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Suzuki GSX 250E
SUZUKI'S PLUNGE into the 250 market started, albeit somewhat dubiously, back in the early sixties with the T10, a proverbial pig of a motorcycle with some bad handling characteristics, little performance to rave about, and an insatiable appetite for fuel and engine seizures. The next model (the T20 Hustler) was a distinct improvement on all counts and one of the first 250s to move away from the put-the-oil-in-the-fuel-tank-and-shake-it idea into a system which provided more accurate oil metering for different operating conditions. This demonstrated Suzuki's commitment to taking a good idea and improving it. So it was with the company's first foray into the four-stroke field, a move undoubtedly prompted by anti-pollution legislation which may yet spell the end of the two-stroke as a viable method of propulsion.
The GS750 was certainly a gem for Suzuki's first attempt at building a valve engined bike, even though some sceptics considered it was a thinly veiled, sleeved-down 900 Kawasaki without the built-in wobble factor. Others were heard to mutter that a company which had dealt exclusively in two-strokes (and a rotary) until then couldn't possibly produce a four-stroke that would last and not start rattling and emitting clouds of blue smoke reminiscent of its oil burner ancestry. In fact the GS750 proved to be an omen of things to come.
Since then Suzuki has expanded its range of four-stroke machinery and continued setting the trend in the performance and handling stakes, something which has often caused the opposition to rush back to their respective drawing boards in frantic attempts to come up with a product that is as good as or superior to the Suzuki item. Suzuki's latest offering in the 250 cm3 class lives up to the firm's reputation of respectable performance and fine handling. It too, is a speedy, reliable and well mannered motorcycle.
If the GSX tag conjures up visions of tyre-shredding performance then you'll be a little disappointed by the 250. Although the bike is marginally quicker than its closest rival in the four-stroke twin class, the Z250 Kawasaki, ii is humbled by the two-strokes, and is no match for the fleet-footed Honda single, in acceleration at least. However, little brother GSX does share some features with the GSX 750 and the potent 1100. The four valve head, twin swirl combustion chamber (TSCC) automatic camchain tensioner, vacuum operated fuel tap and the bulk of the switch gear are all a la the big GSXs.
The TSCC system is unique to the motorcycle world. This system, in concert with other engine design features, provides very efficient cylinder filling and flame propagation (the last thing you want) which results in a miserly thirst for fuel, low exhaust emission and good power delivery. Consequently the GSX250 offers easy round town ride-ability despite its six-speed gearbox.
Styling is similar to the GS450 and is a take it or leave it affair. Opinion among the TWO WHEELS staff was fairly evenly divided some of us liked its form but others found the bike's appearance to be rather awkWard.
The GSX doesn't display the clean racy lines of the Honda N or the Kawasaki Z250 but, as with all slightly unusual styling approaches, the Suzuki's aesthetics snould induce a strong and positive appreciation of its looks amongst its owners more so than a more normal or blandly styled machine would. Riding position on the GSX250 is dictated by handlebar shape (wider and more upright than the average touring bar) and we found the more straight backed posture suitable for suburban commuting but less than ideal for country cruising. Overall the riding position of the Honda 250N was better since it offered similar round-town comfort without the excess wind buffeting on the open road.
Since the average 250 spends most of its life in the urban jungle an important question to ask is how the GSX rates as a commuter. Ideally, to score well in this sphere, a motorcycle must be light, manageable, comfortable, steer well (especially at low speeds), have good tractability in traffic situations, offer nothing less than excellent reliability and be economical and a faultless starter. In a nutshell the Suzuki has all these capabilities so it is a good commuter but not the best in the 250 class in some respects. The Honda 250 single is lighter, has better tractability and better fuel economy. Compared to the four-stroke twins though, the GSX offers superior steering, better balance, and definitely requires less effort to point through traffic than the opposition, especially the Honda twin.
While the GSX is a good commuter, the engine characteristics and six speed gearbox lend themselves more to a sporting application. The model's reasonable cornering clearance (solo) and scintillating performance when pushed hard also make the bike suited to this role. All in all we think the little Suzuki is a multi-faceted and very functional motorcycle.
One of the few ordinary components in the structure or layout of the GSX powerplant is the crankshaft. In common with most of the new breed 250 four-strokes it is a one piece affair with a 180 degree throw which runs on plain main bearings. In other ways the Suzuki displays a high level of Japanese whiz-bang technology. A cursory glance at the bike's specifications engendered visions of technological overkill engineered just to dazzle and impress a prospective buyer with mechanical wizardry, but this impression quickly faded once the bike was ridden. What we did find was just the opposite.
