CMG TU250X long term wrap up

Words and Pictures: Richard Seck
Words and Pictures: Richard Seck
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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

The "Made in Japan" stamp seems to live up to the mythology.
The “Made in Japan” stamp seems to live up to the mythology.

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.

AROUND TOWN

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.

The TU is its natural habitat.
The TU is its natural habitat.

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?

This is Deosai National Park in northern Pakistan at 13,947 ft. We needed a Jeep to get up there but these guys came up for the day on their Chinese made CG125 knock off...
This is Deosai National Park in northern Pakistan at 13,947 ft. We needed a Jeep to get up there but these guys came up for the day on their Chinese made CG125 knock off…

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.

Here's Fatima looking very Tron-like, alongside our kitted-out TU250X.
Here’s Fatima looking very Tron-like, alongside our kitted-out TU250X.

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.

As comfy as it gets on a 250.
As comfy as it gets on a 250.

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.

Hmmmh...
Hmmmh…

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

1.3 + 1.6hrs... Wow, servicing at a shop certainly isn't cheap these days.
1.3 + 1.6hrs… Wow, servicing at a shop certainly isn’t cheap these days.

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

Happy times on board the TU.
Happy times on board the TU.

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


GALLERY

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.

 

25 thoughts on “CMG TU250X long term wrap up”

  1. My wife and I and camping gear for 10 days have taken several multi-day trips on our TUx. As long as we take a break every hour or so trips are great!

  2. Pingback: Tu250
  3. Hi, I Own a Suzuki TU250 2013 and I wanted to know if, during your long term testing, you experienced stalled engine when decreasing rapidly your speed (stoping at the yellow light). I seem to be getting that mainly when the engine is cold. On my previous bike (FZ1 2006), I would have adjusted the idle speed but I don’t seem to find that screw on the TU250.

    Let me know.

    Thanks

    JF

  4. Hi There CMG!

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

    Could you please be so kind and list the accessories and where to get them for a two-up ride? Seat, back rest, luggage, etc?

    It sounds like the price is coming down on these enough for me to consider getting a new one for my wife and me to take it out on a road trip!

    -Raff

    1. Hi Raff,

      Here’s the link to all the touring kit:

      http://canadamotoguide.com/2013/07/29/long-term-tu250x-touring-prep/

      Another bike you may want to consider is the new Suzuki GW250. We’ve got one on a long-term test right now and we’re really enjoying it. It’s more powerful and it has a much better rear suspension than the TU, plus it’s less expensive. If you like the styling on the TU though, you can’t go too far wrong with it either.

      Stay tuned for our first blog update on the GW.

      Cheers, Richard

      1. Hi Richard,

        The touring kit looks fabulous! But now that you’re giving the new GW250 a long term test ride, I’ll be on the edge of my seat for the full report.

        It will be a tough decision!

        Thanks for a fantastic website and I look forward to the review.

        -Raff

        1. Hi again Raff,

          So far, the only reason I’d choose the TU over the GW is if you really prefer the retro styling. Everything about the new bike is better and it is less money to boot! As mentioned, more on this soon.

          Cheers, Richard

  5. Oh and BTW Richard Great article and pictures as always. Thank you yet again for giving me the pleasure of reading your words

    1. High praise indeed. Thank you Johnnie. If CMG hosts a Pub Night at the upcoming Toronto Show, I hope to see you there!
      Cheers, Richard

  6. Ah two up touring on small bike In spite of the many bikes I have owned I still fondly and accurately remember the fin e times I had with my RD 350 as Rolls Royce would say Sufficient horsepower and adequate torque. Sadly that kind of fun is no longer available But I do think with a little work the Ninja 300 could be a welcome return to good times at low prices The 250 sounds like a lot of fun

  7. Funny thing; in the picture of the TU250 and the Harley… I find myself much more drawn to the TU250. It is what it is a motorcycle, no pretenses no false expectations. Currently I only have a klx250 and I’m looking for my next big bike, but the more I look and the more I think about how I use my bike the more I think my future is only going to be small bikes. If the TU was a little less expensive I might consider one and build a café racer style bike out of it.

  8. Great report. I own a WR250X. It’s true, 250 cc is underpowered. Still, i have lots of fun with this little bike. In some situations (town, backroads), my little 250 is a blast. Always fun to overtake big cruiser on less than perfect backroads. But to be honest, i’ll love a light 400 cc bike with 40+ hp.

    1. A WR250X produces about 11 more rear-wheel hp than a TU250X (about 27 vs. 16) and weighs about 26 lbs less. Is a WR250X underpowered? For a 250cc single-cylindered bike – of course not. It has tons of power for its displacement. Is it underpowered compared to larger displacement bikes. Of course it is. But larger bikes tend to weigh much more too – and typically don’t handle as well. And yield poorer fuel economy. And net higher insurance premiums. There are always comprises. My WR250R has for me – the fewest compromises of any bike I’ve owned with respect to power, fuel economy, weight, handling, reliability, cost of ownership, insurance cost, and ease of maintenance.

      1. Ah yes, more power… Sometimes I missed it on the TU, but I reminded myself that I don’t miss the tickets, the additional costs associated with acquiring and maintaining more powerful mount, and I’ve already had my share of broken bones, so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride at a bit of a slower pace.

        Matric, if you want more fun with your WR, slap a set of knobbies on it and go off road! It’s got more than enough power to give your adrenal gland a workout in that environment.

        Cheers, Richard

  9. I think we need to mention (remind ourselves) that the Suzuki TU250X has an MSRP of $3999 in the U.S. compared to $5299 in Canada. Yet both Yamaha, Kawasaki and even Honda have made an effort to bring the U.S. prices of their motorcycles closer to the Canadian prices in recent years. There is simply no excuse for this. The TU250X is a fantastic small-displacement bike. Unfortunately – it’s been let down by a delusional MSRP in Canada.

    1. What’s kind of interesting is that Suzuki’s GW250 sells for the same price in Canada as in the US: $3999. Also noteworthy is the fact that the TU now has an MSRP of $4399 in the US. Based on this, we’ll hope that when Suzuki Canada gets rid of their current stock, perhaps both prices will come more into alignment. Unfortunately the CMG crystal ball is in need of service and we don’t have the budget for repairs, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

      Cheers, Richard

  10. Service cost and related info a real plus, should be a standard component of any test? Thanks for the wrap up.

    Cheers…Steve

    1. Adding the servicing costs as part of the long term wrap up seemed like a good idea, especially considering that this whole experiment was about doing more with less, so it was good to know what the entire reality was.

      Cheers, Richard

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