New Enlistment In The RM aRMy
Story by Ryan Nitzen, Photos by Trevor Hunter
In years prior, the RM-Z250 has been known as a good starting point for riders and racers alike, but hasn’t been exactly up to par with the rest of the 250 class. For 2019, Suzuki went all in with a redesigned chassis, a new engine package, and revised suspension. With an exciting all-new look for this year, the DirtBikeTest.com riders were eager to jump aboard the RM-Z250. Updated styling, chassis design, and revised engine are all big advances for the Suzuki camp as their small-bore competitor had been unchanged for the past few years.
The overall rider cockpit was comfortable from the moment we jumped on. The bar-to-peg ratio was well-received by our taller and smaller riders. At 6 foot 1 and 5 foot 7 respectively, that’s not an easy feat. A few lever adjustments was all that was needed and our riders were off. The updated body work and chassis also contribute to the well-liked “pocket” that you’ll feel while riding. Our testers all praised the bike for feeling slim, but not too narrow as we could still maintain a strong grip with our knees.
The RM-Z’s revised power plant package is one of it’s best and most noticeable improvements for 2019. The new cylinder head and dual fuel injection system work in sync to provide a stronger initial throttle response and more mid-range power as our riders pulled through the RPM’s. This extra oomph was much appreciated as we ripped around Pala Raceway, using the sweeping outsides or hitting jumps from the inside ruts. The power of the RM-Z isn’t scary or intimidating by any means – in fact most riders found it to be smooth and extremely linear, something that novice and vet level riders will take kind to.
Power on the RMZ tends to fall off towards the top of the RPM range and riders are forced to shift gears more frequently than on other 250s in the class. The bike also requires some clutching to encourage the power to come alive. Overall delivery is smooth and comes on as expected but can leave expert level riders looking for more as speeds increase.
Suzuki’s updated chassis feels well-balanced on the track, perhaps the best in the class. The chassis is stiff for the more aware riders, but overall we felt the bike to be planted and predictable in all conditions. In the faster downhills and sweepers, the RM-Z remains in line and doesn’t dance around or move without rider direction. Tighter corners are also well-liked by the Suzuki as it carves up inside lines with ease. The bike does feel a bit heavier than some of the other 250’s we’ve tested and tips the scales at 238 pounds. However, with some extra encouragement, the bike can be laid over to near bar-dragging potential.
On the first day of testing we did have to make clicker adjustments to the front fork in order to soften it for some of the rougher sections. While the bike remained predictable, the fork was harsh in small chop and larger braking bumps. Opening up the compression to soften the fork helped.
Suspension settings seem to be the thing we continue to chase on the new Zook. Updates to the suspension include a new KYB AOS Coil-Spring Fork and standard KYB Shock, contrary to the Showa components found on the 450. The spring systems will be appreciated by riders, but finding that perfect setting may be a bit difficult. Both fork and shock felt a little too harsh out of the box and got worse as the track got rougher. The forks are chattery in some faster, rougher sections, lacking some of the small bump compliance that we are looking for. At Fox Raceway, we sped up the rebound 1 click in the fork for increased initial plushness and it helped. We are still tinkering with suspension as we search for that happy medium of speed, comfort, and predictability.
Kickstarting the bike may not seem like a big deal, but our riders were near dumbfounded when they had to pull the kick starter out from the engine. The 250 class is full of e-start bikes now, and the kickstarter on the new RM-Z will be something that will hold it back, personal preference or not. Unless the simplicity and lack of a battery are overpowered by the need to use muscles. Along with this is the fuel-coupler system. The bike comes with 3 settings – standard, smooth, and aggressive, but must be changed back at the truck with the engine off. In a field of on-the-fly map adjustment, the Suzuki initially left us wanting more rider adjustability. With the current norm, the RM-Z is still lacking even after its 2019 overhaul.
With that being said, the improvements to the 2019 yellow machine are clear from the previous package. It is considerably better than years prior and comfortable, especially on smooth tracks right from the get go. But in a class this tough and evolving, the Suzuki will still be a step behind for the demanding riders of the world. But for most riders, the typical track-day guys of the world, the masses of novice racers out there, the RM-Z 250 is plenty and offers performance that easily meets needs, typically at a retail price that is lower than the competition. The conundrum: at least half of these riders want electric start and are willing to pay for it.
The bottom line? The 2019 RM-Z feels like a basic 250F. When the track is smooth, the bike is at it’s best; nimble and fun to ride. But when the track goes away, so does the the plush ride we enjoy. We are already chasing settings and looking to counteract that harsh feeling from the over-valved fork and shock. The power is not over the top like some of the other modern 250F’s and forces the rider to carry momentum around the outsides or brake late for the inside lines. We’d consider this to be a solid vet track or weekend warrior bike.
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