MXA RACE TEST: THE REAL TEST OF THE 2022 SUZUKI RM-Z250
<THE GEAR: Jersey: Thor MX Reflex, Pants: Thor MX Sector, Helmet: Thor MX Sector, Goggles: EKS Brand Lucid, Boots: Sidi Atojo.
Q: WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DRAWBACK TO OWNING A 2022 SUZUKI RM-Z250?
A: The main problem is that if you rolled it out of the showroom and tried to ride it, the forks would be so stiff that the ride would jar your whole body. The RM-Z250’s forks aren’t good; they are terrible. We don’t understand Suzuki’s logic in making forks that are Supercross stiff, especially because this is not the first time the engineers have done this. This is the eighth time in the last eight years that Suzuki has made this mistake. The 2014 to 2018 RM-Z250 forks were stiff enough for then Suzuki factory rider Weston Peick to race Supercross on them. The 2019 to 2022 RM-Z250 forks come with 5.0 N/mm springs in them. That is the same spring that Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki run in their 450 forks. In contrast, the Kayaba coil spring forks on the YZ250F are 4.7 N/mm springs. Take our word for it, the 2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 forks are too stiff for the typical 250 racer—be he a Novice, Intermediate or Pro.
You would think that if Suzuki were criticized for eight model years about how stiff their forks were that they would do something about it, but they haven’t.
Q: WHAT IS THE QUICKEST AND CHEAPEST FORK FIX?
A: The quickest fix for the stock 2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 forks is to lower the oil height in the forks by 30mm in both legs. This is not as good as sending the forks out to be re-valved and re-sprung, but it will make the bike ridable at zero cost.
The yellow plastic and overall design of the 2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 produce an attractive bike that hasn’t gone out of date.
Q: WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME THAT THE RM-Z250 GOT ANY UPDATES?
A: Well, it certainly wasn’t in 2022, because the 2022 model is identical to the 2021, 2020 and 2019 models. The last RM-Z250 remodel came in 2019 when the RM-Z250 got an updated frame, Kayaba forks, bigger front rotor, dual injectors, new shock, revised cylinder head and new plastic. All these updates made the bike significantly better save for the brutally stiff forks.
The changes to the 2019 RM-Z250 did make more power from the midrange to the top end, approximately 2 more horsepower. And, while the 2 horsepower was an improvement, especially given that the 2018 model was gutless at high rpm, it only made a small dent in the RM-Z250’s power deficit.
Worse yet, the 2019 changes were made just before KTM, Husky and Kawasaki pushed their engines to never-before-seen heights. That means that the 39.0 horsepower of the 2022 RM-Z250 is a far cry from the 44.3 horsepower of the KTM 250SXF, 44.3 horsepower of the Husqvarna or 44.0 horsepower of the KX250.
Q: HOW DOES THE RM-Z250 STACK UP AGAINST THE COMPETITION?
A: The 2022 RM-Z250 offers the least peak horsepower in its class. And yes, you could buy a good exhaust system to bring up the peak power by 2 horses, but you’d be tacking $1000 on to the base price. The inherent problem with this strategy is that you’d be paying extra to push the RM-Z250 out of the horsepower cellar, but still wouldn’t even achieve parity. Making a slow bike faster is like a cat chasing its tail; it can get close, but there is ultimately no satisfaction.
With its low-to-mid focused powerband, the 2022 Suzuki hangs in with the best in the class from 5000 rpm until 7500 rpm. But after 7500, the KTM, Husky, and Kawasaki walk away from the RM-Z. The low-to-mid power is instantly attainable, which makes the RM-Z250 easy for a Novice or a mini-bike transplant to ride. Its easy-going nature makes it perfect for young riders who aren’t ready for the fire-breathing, 14,000 rpm powerbands of the 2022 KTM, Husqvarna and Kawasaki. To make a 2022 RM-Z250 the equal of the class-leading 250cc Amateur- or AMA-class race engines, like the KTM 250SXF, would take $4000 in porting, pipe, piston, cam and ignition mods.
The 2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 has an attractive $7899 base price. The best advice is to ride it as it is, enjoy it for its ease of use, and don’t go chasing your tail in pursuit of the $9099 wonder bikes.
Suzuki introduced its dual-fuel-injector engine in 2019, but it hasn’t seen any updates since. Its 39 horsepower is a far cry from its 44-horsepower competition.
Q: WHAT PLUG-IN COUPLER DID WE USE?
A: The Suzuki RM-Z250 comes with three easy-to-use fuel couplers that change the EFI tuning. We don’t waste our time with the grey or black couplers. The white coupler is the most aggressive off the bottom and gets the rpm to rev through its range faster. Every MXA test rider chose the white coupler, as it produced the most responsive power.
Q: IS THE RM-Z250 STILL A TURN-AT-ALL-COSTS CHASSIS?
A: When the chassis was updated in 2019, Suzuki put even more emphasis on the front end. We hate it when the engineers mess with a good thing. The inherent problem with Suzuki’s new frame geometry is that it never got a fair chance to work. The overly stiff forks wreaked havoc on the hoped-for turning response. Without the ability to drop into its stroke at the apex of turns or absorb braking bumps on the way into a corner, the forks ruined the frame. Every MXA test rider chased after a balanced setup on the RM-Z chassis, but this required us to slide the forks up in the triple clamps to get more weight on the front end, which had the corollary effect of forcing us to drop the rear sag to 107mm to keep the chassis flat. At this lower setup, the bike carves like a knife, but on fast, rough straights, it gets shaky. This is the price you pay for the suspension engineers’ mistakes.
