By Kris Keefer
Photos by Eric Narvaez
For 2014 Suzuki decided to stick to what they know. The 2014 (notice how I didn’t say “all-new”?) RM-Z250 is basically a 2013 wrapped in yellow number plates with an ECM change to improve the RM-Z ‘s starting habits. Don’t get all bummed out and just skip this web test. Listen, with today’s economy, we (the consumer) must understand that the market is not at an all time high, therefore development of dirt bikes slows down for each manufacturer. We usually see a manufacturer make refinements to their particular all-new motorcycle for two to three years before we see another drastic improvement and/ or change. Suzuki is no different. Have no fear, we will see an all-new Suzuki RM-Z250 in 2015, so in the meantime grab a beverage and let me break down ten facts about the 2014 RM-Z250:
- The 2014 RM-Z250 has great bottom end power. Our first impression of the latest ‘zook was at the legendary Perris Raceway where Suzuki brought out the machine for the U.S. press to ride. The track features a tight, clay-based dirt with a lot of 180-degree corners. Getting out of tight turns is one of Suzuki’s strong suits. Rolling into ruts in second gear with a little fan of the clutch will immediately get you out while lofting the front wheel.
- Mid-range power did seem a little flat with the standard coupler installed. We decided to try the leaner coupler and this woke up the mid-range and made the bike pull harder exiting corners and leading into straights. We could leave the bike in second gear longer before shifting into third with the lean coupler.
- The top-end of the RM-Z is where this bike likes to be ridden. The engine will pull third gear around a tighter track surprisingly well. On long straights the RM-Z could be revved out in third gear seemingly longer than previous 2014 models we have ridden so far. One of our test riders commented that he was surprised how much pull the Suzuki had on top and how odd it was that he didn’t have to shift into fourth gear on longer straights due to the bike pulling so far. Going to the leaner coupler did hurt the top end some, but considering the trade off we found with the mid range pulling power, we decided to keep the lean coupler on for the rest of the test.
- The Separate Function Fork was a little on the harsh side for our test riders ranging from 150-185 lbs. Coming into corners the front end never really seemed to have that ‘planted’ feeling. It feels as though the fork is stiff through the stroke until you get to the end, where it then blows through. If you are charging up jump faces and really over the front of the bike the fork feels good. If you come up short on landings the fork seems soft at the end and will bottom. Trying to go with more preload only magnified our mid-stroke harsh feel. Our best setting was to speed up the rebound a couple clicks and soften the compression a few. This gave us more comfort entering corners.
- The shock feels like it’s built for heavier, faster riders and it certainly gives those riders tons of performance. Our faster, heavier test riders praised the shock and its ability to hit square edge at speed, plus soaking up g-outs while keeping good damping characteristics. Coming out of corners with huge holes the rear end of the bike felt like it kept traction and didn’t get harsh with heavier riders. Our lightest test rider felt like it was just too stiff for him no matter how much we backed out compression.
- The Perris track had long ruts in almost every corner and this is what the RM-Z loves. Once in the turn the yellow bike lays down instantly and turns sharper than its competition. Rut blown out? No problem, the Suzuki will brake-slide and pivot just as well and remained planted to the track at the same time.
- Straight-line stability is surprisingly good on this bike, even though the suspension is on the stiff side. Our lightest test rider mentioned that as long as he was on the throttle and not trying to set up for a corner, the bike felt planted and went straight with no side-side movement or deflection. The chassis feels stiff but has enough flex that it doesn’t hurt its predictability.
- Did the ECM change the way the 2014 RM-Z250 starts? To us, it’s still one of the tougher 250Fs to kick over. The bike never had a routine number of kicks it started on. Sometimes it fired up on the second kick. Sometimes it started on the fourth kick. Sometimes we had to use the hot start lever while kicking eight times and than she fired up. Hmmmmm, might be time for some more testing?
- Did you notice we didn’t use backgrounds or numbers on the bike? We did this to purposely showcase the yellow accents that the 2014 model graces us with. Take a moment and look………………………….. Yes. It seems that everyone who buys a 2014 RM-Z250 will have to buy pre-print numbers now. At least in 2013 the black side plates were good enough so the rider could just stick numbers on. The graphic companies thank you, Suzuki.
- With all this said the 2014 RM-Z250 is still a great package. It was one of our favorite 250Fs to ride last year and still is, but with Yamaha gaining ground this year with their all-new 250F, could the Suzuki be in jeopardy of losing a spot in our 2014 250 MX Shootout? Check out an upcoming issue of Dirt Rider Magazine to find out!