This could be the year of the playbike. With the Suzuki DR-Z70 entering the market, Kawasaki coming with two new models and Yamaha doing a heavy revamp to all of its TT-Rs, getting riders into dirt biking is the name of the game. With a lot of choices out there, Dirt Rider took one of the smallest and gave it a thorough testing, just like we do our bigger bikes.Suzuki did a lot of smart things with this bike. Honda has been making the CRF50F forever as long as you call it an XR50 or a Z50 or maybe even a Mini Trail or Monkey 50. This class of bikes was originally and still is largely for first-time riders, kids from 4 to 8 years old, to get a grasp on two wheels, a throttle and brakes. Then the popularity of motorcycles hit full-steam in the late ’90s as well as that whole thing with adults racing around on highly modified versions of Honda CRF50s. Yamaha and Suzuki had two-stroke Pee Wee bikes, but those didn’t share the same popularity as the tried-and-true four-strokes. Yamaha got in the game in 2006 with its TT-R50 sporting electric starting on the 10-inch-wheeled bike. Now Suzuki had abandoned what seemed like a displacement cap of 50cc and cranked out the smallest DR-Z, coming stock with a 70cc motor and electric starting.An all-new bike from the ground up, the mold for the machine may look pretty familiar. It’s a steel single-backbone hanger frame carrying a horizontal-cylindered air-cooled engine. Ten-inch wheels seem to be the only hard and fast number you can assign to the bike if you were to describe the class it fits in. Suzuki’s bold move of jumping the displacement 20cc may just net it the ace-in-the-hole, or is it too much?First off, the electric-starting, as we found on the Yamaha TT-R, is a huge benefit. We have learned to dislike kickstarting anything and that now includes minibikes. Sure we may be dummying our youth into never being able to kickstart a motorcycle, a rite of passage in the previous generations’ moto learning experience, but a lot of us have never pull-cranked a car or spun a rotary dial on a phone. We aren’t the lesser for it. Since Suzuki smartly put a kickstarter on the bike, you could kick it if you feel the need. Dead batteries do happen. And once the DR-Z is running it takes its time warming up. It’s very lean and will stall pretty easily until the motor has some temperature. In cold climates it might take a long time with the choke to keep the little guy running.Click the three-speed automatic-clutched ride into gear, give it gas and right away you feel the extra steam that 70cc puts out compared to 50cc. It actually has some torque and doesn’t take a lot of rpm to get going. The gear spacing is acceptably wide. First will keep the speeds down and climb steep stuff even with adults on board. Second is the workhorse and can easily be pulled from a stop with a little guy at the controls. Third jumps up in speed quite a bit. Riders could also leave the bike in top gear, never shift, even going from standing starts, but the ride is initially pretty sluggish and it makes the auto clutch work overtime. Pickup off the bottom is strong, but never violent with the short-stroke motor smoothing out the power pulses. It’s pretty healthy in the middle of the power curve and then tapers off as the revs build. It can easily be short-shifted and seems to prefer this as opposed to screaming the engine.The suspension is suspension and it goes up and down. That’s about it. It seemed to take the hits that kids would give it, and none of them complained when the bike was ridden as intended. Adults who rode the bike all felt that it was suspended the best of the 10-inch-wheeled bikes, but we also pumped out a lot of the grease used inside the fork as a damping medium. Handling is about spot-on, and our crew of testers all handled riding the bike just fine. Whether they were working on balance for the first time or deciding on leg over or under the bar as the proper turning technique.
OpinionsI’ve worn out five CRF50s, one TT-R50, one BBR SuperPro 50, one BBR perimeter-framed 50 and I’ll soon have a worn-out DR-Z70. My dad says I need a job to pay for it all, but I think I help him with his job since he owns BBR. I love the electric start on the Suzuki. No more waiting for my parents to start my bike. The bike is a blast to ride and corners great. I love the looks of the bike, too. It looks like the same bike that RC and Pastrana ride…I hope it is! It also feels much faster than my stock Honda. For big air, the suspension could be a little stiffer. Can I mention the electric start again?
-Carson Brown/4’2″/55 lb/Expert minibikerI love minibikes. They’re the meaning of life. You just can’t have more fun than getting a bunch of guys in the backyard on 50s and 110s. The new DR-Z70 is a great backyard bike for adults and kids alike. The electric start is great and it’s about time. I can’t wait for the day that all bikes are electric start and automatic. I like the electric start as much for my kids as I do for myself. My daughter Jennifer likes to pull over at any given time to check out nature, make adjustments to the track and it is usually at the far end of the track. My son Carson likes to go one lap at a time and make adjustments to the bike and then try them out. It can become a full-time job just starting bikes. How does the bike perform for adults and more importantly stack up against the Honda? It’s a split. Bone stock, the Suzuki has 20cc on the Honda, electric start and a stronger frame. On Honda’s side, it has 30 years of hop-up parts available and its reliability is legendary. For the kids and backyard adults, just goofing around, the Suzuki is the best. For serious minibike racers, the Honda still has the edge because it has an entire industry backing up its engine. It won’t take long for the Suzuki to catch up, though. Welcome to the party, Suzuki!-Duane Brown/5’8″/165 lb/ExpertI really like this bike. It has one-upped the Yamaha TT-R50 which I just bought to ride in my backyard. Why? Well, I bought the TT-R because I liked the electric starter, even though it was a little down on power from my Honda XR50. Since I leave them stock (maybe?), so they are quiet, good power is an advantage. And the Suzuki has this. It actually feels like it has some torque. It has taken a beating and the only downfall is the big ring of grease that has pumped out of the right fork leg, I think they use this for damping. My wife says I don’t need another 50 so I might just get this one for her!-Jimmy Lewis/5’10″/185 lb/Too big for these