Christmas is on the horizon, and there’s no better gift for a youngster than a dirt bike. It is observationally proven that kids who ride dirt bikes develop superior risk management skills, relate better to adults, are more polite, earn self-esteem, and are healthier—physically and mentally. We have had many young riders involved in our minibike tests for over a decade, and every single one of them fits the description we have provided. Our latest foray into the world of minis is the 2022 Suzuki DR-Z50, with seven-year-old test rider Avery Bart in the hot seat.
We put Avery on the 2022 Suzuki DR-Z50 to see how she liked it for roosting through the deserts of California. At the same time, her mechanic/dad gives us his rundown of the DR-Z50 four-stroke trail bike from a motorcycle-riding parent’s perspective.
It took Avery no time to adjust to the DR-Z50, and there’s a feature on the Suzuki that isn’t on her personal Honda CRF50F—electric start. Kickstarting is a skill she hasn’t mastered, especially when the Honda motor is cold. In the case of the DR-Z50, all she has to do is push the magic e-start button, and the slightly undersquare four-stroke Suzuki motor fires right up.
In the morning, she makes sure the transmission is in neutral, checks the petcock position, and pulls on the handlebar-mounted choke knob before hitting the button and get the little thumper purring. In all instances, electric start beats kickstarting for kids, and the gulf between the two is widest when conditions aren’t ideal. If for some reason the battery is dead, or a rider feels the desire to enjoy the visceral feeling that comes with kickstarting a motor, that feature is there as a backup.
As you’ve guessed from our starting description, the 2022 Suzuki DR-Z50 has a carburetor—a 13mm Mikuni mixer. We have to admit to being disappointed by this. Now that we’re well into the 21st century, we’d like to see EFI on family-friendly trailbikes for a few reasons.
The carburetor can be finicky. In the manual, Suzuki claims the Mikuni “is factory-set for the best performance. Do not attempt to alter its setting.” While that may be the case at the factory, it isn’t necessarily the case in all riding conditions. Unfortunately, our test bike had a flat spot off idle at an altitude of 2500 feet that the throttle stop screw could not eliminate.
There is a throttle stop screw to adjust the idle speed, but that’s it. Where there should be an air-screw adjuster, there’s a flat plug. The 2022 DR-Z50 is Green Sticker legal in tailpipe-sniffing California, which may explain the plug. Happily, it doesn’t ruin the ride, and the adults notice it more than Avery—gotta love the adaptability of kids.
Given that we’re now well into the 21st century, we think all mini dirt bikes should have EFI. It eliminates sometimes-tricky tuning for conditions, and parents don’t have to worry about plugged jets if the motor sits too long between rides.
The MSRP of the Suzuki DR-Z50 has escalated from $1799 last year to $2209 in 2022. That’s a 23 percent increase in one year with no changes to the bike—not even a Suzuki cover for the handlebar crossbar foam padding. We still think $2209 is a great value, but this would have been a perfect time for Suzuki to upgrade to EFI.
There are few motorcycles more rugged than a 50-class mini. Kids hammer on them, yet the bike is expected to last through multiple generations of up-and-coming riders. The DR-Z50 is no exception, and it takes the pounding that a kid dishes out in stride. There are various parts that can get bent—handlebar, levers, pedals, and shifter—and they’re all easily replaced. The handlebar will take the most work, as the clamp to the upper triple-clamp is built-in, and you have to swap over the choke setup. Keep in mind that the DR-Z50 doesn’t have a skid plate, so if your riding area is rock-infested, consider getting an aftermarket unit to protect the cases.
Maintenance is simple. Change the oil every now and then—the filler and drain plug are easily accessible. A dipstick is used to check the oil level—don’t expect the little two-valve mill to use much. The air filter is easily accessible, though you’ll need a Phillips head screwdriver to remove four screws. The chain adjustment is straightforward, and won’t be necessary very often. Take care of these three jobs, and the 2022 Suzuki DR-Z50 will likely be still teaching values to young riders in 2055.
Avery adapted instantly to the DR-Z50. She took it out on a desert test loop, and it didn’t take long for her to test her limits with a loose, rocky hillclimb. After one failed attempt, she was roosting her way to the top without a hitch. On flat ground, high-speed runs soon become the norm.
The three-speed transmission, with neutral at the bottom, is flawless and seemingly indestructible. An automatic centrifugal clutch is essential for riders of Avery’s age and experience, and the DR-Z50 has it—just nudge the lever in either direction, and the gearchange is accomplished. Getting going is a matter of putting the transmission in first gear and twisting the throttle. The clutch automatically disengages the transmission when coming to a stop, allowing the DR-Z50 to settle into a trouble-free idle. Learning to operate a clutch will come later.
