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Yamaha TW200 vs. Suzuki DR-Z400S

Posted by on December 6, 2012
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Bob Ward

Fiction author with a zest for adventure travel. Blogs, tweets, videos, and pins for research and fun. He also hosts Ward's Adventure Travel Research & Trip Journal, a weekly podcast available on EFN, iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and more.

Yesterday, I test drove the TW200. Took my son with me. He thought it looked cool (he’s 10). I thought, “This is the perfect family man’s bike.” The ride ergonomics were comfortable, and the bike had plenty of power. I got it up to about 40 mph, which it held that comfortably. I didn’t feel the need to push it harder because when you’re on it, it just feels like a trail scooter. It puts you the mindset…take your time, enjoy the ride, relax, have fun, scoot over here, over there…in fact it was a blast. The big back tire just felt cool. I thought, “This little beast does the trick! I think this bike is for me. I’d have a great time on the trails with this!”

And that’s what most of my life is about. Have a good time with the family. Throw a quick leg over the T-dub and go. The engine doesn’t sound aggressive. There’s no hurry. All is peaceful and easy. Low stress. Smiling faces. In fact, I get in such a good mood just looking at the tires, and thinking “This little thing is just a hilarious little mule.”

Since both bikes can easy handle the terrain in my area (which is the first question to ask), my choice is about Mindset, mainly. Which spirit am I most drawn to?

Thus, I categorized these bikes as follows:

2012 Yamaha TW200
(The Family Man) 
2012 Suzuki DR-Z400S
(The Bachelor) 
2012 Suzuki DRZ400S owners manual
Pros: simple and reliable, low center of gravity, enough power for trail riding, roomy back seat (tested with my 10-year-old son), great low-end power delivery, easy and fun to ride, confidence inspiring, could easily be driven by my wife, very lightweight, 78 mpg, delivers the suitable mental attitude for the family man, inexpensive (almost 2 T-dubs for the price of 1 DR-Z, which is great for the family man), follows your kids in perfect style Pros: Mechanically superior, better suspension, more capable for aggressive riding, wicked styling, higher road speeds (up to 65 mph before getting dicey), liquid cooled, aggressive ergonomics, will hit the hardest terrain with gusto, greater ground clearance, great low-end torque, will outshine most other bikes for Death Valley and Colorado Jeep Trails, you will be THE MAN among bachelor buddies.
Cons: Will NOT handle Death Valley or Colorado Jeep Trails very well, will NOT go fast, will NOT outgun your buddies, will make you the butt of jokes with your buddies (can you handle that?), pretty much limited to trail riding or scooting around town, it’s basically a moped for the trail or gravel roads, realistic sustainable speed is 40-50 mph, drum brakes on rear (just one example of older technology),  Cons: Price, tall, overkill for the family man, narrow seat, NOT a comfortable commuter, NOT fantastic at highway speeds over 65 mph, little to no room for the passenger (see dinky passenger pegs), still too heavy for trail riding, too much power for trail riding, you will struggle on steep embankments if you fail to shoot up it on the first shot, you will struggle when the trail peters out and you have to man-handle the bike out of a sticky wicket.

Here’s the summary:

First, measure your inseam

  • Long legged guys = DR-Z400S
  • Average = Either bike
  • Short = TW200 (Sorry, but you have no choice. By now, I’m sure you’ve learned to accept that.)

Second, consider the terrain within an hour’s drive from your home

  • Wooded trails, ravines, mud, switchbacks = Either Bike
  • Desert or Mountains = DR-Z400S

Third, consider your percentage of use (and be realistic)

  • For a family man (aka plugger), get the TW200.
  • For a bachelor (aka wannabe hero), get the DR-Z400.
  • For the guy with plenty of money, get them both.

Forth, do the following before you buy

  • Test ride both bikes.
  • Imagine both bikes are parked in your garage.
  • Imagine a perfect day for riding.
  • Imagine your riding partner is likewise eager and willing.
  • Imagine yourself opening the garage door.
  • Imagine yourself wheeling out one of the bikes.
  • Imagine yourself mounting that bike.
  • Imagine yourself taking off on that bike.
  • Which bike is it?

Final thoughts…

For me, that bike is the TW200.

My riding partner is my son, daughter, wife, or entire family.

If both bikes were in my garage, I feel the DR-Z400S would sit most of the time (unless I was riding with just my old buds, Brett and Steve, from back in the day. Steve has a KLX250L now, Brett the same old Suzuki 360–and I could shame them both easily with a DR-Z400S–and I’d like to shame them, certainly–but my son would tear up as I left him, so that isn’t going to happen).

When I go to Death Valley or Colorado (which will realistically be one time each), I will probably just rent a DR-Z400S from a local bike shop.

99% of my life is about my family.

1% of my life is for being a Bachelor Hero.

At 42, I’m happy with these facts.

(P.S. Thanks to the guys over at TW200Forum.com for linking to this article, and pointing out that the TW picture wasn’t showing up. I fixed it for you guys. Rock on!)

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