The 2020 Suzuki DR-Z125L is something of an anomaly in the modern world of trail bikes. It’s a Luddite’s dream, lacking modern electricity-driven features such as fuel injection and electric starting. That means you get an air-cooled, two-valve, four-stroke with a carburetor and kickstarting, and no battery.We can tell you right away that we prefer EFI and e-start on motorcycles in this genre. Both make the motorcycles easier to use and more reliable performers, which are essential attributes for new and developing riders. However, some people believe those two features are just two things that can go wrong. They prefer to work on a carb if there’s a fueling problem, rather than diving into a fuel-injection system. Instead of relying on a battery to start the engine, they favor giving a kickstarter a jab to get things fired up. Fair enough.
Starting up the 2020 Suzuki DR-Z125L is a process lost on many newer riders. You begin by turning the petcock to the On position. The long choke lever on the left side of the 20mm Mikuni carburetor gets pushed down to trigger the choke. Younger and less robust riders—the typical DR-Z125L buyers—will want to learn how to position the piston at TDC (top dead center) so they get the most out of each attempt. Keep your hand off the throttle and kick it.If it’s your lucky day, the 124cc motor will spring to life on the first kick. It will often take a few tries, but it can happen on the first attempt. If it doesn’t start after several good kicks, opening the throttle might be the solution. Eventually, you’ll learn the right drill for you and your typical conditions. Once the motor starts up, leave the choke on, and let the mill warm up completely. If you don’t, the engine will die, and it’s back to kicking. Even on warmer days, it takes some time to get the powerplant up to operating temperature. Be patient, because trying to speed up the process only makes it take longer before you can ride. While you’re waiting, ponder that you walk up to an EFI/e-start bike, push a button, and it’s ready to ride almost instantly.You’ll know that the DR-Z125L is ready to go when the idle starts to rise. At that point, you can raise the chock lever to the upper run position. It might take a couple of throttle blips to clean the Mikuni out, but at that point, it’s ready to ride.The 32-inch unladen seat height isn’t intimidating for me with my 30.5-inch inseam. As there is sag when sitting on the DR-Z125L, I am fully flatfooted. The pegs and grips are correct in relation to the seat, and everything falls to place naturally. At 5’ 6”, I’m at the top of the size chart for the Suzuki, so my legs feel a little bit cramped. If you’re any taller, look into a trailbike in the 250 class.Once underway, the 2020 Suzuki DR-Z125L acquits itself nicely. The 16-/19-inch wheel combination allows for riding on technical terrain. The IRC Motocross iX05H tires are more than adequate for handling the torquey power of the DR-Z125L, though there are plenty of upgrade options if you feel that premium rubber will make a difference.The suspension has only shock spring-preload adjustment, so what you see is what you get. Fortunately, Suzuki has correctly set up the damping at both ends. With around seven inches of travel front and rear, the DR-Z125L can soak up bumps pretty well. The suspension is soft—a perfect match for the friendly motor—though not wallowy. While the action isn’t sophisticated, it is certainly adequate for trail riding duty.With an air-cooled SOHC two-valve motor, you aren’t looking at lots of horsepower, especially because Suzuki has rightfully tuned the somewhat oversquare powerplant for torque production. That means technical single-track is where the 2020 Suzuki DR-Z125L is at its best.The agility of a sub-200-pound motorcycle and a relatively low center of gravity combine for a fun time on tight trails. The suspension does what it needs to do, and the 11.4 inches of ground clearance means you can handle rock- or log-strewn trails with confidence even with the 16-/19-inch wheel setup. A full-coverage plastic skidplate protects the engine cases nicely.Newer riders can wring out the motor without intimidation, which helps hillclimbs and trails where you can make some time. However, in the trickiest going, the engagements of the clutch and disc front brake are relatively abrupt. It doesn’t ruin the ride, but a softer feel would be welcome to prevent breaking traction.Easy maintenance on a trail bike is essential, and the DR-Z125L is pretty good. Getting to the air filter requires two tools, and the removal of a seat mounting bolt—a bit of a pain. Draining and filling the oil is straightforward, as is replacing the oil filter. A window makes short work of checking the oil level. To adjust the chain, loosen the axle nut and turn the adjustment nut in the direction needed—easy enough.The 2020 Suzuki DR-Z125L is a capable trail motorcycle, and an appealing one for those who disdain modern conveniences. Yamaha offers the TT-R125LE with e-start for $50 more than the DR-Z125L and, for $150 more than the Suzuki, Honda delivers its CRF125F Big Wheel with e-start and EFI. For Californians, only the Honda is Green Sticker compliant, though the rest of the country has better things to worry about. However, if the 2020 Suzuki DR-Z125L’s unique set of features appeals to you, it’s the only game in town.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!