Suzuki DR125SM


By Kevin Ash

Pictures: Double Red

Supermotos inhabit the wild, impractical end of the motorcycling spectrum: these are hot motocross machines, often full-on competition bikes, their off road wheels and gentle brakes replaced by sticky road rubber and powerful sports stoppers. There’s no purpose except riding like a nutter and having a laugh.

Why then should you consider Suzuki’s new SM125 for going to work every day? One reason screams out above all others: 100mpg. That’s One Hundred miles per gallon. But you don’t have to suffer for your scrimping: the SM125 might take its name and its inspiration from supermotos, but as a riding proposition it couldn’t be much further from the raw, over-muscled experience which real ones offer.

Suzuki_DR125SM_02Click on image for galleryInstead, this is an easy, forgiving machine aimed primarily at novices which happens to be styled like a supermoto while offering a typically well balanced, decent quality ride that comes as said with Japanese products. In fact those features which distinguish supermotos, on this bike broaden its appeal and utility rather than interfering with it. The road wheels and brakes mean the SM125 steers quickly but predictably, losing the pendulous effect that comes with large diameter off-road wheels, while the single front disc rewards with good, progressive but unintimidating power. The rear has a fashionable disc too though the bike would fare better for a dull old drum at the back as these provide much better feel – as it is there’s little feedback until suddenly the wheel is locked, typical of most rear disc set ups.

The upright riding position and fairly wide bars are ideal for urban traffic dodging, enhancing your vision and the bike’s manoeuvrability at the same time, and crucially in this class, that also means the bike suits taller people – many 125s seem designed for smaller riders, as if a bike’s capacity should reflect its rider’s stature. Me, I ride a 1400...

The air-cooled engine has a long lineage, dating back to the mid-1980s when it powered a basic Suzuki 125, the GS, and not a lot has changed since then aside from the important addition of an elegantly simple fuel injection system. Usually the expense and packaging problems associated with fuel injection are why small capacity machines still use carburettors, but the SM’s Mikuni-developed discharge pump injection does away with the high pressure pump, fuel lines and high electrical demands of conventional systems. Instead there’s a single component comprising a solenoid with a plunger to squirt fuel directly into the inlet tract, and the amount it injects is determined by the number of times it operates, which can be hundreds of times for each engine revolution.

Suzuki_DR125SM_16The result is impressive, partly because the engine feels responsive and happy to rev, but mainly, in the current climate (economic and planetary...) because it uses its fuel so sparingly. I rode the bike for 50 miles in a range of circumstances, across three busy town centres, along country lanes and with nearly half the mileage spent on fast A-roads (much of that dual carriageway). And I was riding it normally, which meant throttle against the stop for mile after mile on the A-roads to maintain its flat-out 60-65mph top speed (you can squeeze a few more out of it by laying down on the tank), revving it heartily at the front of traffic queues to make sure I got away cleanly and in front, and spinning the engine close to its red line. 54 miles later the two gallon fuel tank took only 2.46 litres to bring it back to brim full, which in units that mean something, was 0.54 gallons: 100mpg. You could certainly achieve better than this by taking it easy, but anything less than flat out on A-roads could be dangerously slow: as it is, you’re dicing with big trucks limited to the same top speed. Even so, a relaxed rider is likely to achieve a chancellor-cheating 120mpg. So compare that with your resource-demanding Toyota Prius... You could build an SM125 out of the interior of a Prius.

The age of the power unit does show up in the rather notchy gearchange, highlighted on a Suzuki as these usually set the selection standard, while the engine idle wasn’t entirely reliable, the motor stopping for no particular reason now and then. This happened on more than one machine so it wasn’t an isolated fault, although a quick touch of the starter button had it fired up again. You also get a lot of piston noise, a hard-edged rumble, amplified by the cooling fins.

Suzuki_DR125SM_14All of which pales against the money (and planet) you’d save by buying one of these not as the mad Sunday sprint machine you might expect (and at which it would disappoint), but as a commuting saviour. Comfort is fine for a couple of hours aboard, it’ll be reliable, cheap to service, it’s dead easy to ride for novices and surprisingly rewarding for the experienced, and towering over everything else, you will get more than 100mpg out of it.

Buy a topbox for your wet weather gear and get on yer bike!