ICONIC DIRT BIKES
/ / / / / / THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE
SUZUKI RM250 SUZUKI RM250
1993: The RM250 looks completely different, with
large shrouds that cover the whole tank. The Dirt Bike
test of the day charges that the bike is essentially the
same in performance. This isn’t good, because Honda,
Kawasaki and Yamaha are making improvements.
Suzuki then enters a short period of mediocrity.
1996: Roger DeCoster, who had been working full time
1988: Suzuki catches up in a hurry when Bob Hannah
becomes involved with production bike testing. The 1988
RM gets a new power valve and redesigned bodywork,
and it is once again best in its class. Its strong point is still
suspension, but now it has competitive power too. It’s in
this era that Suzuki earns its reputation for great cornering
ability—a reputation that continues to this day.
1989: Suzuki makes the first top-to-bottom change in
years. Everything is different, and the bike is excellent.
The most significant change is the switch to a case-reed
motor. Another change is the inverted fork. This also
marks the arrival of the RMX250 off-road bike, which
was developed with the help of Randy Hawkins. The
RMX is very successful, but goes almost unchanged for
its entire production run of 10 years.
The Suzuki RMX250 was introduced in 1989 for the off-road market. It had a throttle stop and a super-thick head gasket to meet
strict noise standards, but could be unbottled to run just like the
motocross version of the time.
When Roger DeCoster rejoined Suzuki
in 1995, he had a big influence on the
production bike as well as the race
team. The ’ 96 and ’ 97 RMs were near
the top of their game. They had conventional forks and a new engine with
an internal water pump.
In 2001, the Suzuki RM250 entered the
final stretch. It was an excellent
machine and would receive no more big
The 2008 model was the last official
RM250 offered in America, but leftovers
are still being sold.
as executive editor of Dirt Bike magazine, takes a job at
Suzuki in 1995 and pushes for big changes with a short
deadline. The result is an all-new bike in 1996. Its wildest
feature is the return to a conventional fork. It also has an
internal water pump. The bike is excellent, but gets a bad
rap when Jeremy McGrath loses his Supercross title during
his short tenure at Suzuki.
1999: The inverted fork is back. Suzuki makes very few
changes to the RM250 in this period. The bike’s strong
points are suspension, power and cornering. Its weak
points are its excessive weight and lack of straight-line stability. It finishes in the middle of most magazine shootouts.
2001: This is the last big change for the Suzuki RM250. It
gets a new frame and bodywork, new engine cases with an
external water pump, and a new power valve. At this point,
the Suzuki is very close to the top of its game—so is
Yamaha—and the two companies battle back and forth for
the honor of top bike. Honda’s ’01 CR is in the hunt, too,
but then takes a step backward in 2002.
2008: Suzuki and Yamaha are alone among Japanese
250s by now. The two of them are basically at a draw;
both have strong points and weak points, but there will
be no more progress. Suzuki discontinues the RM in
2009. It’s the end of what many consider to be the most
successful model run in motocross history, from a pure
performance point of view.
Any used Suzuki RM250 from 2001 onward is a good find.
The performance got better and better and probably peaked
in 2005. The earlier models in this period were harder to jet.
Most riders just gave up and ran race gas, mixed half-and-half
with pump gas. By 2005, the jetting issues were sorted out.
Suzukis tend to bring lower prices than Yamahas of the same
year, simply because the Yamaha is still in production. Even
Hondas have higher asking prices for no good reason. The
RMs are better in every way.
The period from 1996 to 2000 is mixed. The RM250 was
a good bike, but that internal water pump could leak and
was difficult to repair. As with any bike that is over 10 years