Suzuki GT250 Road Test
Motorcyclist Illustrated 1977
The quarter-litre class is a peculiar institution, especially in Britain where it owes a great deal of its popularity to the legislation that limits learners to machines not exceeding 250cc. Consequently the Japanese manufacturers attribute much importance to success in this section of the market, hoping to win brand loyalty at the start of a rider's motorcycling career.
So when Suzuki advertised its GT250 last year as Britain's best seller in that class, based on Government registration statistics, it seemed the importers certainly had something to crow about. But when the opportunity arose to test the GT250B, the latest in a long line of 250 Suzuki’s that stretches back to the famous Super Six Hustler, my initial reaction was one of great disappointment. How could such a noisy motorcycle, with a complete absence of power below 4000rpm, be such a big seller?
That is where the peculiarity of the British market comes into play, for it is a virtual certainty that the majority of 250 buyers have just graduated from mopeds, slopeds, or extra-lightweight motorcycles, and to these riders the GT250 will be the bee's knees. I would hazard a guess that two-fifties are more of a stepping stone to greater things, with a transient owner population, than a mainstream motorcycle class. Certainly, anyone who changes down from heavier metal is going to have to modify his riding style, and any rider with experience of larger machinery who is looking for a smaller bike for economy would be better off looking at the GS400 Suzuki, which to my mind is a far more suitable all-rounder.
Having spent most of this year happily testing bikes in the one-litre class, this little' Suzuki took some getting used to, but towards the end of the test I began to appreciate some of its finer points. Riders moving up through the capacity classes should be delighted with it. The top speed is an impressive 91 mph, with the speedometer showing 96mph and the rev counter reading 7500 rpm, just 500 rpm short of the red line in sixth gear. Owners should be able to improve upon this and top 95mph, since most 250 riders are likely to be lighter and less bulky than I.
Acceleration is virtually nonexistent below 4000 rpm, at which point the machine takes off rapidly with an extra burst coming in at 6000 rpm by which time you're really flying. Maximum power is 32 bhp at 7500 rpm and that is the best changing-up point; nothing is gained by wringing the motor out to 8000 rpm. Wheelies are an easy but avoidable possibility around 6000 rpm in first gear.
My only real quibble with the Suzuki concerns its narrow power band. This is only 3500 rpm wide, and while this may be necessary to give such scintillating acceleration from a small engine, the machine would be far more pleasant and a good deal easier to ride if some of the top-end power were sacrificed for a bit of punch lower down.
I have long thought that riders of 250cc two-strokes rode around town in rather a more zestful style than the situation warranted. Now I know it's not their fault: it takes a practiced hand to coax the GT250 away from a standstill in anything resembling a civilised manner. And it's damn near impossible with a pillion passenger aboard. A reasonably fast getaway demands at least 4000rpm; anything less and the motor merely sighs weakly. The trouble is that while the engine is fairly quiet mechanically, at 4000rpm the exhaust takes on a loud cackle that can only irritate other road users nearby, however much it may please the two-stroke fan.
Exciting to younger riders it may be, but few of them seem to realise how important a reasonable level of sound is to the future of motorcycling. At certain points in its rev range the GT250 sound level is not reasonable, and Suzuki ought to correct this before the bureaucrats do it for them. This narrow power band, coupled with a six-speed gearbox which could benefit from having one gear fewer, also makes overtaking a manoeuvre which requires careful planning. In most situations you need to drop one or two cogs to overtake swiftly and safely, and since the bike's practical top speed is only 50mph (the last 10 mph requires a certain build up) passing out fast motorway traffic can be tricky. This lack of tractability can make long journeys a little tiring, and if that does not worry you then the handlebar vibration over 65 mph certainly will. It takes the form of a continuous buzzing which is bearable but adds to rider fatigue.
Consequently the best cruising speed is 65-70mph; the engine is nudging 6000 rpm and since maximum torque of 23.5 ft-lb occurs only 500 rpm later, you are in a good position to overtake other traffic with relative ease. Also at this speed the engine is smooth (the seat, tank and footrests do not, transmit any real vibes) and most of the noise is carried away on the wind. Rider comfort is good, with a well-padded and comfortable seat, well-placed but slightly high. Footrests and rubber handgrips that is so much more acceptable than the plastic ribbed variety. Pillion comfort is, reasonable but the seat is a little short for two full-grown adults.
