Jun 27, 2010

Motorcycle Review: Suzuki TU250X

All Rights Reserved © 2009 Thomas W. Day

This will be a very limited review, since I've only "test ridden" the Suzuki on an MSF range. But it is a work in progress. I will find one of these bikes in licensed condition and I'll add that to the report. If I have to, I'll even buy the damn bike myself.

Suzuki's newest entry for 2009 was the TU250X; a 330 pound, air-cooled, fuel-injected, catalytic-converted, electric-starting, 82mpg, retro-looking, standard bike that is the kind of machine that riders have been wanting in every major motorcycle market in the world; except the US. This $3,800 bike has everything that an urban commuter could want. Most especially, the fuel-injection makes it friendly to new riders and those of us who are tired of the hold-your-mouth-just-right starting routines carbureted bikes require from us in cold weather. The 3.17-gallon fuel tank should provide close to a 250 mile range for most commuters.

Cosmetically, Suzuki went straight after the vintage-Brit-bike-lovers' market. Suzuki's marketing department describes the TU250X as a bike with "classic styling – including spoked wheels, a round headlight and low-slung tapered muffler." With its pin-striped red paint job, it reminds me so much of old small-bore BSA and Triumphs that it gives me flashbacks.
The only obvious nod to the 21st Century is the front disk brake, but the rear brake is a competently functioning drum, just like the old days. 18" wheels, front and back, add something to the vintage appearance and help give the bike a neutral handling character. Turning or going straight, the TU250X doesn't resist change and it doesn't do anything unexpected. The Cheng-Shin tires suck, but the 90/90 and 110/90-18 tire sizes are available in Metzeler Lasertecs, Dunlop GTs, Conti Go! and Ultra TKV11/12 among other tire options.

The frame is silver-painted steel and is pretty rigid, if a little heavy feeling. The engine is a stressed-member of the frame and the square-tubed backbone adds to the frame strength. The rear suspension (3.7") is a traditional dual-shock rig, slightly canted. The moderately long (54.1") wheelbase of the bike makes it stable for all sorts of street use without being difficult to maneuver. The TU has a low (30") seat height, so it's accessible to riders of all heights. The twin-section seat puts the rider in sort of a neutral-cafe-racer posture. The independent passenger seat is reasonably large and comfortable, for a 250. Your feet are mildly bent, but the 27" wide straight bars put most riders in a slightly aggressive riding position. It works for a variety of riders, from 6' and a little over (see photo on right) to the rest of us (a 5'8" rider is pictured at left). A bar-mounted windshield would be a useful addition to the bike's aerodynamics and comfort.

The 249cc, 4-stroke, single-cylinder, air-cooled, SOHC, wet-sump engine is mostly straightforward. The cylinder is SCEM-plated (nickel-silicon-phosphorous) to reduce weight and increase heat transfer, just like most of Suzuki's competition off-road bikes. The motor is tied to a wide-ratio 5-speed transmission linked to the rear wheel by chain drive. The air filter is washable foam and is easily removed for service. The plug, oil filter, screw-and-locknut valve adjustments, and battery access are readily available and straightforward. The bike has a 3,000 mile service interval, including valves, so it's a good thing that it is reasonably easy to service. Well cared for, it ought to last tens-of-thousands miles. Suzuki puts a "12 month unlimited warranty" on the TU250X, to give buyers a bit of confidence in the model.

The bad news is that the TU250X is hard to find. My local dealer was given one for the season. One. More than 80 buyers signed up for first shot at the bike, but it vanished as it hit the floor when a walk-in customer snagged it. That's it for 2009's stock from that substantial Suzuki dealer. I know of one buyer who drove from Minnesota to Georgia to buy one.

The TU250X is, obviously, fitting a niche. In the rest of the world, it has been such a hit that Suzuki has been overwhelmed by the demand, which means the paltry small-bike US market is going to be even more starved for attention and inventory. The good news is, if you are really a vintage Brit bike fan, you'll miss the puddle of oil in your garage. Take that as a consolation for not being able to see, ride, or buy this cool little bike.

July 2015 POSTSCRIPT: Last month, I added a little track time to my TU250X riding experience. What I learned from that is that the TU250X is a fully capable urban commuting bike. I still don't know what the top speed is, but it's got to be above 70mph because I hit that a couple of times on the Dakota Community Technical College straight-away and I had some top end yet to go before I bailed out and started braking before the chicane and carousel. A better rider would have gone faster and deeper into the corner before hitting the brakes. Regardless, the TU wasn't straining at 70mph and I had a good time on the bike and the course.

Last summer, my brother bought a TU on my recommendation and, as of May 2015, he had 17,000 miles on the bike and has ridden it all over Arizona deserts, mountains, and back country. He still likes the bike and doesn't seem to feel the need for more power or status, since he's knocking down 70-90mpg regularly and saving a bucket of retirement cash in the process.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I glad to see they've tried, at least. Before now their "entry-level" bike was the Savage, a shitbox purposely made ugly to steer even first-timers toward 600s.

