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It took me ages to figure this bike out, having ridden substantially more powerful and heavy bikes for the last 10+ years which needed setting up for a corner, persuasion to turn in and even more persuasion to change anything mid-corner. But the wide bars and featherweight of the DR-Z give a completely contrasting experience, which I’ve now really taken to.
All of this also makes defensive riding so much easier. It doesn’t physically hurt to do a shoulder check, you can see a lot in your mirrors and can look into them without discomfort. Moving the bike from left to right on the road to get a view or be in position for an overtake is just a small flick and the single cylinder gives a mountain of engine braking which can be used to control speed effortlessly, meaning your less inclined to arrive at a corner hard on the front brake wondering if you dare turn in. There’s also the useful ‘feature’ of being able to stand up in the saddle for a view, although as a DR-Z novice I initially managed to catch the side-stand and cut the engine momentarily - numpty!
The bike came with a host of problems including a worn big-end bearing, worn oil scraper piston ring and carb jetting problem only apparent over 50 mph. This came courtesy of an unscrupulous main dealer who went bust shortly after I bought the bike who were obviously shifting whatever they could just to generate sales. It’s my shame for not picking up on these problems and my wallet took a battering for an engine re-build.
Since then I’ve fitted a Scottoiler to take care of the chain and a 12v SatNav feed for up-front for the longer journeys. I also thought the front brake was weak so had the fluid replaced and a braided hose fitted, which means I can brake safely with two fingers now and not over-use the rear brake which is prone to locking up due to the combination of light weight and single cylinder compression.
Fuel consumption is excellent but the tank is tiny and the reserve switch is fiddly if you’ve got winter gloves on – a warning light would be more useful. UK Road tax is a very reasonable £37 per year and my insurance is peanuts now. Overall running costs should even out but the big hit on the engine re-build will take some time to dilute. From a rubber perspective, tyres seem pretty important to me on this bike and are also expensive. I’ve had countless new tyres on my previous bikes over the years and never had problems bedding them in but I managed to drop the DR-Z a few minutes after I’d had the rear replaced, which was annoying and I put down to a combination of it being a cold winters day, me being stupid and the DR-Z being so light and torquey from the go-get. I read somewhere that the DR-Z will go down as quick as it will go in (so to speak!) and I’ve taken that message fully on-board, being careful to ensure the tyres are warm before pushing anything.
It has to be said that I’m absorbed in the single cylinder hit on every ride and now look for B-road routes wherever possible to take advantage of the agility of the DR-Z. Overtakes need to be sensibly planned and you have to appreciate that ‘other’ road users will not show you much if any respect, partly because of the aggressive profile and sound of the bike and partly (paradoxically) because of the narrow section (‘learner look’) of the bike from ahead/behind. This took me by surprise on a couple of occasions when hostile motorists undertook bullying tactics and I’ve had to build this into the overall defensive approach under ‘road presence’.
I’ve no plans to return to big cc any time soon – the costs, weight and risks are too great for me at the moment. I can live with the relative lack of power but appreciate that for some people this might be a limiting factor. As an ‘only’ bike for me, I’m really happy – as a ‘second’ bike for others, my only question would be ‘Why not?’.