The final effect of the machine's power characteristics is an average fuel consumption of a consistent 41 mpg, which is a ridiculously high rate for a 250 and comparable to the consumption of a heavyweight performer. But the poor fuel mileage reflects the fact that you have to use lots of revs to obtain the engine's full performance and anything less is not going to get you very far. However, lighter riders should be able to improve upon my fuel figure by 3 or 4 mpg. The petrol tanks holds 3.3 gallons, and goes on reserve at about 105 miles, at which point it takes 2.75 gallons to fill to the brim. Two-stroke oil consumption is meagre at almost 300 miles to the pint, a tribute to Suzuki's excellent CCI lubrication system.
The engine is conventional for a modern two-stroke, with twin aluminum alloy cylinders having four scavenging ports, which gives a power boost over the old GT250M model's twin ports. Unlike the older model the cylinder head is a single casting, and does without the M model's ram air cover which was of dubious value. The crankshaft runs on four main bearings; the centre pair and the left bearing are lubricated by the CCI oil supply, and the transmission oil does the honors for the right-hand bearing. The air cleaner is a wet polyurethane foam element, replacing the M model's paper type, and the carburetors have revised jetting as well as being mounted on flexible rubber inlet pipes. The six-speed gearbox is smooth and combines with a light clutch to give easy changes, although shifting through the lower ratios is a bit noisy. The transmission oil, all 2.3 pints of it, is easily accessible for filling and draining.
All this makes for an undeniably rapid 250, and the engine's performance is not let down in the handling and braking departments. The brakes really are first class, the front hydraulic disc giving progressive and powerful retardation which is well supported by the cable-operated rear drum. A lightweight needs no better brakes than these. Despite what goes down in my book as our worst summer in years, it never rained during the test so I have no idea how the disc performs in wet weather. The stop light is activated only by the rear brake, although provision is made for a front brake light to be fitted — in today's traffic it should be standard.
The duplex frame provides enough stiffness to make the GT250 a good handler, and the suspension is reasonably well-damped to give a stable and comfortable ride. Back-road scratching is enhanced by adequate ground clearance, and the rear shock absorbers are five-way adjustable. Road holding is good with Bridgestone rubber front and rear, but again, their wet weather capabilities remain a mystery.
The standard of finish is average to good. The paint on the petrol tanks (ours was red) was smooth and appeared deep and durable, and the only rust apparent after 4000 hard miles in road testers' hands was on the washers at the fork crown and front brake lever clamp. The bike's neat appearance is helped by matt black side panels, but spoiled by the number of silly stickers and instructions cast or stamped in the metal. The tank sticker tells you not to pour brake fluid on the plastic parts, the word 'kick start' is cast above the lever of the same name, and the gear change pattern is cast in an ugly fashion above the gearlever. Both silencers feature stamped instructions telling the owner not to tamper with the baffles. Is all this really necessary, or are Suzuki customers really the morons the factory obviously believes them to be?
No oil leaks were evident, but they might as well have been, considering the mess the rear chain makes of the bike's rear end. The chain guard is totally inadequate and allows oil to spoil the rear mudguard, tail light, shock absorber, swinging arm, silencer, number plate, and the rider's back. The plastic shrouds on the instruments looked tatty as they began to lose their black finish. The instrumentation is simple and effective: speedometer with milometer and resettable trip meter, rev counter, and warning lights for neutral, high beam, and the indicators. The flashers themselves are large and bright, as is the square tail light, and the headlamp is excellent for a machine of this size, but the instrument lights were dim and the rev counter light failed the first' night. And Suzuki must be aiming to please only the impressionable with a quite ridiculous 150 mph speedometer. The horn is just about adequate.
Starting is easy, usually requiring two prods with the choke on from cold, one prod when warm. The left-mounted kick start lever is awkward, though, and takes some getting used to. The choke can be dispensed with quickly, and the engine ticks over reliably when warm at a steady 1350 rpm. The plugs never showed signs of fouling, and the efficiency of the CCI metering system was evident from the relative lack of two-stroke smoke screen even under hard acceleration. The oil tank nestles behind the right side panel, while the left hides the small 12v battery, the single fuse and a spare, and a place to put a toolkit although the test machine came without one. Access to the air filter element is also easy, requiring only the removal of one wing nut.
