Story by Jeff Belknap, Photos by Trevor Hunter
Here at DBT, we strive to do it a little differently from everyone else when we see an open void. We test bikes many would never touch, and we like to zig when others zag in some cases when testing and building bikes. And with that in mind, we’re looking to take our 2024 Suzuki RM-Z450 away from the motocross track and build it into a “budget” off-road bike.
Our first day was spent at the media intro at Fox Raceway spinning laps on the MX tracks, but we ventured to Pala, CA for the 11th annual Kurt Caselli Ride Day with our sights set on the off-road loop laid out by the foundation. For those that have not attended, it is a fun packed day for all levels of riders in mind. There are many current pros in attendance to ride with, industry people, activities to participate in and motocross companies to check out. Fox Raceway preps their Main and Vet Motocross tracks, along with a single track offroad loop laid out by the likes of David Kamo, Quinn Cody, and other KC66 Foundation associates.
We know how the RM-Z models handle on a motocross track — precise turning & handling but it lacks some stability. On the ride day, we decided to head out onto the well prepped motocross tracks first and the first thing our riders noticed was the power on the RM-Z. It comes on smoothly, hits strong in the middle, but falls off on top with very little over rev. We feel the bike is very easy to ride which our Vet riders enjoyed. The RM-Z 450 comes with Bridgestone tires and all of our test riders who lack experience with them didn’t gel well with the front or rear tires — something we feel could improve this bike just by going to more familiar tires.
With Suzuki being one of the only Japanese manufacturers not making an off-road competition focused model, we decided to take a virtually bone stock RM-Z model and head over to the single-track offroad loop that was laid out. The loop was a very tight, slow pace, single track with its fair share of loose rocks.
Right from the beginning, we felt the stiffness of the motocross base set up on the suspension and chassis. The bike was a tad harsh, deflecting off rocks and making it hard to keep the bike tracking forward. The bike did handle the tight cornering well, even though the RM-Z is the heaviest in its class weighing in at 247lbs. We also noticed the RM-Z had the tendency to stall often — something a flywheel weight should help in off-road. Did we mention, the RM-Z is the only bike to not have an E-Start.
Before we went back out, we decided to lower the fork height to flush in the clamps, soften up the suspension a bit with a few clicks, and to raise the idle a touch to help prevent the bike from stalling. The bike improved tremendously with these changes, feeling a lot more connected to the ground and did not have as much deflection. The raised idle made a massive difference as well in reducing stalling in all of the rocks. All of our test riders felt that these changes made a significant difference in a positive direction for them. One other thing all test riders noticed is the bike has more vibration felt over other brands.
We can agree that the RM-Z was not designed with “off-road “ in mind — after all, it is sold as a designated motocross bike. However, we feel that we can make a few modifications to the suspension, chassis, and engine that will allow the bike to be more suitable for off-road type conditions.