2010 Suzuki DR650SE Long Term Review

Review Last Updated: Nov 11, 2022
Vehicle Type: Dual Sport
Evaluation Period: 11 years, 25,272 km

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Pros

simplicity, reliability, value, easy to service, great 50/50 dual sport, good for exploring, adjustable seat (suspension) height, lots of low-end torque

Cons

heavy for more challenging trails (but much lighter than a KLR650 or a Yamaha Tenere 700); the stock suspension can be limiting for more aggressive trail use

Overview

I purchased my 2010 DR650SE new in 2011. I’ve owned a 1992 DR350S (dual sport, air cooled, kick start only) and a 2009 KLX250S (dual sport, liquid cooled, electric start), a number of street bikes (V-Strom 650, VFR750, NT650, …) and a few dirt bikes (CRF250F, XR200R, …). I’ve ridden many other motorcycles as well.

About half of the distance that I’ve ridden with this bike has been on pavement (city streets, backroads, highways) with the rest being a mix of gravel roads, forest service roads, easy trails and a bit of rougher trails. It’s no enduro or touring bike, but it handles most surfaces and conditions I’ve put it through reasonably well. The bike has more than enough power for easy highway cruising. Passing slower traffic isn't a problem. The bike rides well on the highway, and is quite stable at higher speeds. I've noticed no wallowing in the corners even when hitting a bump or dip in the road. When accelerating you can definitely feel the engine pulses, but I’ve never found the engine vibration to be bothersome. There is a balancer shaft in the engine and it does a satisfactory job of quelling vibration. I’ve never experienced numbness or tingling sensations because of engine vibration as I did when I test rode a BMW 650 single years back or a 2017 Versys 650.

I’ve ridden my DR650 as much as 500 km in a day (14 hours including stops), and I was not in agony at the end of it, but I was tired. Although the seat on the DR650 is not what I would call comfortable, I find it fine as long as I stop every hour or so, which I do anyway, or if I stand on the pegs some of time on the trails and forest service roads. If you want to do extended highway riding, the bike is easily up to the task, but you might want to install a different seat and perhaps a small wind screen to make it more comfortable. You could probably make it just as comfortable as a KLR650.

My best fuel consumption was 29.4 km/litre (highway riding), and my worst was 19.7 km/l (trail riding), but on average I get about 25 km/l (70 mpg), and with a 13-litre tank, that works out to a maximum 325 km range.

The headlight is not very good. I’ve ridden in the dark on a twisty secondary highway, and I found it quite difficult to see well enough and had to reduce my speed quite a bit.

There is no shortage of power for riding gravel roads or trails. The bike is easy to ride on easy trails at a moderate pace, even with the stock tires (provided the traction is good). The suspension is a limiting factor on this bike for some riders or in some conditions or when riding at a quicker pace on the trails, but I’ve found the suspension adequate most of the time. The DR650 is certainly not as good on the trails as the KLX250S that I owned which was a lot lighter and had fully adjustable suspension, but the DR650 suspension is good enough for how I ride the bike. Some people have stated that the suspension is too soft, but I don’t find that that is the case for me, being a lighter rider, except maybe on some sections of trail. It would be nice to have fully adjustable suspension, but I can live without it and still enjoy the ride. The biggest limiting factors, I think, for riding more challenging trails are the weight of the bike and the stock tires. I’ve ridden a lowered DR650 on fairly rough double-track and a bit of single track with stock tires, and the bike did surprisingly well. The ride included some big puddles, mud and some moderately rocky hills.

Tires

The stock tires work well on the pavement, and they’re fine for gravel roads and easy trail riding. The stock tires do have limitations. The stock tires are poor in slippery trail conditions such as mud, wet grass, deep / loose gravel or sand. I had the same or similar tires on my DR350S many years ago. I replaced those tires with a set of Pirelli MT21s quite early on, but I was using the DR350S mostly on the trails. I replaced the original rear tire on my DR650 with a Heidenau K60 at 9460 km and the original front tire with a Continental TKC80 at 14400 km.

I got about 10,000 km out the rear K60 before replacing it with a TKC80. The centre tread was pretty worn at that point and was not hooking up very well when accelerating on uphill sections of gravel roads. I may have gotten another 1000 km of pavement use out of the K60. In case you don't know, the tread pattern on the K60 varies with the size of tire. The 120/90-17 rear K60 doesn't have the centre continuous band or rib like some of the larger sizes do, and that's at least one reason why it doesn't last as long as those larger sized tires.

