Two great bikes, but good in slightly different ways.
If you start digging into dual-sport motorcycles, plenty of people consistently recommend two models: the Honda CRF250L, and the seemingly omnipresent Suzuki DR-Z400. Loads of people love both these bikes, and will happily talk your ear off about the finer points of ownership, and why they love each of these bikes.
What do you do if you’ve never ridden either and you’re trying to make a decision? While they’re both capable dual-sports on paper, they’re different bikes in practice. YouTuber Dork in the Road owns and has ridden both of these bikes extensively, and he goes over the pros and cons of actually living with each one here.
While the DR-Z400S is a great all-rounder, and is a bike that’s more capable of exploring most of what your local trails and forest systems have to offer you, it’s not perfect. Some people might be put off by the higher seat height, or the carb, or the top-heaviness, or the extra power—particularly if you’re a new rider. However, if you’re more experienced, none of these things may be a particular issue for you. One last thing: its lack of a sixth gear can be especially annoying if you need to get on any highways.
On the other hand, the CRF250L is more capable than you might expect at first, given the power difference. According to DitR, suspension travel is not as good as the DR-Z, and it bottoms out a lot more quickly. However, if you’re a newer rider, and particularly if you’re also a shorter rider, it’s a lot less intimidating of a bike to learn on. Also, since it doesn’t have the brittle magnesium cases of the DR-Z, you don’t have to worry about slapping some extra protection on before you take the CRF out and thrash it. Drop it all you want and it doesn’t care; it just keeps going. In fact, he’s so convinced that the CRF is an excellent beginner bike that he says he’s started teaching his 13-year-old daughter how to ride on the CRF. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.
All in all, they’re two great bikes that are good in slightly different ways, and may be better suited to riders at different points in their riding journey. The DR-Z offers more room to grow, but might not be ideal as your very first bike. Then again, it depends on what experiences you’ve had previously, and also who you are and what you’re looking for. Hopefully, this kind of experiential insight from someone who’s lived with them both for a while can help you make an informed decision.