We revisit the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z250
By Scott Hoffman and Dustin Hoffman (no relation)
Photos: Scott Hoffman
Yes, most shootouts have been done yet they don’t always paint the perfect picture of certain machines when ridden individually. The 2018 Suzuki is not a brand-new cycle, yet it did take on a slew of changes in 2016. Much of the changes altered the power and moved it around but did not make much more of it. We hate to start off with a negative, so there is a positive in here as well. We wanted to visit the RM-Z250 by itself.
Suzuki has been a little bit behind the times when it comes to rapid innovation, especially since KTM has raised the bar so high and so fast year after year. The good aspect is pretty much any bike built in the last five years is pretty darn good for most riders. First off, what the Suzuki 250F has going for it is it’s excellent handling package. The RM-Z has its strengths—easy to ride, amazing turning, and often costs less when you pick up a new or slightly used unit. Maybe not the best machine for an aspiring pro, but for average riders or those just entering the 250F world, it can be a very good fit. DBT spent some time on the ’18 Zuk and here is some of our feedback.
Like we stated above, the engine by today’s standards will not set the world on fire. However, it is ultra smooth and manageable. You can also swap out the couplers to alter the performance slightly. We rode with the stock unit most of the time but the leaner white plug-in gives the engine a little more snap. The majority of the delivery is in the mid-range, and it signs off pretty hard up top making it a great bike for smaller kids transitioning over to big bikes or someone at a beginner or novice level. At tracks that are tight, the RM-Z is a lot of fun because it drops into turns so well and the smooth power actually helps aid the handling. At faster tracks like Glen Helen or Cahuilla Creek in Southern California, this is when you feel the raw performance is a little anemic and the lack of top and over-rev is apparent. If the motor revved it would not be such an issue because a rider could “Justin Barcia” it around the track (just pinned to the stops everywhere). The engine signs off and likes to be shifted to keep it pulling and in the meat of the power curve. If you yearn for a little more hit or want to close the gap between second and third gear a tad, altering gearing can help a little, just MXA it and add a tooth.
The highlight of the RM-Z250 is its handling. It’s really fun to ride, corners very well, is stable at speed (if set up right), and does not do any weird twitches or kicks that we felt. The ergonomics are comfortable, maybe slightly dated, but for the most part nothing feels odd with regard to footpeg to seat position or handlebar to seat. Most riders in the 5’8” to 6’0” range will feel at home on the RM-Z. One of our main test riders would have changed the bar bend, but that is a personal preference. The strengths that the RM-Z250 offers is what makes it a viable option for probably 80 percent of 250F riders.
The suspension is consistent and unlike the ’18 RM-Z450 that uses a 49mm Showa spring fork, the RM-Z250 runs the lower pressure PSF-2 air fork. Keeping an eye on the fork pressure is very important because it does move around and can cause the fork to work really good or really bad depending on starting temperature. Once the fork was warm, we set the pressure a pound higher than the stock setting of 35psi. Lighter or slower riders may opt for stock or slightly less pressure. The fork is a little stiff but it can also bottom with faster riders. To balance the chassis, the higher pressure helps keep the front riding higher in the stroke. Some lighter riders can run less pressure but they might have to flush the fork in the clamps (raising the front end) to keep the bike balanced. A lot of this is rider preference. What sucks about this fork is the compression adjuster is on the bottom and both high- and low-speed rebound is on the top. It can be confusing and a pain for fast changes.
The shock also has a lot of adjustment, low- and high-speed compression on the shock reservoir as well as low-speed rebound. High-speed rebound is located on the lower shock clevis. The RM-Z seems to like its race sag in the 105mm range, and this is where you should start. The spring is a little stiff for a really light rider, just pay attention if your rider is under 150lbs.
Once you have the settings dialed, the suspension is very balanced and does its job very well. It does not kick or swap and tracks very well once you have the sag and the chassis balanced. Fork height and sag plays a big part in this.
The brakes stop but are nothing special. We would have liked a little more bite, especially since increased braking performance has been part of new models as of late. Clutch pull is light and easy to use. We did not have any issue with clutch fade but it’s not a clutch you want to abuse or it might not last long. Not sure why the OEMs ended up picking the Dunlop MX52 tires when the MX3S combo often works much better in California conditions when new. Swapping out the tires was one of our first changes. The MX52 is a long-lasting tire but there are better tires out there with better feel and grip.
The ’18 RM-Z is a very fun bike to ride and a perfect choice for most amateur riders and especially those jumping onboard a 250F for the first time. It’s not that the RM-Z has gotten slower, in fact it was a very fast bike five years ago, it’s just the competition, especially KTM, has slapped gobs of ponies into their 250Fs. It raised the bar and now the once-potent RM-Z is now considered underpowered. Yet even today, unless you are racing the pro class, the RM-Z is still competitive. And if you are not a racer, it is such a fun bike to ride (unless you ride your buddy’s KTM), over time it’s not an issue. When it comes to deals at the dealer, it seems like Suzuki is a great bet. For 2019, the 250F might follow in the 450’s footsteps with regard to chassis and looks, but nothing has been leaked yet. If you are solely a track rider, or just jumping on a 250F for the first time, or a casual club racer, the ’18 RM-Z250 could be a good option.
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