You’ll note from the intro image that we managed to hang on to our Suzuki TU250X as long as possible and yes, it was sad to see it go. For those of you with a two-paragraph attention span, I’ll cut to the chase – this bike has been a fantastic companion for the 2013-riding season.
Not once has it let us down, nothing has broken or fallen off, we haven’t had to add a drop of oil, and it still runs like it rolled off the showroom floor. Even with the temperature dropping below zero, with a heavy coating of snow, a turn of the key and a quick thumb of the starter button was all that was needed for it to happily burble to life.
So there you go – go out and buy one and be happy!
THE NON-READERS’ DIGEST VERSION
Being best suited as an urban commuter, the reality is that these bikes will spend their lives sans garage and exposed to the elements, and that is exactly how we treated our TU for the whole season. The net result of countless dousings of rain (and then snow) was a bit of surface rust on the painted-black, inside area of the tail pipe. You can see it in the adjacent photo. That’s it.
I guess there may be something to the whole “Made in Japan” thing. When I was in Pakistan, older Honda CG125s that were made in Japan garnered higher resale values because of their supposed better build quality compared to the locally made versions.
It will be interesting to see if the “Made in China” Suzuki GW250 will fair as well as the TU. If it does, it will be considered an absolute bargain next to its Japanese–made sibling, which currently retails for $1300 more than the newly introduced, higher-spec GW250. Ouch!
So that’s the biggest perceived problem with the bike, the price. However, what Suzuki may be counting on here is the current desire in the marketplace for retro-styled anything. That’s one unique card it is holding in this class and, indeed, it is a beautifully styled retro machine.
Being a photographer, I like to keep up with what goes on the camera world. Currently, Nikon has introduced the retro-styled Nikon Df digital DSLR. It’s spec’d out quite a bit lower than one of their flagship models, the D800, yet it’s priced about the same. Why? Well, it looks like a 70’s film camera… So there you go, these days you pay more for things that look old but are actually new.
The TU’s in-town attributes continued to impress us throughout the season, especially with the rack from Cycleracks coupled with our Shad SH40 top box (watch for a full review on these and our Enduristan luggage in the new year). With this fantastic combo, it was supremely easy to do grocery runs and downtown errands.
This bike is so light and maneuverable that you just think about changing lanes and you’re there! The TU’s cuteness factor, especially riding two-up with the lovely and talented Fatima, allowed us to thread through traffic with ease without the usual honks and screamed obscenities from frustrated cage commuters. In short, it was a joy running errands downtown, as opposed to a chore.
The added bonus in Toronto is that you can park your bike in any paid parking spot for free! Of course, the city is now seeing how they can change this to once again extract cash from those who are actually doing their part to ease the congestion in Canada’s largest city. Idiotic and sad, but I digress…
The only ongoing niggle with the TU was the rear suspension which is just not that compliant when it comes to dealing with road irregularities. I found myself weaving through lanes to avoid frost heaves or sewer cover dips. That alone would have me taking a second look at the new GW with its more modern, progressive single-shock rear suspension.
What do I know though? Perhaps those interested in a retro bike are also interested in the retro experience of getting their spine jarred.
OKAY, SO WHAT ABOUT THAT TWO-UP TOURING THING YOU WERE PLANNING?
If you are a long-term, regular reader of CMG, you will know that in recent years I spent a lot time in South Asia. It’s a totally different world over there and it truly opened my eyes to the excesses that we take for granted here. Do we really need bikes that can easily manage over 200 km/h when our speed limits usually max out at around 100 km/h?
In Asia, I was continually impressed by what riders did with bikes that ranged from 70-150ccs. As a North American, it took me a long time to embrace the small, but when I did I discovered a whole other world of fun that could be had on a bike, without the break-neck speeds and accompanying broken bones, tickets, and the higher costs associated with larger capacity machines – all downsides I was very familiar with.
Returning to Canada, CMG gave me an opportunity to experiment with the theory that perhaps I could live as simply here in Canada, and not be limited by a low capacity bike. The TU, as it turned out, was the best bike to utilize for this experiment. It’s frugal and comfortable enough for two people. Perfect.
So we were able to establish, with a rear suspension caveat, that the TU is fantastic around town, two-up. It also managed one-up touring just fine, as you will have noted in the original test article. The next step was to push the envelope further and see if the Suzuki could handle a two-up tour.
As with all motorcycles, the best way to extract the most fun out of your ride is to take the roads less travelled, as in the back roads. This is especially important on a 250cc bike in North America as, sitting on the slab for extended periods is even less fun than on a large capacity bike.
