The "first ride" season is in full gear at the moment and we're, of course, enjoying every minute of it. Recently, Suzuki made the 2013 RM-Z450 and 250 available to the media to ride for the first time. They simply could've just shown up and delivered everyone's test bikes to their offices, or vice versa, but that would not have been very much fun, would it? Instead, Suzuki chose to do something a little different and gave us the opportunity to ride the bikes for the first time at their exclusive supercross test facility in Corona, California, which is something they've never, ever done before, and it did prove to be great time. However, the track, which was so tamed down for use mere editors that James Stewart or any previous Suzuki factory rider before him, for that matter, would not have recognized the place. Obviously, the track is still quite specialized and didn't really provide a great all-around testing ground for either bike, but, for the sake of a good time, it did give us a just hint of what these bikes have to offer. Last week, we talked about the 450, now we'll take a brief look at the 250.
As you can see, the 2013 Suzuki RM-Z250 doesn't look radically different from its predecessor, though you probably noticed the, should we say controversial black rear fender (some like it, some not so much). Oddly, the side number plates, which used to be black and conformed to AMA rules, are now white. Perhaps without numbers in place, there just would've been too much black back there and the bike would not "pop" on the showroom floors and in the magazines but instead would look like an old, used desert sled. And the front plate is now yellow! Weird. To us, Suzuki is y-e-l-l-o-w and more of it the better, please. But that's just us. Sill, the bike looks pretty sharp as it is.
You have to look a lot closer or run the RM-Z250 through an airport security x-ray machine to see the other changes, and there are a few noteworthy ones. For one, the RM-Z's conventional dual-spring fork has been replaced by a more modern and seemingly trendy single-spring fork.
The RM-Z took on both cosmetic and internal changes. Photography By: Kit Palmer
Like Kawasaki has been using in its KX250F for a while now, the RM-Z250 is now fitted with Showa's latest-generation Separate Function Forks (SFF), where the spring is positioned in one leg and the damping mechanism in the other. One less spring and one less damper assembly equals less weight and less friction, which, in theory, ultimately equals better all-around performance on the track. The inner fork-tube diameter has also grown from 47mm to 48mm, which, suspension technicians tells us does wonders for improving damping performance and adjustability, as well as increasing rigidity. So, big changes are found up front. But, are the new forks any good? Yes.
Yes! There's a new transmission in there. Photography By: Kit Palmer
At least on a tight supercross track with a smooth surface and easy-to-reach and gently slopping landings areas. But, no rider is perfect, and our veteran tester, Jason Abbott, admitted that he over-jumped and flat-landed a few of the jumps a couple of times and remarked that the new forks did an excellent job of soaking up the hard hits. He never mentioned the word "bottom," either, which is a good sign. Abbott later said he thought the front end tracked well allowing him push quite hard with confidence going into the tight turns, knowing the front end wouldn't get squirrelly on him. The little RM-Z is still a point-and-shoot machine, which comes as no surprise to us since the 'Zook's frame geometry has been left alone, though the structure of the head area, down tubes, tank rails and bridge tubes were modified to improve strength and feel. Abbott commented that the RM-Z's handling is still as solid and predictable as ever.
Despite the triple-digit heat, CN tester Jason Abbott enjoyed the new RM-Z250 and couldn't get enough of the Suzuki supercross test track. Photography By: Kit Palmer
If there is one area that the RM-Z250 might be a little weak in over the recent years it would have to be in the transmission department. Durability and smooth shifting (at least after some significant use) has never been one of the RM-Z's greatest assets. For 2013, the RM-Z basically got a new transmission. It's still a five-speed but it took on many internal changes to make it more reliable and shift easier and quicker. From what we could tell on a track that you only had to shift twice, maybe three times, per lap, that things do seem to be working a lot better down there. Shifting action seemed more tidy and accurate, hopefully it will stay that way. As far as reliability, we'll just have to wait and see what happens down the road.
The RM-Z has smooth, controlable power, which is something you need on tight tracks where one small mistake can make a huge difference. Photography By: Kit Palmer
Engine changes aren't drastic, but it did take on some tweaks to improve lubrication and durability. Suzuki also went to a three-percent lighter, yet just-as-strong, piston and reshaped the intake camshaft profile and re-timed the exhaust camshaft to improve power across the board.
The RM-Z also got new radiators to keep it cooler and running stronger longer and, not to mention, to keep it running more stable and consistent during a long moto.
Does the motor work any better? Okay, we can't lie - we really don't know, at least not yet. Again, on such a tight track, the verdict is still out on the overall performance, but what we do know is that the RM-Z had a great motor last year and, on a tight, second- and third-gear track, still has a great motor. It still revs quickly, hooks up nicely out of the turns, and throttling seems to be as good as ever, which has always been one of the RM-Z250's best traits. We'll know more about the Suzook's motor when we get a chance to open 'er up and can tap into all five gears on a more demanding race track. But, for now, we do have a good initial feeling about the new RM-Z's updated motor.
The Suzuki still love to be told what to do in the corners. And it will do what you tell it. Photography By: Kit Palmer
Pretty much the rest of the bike feels much like it did last year, and the year before that. It feels trim and narrow, has outstanding brakes, and ergos are still one of the best in the business.
And even the black rear fender is beginning to grow on us. (Slowly.)