For die-hard motorcyclists, few things beat the freedom of riding off-road. Dirt bikes, unconfined by traffic laws and other constraints, are about charging across the land and cutting your own path. Every now and then we’re keen to throw some roost, and Suzuki’s2022 RM-Z250 ($7,899) is a remarkably fun way to throw it.
Editor’s note: The RM-Z250 is a non-street-legal motorcycle for use on closed courses or in legal off-road riding areas.
Suzuki, in contrast to the other big motorcycle manufacturers, offers a simpler off-road lineup. The RM-Z250 slots into its three-bike motocross segment. While these bikes are engineered for closed-course competition, not everyone lines up at the starting gate every time they ride.
Because this RM is a competition bike, there’s no kickstarter; it rests on either a removable axle-mounted triangle stand or a raised centerstand. The latter looks nicer, but it requires added effort to lift the 233-pound (claimed) yellow bike off the stand, and because of their lengthy suspension travel and ground clearance, moto bikes are tall by design. Still, a slim seat and nicely tapered radiator shrouds make it easy for an average-sized person to get comfortable at the controls.
Most modern dirt bikes employ electric start. Suzuki, on the other hand, wants riders to fire its liquid-cooled 249cc single the old fashion way, so it has gifted the bike a mechanical right-hand-side kickstarter. If you’re new to dirt biking it may seem like more of a chore, even if you’ll look cooler. If you’re the old-school type, one or two kicks, even ill-timed kicks, are enough to light the engine. A handy cold-start elevates idle in chilly weather.
Fuel injection gives the RM-Z crisp, immediate throttle response, and the engine drinks from a 1.7-gallon aluminum fuel tank, big enough for plenty of laps around most closed courses but limiting range for hourslong trail rides. Color-coded plug-and-play-style couplers tweak throttle response based on preference: The black plug is for a richer (more fuel-to-air) map, which is ideal for extended high-speed riding; conversely the white plug gives a leaner (less fuel-to-air) running condition, which enhances engine response. For our riding, the standard gray plug works fine.
Suzuki now includes a digital tuner it calls the MX-Tuner 2.0. This device lets the user tune the engine with their Android or iOS-powered smartphones by using the WiGET app; this app includes more preset maps and allows for custom fuel and ignition maps. It also keeps tabs on engine hours and running parameters. The tuner is also compatible with older fuel-injected RM-Z’s but is priced at $599.95 for the tool and, as the hardware requires auxiliary power from a user-supplied lead-acid motorcycle battery, $29.95 for the battery power plug.
The RM-Z’s 36 hp engine has a nice responsive bark, but isn’t too loud. Bottom and midrange power is peppy, though the engine is a tad sluggish as it nears its redline at just over 13,000 rpm. If there were ever a dirt bike deserving of an aftermarket exhaust, the RM-Z250 is it. Unlike other high-revving 250s, this RM-Z feels best when short-shifted through its five-speed gearbox, so it’s a good thing that it has low, close-ratio gearing and a secure-shifting transmission. And the nicely weighted and responsive cable-actuated clutch is a good touch.
Modern Suzukis turn on a dime, and we value this yellow bike’s precise handling. Heavier folks will appreciate the RM-Z’s heavy-duty coil-spring suspension setup, which makes for a better ride over big dips and G-outs. Still, things can get a tad twitchy at speed, especially in the rough stuff. The suspension offers a good range of damping adjustment, though average-sized dirt bikers will likely want a more supple spring rate.
Hydraulic disc brakes provide adequate stopping power, but it would be nice if the front brake had a more aggressive brake pad compound. Both brake lever and pedal have a wide range of adjustment for riders based on preference.
True, this isn’t the fastest dirt 250 out there. As usual, Suzuki rides the fine line between performance and value. And while the RM-Z250 lacks some of the competition’s modern accoutrements, it looks cool in its Champion Yellow No. 2 colorway and handles well, especially for plus-sized riders. Factor in the elevated Japanese build quality, and with a little bit of aftermarket love, you can have a trustworthy moto-steed set up to fit your own dirt bike freedom seeking.
Helmet: Alpinestars Supertech Limited-Edition Deus Ex Machina