Q: WHO IS THIS BIKE BUILT FOR?
A: Paradoxically, the 2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 is built for young, small, entry-level riders with the caveat that they must weigh around 220 pounds. Yes, we know that particular body type is in short supply in the 250 Novice class. In a better world, where the correct spring rates magically appear, the RM-Z250 has a compact cockpit that is tailored towards shorter riders. The engine is incredibly easy to use, and the power is supremely manageable.
The second worst thing about the 2022 RM-Z250 is its atrociously stiff forks. The worst thing is that Suzuki’s engineers have ignored the problem for years.
Q: HAS SUZUKI DUG ITSELF INTO A HOLE?
A: You would think not, given the fact that they just need to reconfigure the fork setup, find the missing horsepower and add electric starting. It seems like a very short must-do list; however, it’s not as doable as it sounds. The forks are a very simple mod, but finding 5 horsepower and adding electric starting requires a completely new engine. When you add in updated componentry, new castings and extensive R&D, the price tag could be $10,000,000.
Suzuki has not shown much interest in the motocross market as of late, and that is evident in the products they offer. And every year that they don’t make updates, they fall further and further behind. Sales shrink. When sales shrink, shops order fewer bikes for the next year, which means that sales shrink again because of a corporate decision. It is a vicious cycle.
Q: WHAT IS SUZUKI MISSING FOR 2022?
A: There is a void in the market for an affordable dirt bike that can bridge the gap between $5000 play bikes and $9000 race bikes, and that very well could be Suzuki’s niche. With a little price cutting and careful product planning, the RM-Z250 of the future could offer the American off-road consumer a bike with an excellent chassis and workman-like powerband that can handle a motocross track without a high price tag. People complain all the time about how much bikes cost today; then they complain because they don’t have every electronic doodad known to man. We think that there is a built-in market for a good race bike at an affordable price.
The RM-Z250 comes with three different plug-in fuel couplers. We always run the white one.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Clutch. At the lever, the clutch has the easy pull that everyone loves. Unfortunately, that easy pull translates into the friction plates needing to be replaced more frequently. Put stiffer springs in on day one.
(2) Forks. The RM-Z250 forks are set up perfectly for a Detroit Lion’s defensive tackle.
(3) Transmission. The gears are notchy when shifted under a load.
(4) Launch control. This is a dummy switch. There is no way that the mellowest 250 four-stroke on the market needs to mute its power at any time.
(5) Electric start. It is mandatory to have an electric start in 2022—Suzuki didn’t get the memo.
(6) Weight. At 226 pounds (without fuel in the tank), it is heavy. Given that it doesn’t have electric start, we can only imagine how much it would weigh with it.
(7) Vibration. This bike vibrates more than any bike in its class.
(8) Engine. For 2022, KTM, Husqvarna, Kawasaki and Honda have 14,000 rpm engines that produce 44 horsepower. The 2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 makes 39 horsepower.
(9) Resell value. Consumers don’t buy them when they are brand new, so they are less likely to spend top dollar buying them after they are used. Selling used bikes is the most common way to get the seed money to buy a new bike.
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Cornering. Given more practical suspension, the RM-Z250 is the best cornering bike in its class. It gets in the corner with ease and doesn’t oversteer or want to stand up in the middle of the corner.
(2) Durability. In the past, Suzuki has had some serious reliability issues, but in recent years, we have had no catastrophic issues with the RM-Z250.
(3) Tires. We like the MX33 tires front and rear.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: The MXA test riders want to love this bike, and, at times, we do, but then the high-horsepower bikes blow by us on the way up a big hill.
The RM-Z250 would be the best-cornering 250 on the track if the forks moved up and down.
MXA’S 2022 SUZUKI RM-Z250 SETUP SPECS
This is how we set up our 2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 for racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your own sweet spot.
KAYABA COIL SPRING FORK SETTINGS
The stock 5.0 N/mm spring rate is too stiff for any skill level. By dropping the spring rate, we were able to use most of the travel. For hardcore racing, these are MXA’s recommended 2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 fork settings (stock settings are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 4.7 N/mm (5.0 N/mm)
Compression: 14 clicks out (11 clicks out)
Rebound: 13 clicks out
Fork-leg height: Standard
Notes: If you opt out of lowering the spring rate, then you will want to run the compression all the way out and drop the oil height by 30cc—unless you are a 200-pounder.
KAYABA SHOCK SETTINGS
With the overly stiff stock spring rates, test riders increased the sag to 104mm to get more weight on the forks to get them to move. For hardcore racing, these are MXA’s recommended 2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 shock settings (stock settings are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 50 N/mm (52 N/mm)
Race sag: 107 mm (105 mm)
Hi-compression (blue): 14 clicks out
Lo-compression (silver): 14 clicks out
Hi-rebound (bottom of shock): 16 clicks out
Lo-rebound (red): 14 clicks out