I remember when they brought in 1200 of their 250 two-stroke twins in 1966 - whoosh, gone in an instant, sorry, no more coming. Same with Honda Interceptor 1983. They planned it as a low-production "homologation special" for their 750 Superbike, but WHAMMO, sold out, used prices were unreal, and everyone was talking about something the Js thought didn't exist in the US mind - handling.

KC

Anonymous said...

Good Lord, I was afraid that Geezer with a Grudge would grumps all over this bike - glad you likes, waiting for my deadbeat dealer to haul my paid in full TU250x to Brooklyn without me having to file a police report. ;)

T.W. Day said...

I guess I deserve that rep. When my editor asked what I'd thought of the Suzuki Gladius I reviewed, he was surprised to hear that I liked it. The fact is, I've been positive about all but one of the motorcycles I've reviewed. I was even nicer about that POS than it deserved. The TU250 is a really fun motorcycle. I hope you get it and enjoy the hell out of it.

Anonymous said...

An old Honda Rebel served as my MSA course bike, but I felt it much too small as a potential starter bike for me. When I saw the TU250X shown on line, I became enamored of it's "vintage" good looks (for when I was a teen, the best British and Italian bikes looked like that). So I asked my local dealer to call me ASAP when one came in. Unlike cruisers and sport bikes which felt uncomfortable to me, this standard bike felt "just right" and it looked beautiful to my eyes. So, at 55 years old, I finally got the bike I always wanted.

T.W. Day said...

As much as I like the TU250, I dislike the Rebel. We have also used that rat bike as a "trainer" and I always caution students to avoid the Honda Rebel. Everything the TU is, the Rebel is not.

Good choice for a first bike. Either you have a connected dealer or you are somebody's favorite customer. The TU has been next-to-impossible to find, even in this godawful economy.

H.T. said...

I saw one of these on the showroom floor in aug 2009 and snagged it up. My first bike and i love it although am currently shopping for something bigger i am in the process of turning the tu into a cafe racer and intend on keeping it and zooming around town for a long time.

Anonymous said...

After being run over on my previous bike (a barely broken in 2009 Kawasaki KLX 250), I was looking for something else. For the record, I was rearended at a red light - totally not my fault.

My vintage restoration '74 Suzuki TS125 is still in progress so I figured I'd go for something more street oriented, and more oriented towards my unique topography at 7000 feet MSL where even my KLX would not start easy when it was really cold outside.

My local dealer had a TU on the floor and I decided to go for it.

I've taken it everywhere in the year and three months since I've had it. So far at around 2500 miles the speedometer recently quit working. Otherwise, it has proven to be a perfect performer. It is now awaiting a new turn signal as I did not see a patch of ice and unfortunately dropped my baby. Glad to say the rest of the bike is unscathed. They did a good job of tucking away the painted bits at least for novices. In my case, I was just stupid.

The Cheng Shin tires are wearing better than I had thought. They still stick well on the various switchback roads I like to ride. Long highway is possible - I have made 80 mile commutes on the little beast without feeling as though I was hard on the bike. I do probably over-maintain my bikes but honestly this little Suzuki is the perfect ticket if you're a novice, or just sick of always wrenching on vintage machines and want something reliable to commute on.

daGeezer said...

I don't know if it is possible to over-maintain a 250; particularly in regard to oil changes and valve clearance inspections.

I'd expect the Cheng Shins to hold up well. I'd be surprised if they were particularly sticky. Even their motocross tires are durable, but too hard to get much grip.

Brian Lewis said...

I am in the market for a bike and this one reminds me exactly of my first bike, Ducati Mark III 250, not the desmo, the standard bike. Engine being a stressed frame member and all, also, the weight. The Ducati was 279lbs dry, so the Suzuki is as close as a Jap bike could get. At 56 and not having ridden for 30 years, I am looking forward to getting one and putting a windshield on and some serious top and side boxes. Go Suzuki!

Brian Lewis said...

I am in the market for a bike and this one reminds me exactly of my first bike, Ducati Mark III 250, not the desmo, the standard bike. Engine being a stressed frame member and all, also, the weight. The Ducati was 279lbs dry, so the Suzuki is as close as a Jap bike could get. At 56 and not having ridden for 30 years, I am looking forward to getting one and putting a windshield on and some serious top and side boxes. Go Suzuki!

daGeezer said...

Brian,

I say "go for it." I don't think you will be disappointed. Spent the day riding a few of the state's TU's and I still like it a lot.

Anonymous said...

Just picked up a 2011 TU250x for my 50 year old wife's first bike. I rode it myself a bit, and although I am used to much bigger bikes, I found it to be extremely easy to ride, and surprisingly fun.
It's quiet, starts easily (fuel injection on a 250!), and handles like a dream.
The size is perfect for the 5/7" frau, and she has been putting around the neighborhood for a hour or so each evening.
I'd call this a perfect starter bike, and a great urban commuter. All she needs now is a basket for her little dog!

daGeezer said...

I hope you're kidding about the dog.

I'm back on a 250 myself and I've always thought 250cc is about perfect for all around urban motorcycling. Good choice for your wife. You can tell her, with a straight face, that you're not trying to kill her on a motorcycle. (Unlike those guys who give their wife a 1200cc Harley hand-me-down and set her loose on the freeway.)

