The DR-Z doesn’t possess as many ponies as the other two, but it’s plenty fast and has a smooth power delivery. The magic starting button adds weight to make the DR the heaviest, but the convenience is well worth it.
The KLX is actually surprisingly easy to start and kicks over on the second or third time when cold or hot. The Suzuki gets a gold star for an electric start. For those who have lived the unpleasant experience of repeatedly kicking over a 4-stroke without success, thumbing that little gray button makes us giddy like opening presents on Christmas morning, especially while balancing precariously on the side of a hill. Nothing beats the dummy button. The Suzuki just jumped to the head of the class.
As for the Honda, the little Thumper can be a bitch to start. Whether the engine was cold, hot, or luke-warm, it would occasionally be frustratingly difficult to fire up. I can remember kicking myself to the point of exhaustion on the 1982 Honda XR250 I began riding on, and now, years later, I couldn’t believe my difficulty in starting the 2004 Honda XR250, especially when hot. We found the most effective way to get the XR rolling again is to bump-start it, something its 1982 predecessor taught me.
Our experience with late-model XR250s left us wondering if we had an unusually difficult bike. One of our testers owned a XR250 a few years back and claims he never had difficulty starting the bike. Our buddies at Hansen Motorcycles told us that new XR250s are notorious hard-starters unless they are jetted spot-on, so this condition might be able to be dialed out.
Once up and running, the Kawasaki and Honda emit deep throaty exhaust notes that lead us to believe the listed displacement might be a clerical error. The Suzuki, on the other hand, sounds more like a Singer sewing machine than a motorcycle, but its mild exhaust note belies what is hiding in the 249cc air-cooled engine.
The DR-Z is a trail-eating machine. Even though it is the most docile of the bunch, the DR-Z has a smooth power delivery and seemingly revs to the moon. First gear is short but second is very tall and once shifted into third, the Suzuki is extremely happy ripping on the trails and still performing when it’s bogged down low in the rpm range.
In fact, our resident hill climber, Brian Chamberlain, found that these bikes were capable of extraordinary feats when he performed a lengthy climb on the Suzuki that he is often unable to complete on his Honda CRF450R, “I just put it in first gear and kept it pinned. I don’t know how, but it took me up to the top of a long climb and I still don’t know how I got up on that little bike.”