Suzuki’s RM-Z250 squeezed out a victory last year in the 2012 250 Motocross Shootout thanks to sharp handling and a strong powerplant. This year it will have to be even better to take the win since both the Honda and Kawasaki received updates, not to mention that the KTM 250 SX-F is pretty much a new machine. Like we always say in the 250 class, sit still for even a moment and you’ll get smoked. So will the RM-Z be lighting the stogie or end up a charcoal briquette?
Suzuki knows damn well that what was good enough last year won’t stand up the next. For 2013 the RM-Z250 gets a slew of updates to stay at the front of the MX game even though it looks just like the 2012 model. Take a closer look and you will notice some readily apparent changes such as the anodized red fork caps denoting a set of second-generation Showa Separate Function Forks. Featuring a 48mm inner diameter over the previous generation’s 47mm, the fork is meant to be more rigid, offering more adjustment and controlled damping. Other chassis changes include a reshaped head tube, tank rail and down tube for quicker handling (as if the Suzuki really needed it!) along with steel motor mounts to calm vibes and to compliment the frame revisions.
The ‘Zook’s mill also received a massive amount of attention from the engineers. The transmission is totally new with a dedicated five-speed set up rather than using a tranny that was originally designed for a six-speed. A lighter piston and new camshaft shapes and timing are aimed at creating a broad spread of power that is controllable. Finally new ECM settings are optimized for combustion efficiency and the magneto puts out more power for easier starting. That is a mess of changes, but how does it shake out on the Perris MX track?
We’ve always said nothing can turn like a Suzuki RM-Z and that still holds true for 2013. If you want the sharpest handling bike that will cut under your competition at-will, there is nothing better than the Suzuki. If that is all there was to the Handling scoring, the RM-Z250 would have won the full ten points hands down, but there are some complaints from the crew. Most of our team struggled with a twitchy, nervous feel at high speed. It also takes more work to keep the Suzuki settled on flat turns. For that, it came in third on the scoresheet.
“The bike cornered great especially through the rough rutted corners,” comments X Games Champ Vicki Golden. “But with the twitchy front end the flat corners weren’t as easy as some of the other bikes.”
AMA Pro Chris See adds, “The Suzuki turns amazing and it will go anywhere you can point your head, but with it getting twitchy on high speed straights, it just couldn’t be my number one.”
The second-generation SFF front end wasn’t as impressive as we had thought it would be after our 2013 Suzuki RM-Z250 First Ride. Once the track gets worn-in, the front end suffers from some harshness in the chop that further accentuates its skittish tendencies. The rear end works well and eats up anything you can throw at it.
The new gearbox in the RM-Z250 gives you confidence to grab a gear on the face of jumps without the worry of a false neutral.
“The Suzuki was just OK for me,” says the always-fast Nick Thiel. “It’s good but not great, and it wasn’t very consistent. It felt twitchy at speed.”
Golden backs up Thiel saying, “I was really impressed with the way the shock absorbed and packed through the rough sections, but the front end had a slight twitch to it which made the bike unpredictable.”
The changes to the transmission were a hit with our team, earning the top honors in the drivetrain category. Shifts are consistent and solid no matter the load on the rear wheel, instilling confidence in our crew to grab another gear on the face of jumps. Feel from the clutch is excellent and the pull is light.
“The transmission on the bike has been greatly improved,” simply states TLD’s Nate Vedugo.
Matt Armstrong gives a little more detail, “The clutch and transmission was very smooth and was easy to short shift out of corners.”
The 2013 Suzuki RM-Z250 has one of the stronger motors in the test, but we wished for even more on the bottom.
Slowing the RM-Z is not as impressive as we remember from the year before, but to be honest Perris has more hard braking sections than our test track last year. Let’s not get too riled up though because the brakes are strong, have great feel and don’t fade, but they are just not as stellar as the KTM’s Brembos. In the end it comes down to a slightly spongy feel from the rear brake.
“The front brake had great feel and was very progressive, and the rear brake never faded,” Armstrong says.
That brings us to the engine scoring where the RM-Z’s scores don’t do it justice. The power is more usable than before, but seems to have lost some of the punch that we enjoyed last year. The mid-range and top-end is strong and can pretty much hang with the Kawasaki and KTM, but down low it just doesn’t yank on the arms as hard.
“The Suzuki package was strong, but just didn’t have the cojones down low to pull itself through the gears,” admits Thiel. “If you rode it to the limits it worked great but fell a bit on its face if you made small mistakes.”
The rider’s cockpit ranked mid-pack in our tester’s notes. While we like the slim feel of the seat and tank junction, some of the crew feel the shrouds are a bit wide when it comes to getting forward on the bike. Then there are the handlebars; there were only two assessments of the RM-bend Renthal Fatbars – love or hate. The sweep is pretty big for a modern motocrosser and those that prefer a straighter bend will be swapping the bars immediately, but some of our team said they were comfortable and offered a relaxed reach.
The Suzuki works best in the hands of those willing to ride aggressively, as witnessed by the fastest lap on the track.
When it was time to throw down the fastest single laps in the Super Lap testing the Suzuki was the clear-cut winner, notching over half a second of a lead on the second-fastest machine with a 1:21.7 average lap. Chris See laid down the fastest time in the test at just 1:19.5, proving that if you commit to the task the Suzuki can be a winner. The big question is if you could do it at that level for 20 minutes plus, or would the chassis wear you out before the checkers fly.
Just like in our 2013 450 Motocross Shootout the RM-Z slips a bit in the standings to third-place. How can a winner from last year drop back even after some significant updates? For one, the other bikes took bigger strides forward, while the Suzuki’s front fork is more difficult to set up and more high strung than before. However, as the Super Lap testing shows, the 2013 Suzuki RM-Z250 is a force to be reckoned with. And then there is that ability to turn like no other…