On pavement I prefer the Heidenau K60 rear tire. While the TKC80 rear tire has never slipped out on me on pavement, it feels a little bit squirmy, more so at lower speeds than on the highway. I've ridden about 4500 km with the rear TKC80, and I have either gotten used to it or the situation has improved with wear; anyway, it's not really a concern. Off pavement the TKC80 rear works well, probably better than the K60. I expect to get about 6500 km or so out of the rear TKC80. A K60 rear and a TKC80 front combination works well on the DR650 for all around use including highway, gravel road, and trail use. When it comes time to replace the rear tire again, I'm not sure if I'll go with a K60, TKC80 or something else.

I've read that the Heidenau K60 front tire isn't much better off pavement than the OEM front. The tread pattern of the front K60 doesn't look very offroad aggressive. The front Continental TKC80 tread pattern looks more offroad focussed than the K60, and that, along with the mostly positive reviews, is why I chose it as a replacement. I've been pleased with the TKC80 in all conditions. With 5600 km on the front tire, it was beginning to show uneven wear - cupping. This is likely due to a fair amount of pavement riding and running lower tire pressures than on a street bike. I got just over 10,000 km out of the front TKC80. If it weren't for the uneven wear, I might have been able to get another 2000 km or more out of it. I've been very satisfied with this tire.

I was intending to mount another front TKC80. I even purchased one in advance, but that tire was recalled. I didn't know how long it would be before I could buy another TKC80, so I bought a Bridgestone Battlax AdventureCross AX41 instead, which I've now mounted and ridden about 800 km on. The AX41 seems good on pavement and fine on gravel/dirt/rocks. The AX41 looks similarily offroad biased as the TKC80 does, but the tread depth of the AX41 is a little less I think. I haven't had much chance to test it out in slick or wet conditions. The sidewalls of the front AX41 are a lot stiffer than that of the TKC80 and required more effort to mount.

I'm sure there are other good tire choices for this bike; your best choice will depend on your intended use, where you're willing to compromise and how much you're willing to spend.

Maintenance, issues

Service Data

I purchased the Suzuki service manual shortly after buying the bike as I do for most of my bikes. The break-in maintenance was due at 1000 km and was pretty straight forward. The only thing notable was the valve tappet clearance. The DR650 has screw type valve adjusters. The intake valves were in spec, but both exhaust valves were at the limit of their range, so I did adjust them. It is easier to use angled feeler gauges rather than standard flat gauges. It is little bit easier to adjust the valves using one of those shorty screwdriver type adjusting tools rather than the wrench style tool to hold the square ended adjuster when tightening the lock nut. I checked the valve clearances again at 12100 km; all were on the loose side, so I adjusted them. I checked each spark plug at the same time; they were fine - should be good for another 12,000 km. I checked the valve clearances again at 16,000 km while doing some other maintenance, and all were good. The valve clearances are supposed to be checked every 12,000 km. Oil changes are specified for every 6000 km (or 12 months) and the oil filter every 12,000 km (or 24 months). I typically change the oil and filter at the end of the riding season.

The bike has been mostly problem free, although I had a few minor warranty items: twisted front brake line which was blocking my view of the speedometer (replaced), a minor leak from the front brake master cylinder cap (replaced diaphragm), and a loose-fitting right-hand guard (improvised “fix”).

My starter motor started making a squawking noise, so I removed it and lubricated the plain bearing in the end cap. This was at 16,000 km. In May 2020 I disassembled the rear suspension linkage and removed the swingarm. When I took it apart (partially) I was happy to find that there was still quite a bit of grease in the bearings and they were clean (no evidence of dirt getting past the seals). There was some minor corrosion on one of the spacer rods in the linkage which I sanded off and then greased along with the others and the swingarm bolt and axle.

I've read that there has been an issue on some DR650s with the drive shaft oil seal popping out. The resulting loss of oil could cause a crash or mechanical failure if not detected soon enough. The 2014 and later DR650s come with an external retainer for the oil seal. I installed one on my bike as a precaution (it's easy to do). Another potential issue is that the bolts securing the neutral sending unit (NSU) can come loose. The fix is to use a thread locker on the bolts (or safety-wire them) which are located behind the clutch. You're likely going to need to consult a service manual for this, and you’re going to need a clutch removal tool (not expensive). An indication that this may be an issue on your bike is if the neutral indicator light begins to flicker. My neutral indicator light does not flicker, so I haven't tackled this job. I watched an owner review of a 2002 DR650SE with 91,000 miles on it. He bought the bike when it had less than 5000 miles on it. He's never had an issue with the NSU bolts coming loose.

In 2013, with about 9000 km on the bike, I pulled the original battery (still good) to put into another bike that I was selling. I then put a new battery (same as OEM) in the DR650. I replaced the battery again this spring (2022) with another of the same type. I was able to start up the bike with the old battery, but it was a little weak. I charge the battery every month during the off-season.

