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ADV BikesSmall Bikes Big Adventures: Suzuki DR200S and Yamaha XT250

Small Bikes Big Adventures: Suzuki DR200S and Yamaha XT250

 We go small with our new long-term test bikes & take ADVing back to basics.

Published on 03.23.2017

As motorcycle journalists, we are lucky to ride some of the most sophisticated adventure motorcycles in the industry. Whether it’s comparing the latest crop of European Adventure Touring Bikes loaded with electronic wizardry or getting to test the newest off-road-focused big enduros on the toughest tracks, we’re often spoiled with choices for our two-wheeled adventures.

Our latest project is a big departure from all that. We’re taking a pair of low-cost, small-displacement, dual sport motorcycles — the Suzuki DR200S and Yamaha XT250 — and putting them through their paces on several upcoming adventures. “Why” you may ask? We want to show these small bikes are more than capable of big adventures. Simple, accessible, approachable bikes — adventure motorcycling in its purest form.

At $4,499 MSRP for the DR200S and $5,199 MSRP for the XT250, it’s a no-brainer these bikes are an affordable option for new Adventure Riders. They are also about half the weight of a full-sized adventure touring bike, making them extremely approachable and manageable for those looking to develop their off-road skills. In addition, they can be a great confidence booster for those getting up in age looking to downsize.

Small bikes big adventures: 2017 Yamaha XT250
The 2017 Yamaha XT250 offers a 17.5 hp fuel-injected 250cc air-cooled single and a low seat height of 31.9 inches.

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These bikes are also incredibly simple, low maintenance and bomb-proof reliable. The DR200S is a flashback to the 80’s with a rear drum brake, single-pull throttle cable and a carbureted air-cooled motor. The XT250 gets a bit more high-tech with fuel injection, a digital display and a rear disc brake. They are definitely worthy of consideration by anyone that wants a fun, low-cost, durable bike for their adventures.

Small Bikes: 2017 Suzuki DR200S
The Suzuki DR200S is back to basics with a low-tech approach and price tag to match at $4,499.

While you typically see the XT250 or DR200S strapped to the back of an RV or just tooling around the campsite, it doesn’t take much to set them up for real adventure. A skid plate, hand guards and set of rackless soft bags are all you really need. They sip gas (50-100 mpg depending on how you ride) and even with relatively small stock tanks, they offer similar range to larger adventure bikes. And with a max speed of about 65 mph (under optimal conditions), you can get by without adding a windscreen.

Adventure accessories for small bikes

Adventure accessories for small bikes
So far, we have outfitted our test bikes with Acerbis Rally Profile handguards, Ricochet skid plates and soft luggage from Wolfman and Mosko.

No doubt, these bikes have their limitations and with less than 20hp, it’s a struggle just to pop a wheelie. If there is a mild cross-wind or slight grade, you are lucky to manage 50 mph on the highway. They offer decent suspension travel but damping is basic and there is no adjustment other than rear preload. Yet it’s the limitations of these bikes that give them character and force you to improve your skills as an adventure rider. Performance constraints focus your attention on technique rather than relying on electronic rider aids or brute force power to maintain pace. And there isn’t much carrying capacity, so you better learn how to minimizing the gear you bring on trips.

We’ll be using these small bikes on several of our upcoming rides so stay tuned for more details on how these bikes perform. From the miles we’ve already put on the DR200S and XT250, we can tell you we’ve come back from each ride with huge smiles on our faces. So if you see us arrive at the next Rally riding one of these small ADV bikes, and you feel an urge to chuckle, just ask us for a ride and see what kind of fun you’ve been missing!

UPDATE:

• Getting a Taste of Dakar on Small Bikes
• 8 Great Reasons to Ride California’s Giant Sequoia Forests

Author: Rob Dabney
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18 thoughts on “Small Bikes Big Adventures: Suzuki DR200S and Yamaha XT250

    • Yes, as we mention in the article there is more to come! We have just gotten started and have many things planned for these small warriors 🙂

  1. I love that XT250. Spencer had no trouble keeping up on the trails as well as joining us in the dunes. I’ve ridden one about 40 miles in the desert and even though I’m way too big for it, I had a really good time.