Maintenance is made easy by the provision of one centrally mounted grease nipple for the swinging arm pivot, and despite the Suzuki's considerable poke, the chain wear was minimal. And a vacuum-operated fuel tap eases the starting chores; it is an excellent idea now finding favor with other manufacturers. Other convenience features a petrol cap that can be opened with one hand; a side stand that holds the bike at a realistic angle, and a centre stand that is fairly easy to use thanks to a grab handle under the seat and the machine's light weight, at 322 1b dry. The seat does not hinge, and no helmet lock is provided, which is no great loss since the last time I used one somebody used a knife to leave me with only the strap hanging on the machine. The steering lock is one of the easiest to use that I have ever come across. And to help you keep a clean license the twin mirrors are well placed and give a clear rearward image at 70mph.
The total package obviously appeals to a great number of 250 buyers, on whom its attractions of reliability, handling, relative comfort, acceleration and sheer speed are not wasted. At £647 the GT250B is, like all Suzuki’s, highly competitive in its class with other Japanese offerings. As a sports bike the Suzuki makes the grade, and would serve as a reliable small-capacity tourer with no great problems, but in town it is actually harder to ride than, say, the BMW R100S, the Kawasaki Z1000, or even the Honda Gold Wing.
A new 250 is rumoured to be on the way from Suzuki about the middle of next year, and it would come as no surprise if it were a four-stroke to cater for the commuter and compete directly with similar offerings from Honda and Yamaha. But I'm sure countless young riders will want the GT250 to remain just as it is - a high performer for those restricted by legislation on one side and cash on the other.
Suzuki GT250B Specification
- Length: 80.5'in
- Width: 31.2iin
- Wheelbase: 51.6in
- Ground clearance: 6.3in
- Dry weight: 3221bs
- Engine Type: Two-stroke, piston-valve twin
- Bore x stroke: 54 x 54mm
- Displacement: 247cc
- Compression ratio: 7.3:1
- Clutch: Wet multi-plate
- Gearbox: Six-speed Primary reduction: 3.050 Final reduction: 3.071 Gear ratios: 1st 2.333; 2nd 1.352; 3rd 1.050; 4th 0.905; 5th 0.783; 6th 0.708.
- Frame: Duplex full cradle with swinging arm
- Steering angle: 42 deg.
- Castor: 62 deg.
- Trail: 4in
- Suspension: Telescopic fork front, 5-way adjustable rear shocks
- Brakes: Hydraulic disc front; single leading shoe drum rear
- Tyres: Bridgestone 3.00S18 front, 3.25S18 rear
- Battery: 12V 5Ah with single phase ac generator
- Fuel capacity: 3.3 gallons
- Engine oil: 1.9 pints
- Transmission oil: 2.3 pints
- Top speed: 91mph at 7500rpm, rider crouching
- Fuel consumption: 41 mpg ridden hard
- Price: £647.
Suzuki MkII Hustler 250cc
Motorcyclist Illustrated September 1970
You have probably read the previous reports of the Mk II Hustler. We have, and were a little disappointed, and very surprised to note the apparently low top speed of the machine-somewhere around 85 mph. Not so very long ago, this would have been regarded as creditable, extremely so for a little Trike but experience with other 250s, and more pointedly, Suzuki’s' other 250s, and the Suzuki T200 made us suspicious.
Before we accepted delivery of the Hustler, the speedometer had been replaced by a serviceable unit, but as was proved later, the clutch had not. During high speed runs, maximum speeds deteriorated from a first time one way attempt of approximately 90 mph, down to 80 mph and less. Whatever the road speed though, the engine refused to co-operate and continued returning its own optimum performances, allowed to by a slippery clutch. Revs were piling up into the blood line (8000-9000 rpm) while the speedometer needle doggedly refused to do anything more than backslide at the slightest provocation.