The drum brakes, IRC tires, and non-adjustable suspension are certainly adequate. Sure, higher quality suspension is always welcome, though the inverted fork and cantilevered single shock are fine for this usage. Kids don’t use the brakes much at this age and tend to rely on engine compression braking. As such, the drum brakes get the job done—discs can wait.
We were perfectly satisfied with the performance of the IRC Motocross iX07S tires on ten-inch wire-spoked rims, and not much is asked of them. The DR-Z50 turned fine with Avery at the controls, and always seemed to find traction.
You’ll also notice that Avery is decked out in the latest from O’Neal. Any adult supervising a child on a dirt bike must outfit the youngster in proper protective gear, and that’s exactly what we did.
The O’Neal Youth 2 SRS Attack helmet met Avery’s standard for cool, and it’s a full-face design that meets DOT and ECE standards. Never let anyone, regardless of age, ride with a helmet that doesn’t fit properly. Children need their heads protected, and an ill-fitting helmet does not get it done. Do not let a child “grow into” a helmet. Spend the $130 and get the right helmet size. Eye protection is non-negotiable, so we had her slip on a pair of Blur B-Flex Youth goggles ($22).
Avery tested the durability of the O’Neal Youth Element Ride pants and jersey. No, we didn’t ask her to crash a few times, but she did it anyway—she’s a trooper! The apparel came through unscathed and ready for the washing machine. The O’Neal Element Youth gloves are thin, allowing easy manipulation of hand controls while reducing abrasion injuries in a fall and the risk of blisters after a long day of riding. The total for the pants, jersey, and gloves is $130.
It might be easy to overlook boots when outfitting a young rider—resist that temptation. A rider’s feet take a constant pounding off-road, and good boots are indispensable. Avery wears a K13, and that limits the off-road boot options. Fortunately, O’Neal Youth Rider boots go all the way down to K10, as well as up to Y6. The Youth Rider boots have all the features needed to protect the rider’s feet, heels, ankles, calves, and shins. The buckles are easy to manipulate and latch securely. Metal shanks, steel toes, and various plastic guards all do their jobs, as well as the cleated Goodyear sole. The boot price of $130 seems to be a theme at O’Neal.
O’Neal Pee Wee chest, elbow, and knee guards add impact protection in falls, though none of them have the CE certification we demand for adult armor. Regardless, the foam-and-plastic designs are sound and an improvement over no protection. All three of these items total $71—well worth it.
Safety features on the DR-Z50 include keyed ignition, complete protection from the hot exhaust, a kill switch, crossbar pad, chain guard, serrated footpegs, and a kid-friendly narrow-diameter handlebar. Additionally, parents can set a throttle stop to limit the acceleration and top speed of the DR-Z for new riders.
We love doing mini dirt bike tests. The kids are always great, and watching them have fun is priceless—and they aren’t even our kids! The 2022 Suzuki DR-Z50 has our stamp of approval as a Christmas (or birthday, or kindergarten graduation) gift, and Avery concurs. At $2209, aunts, uncles, and grandparents can afford to cut loose for this life-changing gift, or they can buy the gear while the parents are wrapping up the bike.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: O’Neal Youth 2 SRS Attack
- Goggles: Blur B-Flex Youth
- Jersey + pants: O’Neal Youth Element Ride
- Gloves: O’Neal Youth Element
- Knee guards: O’Neal Pee Wee
- Boots: O’Neal Youth Rider
2022 Suzuki DR-Z50 Specs
- Type: Single-cylinder 4-stroke
- Displacement: 49cc
- Bore x stroke: 39.0 x 41.8mm
- Compression ratio: 9.7:1
- Valvetrain: SOHC, 2-valve
- Fueling: Mikuni VM13 carburetor
- Exhaust: USFS-approved spark arrestor
- Cooling: Air
- Starting: Electric w/ kick backup
- Transmission: 3-speed
- Clutch: Automatic wet multiplate
- Final drive: DID 428 chain
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable inverted fork; 3.8 inches
- Rear suspension: Linkage-less non-adjustable shock; 3.0 inches
- Tires: IRC Motocross iX07S
- Front tire: 2.50 x 10
- Rear tire: 2.50 x 10
- Front brake: Drum
- Rear brake: Drum
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 36.8 inches
- Rake: 24.3 degrees
- Trail: 1.4 inches
- Seat height: 22.0 inches
- Ground clearance: 5.3 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.2 quarts
- Curb weight: 119 pounds
- Rider weight limit: 88 pounds
- Color: Championship Yellow No. 2
2022 Suzuki DR-Z50 Price: $2209 MSRP
2022 Suzuki DR-Z50 Review Photo Gallery