The cylinder head configuration and compression ratio were intentionally designed to impart to the GSX some highly desirable characteristics. The oversquare bore and stroke and four-valves-per-cylinder head give the GSX the ability to rev freely to a 10,000 rpm red line (and beyond), while the high compression ratio and the twin swirl combustion chambers promote very useful torque and good engine braking with the added bonus of excellent fuel economy.
Fuel metering is taken care of by two 30 mm constant vacuum Mikunis which work
very well and contribute to a clean throttle response without the lag often
associated with earlier CV carbs. At the other end of the line, exhaust gases
exit through two interconnected mufflers which are quiet at low revs but emit a
pleasant note at higher revs. Cam-chain tension is automatically controlled by a
large spring tensioner located behind the cylinders.
The four valve Suzuki layout pumps out a healthy amount of torque; in fact more than the three valves a pot Honda N and the two valve XS.
Vibration is damped successfully by a single, gear-driven balancer shaft. The Honda 250N uses two chain-driven balancer shafts and is decidedly smoother by comparison. For the GSX the only obvious vibration occurs at idle, after which there is a small band of vibration between 4500 rpm and 5500 rpm and another from 8500 rpm onwards. However, these only result in a buzzing of the mirrors and the vibes aren't transmitted through the pegs or bars and cause no rider discomfort.
The GSX follows the modern trend by not being equipped with a kick starter. This would be a redundant feature anyway since the bike was a faultless starter in hot, cold or wet conditions. Starting from cold required a liberal amount of choke and unfortunately it's operated by an awkWard push/pull lever located on the left carburettor.
Once fired into action, the bike needed very little warm-up time and would respond cleanly almost immediately very handy for those of us who don't have the patience or the time to wait for a cold-blooded motorcycle.
One of the strongpoints of the GSX is its good fuel economy, and while the bike isn't the most fuel efficient of the four-stroke twins, it is up amongst the best of them. Our overall test average of 22.9 km/I (65.1 mpg) lags a little behind the Z250's average of 26.0 km/I (73.6 mpg), but is considerably better than the CB250N's figure of 20.3 km/I (57.6 mpg). The Suzuki did tend to consume heavily during hard riding stints, in fact more so than either the Z250 or the CB250N. Ridden sedately around town with economy in mind the GSX returned 25.4 km/I (72.2 mpg) so the bike won't strain the friendship with your wallet too much if treated carefully. The bike didn't match the excellent fuel consumption figures obtained for the CB250RS but this isn't surprising since the GSX has to drag around about forty extra kilos and isn't likely to match a single's frugality anyway. Oil consumption over the test period was negligible.
The GSX enjoys a slight power-to-weight advantage over its four-stroke twin opposition and this is reflected in the standing start 400 metres time. At the strip the bike laid claim to performance leadership in that class. We found the best times could be attained by dropping the clutch at a screaming 10,000 rpm or a little over. This induced a small chirp from the rear wheel, and quite a rapid, trouble-free take off. The low ratio first gear meant clutch slip starts were unnecessary and actually led to slower times. Best run was timed at 16.7 sees with a terminal speed of 120 km/h. This was quicker than the Honda twin's 17.5 sees, the XS250's 17.3 sees and the Kawasaki Z250's 16.9 sees, while two-stroke twins and the very nimble Honda single turned in more rapid times again. Top speed was a creditable 144 km/h so the GSX comes in a close third behind the RD250 Yamaha and GT250X7 Suzuki.
The clutch performed admirably during the strip testing and the pipes didn't show a trace of blueing or yellowing.
On the dyno the GSX pushed out a respectable maximum of 12.0 kW at the 10,000 rpm redline which is slightly more than the rear wheel horsepower of the 250N (11.8 kW) or the Z250 (11.1 kW). In addition the Suzuki turned out to be slightly superior in torque output a healthy 12.3 Nm at 8500 rpm finds its way to the tarmac. One only has to glance at the torque and power figures to see why the bike offers such good tractability on the street.
The torque curve shows a gradual rise from 2000 rpm to 6000 rpm and is essentially flat from 6000 rpm to redline. Power gradually and evenly increases from 2000 rpm to 10,000 rpm, and there are no flat spots or sudden horsepower increases within this range. The power-band is broad but not completely imper-ceptable and there isn't any great reduction in zip either once the tacho needle swings into the red.