Mara said...

Will be picking up the 2011 version this weekend! I'm in NC and they had to order the bike in from California (there were none on the east coast, apparently). This is my first bike, and I'm glad to be reading so many positive reviews. Any idea how much (if at all) the 2011 differs from the 2009? I would have preferred the red, but I'll take what I can get -- especially considering this bike sounds pretty hard to find. Thanks so much for your input!

daGeezer said...

No surprise there. A local dealer said he had been able to snag one TU250X since the bike first entered the US. In MN, the state training program roped in 13 of the little guys before the season started this year, stripping local dealers of three states' worth of inventory.

As far as I can tell, the only changes between 2009 and 2011 are in the paint. Don't let anyone convince you this is a "starter bike." You could ride the TU for years and not approach "out growing it."

D.C. Bueller said...

The TU250x was my wife's first bike (2 years ago this month), and I can't think of a better one to start on. No cruiser/poser ergonomics (Rebel, Savage, GZ250, etc)no sportbike bodywork (Ninja 250) to replace due to a driveway/parking lot tipover, either.
She graduated to an SV650 (w/o bodywork) last year, but I still ride the TU250x on errands that aren't far enough to warm up one of the larger bikes.
If Suzuki ever builds a TU650x based on the DR650 dual-purpose bike motor, we'll trade in the 250, but until then it's too handy and lots of fun.
Have to say though, my wife, at 5'4," looks a lot closer to scale on the TU250x than my ape-like 6'2" frame in full protective gear does. My appearance aside, though, it's a blast to ride. Love the bike's retro 60's-70's BSA/Triumph/UJM look, too.

LinuxID10T said...

Just bought mine today. I will be picking it up the 9th of August once I get back from vacation. I am taking mine back to school with me. I got to put the sold sign on it today, start it up, and rev it a few times. Just revving it up, it sounds so much better than the Honda CBR250R I was planning on getting. I took my friend when I went to buy it (he is a big fan of Brit bikes,) and he couldn't wipe the smile off his face. Especially when we started the thing up. Can't wait to ride it around some. Darn vacation! LOL

Anonymous said...

Got my new 2009 in April. Have 3000 miles on it and no problems. Ride it to work daily and short weekend trips. I think it's a great bike and would recommend it to anyone. Only problem is there are not a lot of accessories on the market for it. Have installed universal fit windscreen and saddlebags.

theUg said...

To keep things in perspective, TU250X, and CBR are the only 250cc standards on US market with FI. TU was sold around the world since something like 1997 (Volty/ST), but the new CBR was built from scratch, and has a leg up in technology department (plus, it has $500 ABS option). I would love to try CBR, but it’s as hard to get in the showroom, as TU. I went for TU anyway, cause I like the style, and not big on sport bikes. And I like my 87 MPG average (my last one was 94 MPG after 200 mile dirt road day trip). Check it out on fuelly.com.

As for accessories, look for Japanese imports for ST250, and stuff for Volty — exactly same bikes.

daGeezer said...

I'm not sure I'd call the CBR a "standard," but if it is, you're right. I test rode the CBR for MMM a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed the bike a great deal. It is a completely different ride from the Suzuki, though. For distance, I'd probably rather ride the TU. Sounds like it gets better mileage, too. The CBR is a fun sport bike, though. It handles well and feels like a larger bike while being very light.

Anonymous said...

anyone know of a place to get a luggage rack for a 2011 tu 250. The Japanese companyt webike says the st250 advertised on their website does not fit according to the manufacurer, KIJIMA

daGeezer said...

Check out this http://japan.webike.net/products/9720846.html and these guys http://www.ventura-bike.com/products/bikepacksystem.aspx. The latter site has a rig they've made up specially for the TU250X. These guys seem to think it works: http://tu250riders.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=285.

Jake said...

I just bought one of these, albeit the carbureted version (2005). Living in Cambodia for a minute it's easier to find locals who can fix a carbuereted bike.

Very fun to ride through the vast stretches of empty roads through all kinds of gorgeous countryside.

Some aftermarket exhaust that's just a wee bit too loud, but I don't feel like scrounging to correct that here, in the land of good-luck-with-parts.

http://two.cedonulli.com/2012/07/roadtrip-to-sihanoukville/

Thomas Day said...

Yesterday, I saw my first TU250X on the road in Minnesota. A fully-geared older (younger than me, but older than 45) guy was obviously commuting through St. Paul on his TU. As I passed him, going a different route, he was about to turn on to I94 westbound. My wife and I were both fully impressed.

Thomas Day said...

On our way westward this past November, we stopped and talked to a pair of couples who were crossing the country on two 2011 TU250X's. Since they were on small bikes and doubled-up on both, they had a couple of moderate sized saddle bags (one was definitely a Chase Harper Eurobag set, but I didn't recognize the other bags). They were moteling it because they didn't have room for camping gear and they were doing laundry every two or three days due to light packing. Still, they were having fun and getting nearly 100mpg (at an average of 55mph) for the trip, so far. Their plan was to make it to California by Thanksgiving.

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