.
The 2019 Suzuki DR650S continues to be a solid dual-sport workhorse that enjoys a solid fan base. No bells and whistles needed, as this well-developed all-around bike delivers an uncomplicated reliable ride at an impressively approachable price.
Photography by Don Williams
Helmet: Fly Racing F2 Carbon MIPS
Goggles: EKS Brand GOX Flat Out
Jersey, gloves + pants: Fly Racing Women’s Lite Racewear
Body armor: Alpinestars Stella Bionic Jacket 2
Hydration: Fly Racing XC Hydro Pack
Knee brace: Pod K4
Boots: Alpinestars Tech 7 Enduro
2019 Suzuki DR650S Specs
Type: Single cylinder
Bore x stroke: 100 x 82mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Valvetrain: SOHC, 4 valves
Cooling: Air w/ oil cooler
Fueling: 40mm Mikuni BST carburetor
Lubrication: Wet sump
Transmission: 5-speed constant mesh
Final drive: DID 525 O-chain
Front suspension; travel: Height-adjustable fork; 10.2 inches (8.7 inches as tested lowered)
Rear: Height-adjustable, linkage-assisted, spring-preload and rebound-adjustable, piggyback-reservoir shock; 10.2 inches (8.7 inches as tested lowered)
Wheels: Wire-spoke w/ aluminum rims
Tires: Tube type
Front tire: 90/90 x 21; Bridgestone Trail Wing 41
Rear tire: 120/90 x 17; Bridgestone Trail Wing 42
Front brake: 290mm floating disc w/ 4-piston caliper
Rear brake: 240mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
Wheelbase: 58.7 inches
Seat height: 34.8 inches (33.2 inches as tested lowered)
Ground clearance: 10.4 inches (8.9 inches as tested lowered)
Fuel capacity: 3.4 gallons
Curb weight: 366 pounds
Color: Solid Black
2019 Suzuki DR650S Price: $6599 MSRP ($6819 as tested)