It actually goes from no fun, to negative fun… That’s not to say the TU can’t do it; in fact, it handles the slab just fine, thank you very much. Trouble is, you just can’t blow of the miles off by twisting the throttle at little further. You’re basically stuck in the slower lanes doing a max of about 120 km/h.
Our two-up touring experiments culminated with an entertaining multiday, backroad, Canadiana fall tour (that you will read all about in the new year). Sadly. even with all the luggage storage we had, it simply was not possible to rough it with camping gear, as there just wasn’t enough room.
If this was a one-up, minimalist, Zac-styled tour, it would be totally possible. In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to offer the TU (and the installed luggage kit) up as one of the best potential round-the-world bikes available, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
So how did it go? In short, on the power front, there was just enough to do whatever we had planned. Only in a few rolling hill sections did I wish for more power, but if I had it, surely I would have been breaking the speed limit with it. That’s the thing with a 250, you have to adjust to a more sedate pace, enjoy the scenery and the fact that you are utilizing your machine to its full potential, and saving a pile of cash at the same time.
As far as handling goes, the Suzuki was unaffected by the addition of a passenger and all the luggage. I just bumped the preload up a notch on the rear suspension and all was well. We still had the rear suspension niggle, but most of the roads we traveled were pretty good, so that did not factor into the equation as much as we anticipated.
On the comfort front, we wouldn’t describe the TU as plush but was very useable for full days in the saddle. I made it even more pleasant for Fatima by installing my Airhawk cushion that made it all-day comfortable for her. I was fine too, as I had my personal masseuse with me, who was happy to get the circulation going in my butt whenever required. I simply stood on the pegs and she went to work, much to the amusement to all those who happened to witness this procedure.
If one desired to make the TU into an even more comfortable tourer, the addition of a windshield, hand guards, and heated grips would be a good idea. These of course are readily available in the marketplace.
Riding two-up on the TU at often wide-open throttle did mean that we experienced a drop in mileage. One-up I was averaging 28.8 km/l and that notched down to 24.3 km/l on our travels.
As with our Harley ride, we made our journey totally pleasurable by simply making stops every two hours or so. Sure, the Road King was a more comfortable touring mount, but with the TU kitted out as it was, we could store more luggage and keep it waterproof at the same time. Fatima also appreciated the higher accessory backrest that was provided on the TU’s Shad top box. Additionally, fuel costs were considerably less than the Harley.
Actually, think about it, what could you do with the roughly $25,000 that you would save riding a 250 as opposed to a CVO Road King? And this is before you factor in running costs, insurance, etc.
To sum it up, kitted out as it was, the TU is perfectly capable of two-up touring, just take your time and enjoy the ride.
THE COST OF OWNERSHIP
In our tenure with the TU we would have had to do two service intervals, one at 1,000 km, and another at 5,000 km. Thankfully for us, Suzuki Canada took care of these, but what if we actually had to pay for them ourselves (heaven forbid)?
I anonymously contacted three Suzuki dealerships around the GTA and received quite wild variations in cost for these two services. At one dealership I was quoted over $600 for the two servicings (parts and labour). The best-case scenario was $320 for the pair (parts and labour). The moral here is to shop around if you aren’t comfortable doing the servicing yourself.
The reality however, is that this is a dead simple bike to work on. Performing all the necessary service items on the lists yourself will cost a total of $32.13 (plus taxes) for two oil filters and three litres of oil at your local Suzuki dealership.
Noteworthy here is that nothing was worn out on the bike, even at the 5,000 km mark. The rear tire was getting a bit squared off but likely had at least another 5,000 kms left in it, and the front would probably go for years.
Of course, there’s that old chestnut, insurance. Obviously there are big savings to be had in this department compared to a higher capacity machine, especially if you are a new rider.
THE FINAL WORD
This is an exemplary 250cc bike that often gets overlooked due to its high sticker price. This will likely happen even more due to its lower-cost Chinese sibling, the GW250. For those that like the style of this bike and don’t mind paying a premium for the retro look and the “Made in Japan” stamp, you’ll love it!
No matter how you slice it though, the Suzuki TU250X is still a relatively low buy-in into the world of motorcycling and as I mentioned earlier, those with a sense of adventure could use all the money they save to plan a very low-cost tour to the far flung parts of the world – on the same reliable, easily maintained, frugal bike that happily takes them to work each day!
Enjoy the ride.
Cheers, Mr. Seck
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.