Review of: 2010 Suzuki DR650SE
Year, Brand, Model: 2010 Suzuki DR650SE
Submitted By: BC-Rider
All reviews by BC-Rider
Review Created: Apr 11, 2012
Last Update: Oct 6, 2021
Vehicle Type: Dual Sport
Vehicle Subtype(s): All Around DS Over 400cc
Engine Displacement (cc): 650
Ownership: Currently
Evaluation Period: 9 years
Evaluation Distance / Hours: 20000 km
Rider Details
Height: 175 cm
Inseam: 81 cm
Weight: 65 kg
Same Type Vehicles Owned: 2
Years Riding Vehicle Type: 11

simplicity, reliability, value, easy maintenance, great 50/50 dual sport, exploring, adjustable ride (seat) height, lots of low end torque

heavy for off-road use (but much lighter than a KLR650 or typical adventure bike); some may find the suspension limiting for aggressive off-road / rough road use

[Updated on RoadAndTrail.net] I purchased my 2010 DR650SE new in March 2011. I’ve owned a 1992 DR350S (dual sport, air cooled, kick start only) and a 2009 KLX250S (dual sport, liquid cooled, electric start only), 3 XR200s (dirt bikes) and a number of street bikes and a few other older, short term dirt or dual purpose bikes.

About half of the distance I’ve ridden with this bike has been on paved roads with the rest being a mix of gravel roads, forest service roads, easy trails and a bit of rough trails (loose rocks, ruts, mud). It’s no enduro or touring bike, but it handles most surfaces and conditions I’ve put it through reasonably well. I’ve ridden as much as 500 km in a day (14 hours including stops) on the DR, 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’m stopping every hour or so, which I do anyway. Even after being on the bike all day, I can still sit down afterwards. The DR650, although not perfect, has been a good a 50/50 bike for me, and I’ve been happy with it.

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), loose fitting right hand guard (improvised “fix”), paint flaws on oil cooler guard (replaced). The bike runs, shifts, brakes and handles fine. The OEM battery seems a bit weak for this bike, but the bike has always started up easily. The headlight is not very good. I was late getting back from one of my rides and had to ride in the dark on a twisty secondary highway; I found it quite difficult to see well enough and had to reduce my speed quite a bit. My best fuel consumption was 29.4 km / l (highway riding), and my worst was 19.7 km / l (56 mpg, 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. I bought an Acerbis 20 litre tank to extend my range, but I have not installed it yet.

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 a retainer for the oil seal. I installed one on my bike as a precaution. My starter motor started making a squawking noise, so I removed it and lubricated the plain bearing in the end cap. Another potential issue is that the bolts securing the neutral sending unit can come loose. The fix is to use a thread locker on the bolts which are located behind the clutch. You're likely going to need to consult a service manual for this. I haven't tackled this job (yet).

The stock tires work well on the pavement, and they’re fine for gravel roads and easy trail riding (except mud). 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. With about 20000 km on the bike, the tire is just about done. 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. It was a bit of a challenge to get the bead to seat. 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.

The bike has more than enough power for easy highway cruising. Passing slower traffic is relatively easy. The bike rides well on the highway. I've had the bike up to an indicated 150 km/h (briefly), and it was quite stable; the bike is capable of faster speeds. 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 more recently. If you want to do extended highway riding, the bike is easily up to the task; you might want to install a different seat (Corbin, Seat Concepts or Sargent) and perhaps a small wind screen to make it more comfortable. You could probably make it just as comfortable as a KLR650.

There is no shortage of power for riding gravel roads and trails. The bike is easy to ride on easy trails at a moderate pace, even with the stock tires (provided the traction is good). I’ve read that the suspension is a limiting factor on this bike, and it probably is for some riders or in some conditions or when riding at a quicker pace, but so far I’ve found the suspension adequate. It’s not as plush 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. It would be nice to have fully adjustable suspension, but I can live without it and still enjoy the ride. The Honda XR650L has fully adjustable suspension, but in Canada (no longer available) it listed for quite a bit more (~ $1650) than the DR650SE. The biggest limited 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, so I didn’t need to adjust them. Both exhaust valves were at the limit of their range, so I did adjust them. I used standard feeler gauges, but it would have been easier to use angled ones. It is quite difficult to get a standard gauge into position to measure the clearance. It is little bit easier to adjust the valves using one of those knob 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 at 12100 km; all were on the loose side, so I adjusted the clearances. I checked both spark plugs at the same time; they were fine - should be good for another 12,000 km.

I recently (2020) serviced the rear suspension linkage. When I took it apart (partially) I was happy to find that there was still a fair amount of grease in the bearings. There was some minor corrosion on one of the spacer rods in the linkage which I sanded off and then greased.

The bike is still completely stock except for the addition of a SW-Motech skid plate, SW-Motech centre stand, SW-Motech luggage rack and a magnetic oil drain plug. 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). The skid plate is pretty light, but the centre stand adds a few (3 - 4) 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 - I hold the stand down with my foot, then I lift and pull the bike back using the left passenger foot peg bracket - it doesn't require much effort, and I'm not a big guy. With the 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. 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 mounts easily and works with the existing grab handles and original turn signal location. The rear 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 rack adds about 2 pounds or so to the bike. The top plate is aluminum and the brackets are steel.

The DR650 is a fun bike to ride in a variety of conditions. I think it’s a great 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. The more I ride my DR650, the more I feel that I made a good choice buying it.

Comparing the DR650SE to other dual sports:

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 too 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 fits me better, lists for about $1000 less than the DRZ400S in Canada and is somewhat better suited for my intended riding. 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 narrow and it’s too tall. I would also have had to lower the suspension, make some reliability fixes (based on research), plus a few other things, all adding up to several hundred more dollars. 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 (dicontinued in Canada, but available in the US) and the Kawasaki KLR650 (discontinued after 2018), 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 l tank; the curb weight of the 2012 KLR650 is 197 kg (432 pounds) with a 22 l tank; the curb weight of the 2012 XR650L is 159 kg (348 lbs) with a 10.5 l 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 lowered bringing the seat height down to 845 mm (about 33.3 inches). The DR650 is certainly the better fit for a shorter rider. I liked the Honda, and it reportedly has the best suspension and is the lightest, but it is way too tall for me, and it’s expensive new (at least in Canada).

Because of the fairing, 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 experience with 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 overall. The simplicity of the DR650 (air / oil cooled motor, analog instruments) appealed to me too (the XR and KLR are quite simple too). So, in the end I bought a DR650SE, and I don’t regret my decision. I might be tempted by a Yamaha Tenere 700, but really, it's in a different class than the DR650; the DR650 is a lot lighter and a lot cheaper.