The Suzuki RM-Z250 comes in to our 250 Motocross Shootout effectively unchanged for 2014. It’s not uncommon for a manufacturer to take a year’s hiatus after major changes, so we were not expecting much in the way of updates. However, the same basic architecture of the quarter-liter ‘Zook hasn’t been changed for half-decade now as engineers choose to refine rather than revamp. When will the return on investment of this approach stop paying dividends? So far the RM-Z has remained competitive, but how much longer?
In the 2014 Suzuki RM-Z250 First Ride article, we found the Suzuki still has what it takes to thrill despite the lack of changes. To be clear, Suzuki did update the ECU for easier starting and the graphics are changed, but we would say changes are basically nil. Last year however, Suzuki went to town on the RM-Z250 with a completely new transmission, reworked top end and Separate Function Forks.
And those forks are what separated the RM-Z from the field, but not in a good way. Suzuki has touted the second generation SFF front-end as the next step in reducing friction and weight while improving bump absorption, but we found it was the least favorite of the test. Our crew found it hard to dial-in and it deflected on the rough stuff.
“The RM-Z needs some serious help in the front-end,” explains our pro-level tester Chris See. “This bike just makes me nervous going into rough sections not because it’s going to bottom out, but because when it does bottom out you never know which way it’s going to deflect. I like the rest of the bike, but it really needs changes to the front-end.”
The flighty fork also affected the handling score of the Suzuki with our crew ranking it at the bottom of the pack with the KTM. The twitch in the front-end at speed overshadowed the RM-Z250’s amazing turning ability. Nothing can turn under the yellow
bike, even in the best of conditions. So if your home track has a tighter layout without chop and high speed sections the Suzuki is a weapon that can’t be denied.
Vet-pro and all around cool guy Nick Thiel sums it up succinctly, “The Suzuki corners really well, but it just doesn’t feel stable at speed.”
In the engine department the Suzuki ranked lower than last year in the subjective category and was the least powerful on the dyno as well. Our 2014 unit churned out 34.95 horsepower and 18.02 lb-ft of torque, which is not far off the mark from the pack in terms of torque but it is nearly three horsepower down from the front runner. On the track our riders found the Suzuki’s mid and top-end power to be impressive, but the bottom end wasn’t as strong as the KX250F or YZ250F. Overall it feels slightly behind, but not enough to be a huge detriment on the track.
Ex-factory racer Sean Hamblin says, “It can still be one of the front runners depending on the track. The Suzuki has power that is useable throughout and has a smooth delivery with good mid and top.”
During our Holeshot and Roll-On testing the RM-Z250 fared about as well as it did in the power categories with a fourth place ranking in both shots down the start straight. At the 125-foot mark the Suzuki covered the distance in 3.194 seconds at 43.1 mph, just a twentieth of a second slower than the quickest. In the Roll-On test it was also just a fraction of a second behind, accelerating from 15 to 40 mph in 2.640 seconds in a distance of 106.7 feet.
Rowing through the gears on the Suzuki was precise and solid thanks to the transmission redesign in 2013. The lever feel is light and not one rider reported a missed shift during testing. Clutch feel, however, was rated inconsistent by some of our team, alhtough the unit resisted fading better than most.
“The banana pudding bike was a smooth shifter as always,” comments See. “The clutch action is pretty good and had considerably less fade compared to the others.”
Braking was not one of the Suzuki’s strong suits this time around as the front binder’s feel is a bit mushy, even though the power was there. Grabbing a handful of the right lever would stop the RM-Z with authority but it always felt like there could be more if the effort was firmer. The back is in the same situation, needing a stiffer pedal to communicate better with the rider.
The rider’s area of the Suzuki is roomy and accommodates taller riders better. The shroud and tank area is beginning to feel wider, as the KTM and Honda are slimming down year after year. Additionally, the handlebar bend of the Suzuki is universally hated by the MotoUSA contingent with its old-school swept-back design.
Thiel adds, “The RM-Z’s bar bend is funky and the levers are a bit small for my liking, but the footpeg to seat height was one of my favorites in the bunch.”
On the MotoUSA scales the RM-Z250 weighs in at a second-heaviest 237 pounds with its 1.7-gallon tank full of fuel. That is only three more than the most svelte of the bunch and is the difference between eating before motos for a bruiser like me. On the sound meter Suzuki ties the Yamaha and Kawasaki for having the most raspy exhaust with a rating of 98db at idle and 113db and half-throttle.
So it seems the 2014 Suzuki RM-Z250 has begun to go backwards in the ratings, but it is still an excellent performer. It can turn quicker than most and it still is a competitive mount in most riders’ hands. However the 250 class is in a constant rush forward and sitting still for even one year can make the difference between a podium and finishing last. Unfortunately for the RM-Z finds itself in the latter situation for 2014, as it ranks fifth in our 250 Motocross Shootout.