Tall, American, or scrambles style handlebars had been fitted up to this time. Satisfied that the one way run top speed with them of 90 mph was all that could be expected of the 250 engine. I removed them and clamped in place a flat handlebar, and from then on the clutch slipped, despite painstaking attention to control re-adjustments required after the cable re-routing. Worth noting are the Japanese clean handlebar layout advantages and disadvantages. On the credit side, is the electrical control placing. Dip, horn and flasher switches are within an alloy casting matching the throttle clamp at the other end of the bar, which itself is drilled beneath the switch to take the wiring trunk along its centre, out of sight.
As the circuit is right out of the weather, though, and without the weight of its own trunk hanging free below the bars, tugged by the wind, the likelihood of failure is considerably lessened. The lighting and ignition switches are contained within one unit below the steering head, and the cicuits are both energised by successive clicks of the same key. A good, and perfectly functional idea, but as I have complained previously on other machines, ensuring that emergency ignition cut-outs are impossible at speed. It only requires a stuck junction box slide, or jammed throttle cable nipple, and whoever you are, you're in trouble, whether it be of the riding or engine type. Fitting the new bars, required the tank and seat to be removed, an easy enough task, revealing the frame and its workmanship to full view. In the best Japanese traditions, the Suzuki's quality was confined to the working parts of the machine. They could not be bettered, and were above criticism, but the frame, fuel tank and some of the other cycle parts were obviously built down to a price. The welding for instance was ragged, but for all that, the components appeared to be no less robust than their British or German counterparts.
This time around East Anglia, up to the Fens and then home to London via Northampton and the A5. The wide, open roads and bends of Norfolk led into the wider and even more open bends of Holland, Lincolnshke. It takes some time to become so familiar with a machine that it becomes part of you, at least is does with me, so it was not until I reached Norwich that I was able to start evaluating, or truly testing the Hustler to its limits.
The Mk II Hustler is not so very different from the Mk I, but both vary from the Super Six in major as well as minor differences. Greatest improvement is the addition of an extra transfer port in both cylinder barrels. Low speed power always was good on the T20, but it is even better on the T250 Mk II. Maximum torque for instance comes in at the same revs as previously (7000 rpm) but with the addition of another 2 ft Ibs, resulting in 22.3 in all, claimed by the factory. Optimum power steps in at 1000 rpm above this, at a claimed 33 bhp, and this is a great deal more than the Super Six, which although perhaps the fastest in its class when hi production, turned out 29 bhp at 7500 rpm-a claimed performance of course.
Unlike the T200 and other machines I have ridden from Suzuki, and suspected of misplaced optimum power revs, I cannot harbour quite the same suspicions for the Hustler, although it too benefits from "over revving" although to a much lesser degree. The rev counter blood line begins from 8000 rpm, which I suspect is a thoughtless hangover from Super Six days, for how is it possible to obtain maximum speed from a motorcycle when maximum power can only be achieved by encroaching into the manufacturer's informally danger zone'.' Optimum performance cannot be effected by riding up to maximum power revs, and then halting the engine just on the power dot for the next gear change; an action that can do no more than drop revs once more below the top power band. The thing to do was, and is on most two strokes, to ride by sensitive ear, seat, and right fist, and when either one or other of the two instrument needles start dragging their feet, then change up again, and this, with a six speed box, as used on the Hustler went on for ever! It was like climbing a ladder on my left foot only. Wonderful stuff! In the lower gears of course, because less power was required to propel the machine along, higher revs were simple. Right up and over the 9000 top danger limit with ease, in all gears. Such revs returned a top speed of 100 mph.
The speedometer proved to be seven mph fast at top speed; three mph at 60 mph, and as near accurate as dammit at all speeds below that. Maximum gear speeds were: 1st (20.8:1) 29 mph; 2nd (13.40) 52 mph; 3rd (10.37) 60 mph; 4th (8.04) 80 mph; 5th (6.97) 96 mph; 6th (6.34) 98 mph; This required 9000 rpm on the clock. Two stroke engineers have one big point to their advantage, at least, multi cylinder two stroke engineers have. Whereas a four stroke requires a big flywheel to smooth out the power impulses, a two stroke engine, by enjoying twice the number of impulses per revolution, returns a much smoother power delivery, and against the thumping big single so beloved by many motorcyclists, offers a "false" low speed torque, when in fact very little power indeed is being produced by the engine, but because of the multitude of firing strokes, keeps the engine turning smoothly, long after an equal cylindered four stroke would have given up the ghost. Suzuki have made the most of this. Strong power, the real bhp only comes in at highish revs, from somewhere above and between 5500 and 6000 rpm, but below this quite enough is churned out, combined with a good smooth power delivery and torque, to keep the wheels turning, and even results in very creditable acceleration. Of course, 30 mph in top gear was, although possible, not practical, and moreover, with the multitude of close spaced gears just below, unnecessary. Around town, solo, bottom gear could be ignored, and second used for take-offs fast enough to leave the turgid four wheeled mess so far behind they had no time to even feel envy. Once on the move, only the next two gears were required for all town work, assuming of course that speed limits were reasonably acknowledged, if not to the letter.