More recently I had an issue with the clutch safety switch. Occasionally when I pressed the starter button, nothing happened. Then when I squeezed and released the clutch lever a few times and wiggled the wire to the switch, the bike would start. I removed the clutch safety switch, cleaned the plunger and lightly lubed it as well as the contact point on the clutch lever. So far I haven't had any more problems with it. If the problem returns, I'll likely replace the switch.

Other than the points mentioned above, the bike has just required routine maintenance applicable to most other motorcycles. I'm still running the original chain and sprockets (keep reading), and the fork seals have never required attention. This is not a high maintenance bike.

Upcoming Maintenance

With a little over 25,000 km on the odometer, the front sprocket is showing wear, but the rear sprocket looks good as does the chain. The chain has required very infrequent adjustment. The general advice is to replace both sprockets and the chain all at the same time to avoid accelerated wear on the new parts (if not replacing all). It seems to me, though, that because the front sprocket is so much smaller than the rear sprocket, the front sprocket will naturally wear out sooner (assuming the same hardness of metal). I may just replace the front sprocket for next season, and monitor the situation. Also, the front brake pads have definitely worn; they're not down to the wear indicators yet, but I may need to replace them soon. I should probably regrease the steering head bearings and replace the fork oil. Tasks for next spring.

Accessories added

The bike is still completely stock except for the addition of a SW-Motech aluminum skid plate, SW-Motech centre stand, SW-Motech luggage rack, a magnetic oil drain plug and the tires. The skid plate is a light / medium duty one, but it’s adequate for the type of riding I do with the bike. I chose it because of the way it mounts (bolts on rather than using frame clamps) and for its cut-outs that allow air to pass through.

I bought the centre stand for easier maintenance and fixing a flat tire on the road (it's happened to me with this bike). The skid plate is pretty light, but the centre stand adds a few pounds to the bike, but as it mounts down low it's not noticeable. The bike is fairly easy to put up on the stand - while holding the stand down with my foot, I lift and pull the bike back using the left passenger foot peg bracket - it doesn't require much effort. With the centre stand mounted the foot pegs are moved outwards about 2 cm. With half worn OEM tires and the bike not lowered, the rear tire barely clears the ground when on the centre stand and on a smooth, level surface (turning the handle bar to the side will drop the front end a bit giving more clearance under the rear tire); if necessary, you can position the bike differently to gain more clearance under the rear tire. When the rear suspension is fully extended there is not a lot of clearance between the centre stand and the chain, so don't let your chain get too loose. When the suspension is compressed a bit there is plenty of clearance.

The SW-Motech luggage rack works with the existing grab handles and original turn signal location. The rear rack mounting bracket was contacting the muffler mount, so I ground away a bit of the rack bracket. There are a number of adapter plates for this rack for mounting various top boxes and larger items. The top plate is aluminum and the brackets are steel.

Comparing the DR650SE to other bikes

I was looking for a good all around (50/50) dual sport that was well suited for some extended (few hours at a time) highway riding as well as forest service roads and easy trails / double track. I considered a few different bikes including the DRZ400S, which ended up being my second choice, and I had a difficult time deciding between it and the DR650SE. In stock form the DRZ400S is pretty tall for me (935 mm / 36.8 in), the seat is too narrow for extended sit-down riding, and it feels top heavy compared to the KLX250S and Yamaha WR250R even though the weight isn’t that much greater than either one. The curb weight of the DRZ400S is 144 kg (317 lbs), 22 kg (49 lbs) less than the DR650SE, but the seat on the DR650SE is wider and about 2 inches lower. The DR650SE lists for about $900 less than the DRZ400S in Canada. The DRZ400S is the better dirt bike of the two, but it’s still heavy for a dirt bike, and it feels heavy too. If I had bought the DRZ400S I would have replaced the seat because it is just too uncomfortable for sit-down riding. I may have had to lower the suspension a bit (or just learned to cope with the seat height), make some reliability fixes (based on research), plus a few other things. One of the main criticisms of the DRZ400S that I kept hearing and reading about is the narrow ratio transmission: you can set it up well for trail riding or highway riding, but not both at the same time; it really needs a wider ratio transmission (or an added over-drive 6th gear), according to several sources. I had a short on-road test ride on a 2011 DRZ400S. I would have liked to try out a DRZ400S on the trails as well as some extended highway riding, but I didn’t have that option.