All this means that easy relaxed riding is possible while brisk performance is available with generous throttle usage. We found the Suzuki could be toted around the suburbs in fifth at 60 km/h comfortably while sixth is quite useful from 75 km/h upwards. Of course there are limitations with a motorcycle of this capacity cruising around at low revs in a high gear restricts responsiveness, but the GSX handled this kind of operation with greater ease than any of the other four-stroke twins. Cracking the throttle open in sixth at 80 km/h didn't produce any hesitation so the Suzuki is far superior to the Honda twin in that regard. Usable power is on tap from 4000 rpm upwards, while the engine supplies good power from 6000 rpm and quite exhilarating performance from 8000 rpm onwards.
As transmissions go the Suzuki six speeder is not quite up to the usual light and precise Japanese standard some minor criticism is deserved. Successful gear engagement on up-changes needed quite positive footwork and failure to do this occasionally resulted in the need for a double movement for the shift up into the next gear. Changing action was heavier than the norm but we feel this peculiarity was a feature of the particular test bike and not a characteristic fault of GSX250S in general. Downchanges didn't require a similar forceful manipulation and we didn't encounter any false neutrals. Essentially the gearbox was a pleasure to use after one appreciated the limitation imposed by its less than light action.
A spur-gear primary drive transmits the power from the crankshaft through a wet multiplate clutch to the six speed gearbox. A very low first gear (25.66:1) means the GSX powers off the line very easily and rapidly. There is an even spread of ratios from first to fourth with smaller gaps between fourth and sixth. Top gear is quite useful and lacks the overdrive characteristic which results in that annoying drop in revs and pulling power if the bike is ridden up gentle slopes or a little headwind springs up. The GSX provides good passing power at 100 km/h and above, and if one has a casual slow speed approach to round town riding then sixth will provide the necessary urge. Frequent gear swapping is the rule though, if one is intent on squeezing the maximum performance out of the little Suzuki.
The clutch was progressive and precise. Take up travel was a little limited but lever shape was excellent very easy to operate for even a small handed rider. Drivetrain freeplay was minimal and the GSX demonstrated its superiority over the Honda N on that score typical Suzuki smoothness.
The GSX has a single disc up front with a single leading shoe drum at the rear. Their performance was quite comparable to the other four-stroke twins and brought the bike to a standstill in 12.1 metres from 60 km/h, 0.3 metres less than the Z250 and the Honda 250N. From 100 km/h this margin was not maintained the Kawasaki is the better stopper from higher speeds. In those situations where desperate braking was required the bike's behaviour is commendable. A little front wheel skittishness would arise on over-exuberant brake application but never at the expense of controllability. Stomping hard on the rear brake lever could induce moderately alarming lock ups but this was rare in normal two-brake stopping. No chance of the rear end overtaking the front while trying to stop on the proverbial sixpence. Overall, stability under hard braking was excellent, the front forks invariably soaked up all the bumps without bottoming out, even over sizeable undulations.
Feel in the front brake lever was reasonable, but certainly not the best in the 250 class. The GSX front stopper lacks that bite and progressiveness offered by the Honda single's brakes. Rear braking feel isn't worth raving about either it's not quite an on or off with little in between system, but it could be better.
One area where the Suzuki shone above the rest was in its ability to remain on an even keel despite copious mid-corner braking. Slight speed wash-offs didn't cause the GSX to stand up at all while more savage braking from higher speeds provided at worst, only a slight (and not at all dramatic) response. This certainly promotes rider confidence in the twisties where the corner tightens up more than expected and speed needs to be reduced quickly to prevent some sudden lessons in bush bashing something the Suzuki isn't designed to do.
Wet weather stopping could do with some improvement. There was that typical delay in braking response at the front in driving rain but as some compensation braking is affected very marginally in anything less than a drizzle.
The GSX uses a single downtube cradle frame with ball race steering head bearings and needle rollers on the swingarm. Front forks have a progressive action and do well to soak up the adverse topographical features common to our roadways without bottoming out. Rear shocks are also quite efficient at isolating road imperfections from the rider's posterior. Front and rear suspension match is above average for a 250 their spring and damping qualities work together to provide a very good handling/comfort package.
Modern Suzukis are renowned for their excellent steering and the 250 is no exception. It never feels heavy or ponderous at low speed and self steering is non-existent the bike is a delight to manoeuvre through the traffic. At higher speeds the GSX steers as a sportster should responsiveness without a hint of vagueness. Even over rough surfaces the Suzuki tracks extremely well and won't be thrown off line around sweepers at speed or tight wind-ies (if kept within its clearance limitations). Line changes can be accomplished without drama.