The gear box, one time, perhaps the achilles heel of the Suzuki 250 range, has been improved and strengthened, but not at the expense of the delightfully light, sensitive, and utterly reliable gear change. Once the first change had been made (because of the wider gap between the lower gears than the higher ones) then, as is fast becoming Suzuki practice, the clutch could be ignored, providing of course, the resultant gear changes were pursued with this in mind. Up or down, the trick seemed to be to get the engine revs above 3,500, and then with scarcely more than a hint of movement on the throttle to relieve the gears of their load momentarily, snick to the next ratio as quickly as possible. Personally,
I found the gears to be ideally chosen, especially top, when, sitting bolt upright at 90 mph (flat out) 8,000 revs registered on the rev counter. Such a speed could be held indefinitely of course, so near to the engine's peak efficiency speed was it. Against a strong headwind, or particularly steep hills, top speed was higher in fifth gear by a couple of mph, but nothing more. Two reasons accounted for this. Firstly, the wide power spread of the engine. Unlike the Kawasaki Mach HI say, when unless 6000 rpm was pulled it all gasped to a growling halt in top gear, the Hustler kept purring out power enough to keep speed up in top, right down to the rider's whim. Then of course was the fact of the well chosen final ratio. Fine for me, but Nick Barnes of Suzuki (GB) at Snetterton found it necessary to drop from the standard 41 tooth rear sprocket down to 39 for his high speed runs, for the Hustler with his eight stone aboard was running out of revs as it topped the three figure mark. He registered a top speed of 102.3 mph electronically timed. Alan Aspel, on the lower standard gearing, but wearing Harbour suit, and two stones heavier, 98 mph, and myself, leathers, 12'/2 stone, exactly the same speed. Which only goes to grove how important, and relevant are a multitude of extraneous circumstances. Had I attempted for instance to discover the machine's top speed with the high gearing, and wearing a Barbour suit it would have in all probability resulted in no more than 85/90 mph.
The clutch, once replaced, behaved itself perfectly. The first one had been maladjusted, the new unit however, was light, sensitive and smooth, never grabbing or slipping regardless of (normal) provocation through heavy traffic, or fast starts. While talking clutches, and gear changes, and what-have-you, I thought it amusing enough to mention the simplicity with which if not tunes, then quite definitely, varying octaves can be coaxed from the engine by the delightful and simple method of quickly singing through the top four gears. I discovered that by holding the throttle at a steady 4500/5000 rpm, and then running up and down through the gears, allowing them to find their own rev level, brought a succession of notes from the engine that couldn't have been bettered by a fioog synthesiser. Doesn't prove a thing really, except that giv4n enough practice I would at least have mastered one musical instrument, One moreover that would take me to the concert.
The frame is the same as before, but with stronger gusseting around the steering head. Suspension too has not altered, except for the trendy discarding of fork shrouds. The action of front and rear systems are well matched. Both are soft and lightly damped, offering great comfort at lower speeds, and sure footedness under most conditions at high speed.
