Friday, 29 June 2018

Suzuki DR125

I find my 1987 DR125SF the perfect tool for the cut and thrust of shopping trips into town, and its low mass and restricted 12hp means I can't get into too much trouble when testing my incompetence off road. The bike's lightness and small size make it ideal for weaving in and out of traffic. It’s economical (in the region of 80mpg) and, best of all, you can park just about anywhere. Furthermore the seat is comfortable and the suspension soaks up road bumps very effectively.

The single OHC engine is fairly responsive; providing you keep it on the boil and use the gearbox fully, reasonably rapid progress in the 30 to 50mph bracket is quite possible, though the absence of a tacho makes it easy to over rev the engine. I believe that the GS125 - with which it shares a similar engine - tacho and drive cable may fit, but I haven't yet bothered to find out.

Off road, the DR has its limitations and budding Dave Thorpes (who? - Ed) need read no further. I use mine on Kent’s green lanes and for a few minor off road events arranged by my motorcycle club. If you don't expect too much it’s possible to have a great deal of fun.

Despite the lack of grunt it’s possible to climb surprisingly steep slopes and generally keep up well with larger bikes, though over ambitious efforts have occasionally left me eating dirt - it’s at those times I’m glad I’m not on a DR750. The 125’s low mass (230lbs) makes it easy to manhandle around obstacles. And although many pundits say that the rider’s weight absorbs most of the spring travel in the rear Full Floater shock, I’ve not noticed this (I weigh 11 stones).

Being a compulsive meddler, I have made a few changes to improve matters. Firstly, I fitted a smaller (14 tooth) gearbox sprocket, which makes it snappier off road and lets you use more than first or second gear. You can’t swap cogs with earlier models as the splines on the output shaft are different. Next, I fitted a stronger bash plate in place of the standard tin foil item. Thirdly, I junked the OE trail tyres as they clog up very quickly in mud, replacing them with Pirelli MT23 Endurocross tyres which give far more grip and still work on the road. I also bought a supply of clutch and brake levers from the breakers as these are very prone to breakage.

Future expenditure may run to a Goodridge brake line for the front disc brake, which although effective is rather spongy. The handlebars bend with ridiculous ease and I can see metal fatigue setting in whilst I write this. The clutch plates and springs are marginal off road, so I may fit heavier duty items.

As would be expected from such a simple machine, maintenance is a doddle and the owner's handbook is even quite helpful. With the help of a Haynes a service takes about an hour and a half every 2500 miles. I change the oil and filter more often as the sump contains well under 1 litre. I reckon it’s worth it for peace of mind and the continued existence of the camshaft. Incidentally, the lack of a centrestand is a nuisance when oiling the chain or removing the wheels. Rather than buying a paddock stand, I use a couple of car axle stands which fit neatly under the footrest mountings.

On the road, riding is limited by the trials tyres, the riding position and the steering geometry. Which means if you grab it by the bars and ride like a lunatic it'll keep up with other 125s in everything other than top speed. It weighs so little and has so little power that it’s very difficult to terminate yourself on the road.

It’s a quiet, reliable and relatively robust bike that’s easy to live with and has minimal running costs. In retrospect I'd my another, though I'd probably go for a used one rather than new, but there appear to be very few on the market which must say something about how handy they are off road. Perhaps I should really take my life in my hands and go for one of the new DR200s.

Ed Gibson

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