2014 Suzuki RM-Z250: FIRST RIDE

Cycle News Staff | September 17, 2013
Few  if any  250Fs can get in and out of the turns quicker than the RM-Z250.

Few, if any, 250Fs can get in and out of the turns quicker than the RM-Z250.

As much as we would like to see all-new and radically changed models from the manufacturers every year, it just isn’t going to happen. Bottom line: It just cost too much for the manufacturers to redesign and retool the assembly line for the same model year after year, so it makes sense that after a particular model gets a major overhaul like the Suzuki RM-Z250 did last year (2013) that it sees little changes the following year – especially when those modifications and updates were all for the good, like with the 2013 Suzuki RM-Z250. So it comes as no surprise that the latest installment of the RM-Z250 is nearly identical to that of the previous model.

The list of changes to the 2014 Suzuki RM-Z250 is short. Very short: The number plates are now mostly yellow (they are no longer white) and the ECM ignition program has been modified to improve ease of starting. That’s it. But don’t forget, the RM-Z250 got a significant overhaul last year, so don’t think for a moment that the ’14 model is lagging behind. It’s not. It was one of our favorite 250s of the 2013 model year and we’ll tell you right now that it is still one of our favorites of the ‘14s that we have thus far ridden.

The ’13 RM-Z250 featured an all-new motor, major updates to its chassis and was fitted with the latest version of Showa’s Separate Function Fork (SFF), where the right the leg houses the spring and preload functions and the left leg the cartridge system that manages damping. The 2014 RM-Z, of course, incorporates all these changes, as well.

The RM-Zs SFF Showa forks work well and are sensitive to adjustment.

The RM-Z’s SFF Showa forks work well and are sensitive to adjustment.

We liked the 2013 RM-Z250 for many reasons, one of them being the motor. It had excellent bottom-end snap and outstanding over-rev performance. As before, the RM-Z is a revver and likes to be worked hard on top of the rpm range most of the time. The bike hits hard out of the turns and pulls with authority down the straights. If there’s one area that could use some help, however, it might be midrange. Luckily help is just a snap away.

The Suzuki still comes with three (lean, stock and rich) pre-programed couplers, which alters the bike’s fueling and, ultimately, power characteristics. It’s like having three different exhaust-pipe systems to choose from but much simpler to install (and cheaper!). Going from the stock coupler to the leaner coupler resulted in a noticeably more aggressive power delivery, especially between low to mid. The power hits harder, which helped launch the RM-Z over long tabletops or double jumps with short run-ups, like right after a 180-degree turn, before getting into midrange. Our first ride on the 2014 RM-Z250 took place recently at the 2014 Suzuki RM-Z250 and 450 (we’ll talk about the 450 later) launch at Perris Raceway, in California, which offered some loam and decent traction; however, by late afternoon, the track dried out and became very slick and hard-packed in certain areas. The switch to the richer coupler calmed down the power delivery a bit and helped made the RM-Z hook up much better out of the turns and easier to handle overall. It was the preferred coupler by the mid-day hours. Basically, the three couplers are very effective and each one serves a useful purpose and are for sure worth having in the toolbox and nearby at all times for the always-changing track conditions.

As before, the ’14 RM-Z has spot-on throttle response from its already outstanding performing fuel-injection system.

The RM-Z’s five-speed changes gears extremely well just like it did last year after getting a major redo.

So did the new ECM setting help starting? To be honest, we didn’t notice a difference. Maybe when we get the chance to live with the bike a little longer, we’ll know for sure. But, for now, it seems to start as good as your typical 250F, which is a little on the erratic side. Sometimes it lit on the first kick, other times two or more. But, for the most part, we had no real problems starting it, nor did we last year.

But probably our favorite quality of the RM-Z250 is the way it handles and just plain feels between your legs. The RM-Z250 still feels as agile and maneuverable as ever, not to mention slim and narrow. You just want to throw it around and make it do what you want as soon as you climb aboard. And it steers like no other. The RM-Z still lives up to its reputation as a fantastic-turning bike. Point it and it goes there without debate.

The RM-Z250 got a major overhaul in 2013  enough to carry over for another year. Our Dirt Digits graphics disguise the new all-yellow plates.

The RM-Z250 got a major overhaul in 2013, enough to carry over for another year. Our Dirt Digits graphics disguise the new all-yellow plates.

We were pretty happy with the RM-Z’s suspension from the factory, though we made some changes by the end of the day. The front end, which uses the same spring as the RM-Z450, actually works quite well in the 250. Initial feeling is a tad on the stiff side, but it still had the tendency to blow through mid-stroke a little too quickly for us. After experimenting with many different clicker combinations, which included trying different preload settings, we settled on just increasing compression by one click, which alone made a noticeable difference. The SFF fork is extremely sensitive to clicker changes – one click on the SFFs is equivalent to about 2-3 clicks on more traditional forks, so it’s easy to get too carried away with the ‘Zook’s SFFs if you’re not careful. To compensate, we also went in two clicks with the shock’s compression while retaining the factory’s recommended 105mm sag, which gave the RM-Z a more balanced feel. In spite of the seemingly minor changes to the suspension, it made a big difference on the track. The bike ended up feeling much more controllable over the braking bumps and soaked up the hard landings a bit better.

Overall, the RM-Z is a good-handling machine, while offering up a somewhat stiff and solid feel. It has plenty of straight-line stability despite being such a quick-turning machine; you don’t often see those two qualities in the same bike, but you do with the Suzuki.

The 2014 RM-Z250 hasnt really changed  nor has the price at  7599.

The 2014 RM-Z250 hasn’t really changed, nor has the price at $7599.

Brakes are again strong and effective, clutch pull is light, and the handlebars have a neutral bend. And what about the Suzuki’s only other change, the all-yellow side panels/number plates? That’s simply a matter of opinion, but we’re down with them. After all, it is a Suzuki and more yellow is better in our opinion, but your local racetrack might have rules requiring you to run black backers, so a call to your favorite graphic company might be in order. Dirt Digits, which kept to the yellow theme a bit, spiced up our bike for us. Thanks guys.

Simply put, don’t write off the new RM-Z250 just because the only real change is from a “3” (as in 2013) to a “4.” It was a very good ride last year and still is a good ride, but how will it stack up to the all-new Yamaha YZ250F and revamped Honda CRF250R and KTM 250 SX? That remains to be answered, but we have no doubt that it will certainly put up a good fight.

For more Cycle News Motocross motorcycle reviews, click HERE.

For more Suzuki motorcycle reviews, click HERE.