If there’s a Catch-22 in motocross it’s the fact that we want bikes that do everything well. Problem is, we also want a bike that sticks out from the crowd with an exceptional characteristic. Either way, there’s always a negative side to successfully engineering such a bike. All of the competition is so good these days, it’s really a matter of designers making sure to dot and cross every figurative I and T. Suzuki has found a good balance when it comes to the overall package, but the 2009 RM-Z250 has fallen into the gray area of being too “average.”
In a division where motors reign supreme, the emphasis on big numbers is exaggerated. The Suzuki is right in the mix in terms of dyno peaks, but overall the RM-Z motor seemed to disappoint on the track. Not because it stinks, but because a simple gearing change was requested by all our testers, and this really impacted our impressions. The Suzuki actually makes the most torque, almost 18 lb-ft right in the middle of its healthy midrange, and that’s exactly where our female rider wanted to find it. Sherri gave the Honda motor some extra kudos, but the Suzuki was a close second for her.
“Although it had more mid than bottom- and top-end it was my second favorite,” says Cruse, who rode a Suzuki for her 2008 WMA season. “I’m more of a mid-range rider and usually tend not to rev out the motor as much. It works well for me.”
Our novice was also enamored with the engine characteristics and felt confident it would be at or near the top if the rear sprocket was enlarged. However, it didn’t work as well for some of the other riders and the fastest evaluators consistently ranked this motor last.
“I was very disappointed with the engine, actually,” says Alvin. “I felt that it lacked in the bottom-end and there were parts of the track that made me shift into a higher gear because it revved out to soon. Plus, it didn’t get me over the big step-up at Racetown, I just couldn’t get the drive.”
Hammering through the whoops was one area where the advanced riders had problems with the Showa suspension blowing too quickly through the stroke.
The soft motor is matched by the Showa suspension. It’s most similar to the Yamaha with the amount of plushness, but the blue bike has much better bottoming resistance. As you would imagine, our fast guys didn’t appreciate the harsh result of a big landing, but our slowest rider and our lightest had more positive experiences. The 47mm cartridge-style fork moves through the travel very quickly. Some extra volume or heavier oil would benefit more aggressive riders. Our fast guys are also at the rough boundary for the target weight on the springs. Combine the two and it’s no surprise that the Showas seem a little underpowered. As it was, the stock setup fits right in with the Suzuki’s so-so demeanor.
One area where the Z250 does stand out is in the ergonomics. The bike feels very similar to the Honda in respects to layout but is slightly larger. The ergos are instictive and it makes life aboard the yellow bike very comfortable. The oversized ProTaper handlebars add to the more open feel, and it’s the only bike that has the hot-start lever on the right side. Hopping from one bike to another made that strange, but if it’s your regular ride then it becomes natural right away.
With more time recently on yellow bikes than any of our crew, Cruse felt at home on the RM-Z. Her race bike was custom fit for her 5’1” frame and as the shortest of our testers, she really noticed the difference on a stock bike.
“Suzuki had the most space between the tank and pegs,” she says, “and being short that doesn’t give me the advantage I would hope for.”
Sherri Cruse looked comfortable on the same brand as her 2008 WMA race bike, but all of the machines were too tall for her diminutive frame in stock condition.
The Suzuki is also a good starter. Whether or not you’re going to be in neutral when you kick it over is debatable, because it’s really hard to find a gap between first and second gear. On the track, that close spacing was one of the reasons the RM-Z transmission and clutch received a first-place vote. All of the machines have light pulls at the lever, but the Suzuki may have the lightest. Moving through gears is quick and painless. The Zook did miss a gear once or twice, but it’s also shifted more than any other bike due to the soft power. Internal gear ratios were good for the Racetown layout, but the final gearing was a tainted interface for the transmission.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a solid performer, but when it comes to cutthroat shootout environments, every bike needs something to make it stand out. Years past have seen the Yamaha fall victim to this scenario, but the YZ-F has really developed a foundation of an unshakable chassis and buttery suspension.
“Nothing stood out to me as being really good, but nothing was really bad either,” says Tod with a shrug. “The Suzuki would have been better with different gearing, maybe two teeth up in the rear sprocket to make it easier to ride. The RM-Z was probably the most average package of all the 250Fs.”
What we like about the Suzuki is that it wouldn’t take expensive motor work or a massive suspension overhaul to really bring it alive. Experiment with some different sprockets and tune in the proper spring rates for your size and ability and the RM-Z turns into a rocket with the ability to handle higher speeds. That sounded like a winning prospect for one of our testers who chose the Suzuki as his For My Money pick. The natural ergos and quick, well-proportioned chassis are highlights he couldn’t overlook.