Short on cubes, long on style
With the addition of the new rider-friendly GW250, it appears Suzuki has the 250cc category cornered this summer.
After a long period of few, though successful, offerings in the category, sub-400cc motorcycles are becoming more prevalent. It isn’t surprising given the increasing demand for smaller, and perhaps more importantly, less expensive models. More often than not these new bikes are new only to North Americans as they have been available in overseas markets.
One of the most recent to hit Canadian roads is the Suzuki GW250. Suzuki had already claimed a spot in the field with a relatively new-for-Canada model in the retro-themed, air-cooled TU250. When Suzuki announced they would bring the GW250 to Canada it seemed unusual as the GW was going to be a whopping $1,300 less than their existing model. On top of all that the bike is substantially bigger and liquid cooled. But the two are flip sides of the 250cc coin. While the TU styling is classic and polished, the GW is testosterone inspired with a touch of steroids to beef up the size. It pays tribute to the awesome, fearsome and sadly departed B-King. The GW could look like a caricature but it doesn’t. The styling works due to its 7/8 size rather than the 5/8-format of many small displacement machines.
There are big bike hints like the relatively beefy 140/70 rear tire, the engine hidden behind bodywork, the big radiator and the oversized dual exhausts emanating from both sides of the machine. At 248cc the GW may be small in cubes but it is definitely large in presence.
GW250 – The Power Question
Immediate riding impressions of the GW250 are misleading. The enthusiastic but small fuel-injected 248cc powerplant has little bottom end. Throttle up from a rolling stop in anything but first gear and the little twin will lug. Fortunately there is a big gear indicator on the digital portion of the dash. Pay attention, as it will prove to be a great help both to new and experienced riders.
Little happens until the revs hit at least 6,500 on the tach, which takes a prominent position on the instrument panel—good again, because to get the most out of the GW you need to be mindful of revs and gear selection.
The meat and potatoes are within a few thousand of the 11,000 rpm red line. A relaxed throttle hand definitely dulls the experience. Once you’re familiar with how to coax the GW250’s engine things began to warm up nicely. Keep the revs above 7,000 and the bike responds more energetically to throttle input and moves freely through traffic. Ignore the raucous blat of the dual exhaust or, if it is your style, embrace it and hit the highway.
Even at high rpms there is little buzzing. The little engine is spinning frantically but a balancer shaft mutes the vibration before it becomes objectionable. The bike has the power (around 24 hp) to satisfy both city riding or a casual jaunt into the country but it’s definitely peaky power. Save your drag racing aspirations for another day, another bike.
The clutch pull is light and the six-speed transmission light shifting, which is what you will be doing. Due to the GW’s 182 kg weight, the bike is equipped with single-disc brakes front and back.
The fuel tank holds 13.3 litres and your riding economy is about four litres per 100 km equating to around 300 km on a tank depending on individual riding styles. These numbers will suffer on a long highway ride because the bike needs those revs up to keep up with traffic. Speeds up to 110 kmh are no problem but the needle will be sweeping toward redline in sixth gear. However there is still a little in reserve, which is always a comfort. There is a small eco icon on the dash if you really want to try and stretch your 4L/100 km to, say, 3.5L/100 km. Probably better to keep your eyes on the road than to try watching the icon.
The saddle space for a passenger is ample and includes a grab bar but having a passenger along will not improve the ride experience. The extra weight could become the greatest challenge to performance, but if you do take someone for the occasional spin the rear shock features seven-way adjustability. Going solo, the big for its britches styling does make for a comfortable ride.
Seat height is 780mm (30.7 inches) so the bike isn’t cramped and a six-footer won’t look like a giant when riding the machine through town. The clip-on bars are wide and high enough to require no forward lean. The ride is soft and pliant just like the big seat.
The GW250 has the naked bike motif going on but it is primarily a commuter and recreational machine so comfort has been given some priority. If you want a harder sporting edge to your 250 there are other bikes that would serve the purpose.
The instrument panel includes a digital speedometer, fuel gauge, the tach and gear indicator and pretty much all the other standard info.
Suzuki B-King Remembered – The Styling Question
Styling, which is arguably the GW’s most predominant feature, may appeal to younger riders in ways that the TU250 does not. Enthusiasts may look back on the B-King with fond memories but most new riders will have never heard of that recent model much less the bikes from the TU’s styling heyday. Suzuki can say with authority that in the 250 class they have the styling spectrum covered.
Yes, much of the stylish bodywork seems to be made of composites but it is apparent here because there is so much bodywork on the bike. Front indicators are incorporated into the cowl surrounding the rad as it flows up and into the tank and the broad upswept seat with the high tail light.
Thinking back on Suzuki’s other offering in the category, the TU250 is a great little machine but its price was edging beyond an entry-level point. At $3,999 the GW250 represents a good balance of price and performance. It doesn’t look like anything else out there, which is a plus, and while the sweet spots in the power curve take a little finding the ride is confidence inspiring for a new rider until they are ready to move up to something more powerful. Perhaps after a few bikes and a lot more experience they will be looking for a used B-King to complete the cycle.
John Molony, Issue 304 August 2014