As I said previously, it takes me some time to really fasten on to a new bike, so it could have been that, but I suspect, that it was in fact the normal Japanese practice of pandering to the well fed bottoms of our Atlantic cousins that prompted the rear units to start surrendering to high speed cornering once I was into Lincolnshire and rounding the Wash. Maybe by that time they had warmed up, but according to the manufacturer, that should make no difference, for they are helium filled under pressure. The theory being that the pressurised, inert gas inhibits damping fluid frothing. Maybe it does, I expect so, but in that case the damping itself should exert a more powerful influence on the handing of the machine. As the Hustler is such an ideal little touring bike, absolutely begging for loaded panniers, sunny holidays and a blonde on the pillion, to clamp in a set of fierce racing units would be a pity; it doesn't deserve such harsh treatment, for the speeds that beat the units cannot often be realised in this country—for a good many reasons, mainly to do with the law. For the rider demanding the ultimate in handling, most good Suzuki dealers offer alternative equipment, which if ordered as original equipment on a new machine is in most cases less expensive than buying at a later date.
Braking comes into this category. The rear one is fine, and so is the front one up to a point, but using it hard at high speed and under load to its limit resulted in not exactly fade, but certainly a disappointing relaxing of the initial grip. Like all the units, its first bite was a strong one, and suggestive of greater things; even a little daunting in the wet, but smooth and utterly controllable for all that. Like the road holding, braking was more than adequate for everything except the limit of sensibility.
Lighting was good. The headlamp, a funny little angular squashed up unit that I liked for its logical size (who wants more than is necessary), gave a light enough for 65 mph night riding, but the 12 volt alternator turns out enough power for at least a 50 w bulb, so why not use one instead of the present 35 w power? Flashers were valuable during night rides especially, and high speed riding during daytime, but required thoughtful consideration otherwise. The switch was too close to the left hand, and too small and easy to accidentally knock into operation, for my complete satisfaction. But I aint grumbling. I am all for them. They are the greatest safety contribution to motorcycling since the crash helmet.
The massive paper air cleaners also effectively silenced induction roar, which would, I suspect from some rumbling undertones during acceleration, have overpowered the well silenced exhaust note. The silencers are huge, and vital to performance. A notice stamped into them states that any tampering is strictly forbidden and will hinder the engine's (to my mind) quite extraordinary efficiency.
Petrol consumption worked out to a final all round figure of 38 mpg, but that was under extremely hard riding conditions. More gentle handling provided an increase of approximately 8 mpg more. Many riders could improve on that, but I found the temptation to wind on hard irresistible.
The Japanese apparently think we are being a bit silly about our insistence on Dunlop or Avon tires, and quote their American replacement orders. Most riders ask for the same again and only a few buy British. It is not surprising. Avon and Dunlop are small people in the USA; no bigger than any one of a dozen Italian or Japanese companies. Of the few American riders who know anything about hysteresis rubber and its advantages, most no doubt consider it to be nothing more than advertising blurb. Few of them ride regularly in the rain. Why should they bother with tires that claim to grip in the wet? If our climate was a dry one, we would not use the grippy rubber, even had it been invented, and that I doubt. 1 shall never forget reading one of the American magazines' serious claims that riding a Vincent in the wet was bordering on lunacy. It probably is for them It s an everyday occurrence for us. Believe me, Suzuki. British riders have more experience in wet weather riding than probably any other motorcyclists in the world. Anyway, discussions are now taking place between the Japanese, and British Suzuki companies regarding the possibility of supplying T500 Mk Ill's with British tires. In a few months time.
From tick over at 1700 rpm, through the power band up to over 9000 the engine could not be faulted. Smooth, silky power all the way. Oil tight, gas tight. White exhaust pipes at the end of it all. And most of all, a couple of very impressed, supremely satisfied journalists
Suzuki Hustler Specification
- Engine: bore and stroke; 54 x 54 mm.
- Compression ratio; (corrected) 754:1. Four star petrol used throughout.
- Power; 33 bhp at 8000 rpm.
- Torque; 22.3 ft lbs at 7000 rpm.
- Lubrication; Posiforce pump injected oil to cylinder walls and crankshaft bearings.
- Gearbox; six speed, constant mesh.
- Clutch; wet, multi plate, gear driven on right hand side machine.
- Electrical system; 12 v crankshaft mounted alternator. Twin coil contact breaker ignition. 35w headlamp.
- Wheels; front, 18 x 2.75 in., rear 18 x 300 in. Brakes; front 7 in. tls. rear; 7 in. sis.
- Fuel tank; 2% gall. Tap; vacuum operated diaphragm type.
- Weight; with full tank and oil 315 Ibs. Price; £338.