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Suzuki GT250 Road Test

Suzuki GT250

Motorcyclist Illustrated 1977

The quarter-litre class is a peculiar institution, especially in Britain where it owes a great deal of its popularity to the legislation that limits learners to machines not exceeding 250cc. Consequently the Japanese manufacturers attribute much importance to success in this section of the market, hoping to win brand loyalty at the start of a rider's motorcycling career.

So when Suzuki advertised its GT250 last year as Britain's best seller in that class, based on Government registration statistics, it seemed the importers certainly had something to crow about. But when the opportunity arose to test the GT250B, the latest in a long line of 250 Suzukis that stretches back to the famous Super Six Hustler, my initial reaction was one of great disappointment. How could such a noisy motorcycle, with a complete absence of power below 4000rpm, be such a big seller?

That is where the peculiarity of the British market comes into play, for it is a virtual certainty that the majority of 250 buyers have just graduated from mopeds, slopeds, or extra-lightweight motorcycles, and to these riders the GT250 will be the bee's knees. I would hazard a guess that two-fifties are more of a stepping stone to greater things, with a transient owner population, than a mainstream motorcycle class. Certainly, anyone who changes down from heavier metal is going to have to modify his riding style, and any rider with experience of larger machinery who is looking for a smaller bike for economy would be better off looking at the GS400 Suzuki, which to my mind is a far more suitable all-rounder.

Having spent most of this year happily testing bikes in the one-litre class, this little' Suzuki took some getting used to, but towards the end of the test I began to appreciate some of its finer points. Riders moving up through the capacity classes should be delighted with it. The top speed is an impressive 91mph, with the speedometer showing 96mph and the rev counter reading 7500rpm, just SOOrpm short of the red line in sixth gear. Owners should be able to improve upon this and top 95mph, since most 250 riders are likely to be lighter and less bulky than I.

Acceleration is virtually non­existent below 4000rpm, at which point the machine takes off rapidly with an extra burst coming in at 6000rpm by which time you're really flying. Maximum power is 32bhp at 7500rpm and that is the best changing-up point; nothing is gained by wringing the motor out to 8000 rpm. Wheelies are an easy but avoidable possibility around 6000rpm in first gear.

My only real quibble with the Suzuki concerns its narrow power band. This is only 3500rpm wide, and while this may be necessary to give such scintillating acceleration from a small engine, the machine would be far more pleasant and a good deal easier to ride if some of the top-end power were sacrificed for a bit of punch lower down.

I have long thought that riders of 250cc two-strokes rode around town in rather a more zestful style than
the situation warranted. Now I know it's not their fault: it takes a practised hand to coax the GT250
away from a standstill in anything resembling a civilised manner. And it's damn near impossible with a
pillion passenger aboard. A reasonably fast getaway demands at least 4000rpm; anything less and the
motor merely sighs weakly. The trouble is that while the engine is fairly quiet mechanically, at 4000rpm the exhaust takes on a loud cackle that can only irritate other road users nearby, however much it may please the two-stroke fan.

Exciting to younger riders it may be, but few of them seem to realise how important a reasonable level of
sound is to the future of motorcycling. At certain points in its rev range the GT250 sound level is not reasonable, and Suzuki ought to correct this before the bureaucrats do it for them. This narrow power band, coupled with a six-speed gearbox which could benefit from having one gear fewer, also makes overtaking a manoeuvre which requires careful planning. In most situations you need to drop one or two cogs to overtake swiftly and safely, and since the bike's practical top speed is only 50mph (the last lOmph requires a certain build up) passing out fast motorway traffic can be tricky. This lack of tractability can make long journeys a little tiring, and if that does not worry you then the handlebar vibration over 65 mph certainly will. It takes the form of a continuous buzzing which is bearable but adds to rider fatigue.

Consequently the best cruising speed is 65-70mph: the engine is nudging 6000rpm and since maximum torque of 23.5 ft-lb occurs only SOOrpm later, you are in a good position to overtake other traffic with relative ease. Also at this speed the engine is smooth (the seat, tank and footrests do not, transmit any real vibes) and most of the noise is carried away on the wind. Rider comfort is good, with a well-padded and comfortable seat, well-placed but slightly bigh_. footrests, and rubber handgrips that are so much more acceptable than the plastic ribbed variety. Pillion comfort is , reasonable but the seat is a little short for two full-grown adults.

The final effect of the machine's power characteristics is an average fuel consumption of a consistent 41mpg, which is a ridiculously high rate for a 250 and comparable to the consumption of a heavyweight performer. But the poor fuel mileage reflects the fact that you have to use lots of revs to obtain the engine's full performance and anything less is not going to get you very far. However, lighter riders should be able to improve upon my fuel figure by 3 or 4mpg. The petrol tanks holds 3.3 gallons, and goes on reserve at about 105 miles, at which point it takes 2.75 gallons to fill to the brim. Two-stroke oil consumption is meagre at almost 300 miles to the pint, a tribute to Suzuki's excellent CCI lubrication system.

The engine is conventional for a modern two-stroke, with twin aluminium alloy cylinders having four scavenging ports, which gives a power boost over the old GT250M model's twin ports. Unlike the older model the cylinder head is a single casting, and does without the M model's ram air cover which was of dubious value. The crankshaft runs on four main bearings; the centre pair and the left bearing are lubricated by the CCI oil supply, and the transmission oil does the honours for the right-hand bearing. The air cleaner is a wet polyurethane foam element, replacing the M model's paper type, and the carburettors have revised jetting as well as being mounted on flexible rubber inlet pipes. The six-speed gearbox is smooth and combines with a light clutch to give easy changes, although shifting through the lower ratios is a bit noisy. The transmission oil, all 2.3 pints of it, is easily accessible for filling and draining.

