ICONIC DIRT BIKES
/ / / / / / THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE
SUZUKI RM250 SUZUKI RM250
250cc version was offered, but it was based on the TS250
Savage—not anything that the race team developed. In
the meantime, Honda and Yamaha were offering race-ready machines. From 1973 to 1975, Suzuki’s efforts in GP
racing basically helped Honda and Yamaha sell motorcycles. Something had to change.
In 1975, Suzuki made a commitment to not only
improve its production bikes, but to make them worthy of
their works bike counterparts. The TM line was abandoned, and the Suzuki RMs were born. At first, Suzuki
issued a 125 that was half TM and half RM, but in 1976
they produced a pureblood line of RMs, including the
RM250A. If you looked at that RM and compared it to the
bike that carried Joel to his first championship six years
earlier, it was clear that Suzuki’s racing and production
departments were working together. From that point on,
there was never a bad bike that carried the RM prefix.
THE RECORD BOOK
The RH70 was the breakthrough bike for Suzuki, carrying Robert and Geboers to first and second in the 1970
250 World Championship. Who got third place that year?
Funny you should ask. It was none other than Roger
DeCoster. Roger was on a CZ that year, but he would join
Suzuki the next year to ride the 500 class.
Suzuki’s 250 championships would continue in Europe,
including those won by Georges Jobe, Alessandro Puzar,
Greg Albertyn and Michael Picheon. In the U.S., the works
version of the RM only collected seven 250 National titles,
with Tony DiStefano, Kent Howerton, Greg Albertyn and
Mark Barnett (in Supercross). But that was only part of the
story. The RM made a great off-road bike. The off-road
world was traditionally dominated by European brands like
KTM and Husqvarna, but the Suzuki RM250 made its
mark. Between the efforts of Randy Hawkins, Rodney
Smith, Steve Hatch and Paul Edmondson, the RM, or its
blood brother the RMX, captured 16 National
Championships in GNCC, Enduro and Hare Scrambles.
That’s more than any other Japanese motorcycle. The RM
and RMX were also incredibly successful for American riders in the ISDE. Rodney Smith came very close to winning
the overall event on an RM250 in 1992.
THE PRODUCTION DISCONNECT
Petersson’s story was amazing, and the product of his
efforts was considered the best factory motocrosser of
1970. But, for some reason, there was an internal wall at
Suzuki between the racing department and the production
department. It was almost as if they kept secrets from one
another; thus, Suzuki’s head start never translated into the
bike that Suzuki sold to the public. And the public was
going nuts for motocross, especially in America. Suzuki’s
success with Joel Robert, Sylvain Geboers, Roger
DeCoster and Gerrit Wolsink inspired U.S. riders and
fueled a craze to buy motocross bikes. Suzuki failed to
capitalize on it. In 1971, the company offered the TM400
Bob Hannah finished his professional racer career on Suzuki. His
job was working with the development team as well as racing.
The 1972 Suzuki TM250 was the company’s first attempt at a production 250cc
motocross bike, aside from a very limited run of truly odd bikes back in 1968.
Suzuki’s first single-shock MX bike
came in 1981. The “Full Floater” design
was a hit, but Suzuki was sued for
patent infringement by an inventor
named Don Richardson.
In 1982, the RM250Z was easily the best
250 motocrosser offered. Its hard-hitting powerband would be softened in