I also considered the Honda XR650L and the Kawasaki KLR650. The DR650SE slots in between these two bikes, both in terms of weight and off-road bias or capability. The XR650L was discontinued in Canada, but it is still available in the US as of 2022. The KLR650 was discontinued for 2019, but has returned for 2022 with major updates including fuel injection, available ABS and more weight. The DR650 feels more dirt bike like than a KLR650. The curb weight of the 2022 DR650SE is 166 kg (366 pounds) with a 13-litre tank; the curb weight of the 2012 KLR650 is 197 kg (the 2022 model is 207 kg) with a 22-litre tank; the curb weight of the 2012 XR650L is 159 kg with a 10.5 litre tank. The approximate weight (mass) of 1 liter of gas is .74 kg, and subtracting the fuel loads of the bikes we have for the DR650SE 156 kg, for the XR650L 149 kg, and for the 2012 KLR650 181 kg, 25 kg (55 lbs) more than the DR650. I’m not a particularly big guy, and the KLR was too heavy for my liking. It would have been fine for gravel roads and highway riding, but it was going to be too much weight for me on the trails. I had a test ride on a 2008 KLR650. The DR650 and KLR650 have similar seat heights (885 mm / 34.8 in and 890 mm / 35.0 in, respectively), but the XR650L is very tall at 940 mm (37.0 in). The DR650’s stock suspension can also be easily lowered bringing the seat height down to 845 mm (33.3 inches); if you lower the bike, you’ll need the shorter Suzuki side stand (or shorten the original one). The DR650 is certainly the better fit for a shorter rider. I liked the Honda, and it has the best suspension (fully adjustable) and is the lightest, of these three, but it is too tall for me, and it was relatively expensive new ($1650 more than the DR650SE in Canada). The 2022 base model KLR650 lists for $7499 in Canada (ABS is available for $300 more). The 2022 XR650L lists for $6999 + fees in the US. Another option is a KTM 690 which is about twice the price, has about twice the horse power and has high-end components.

Because of the fairing and more comfortable seat, a KLR650 is probably the better choice for extended highway riding provided the additional weight of the bike isn’t a problem for you. If your priority is off-road capability, then the DRZ400S or XR650L may be a better choice as both are lighter and better suspended than the DR650; those bikes are tall, though. I had a few long rides on an older DR650, so I had a good sense of that bike. After comparing all the bikes on my list the best I could, I decided that the DR650SE was a better choice for me for all-around use, so that's what I bought.

I was tempted by the Yamaha Tenere 700 when it was announced for summer 2020. The Tenere is in a different class than the DR650SE – the Tenere is an adventure bike and the DR650 is a dual sport. The DR650 is a lot lighter (by 38 kg) and a lot cheaper ($6899 MSRP in 2022, $7199 for 2023). A lot of the US motorcycle reviewers state that the Tenere is a great deal at only $10,000. Yeah, well here in Canada the 2022 Tenere 700 lists for $12,799 ($13,499 for 2023) plus dealer fees ($1490 at a large BC dealer) and taxes for a total price tag of about $16,000, which is a lot for this bike in my opinion (the 2022 MT-07, which uses the same motor, lists for $9,399 plus fees and taxes). Add to the Tenere 700 a centre stand, engine guards, luggage rack and maybe a more comfortable seat (apparently the stock seat is not that comfortable), and you’re looking at a pretty hefty final price tag (almost $18,000! in 2022). That's not such a bargain in my mind. The Tenere 700 is a nice bike, and it does have some advantages over a DR650SE, but a DR650SE has some advantages over the Tenere. Just like pickups (and so many other things these days), I think adventure bikes are too expensive in this country.

Last Words

The DR650SE is a fun bike to ride in a variety of conditions. Although not perfect, I think the DR650SE is a good all around or 50/50 dual sport bike, especially for the money. It’s fun to ride on a paved, twisty back road, and it’s a good bike for exploring gravel / logging roads and easier trails. I think the bike would make a good light weight adventure bike, and a lot of people use it for that. According to multiple sources, the bike can be made quite a bit better with some suspension work (can get moderately expensive) and some carb work (not expensive). If you want to do a bit of everything, but can only afford one bike, and maybe a more affordable one at that, I think it’s worth considering. Having said that, I would still like to a have a street or ADV bike for extended highway use and a dirt bike (have a CRF250F) and a lighter and more off-road oriented dual sport (like a KLX300 or CRF300L) for exploring the rougher trails in addition to the DR650SE, but that’s not an option for a lot of riders. An ADV specific bike is appealing for more comfort on the highway, but they're all so much heavier than the DR650 which would be a significant issue on anything rougher than a good gravel or dirt road. Overall, I’ve been pretty satisfied with my DR650SE.


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Service Data
Sources: Suzuki DR650SE Service Manual, 11th Ed., April 2009 and addendum for 2010 DR650SE from Suzuki Canada
2010 Suzuki DR650SE Service Data (pdf)

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