All this makes for an undeniably rapid 250, and the engine's performance is not let down in the handling and braking departments. The brakes really are first class, the front hydraulic disc giving progressive and powerful retardation which is well supported by the cable-operated rear drum. A lightweight needs no better brakes than these. Despite what goes down in my book as our worst summer in years, it never rained during the test so I have no idea how the disc performs in wet weather. The stop light is activated only by the rear brake, although provision is made for a front brake light to be fitted — in today's traffic it should be standard.

The duplex frame provides enough stiffness to make the GT250 a good handler, and the suspension is reasonably well-damped to give a stable and comfortable ride. Back-road scratching is enhanced by adequate ground clearance, and the rear shock absorbers are five-way adjustable. Roadholding is good with Bridgestone rubber front and rear, but again, their wet weather capabilities remain a mystery.

The standard of finish is average to good. The paint on the petrol tanks (ours was red) was smooth and appeared deep and durable, and the only rust apparent after 4000 hard miles in road testers' hands was on the washers at the fork crown and front brake lever clamp. The bike's neat appearance is helped by matt black side panels, but spoiled by the number of silly stickers and instructions cast or stamped in the metal. The tank sticker tells you not to pour brake fluid on the plastic parts, the word 'kickstart' is cast above the lever of the same name, and the gearchange pattern is cast in an ugly fashion above the gearlever. Both silencers feature stamped instructions telling the owner not to tamper with the baffles. Is all this really necessary, or are Suzuki customers really the morons the factory obviously believes them to be?

.. No oil leaks were evident, but they might as well have been, considering the mess the rear chain makes of the bike's rear end. The chainguard is totally inadequate and allows oil to spoil the rear mudguard, tail light, shock absorber, swinging arm, silencer, number plate, and the rider's back. The plastic shrouds on the instruments looked tatty as they began to lose their black finish. The instrumentation is simple and effective: speedometer with mileometer and resettable tripmeter, revcounter, and warning lights for neutral, high beam, and the indicators. The flashers themselves are large and bright, as is the square tail light, and the headlamp is excellent for a machine of this size, but the instrument lights were dim and the revcountet light failed the first' night. And Suzuki must be aiming to please only the impressionable with a quite ridiculous ISOmph speedometer. The horn is just about adequate.

Starting is easy, usually requiring two prods with the choke on from cold, one prod when warm. The left-mounted kickstart lever is awkward, though, and takes some getting used to. The choke can be dispensed with quickly, and the engine ticks over reliably when warm at a steady 1350 rpm. The plugs never showed signs of fouling, and the efficiency of the CCI metering system was evident from the relative lack of two-stroke smoke screen even under hard acceleration. The oil tank nestles behind the right side panel, while the left hides the small 12v battery, the single fuse and a spare, and a place to put a toolkit although the test machine came without one. Access to the air filter element is also easy, requiring only the removal of one wing nut.

Maintenance is made easy by the provision of one centrally mounted grease nipple for the swinging arm pivot, and despite the Suzuki's considerable poke, the chain wear was minimal. And a vacuum-operated fuel tap eases the starting chores; it is an excellent idea now finding favour with other manufacturers. Other convenience features a petrol cap that can be opened with one hand; a sidestand that holds the bike at a realistic angle, and a centre stand that is fairly easy to use thanks to a grab handle under the seat and the machine's light weight, at 3221b dry. The seat does not hinge, and no helmet lock is provided, which is no great loss since the last time I used one somebody used a knife to leave me with only the strap hanging on the machine. The steering lock is one of the easiest to use that I have ever come across. And to help you keep a clean licence the twin mirrors are well placed and give a clear rearward image at 70mph.

The total package obviously appeals to a great number of 250 buyers, on whom its attractions of reliability, handling, relative comfort, acceleration and sheer speed are not wasted. At £647 the GT250B is, like all Suzukis, highly competitive in its class with other Japanese offerings. As a sports bike the Suzuki makes the grade, and would serve as a reliable small-capacity tourer with no great problems, but in town it is actually harder to ride than, say, the BMW R100S, the Kawasaki Z1000, or even the Honda Gold Wing.

A new 250 is rumoured to be on the way from Suzuki about the middle of next year, and it would come as no surprise if it were a four-stroke to cater for the commuter and compete directly with similar offerings from Honda and Yamaha. But I'm sure countless young riders will want the GT250 to remain just as it is - a high performer for those restricted by legislation on one side and cash on the other.

Suzuki GT250B Specification

  • Length: 80.5'in
  • Width: 31.2iin
  • Wheelbase: 51.6in
  • Ground clearance: 6.3in
  • Dry weight: 3221bs
  • Engine Type: Two-stroke, piston-valve twin
  • Bore x stroke: 54 x 54mm
  • Displacement: 247cc
  • Compression ratio: 7.3:1
  • Clutch: Wet multi-plate
  • Gearbox: Six-speed Primary reduction: 3.050 Final reduction: 3.071 Gear ratios: 1st 2.333; 2nd 1.352; 3rd 1.050; 4th 0.905; 5th 0.783; 6th 0.708.
  • Frame: Duplex full cradle with swinging arm
  • Steering angle: 42 deg.
  • Castor: 62 deg.
  • Trail: 4in
  • Suspension: Telescopic fork front, 5-way adjustable rear shocks
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc front; single leading shoe drum rear
  • Tyres: Bridgestone 3.00S18 front, 3.25S18 rear
  • Battery: 12V 5Ah with single phase ac generator
  • Fuel capacity: 3.3 gallons
  • Engine oil: 1.9 pints
  • Transmission oil: 2.3 pints
  • Top speed: 91mph at 7500rpm, rider crouching
  • Fuel consumption: 41mpg ridden hard
  • Price: £647.

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