The GSX is very forgiving of rider error and therefore an excellent learner's mount. Under all riding conditions the Suzuki promotes a sense of security, a feeling that if you do go a little over your head the bike isn't going to react unfavourably to make matters worse than they are. Even on the softer rear spring settings there is no wallowing but a little twitching is evident through fast sweepers where the bumps are strategically placed for maximum nuisance value and to test the rider adrenalin output. Steering remains unaffected at such times.
However, the GSX isn't immune to criticism. Cornering clearance while reasonably good is a limiting factor on winding roads. When the Suzuki is pushed hard the centrestand will touch down on the left side even on perfectly smooth surfaces. Setting the rear springs to their firmest position won't entirely remove this characteristic either and the addition of a pillion makes matters much worse. Centre-stand scraping then becomes an easy task and imposes a severe restriction on sporty hooning when one is attempting to impress a favourite lady passenger. It is a pity, but that shortcoming takes the edge off what is otherwise an excellent sporting motorcycle. Right side cornering clearance was much better. To be fair, apart from the clearance problems, two-up handling was quite good. There was perceptible front end lightness but certainly no more than expected for a small motorcycle.
The Bridgestone tyres offered adequate grip In the dry so the GSX could be pushed hard without any fear that the tyres might lose their adhesion. They aren't perfect though fast down-changes with a handful of brakes often led to chirping and momentary loss of traction at the rear end so their ability to absorb sudden power fluctuations remains questionable. Wet weather performance left a lot to be desired.
Basically the GSX offers a high standard of finish and good quality ancillary components. Engine cases were attractively polished, welding is neat, and the motor exudes an air of sophisticated technology. Styling aside, the Suzuki demonstrates the traditional attention to detail Japanese manufacturers have built their empires on.
The mags are very attractive and blend well with the
styling of the bike. We weren't too fussed on the dull and uninspiring blue
paintwork but this was a matter of personal taste. Silver or red colours are
available so there's enough choice to suit most motorcycle buyers.
Instruments are a little cluttered with graduations and numbers but they are large enough to permit easy speed and rev readings. At night the orange highlighting makes instrument checks more colourful without really improving readability. Headlight is poor by big bike standards but is reasonable for a 250. It has more power and spread than the Honda 250N or RS but still doesn't provide sufficient candlepower for 100 km/h cruising on unlit bush roads. Indicators are quite bright and contrast well with their black bodies. Brake and taillight are sufficient but lack the visual impact of a set up like the three-bulb Honda CX500. Switches are GSX excellent. The combined headlight dimmer, pass light and indicator switch is very functional and a snack to operate after a few minutes in the saddle. Headlight switch shape is good as is the rocker type kill switch, although it would be less positive to flick off in a real emergency than Honda's dial type killswitch. But who thinks of killswitches then?
Serviceability is one area where the Suzuki does not excel. This isn't to say the GSX requires more attention than any other 250, it's just that some components which require reasonably frequent checking are hard to get at. It is difficult to read battery electrolyte levels without removal of the air intake box. Top ups will require extraction or a lot of unnecessary fiddling. The air filter is accessible after seat detachment but the slider type latches on the filter's air horn cover are hard to remove without finger or knuckle damage. We didn't like the fuel cap which took some time and manoeuvring to replace or the steering lock which is awkWardly situated under the lower fork crown. The horn wouldn't wake a sleeping dog and the mirrors vibrated excessively over 5500 rpm.
Touring range is quite good. The GSX runs to around 280 km before reserve and will traverse 360 km before the tank empties completely. Pulling the bike onto the centrestand is child's play due to its low weight and good stand design.
The GSX has a lot to offer both the nine-to-five
commuter and the boy racer. Its torquey little motor and fine steering provide
great ease of operation in traffic while the suspension offers a comfortable
ride and doesn't spoil the nimble handling. With a 250 Although they're a little
cluttered, the instruments are reasonably easy to read. Orange lighting is
pretty, and the switchgear matches the usual high GSX standard.
Maintaining a constant speed on hills required a two gear drop to third which was also the case for overtaking. Although the machine revs out easily it wails above 7000 rpm due to the intricate head design and valve and cam gear. Switchgear is well laid out except for the clumsy highbeam switch. The petrol cap, while neat, takes a while to master and the steering lock is not as well located as other GSX models.
Lighting is good for a 250 but the toolkit is a toy, as is the pubescent horn which needs replacing with something more gutsy. Stability and line holding of the GSX250 were good and the bike has been designed to suit round town running and weekend jaunts. Two-up touring could be slow and painful but the choice between the GSX250 and the Honda RS250 single would be difficult.
Source Witch Bike 1981