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
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.
Suzuki claims an output of 19.7 kW for the GSX, which is on par with the Honda
CB250N (19.8 kW) and the Kawasaki Z250 (19.8 kW) and higher than the Yamaha
XS250 at 18.3 kW.
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
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
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
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
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.
Essentially the GSX is well suited to both a commuting and a sporting role and
while the bike doesn't have the low down grunt of a single, its crisp throttle
response and steady power delivery promote excellent all round performance.
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
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.
The detachable seat was much easier to remove and replace than others we have
tried recently. It doesn't offer a super plush ride, but is quite comfortable
for the rider at least. Padding extends onto the tank and so keeps the family
jewels safe and secure. A pillion has to perch on the sloping section of the
seat and tends to slip down into the rider's back. This makes long distance work
a little tiring for both pilot and passenger. It's good to see a grab-rail
there, but unfortunately it doesn't extend downwards along the seat so luggage
attachment points are limited.
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.
market crammed full of talent the Suzuki still tends to shine in a lot of
important areas. An excellent learner's mount and good value for money.
A rather pizzazzy and diminutively flashy looking bike, the 250 is the
lightweight of the GSX range - a similar carry-on style and finish to the GS450.
The photographic session involved a brisk 50km stint to Wisemans Ferry through
varied terrain and traffic conditions where the bike proved to be easily
manoeuvrable and nimble footed.
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