Test Ride: 2004 Suzuki RM-Z250/ Kawasaki KX250F - MXracer Magazine

Over the last year Suzuki and Kawasaki have put their collaboration to good use. In their first attempt sharing development on what many are calling one of the most exciting bikes to come from either camp in years, their alliance was a total success. With the dominance of the Yamaha YZ250F for the last few years, as well as the all-new Honda CRF250R, Suzuki and Kawasaki cut no corners. Other than the Kayaba suspension, these bikes share nothing with their siblings. Kawasaki headed up all the chassis and suspension development, and Suzuki handled motor development. Both bikes come hot off the same assembly line; one bike gets yellow plastic and one gets green. Other than a differently shaped radiator shroud these bikes are identical.When you first sit on the four-banger it feels a bit on the small side, but after spinning a few laps it all makes sense. The bike has a really low center of gravity, and the feel of the bike is light. This bike corners as if it's on a rail. The RM-Z/KX-F is agile and really reacts to rider input. Taller riders may feel a bit cramped but will forget about it; the ergonomics are compact for a reason. The only thing holding the duo back in the handling department is the suspension. As with the KX125, the suspension is on the soft side and is not progressive. Many of our test riders went in on compression, anywhere from 5 to 9 clicks. The fork doesn't really seem to react to clicker adjustments. If you go all the way in on compression the fork is harsh on small chop. There is no halfway point, and going all the way in doesn't keep the fork from blowing through the stroke. If the RM-Z/KX-F had a predictable fork, the bike would be right in there with the CRF. The shock isn't great, but it isn't horrible either. It works well on faster sections, but on big hits it tends to blow through the stroke the way the fork does. A more progressive feel would be better. The brakes work well; the new Honda-style front brake has good power and never showed signs of fade.Power to the ground is what four-strokes are all about, and the RM-Z/KX-F is a perfect example. The motor is a bit soft off the bottom but hooks up in the midrange. The bulk of the power is in the mid to top-end. The motor has torque and likes to be ridden in the meat of the powerband. Riding it on the rev-limiter doesn't work as well as on some of the other 250cc four-strokes. Short shifting works well because the motor uses the torque. Throttle response is spot-on--no hiccups or misses. The motor is rider-friendly; the power is always there when you need it and is smooth--not much rear-wheel spin. Overall it's not the fastest bike, but it inspires confidence and is untiring to ride. An aftermarket exhaust system would probably bring life to the bottom-end, but in stock trim it's a contender.There has been a lot of buzz about the new thumper for Suzuki and Kawasaki. Most of our feedback was positive, and we all came away from the test pleased with the new scoot. Does it have some suspension issues? Absolutely. It would have been nice to see Suzuki put Showa suspension on the RM-Z. The new Showa components were far ahead of the others. Showa suspension would have made a difference in overall feel. All of our test riders felt they would have to do some revalving on the stock Kayaba suspension. It will be very interesting to see what some of the race teams develop over the next few months. Team Motoworld is fielding a five-rider team, all on RM-Z250s. Kawasaki is also going to have some ringers, with Paul Carpenter and a few of the Pro Circuit boys riding thumpers. Rumors are already flying from the Pro Circuit headquarters; we are hearing 40 horsepower out of the KX-F. Only time will tell, but the RM-Z/KX-F is definitely taking a stand against the competition.

Corey Neuer ABILITY: Intermediate • AGE: 27 • WEIGHT: 162 lb • HEIGHT: 5'11" The RM-Z/KX-F has some really good qualities as well as some bad ones. I really like the motor; it doesn't have a ton of bottom-end, but it comes on in the midrange. The midrange seems to be where the bulk of the power is. I found that short shifting worked best. There is not a whole lot of overrev. You can't ride the motor on the rev-limiter; once the rpms hit the limiter the power falls off. When I first rode the RM-Z/KX-F the bike felt small and cramped, but with time I adapted. I think the small feel of the bike is an advantage; it makes it easier to get the bike to do what you want it to. The biggest shortfall is the suspension. Once the track gets rough the suspension feels as though it's made for a lowered minitruck. It's very inconsistent and unforgiving. The forks are harsh and not progressive enough, and the shock has damping problems. If the bike had better suspension it would have rated higher for me. Matt Armstrong ABILITY: Pro • AGE: 23 • WEIGHT: 145 lb • HEIGHT: 5'8" I really liked this new ride, it was easy for me to get up to speed. The motor is a bit soft on the bottom-end, I felt as if I were riding a 125 at first. Midrange comes on strong and turns into solid top-end. I like to short-shift on this bike because the motor feels as if it dies when it hits the rev-limiter. I thought the new 250 handled well, but I hated the suspension. I would love to try this bike with a better suspension, as I think it would be a completely different bike--a better bike. Dennis Patracca ABILITY: Vet Intermediate • AGE: 33•WEIGHT: 165 lb • HEIGHT: 5'10" The motor doesn't have enough bottom-end; I really had to ride the piss out of the bike in order to get through corners with power to the ground. The midrange is strong and carries over to solid top-end. The suspension was OK in smooth track conditions but too soft in the rough sections; it seemed to blow through the stroke too easily and too fast. I liked the ergonomics and the way the bike feels in the air. Sean Collier ABILITY: Pro • AGE: 18 • WEIGHT: 150 lb • HEIGHT: 5'11" The motor was not too responsive off the bottom; the meat is in the midrange. I really liked the way the bike revs, I short-shifted and used the torque. The bike cornered really well, but the front end was a little soft and had some bottoming problems. The shock seemed to work really well on smooth parts of the track but was really soft; it doesn't like big hits. Andy Taylor ABILITY: Novice • AGE: 32 • WEIGHT: 160 lb • HEIGHT: 5'7" If these bikes came with better suspension they'd be right there with the other four-strokes in the class. It's a bummer the harsh fork overshadows this excellent handling machine. It will turn inside anything else on the track, and it feels super-light in the air. The problems start when you come back to earth. The fork seemed to bottom hard on big landings, but the weird thing is I felt like it was stopping halfway through on the choppy stuff. I have a feeling aftermarket suspension companies will be busy trying to make this bike live up to its potential. The motor is fast, but you have to ride it a bit more like a two-stroke. It might require a few more shifts on some tracks, but it's still pretty easy to ride.