Last year, the all-new Suzuki RM-Z250 walked away as our clear-cut shootout winner (April ’07). Its first-year performance delivered a blow to the other contenders in the class with its aluminum-framed jump into the scene. Suzuki revved up the development team again for 2008 and made some big changes to the yellow screamer.With an impromptu introduction at Los Angeles County Raceway (www.crcmx.com) the 2008 RM-Z showed us exactly what it was made of. LACR has gone through some changes lately, inheriting a deep mining pit and the high-speed uphills and downhills that come with it. When we first dropped into the pit we knew the ’08 RM-Z was a new beast.Last year, the RM-Z was the torque king of the Lites class. It had enough bottom and midrange grunt that you could short-shift it all day long. The powerband didn’t stretch to the moon, but the sheer bottom-end pulling power of the Suzook motor was mind-blowing enough to put it ahead of the class. For 2008, Suzuki has taken a quantum leap in the other direction. Now, the RM-Z feels soft downtown and comes on stronger and more linear as high as you want to go. The mid-top boost is insane. Riders who love that top-end yank will instantly fall in love. If you’re expecting a small change in the motor department, you’ll be disappointed. The RM-Z is radically changed and its motor barely resembles the ’07. According to Suzuki, internal modifications to the left side of the exhaust port and new carburetor features (things called “bat wing type guide plates”) are responsible for the newly found power surge. It seems what they gained on top, they lost on the bottom.Carburetion on our test bike was touchy in our first couple of days. We tinkered with our fuel screw as we went from track to track and never really had a solid off-idle response as we wanted. A needle and some other jetting changes may be in store for our shootout, and we’ll have the best settings included there. Right out of the box, however, the RM-Z was cleanest at the midpoint and stayed that way until the end of the pull-which we never really found.Suzuki has quickly entered the alloy-frame tuning game and, even though we felt the ’07 was a fine handling machine, chassis upgrades are plentiful for ’08. Numerous locations on the frame have either been lightened and thinned down for more flex, or beefed up and strengthened for more rigidity. Ridden back to back with our Long Haul ’07 RM-Z, the new model feels more solid and responsive in general. Cornering is still supreme on the Suzuki and straight-line stability is solid as well. We’re excited to put it up with third- and fourth-generation frames from the other brands in our shootout.Suspension complaints are about the only negative things we hear about the handling of last year’s bike. Most of this had to do with the fork bottoming too easily. For ’08, Suzuki added some valving and internal changes to the fork to keep the front end up in the stroke on hard landings and high-speed jump faces. Our issues with last year’s bike were minimal and we’re equally impressed with the new model.Shifting woes have reared their ugly heads in our RM-Z250 over the past year. Our Long Haul bike has had neutral-hitting scary moments and is difficult to shift at times. Suzuki added judder springs to the clutch and redesigned the shift lever and clutch cable bracket to improve the feel. We’re not quite convinced this solved the problem, and at least one of our testers felt the new ’08 wasn’t shifting well. Another thing to watch for in our shootout? You bet it is.Fit and finish is improved as more bolts come with integrated washers and there is more aluminum and less cast steel used throughout. Also, Suzuki added some cool bling-factor with gold axle blocks and chain, anodized fork caps and a cool, new dust seal on the head-tube bearing.
That’s your first look at the 2008 RM-Z250. Keep your eyes on the pages of DR for our 2008 250F shootout to see if this reigning champ can stay on top!What’s Hot
Top-end pull that will suck your eyeballs inImproved chassis balance and performanceSame great fitting package as last year’s best 250FI love goooooold!What’s Not
Is the bottom-end power too soft now?
Some fasteners still on the cheapSpecifications
Claimed dry weight: 203 lb
Actual weight (ready to ride, no gas): 218 lb
Seat height: 37.4 in.
Footpeg height: 16.7 in.
Seat-to-footpeg distance: 20.7 in.Opinions
With the 2007 RM-Z250 being my Long Haul bike this year, I feel more comfortable than ever aboard the yellow four-strokes. Due to this familiarity, I was easily able to notice the number of improvements that Suzuki threw at its ’08 in hopes of keeping the DR 250F shootout crown. To begin with, I can say this: There is nothing about the ’08 that the previous bike did better. Every modification made was a step in the right direction-from the redesigned shift lever to the improved exhaust can. The most noticeable difference is in the motor, which pulls longer, harder and stronger than last year’s while still retaining the smoothness that made the ’07 a winner. Less torque, but still very strong. I know that Suzuki put some work into the 2008′s transmission internals, but the bike still popped out of gear whenever I got sloppy with my shifting-not as bad as last year’s, but not a complete fix, either. The revised fork is a much-welcomed change, though, giving the new RM-Z better bottoming resistance and keeping the stability that allows the bike to corner so well. I’m still not super fond of the bar bend, but the rest of the ergos are comfortable and familiar, likely because I have been riding this bike so much. I also like the gold chain and axle blocks, right-side hot-start and refined headset bearings; all are small changes that only increase the 250F’s character. Settled, stable, strong and solid, I’m pretty pumped on this new Suzuki. It’s not completely perfect, but it just might be closer to perfect than anything else in the class. I guess we’ll find out come shootout time!
-Chris Denison/5’10″/155 lb/IntermediateRight from the first minute on the RM-Z I felt comfortable, even though the bar makes it just on the cramped side for me. It’s the super-smooth and extremely torquey motor, plush suspension and nice chassis that just rule. Since I was really liking last year’s motor I was a little worried that shifting the power further up in the R’s would ruin the sweetness of the RM-Z. But I didn’t feel the motor was changed all that much after a few laps. If anything, it just got more on top and anything that was lost is way below where I’d ever ride the bike. I can’t say I really noticed much of the chassis changes either, just that the bike does nothing wrong and it even holds itself up with my “currently too heavy for a 250F” weight factor. If anything, I’ll say it’s better in the turns with a bit more control. Since I tend to ride over the back a bit, the softness of the fork that some of the riders have issues with doesn’t affect me. I never experienced any of the shifting problems, either. About the only problem I had with the bike was that the gearing runs out too fast, I was topping out in fifth on some long straights. But try telling that to the guys I was beating on 450s in the Vet A class last weekend!
-Jimmy Lewis/5’10”/185 lb/Vet Pro