2010 Suzuki DR650SE Long Term ReviewReview Last Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Vehicle Type: Dual Sport
Evaluation Period: 10 years, 23,268 km
simplicity, reliability, value, easy maintenance, great 50/50 dual sport, exploring, adjustable seat (suspension) height, lots of low-end torque
heavy for off-road use (but much lighter than a KLR650 or typical adventure bike); the suspension can be limiting for aggressive trail use
I purchased my 2010 DR650SE new. 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 some older dirt bikes (XR200s, …). 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, back roads, 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 is relatively easy. 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 a few 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. Even after being on the bike all day, I can still sit down afterwards. 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.
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. I had the same or similar tires on my DR350S several 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. The stock tires are no good in slippery off-road / trail conditions such as mud, wet grass, deep / loose gravel or sand. I replaced the original rear tire with Heidenau K60 at 9460 km. I've read that the K60 front isn't much better off pavement that the OEM front, so I installed a Continental TKC80 on the front at 14400 km. I've been pleased with the TKC80 in all conditions. With 5600 km on the tire, it is showing uneven wear - cupping. This is likely due to a fair amount of pavement riding. At 20,450 km I replaced the rear tire with a TKC80 as well. On pavement I prefer the Heidenau K60 rear. While the TKC80 has never slipped out on me on pavement, it feels a little bit squirmy, more so at lower speeds than on the highway. Off pavement the TKC80 rear works well. I've ridden about 1300 km with the rear TKC80 and have gotten used to it; it's not really a concern.
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. It’s not as good on the trails as the KLX250S I had, but it’s good enough. Some forum posters 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.
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. The valve clearances were checked 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 essentially 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 serviced the rear suspension linkage. 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 (and was 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.
Other than the points mentioned above, the bike has just required routine maintenance applicable to most other motorcycles. This is not a high maintenance bike.
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 the Kawasaki KLR650 and the Suzuki DRZ400S. I’m not a particularly big rider. 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. The DRZ400S ended up being my second choice, and I had a difficult time deciding between it and the DR650. 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 DR650, but the seat on the DR650 is wider and about 2 inches lower. The DR650 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.
The DR650SE slots in between the Honda XR650L (discontinued in Canada, but still available in the US as of 2021) and the Kawasaki KLR650 (discontinued for 2019, but back for 2021 as a 2022 model), both in terms of weight and off-road bias or capability. The DR650 feels more dirt bike like than a KLR650. The curb weight of the 2012 DR650 is 166 kg (366) pounds with a 13-litre tank; the curb weight of the 2012 KLR650 is 197 kg (the 2022 model is even heavier at 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 DR650 156 kg, for the XR650L 149 kg, and for the KLR650 181 kg, 25 kg (55 lbs) more than the DR650. 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, but it is too tall for me, and it was expensive new ($1650 more than the DR650SE in Canada). Another option is a KTM 690 which is about twice the price and 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 short on-road test rides on a 2011 DRZ400S and a 2008 KLR650. 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 had a bit of time on an older DR650: I look it for a few rides including two-up on the highway for about 150 km and an afternoon of trail riding. Of the limited time I had on the bikes, I liked the DR650 better for all-around use. The simplicity of the DR650 (air / oil cooled motor, analog instruments) appealed to me (the XR and KLR are quite simple too). So, in the end I bought the DR650SE.
I was tempted by the Yamaha Tenere 700 when it was announced for last summer (2020). The Tenere is in a different class than the DR650 – 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 ($6699 MSRP in 2021). In Canada the Tenere 700 lists for $12,399 plus dealer fees (about $900 at my local dealer) and taxes, which is a lot for this bike in my opinion (the MT-07, which uses the same motor, lists for $8,799 plus fees and taxes). Add to the Tenere 700 a centre stand (it has tubed tires, $452 + tax), luggage rack and maybe a more comfortable seat (it’s an adventure touring bike after all, and apparently the stock seat is not that comfortable), and you’re looking at a pretty hefty final price tag (over $16,000!). The Tenere 700 does have a number of advantages over a DR650SE, but a DR650SE has some advantages over the Tenere.
The DR650 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. It’s a good bike for exploring gravel / logging roads and easier trails; it’s good for riding around town. I think the bike would make a good light weight adventure touring bike. If you want to do a bit of everything, but can only afford one bike, I think it’s worth considering. Having said that, I would still like to a have a pure street bike for extended highway use and either a pure dirt bike or an off-road oriented dual sport for blasting around on the rougher trails in addition to the DR650, but that’s not an option for a lot of riders. Overall, I’ve been pretty satisfied with my DR650SE.