Kids today are inundated by technology we adults couldn’t even dream of having at our disposal 30 years ago. Thankfully, nothing matches the excitement in my son’s eyes as when I tell him we are going dirt bike riding. The first dirt bike in the garage for him was a PW50, but now he is outgrowing the ultra-low seat height and is ready to go a little bigger, add gears and use a rear brake pedal. On the scene rolls the 2016 Suzuki DR-Z70 ($1799).
The DR-Z70 is powered by a 67cc, four-stroke engine, and starting the little DR-Z engine is insanely easy thanks to the electric start. There is a kick starter as backup, in case the battery dies, ensuring a day of riding isn’t ruined. Once the engine is running, power is delivered to the 10-inch wheels via an automatic clutch and a three-speed transmission.
Overall size of the DR-Z70 matches a Honda CRF50 and Yamaha TT-R50. Because the DR-Z70 meets CARB emissions regulations it is green sticker eligible in California and comes with a spark arrestor-equipped muffler. The quiet exhaust note from the little DR-Z is inoffensive – if it is, motorcycles might not be your thing! To make sure the young ones are safe when learning the throttle features an adjustable stop, keeping junior from going too fast, too early. An adjustable front brake lever also fits various sized hands. To absorb the bumps, the inverted front forks feature 3.8 inches of travel and out back a single shock handles the rear wheel suspension.
Out In The Dirt
Starting the DR-Z70 couldn’t be easier thanks to its choke, conveniently located at the base of the handlebars, and the sweet electric start. As with most air-cooled motorcycles, the DR-Z70 takes a few minutes to warm up and likes to be at full operating temperature to idle consistently. The auto clutch is very smooth and the option to limit the amount of throttle available to young and learning riders is a great feature. Power delivery is very smooth, as is the engagement of the auto clutch, thus allowing riders to concentrate on the joys of riding. Shifting between gears takes substantial effort, so very young riders probably won’t be able move the shift lever easily to select gears. The electric start also does not work unless the bike is in neutral.
The hot setup for my son, who is nearly six-years-old, was to leave the bike in second gear and use the throttle limiter to ensure that speeds where kept under control. The spunky little engine provides plenty of torque to take off in second gear. Using first gear was too slow to keep a good balance, and the higher rpms meant the throttle response was too jerky when rolling on and off the throttle. However, if the rider is using training wheels, first gear would be a good way to guarantee speeds don’t get too fast. The throttle limiter screw is an essential tool to keep kids safe until they master throttle control.
Thanks to the low 22-inch seat height, small riders can confidently come to a stop without tipping over. I had my son practice using the foot brake for a while before letting him go free, since his previous experience was on a PW50, which only has hand brakes. A foot brake is nice feature, because some kids don’t have the strength to pull handbrakes hard enough to provide adequate stopping power.
Electric start may seem silly on a small little bike like this until you use it a few times, then you and your kids learn to love it. Overall the Suzuki DR-70 is a great bike for kids transitioning from a smaller bike or even kids learning to ride for the first time. Features like electric start, auto clutch, throttle limiter and a foot brake make learning easier and much more fun.
2016 Suzuki DR-Z70 Specs:
Engine: Air-cooled, four-stroke Single, OHC
Bore Stroke: 48 x 37mm
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Transmission: Three-speed constant mesh
Clutch: Automatic clutch
Fueling: Mikuni VM13, single carburetor
Starting System: Primary kick with electric start
Final Drive: Chain
Front Suspension: Inverted telescopic, coil spring
Rear Suspension: Swingarm type, coil spring, oil damped
Front Brake: Drum brake
Rear Brake: Drum brake
Tires: 2.50-10 33J, 2.50-10 33J
Wheelbase: 36.8 inch
Seat Height: 22 inch
Fuel Capacity: 0.8 gallon
Curb Weight: 121 pounds (claimed)
- A throttle limiter screw is key for teaching beginning riders.
- Electric start is an awesome feature on the 2016 Suzuki DR-Z70.
- Carving turns on the 2016 Suzuki DR-Z70.
- Smooth power makes riding the 2016 Suzuki DR-Z70 easy.