1968: Suzuki releases the first TM250 in very limited
numbers. It is fragile and weird. It reveals a lot of CZ influence, but it is very similar to the original RH66 works bike
with a number of expensive magnesium parts. It shows
that Suzuki is paying attention to a world that other
Japanese manufacturers don’t know exists.
1971: Suzuki’s next try at a production motocross bike
is the orange TM400 Cyclone. It earns a reputation as one
of the worst-handling bikes ever made—a reputation that
becomes legendary. It is, nonetheless, the only production
motocross bike available from a Japanese company.
1972–1973: The TM line grows. The Cyclone (now yellow, just like Roger’s bike) is joined by a TM250
Champion, a TM125 Challenger and a TM100 Contender.
The 125 and 100 aren’t bad. The 250 and 400 are.
1975: The first RM appears in the form of the Suzuki
RM125M. It still uses a motor from the TM, but the
machine is more focused and more competitive—a sign of
things to come. It has long-travel suspension that is considered excellent in its day. It no longer has an oil pump;
you have to mix your oil in the gas.
1976: The true RM line is born. The RM250A is a completely new bike with long-travel suspension that is considered to be the best of any production bike available.
The 125 and 370 versions are new as well. The RM is on
top, but Yamaha isn’t standing still. Competition between
the two companies is intense, with Honda joining in later.
Updates come quickly, and Suzuki has three new versions
of the RM250 available over the next two years, dubbed
the B, C and CII. In 1978, the RM250CII gets a plastic fuel
tank and an aluminum swingarm.
1979: This is a big change for the Suzuki 250. The
RM250N is a mostly new bike. Honda and Yamaha have
new 250s as well, and the European companies have fallen far behind.
1981: Everything changes with the arrival of single-shock suspension. All four Japanese companies offer different configurations, but Suzuki’s “Full Floater” design is
the best. (Side note: Suzuki is sued by the original designer of the system. After a lengthy court battle, Suzuki is
ordered to pay up based on the number of units sold.)
1982: The liquid-cooled RM250 of 1982 reigns supreme
as the best 250 of the year. It’s faster, lighter and has bet-
ter suspension than anything in the class. Honda, Yamaha
and Kawasaki have off years but recover quickly. In 1983,
the RM250 loses power, and the other Japanese compa-
nies catch up. Over the next few years, the Suzuki doesn’t
quite keep up with the rapid pace of technological
advances in the motocross world. If there are any dark
years in the history of the RM, they are in the mid-’80s.
1986: The frame is redesigned, and the rear suspension
loses the big rocker arm on top, which is replaced by
below-the-swingarm linkage. Suspension remains the
bike’s strong point, but the motor lacks throttle response
and peak power.
Roger DeCoster coaxed Jeremy McGrath to Suzuki for a one-year stint in 1996. It would have been considered successful
for anyone else.
By 1987, Bob Hannah’s influence was
being felt. The RM would gradually
improve throughout the late ’80s.
A big redesign in 1989 gave the RM250
a case reed motor and put Suzuki right
up front again in production shootouts.
Some of the graphics of the early ’90s
were painful to behold.