  2. As a 2009 XT250 Owner I have taken my XT250 to Copper Canyon Mexico, and to Georgia Trail Riders Association (GARTRA) Rides such as the Hooch, Pineola NC, Clayton Georgia and many other rides and have had nothing but fun on the bike. My XT has been outfitted with Heated Grips, Acerbis Hand Guards, changed out all lights to LED except the Headlight, made a Saddle Bag rack and added Removable saddle bags for adventure trips, also added Richochet Skid plate, Rear Master brake Cylinder guard. Added a switch to turn the Headlight off (this was for while using heated gear on the Mexico trip. The bikes stator is limited and using heated gear (Jacket Liner, and Gloves or the Heated Grips) can take a major toll on the ability for the bike to keep the Battery Charged. Have also added a Windshield to the bike which helps a lot on the bike, especially when riding in a snowstorm as we did in Mexico as we were arriving in Creel, Mexico. The Mexico trip was done in Jan 2010. I am 6’2″ and I just love riding the bike, It is a no frills bike but it is truly fun to ride.

    • Sounds like you’ve added more than a few frills to your XT250 Donn. We also added Acerbis Hand Guards and a Ricochet Skid Plate. Both are great products. We’re considering adding a few more items before our next trip, so we appreciate your info on what upgrades have worked well for you!

      • On these smaller bikes, a Green Chile Adventure Gear soft rack is a great addition to my expand carry options. I have one on my TW200 (pictured in a comment on this thread). It’s high quality, made in the USA and has been a great solution. Since it’s not bike specific, if/when I get another bike, I can easily share it between the two. Oh, in case you’re wondering, I am not sponsored by these folks, nor do I know them, I’m just a REALLY satisfied customer that wants to spread the word.

  3. I really like these articles since they help introduce our sport/recreation to YOUNGER riders. I think we desperately need to attract younger riders to adventure bikes to keep it healthy and growing and to prevent more closures.

  4. DRZ400S. great mid point bike with enough highway power and racks are available. Lots of suspension and easily upgradeable. Started with a DR650 years ago, Husky, F, G AND R. GS BMW . Came back to a bike that’s easy to manage, fun off road and was cheap to purchase used. Just got tired of picking up 500 lb bikes with the inevitable crash upside down in mud at 10k ft in the mountains. I don’t ride it in from the Midwest to. SD, CO, UT. But ride it in a few hundred mile circumfrence of a base camp. Its perfect for that .

  5. Great idea for an article. I’m tuned in to see what you guys do with these bikes.
    I’m loving my xt250 on trails here in Nevada and looking forward to some weekend trips this year. After adding skid plate, handguards, bars, and springs, I just need a better way to mount bags to be ready to go for some desert exploration.

  6. Hi Guys, great to see the tiddlers begin given a proper chance. I did over 90,000 miles on my XT250, absolutely loved it.

  7. My XT250 pulls 65 on the highway no sweat with full top and side luggage loads. Just gotta work that gearbox. I’ve got Acerbis guards, a bash plate, Happy Trail top and side racks, grip heaters, aux lighting, all LED light conversion, Corbin seat, National Cycle windshield, the usual GPS/phone RAM mount and charger, and a tool tube made from 4″ drain pipe and a test plug, mounted to the inside of the left side pannier. I also just had a full front/rear suspension re-do with Race-Tech emulators and springs up front, and a Race-Tech valve kit and Eibach spring in the rear. I bought the bike used for $2500 and put about $2500 into it and it is now a serious machine. 300 mile days with freeway, twisties and dirt are easy. I usually leave my F650GS single at home and when I ride I leave the big bikes in the dirt. The bike gladly takes a beating and is dead simple to work on and fix. Highly recommended.

    • Oh and get some plastic primer and flat spray paint, peel off those factory graphics and repaint this bike with some flat black and swamp green paint. Then pull up to the group ride or bike shop or stop light and watch people scratch their heads while they try to figure out how you shrunk down a 1997 KLR by 25%.

  8. As a out of shape 53 year old, this is what I am interested in. Please keep going with these bikes. I bought a 1999 DR200 for my daughter five years ago. I ride the crap out of it. I also own a 1992 DR350. Unless I am going to do serious (i.e. serious = not as much fun the older I get), I ride the 200. I know the Yamaha is a “better” bike, but please don’t neglect the Suzuki. They have been making them for a million years, and it seems to be built well. I have always wanted to add a kick starter back up, so if you folks do an add-on for your bike, please advise. Thank you.