It turned out to be the last gloriously beautiful riding day of the year and I was out on the GW soaking it all in. My idea was to capture a few final images of the bike in a downtown Toronto location and head back home, but I just couldn’t stop. The GW and I were in our element and I was thoroughly enjoying every minute on it. It was the kind of day that reminded me why I love bikes.
Granted, the Suzuki GW250 will rarely get your adrenaline pumping and, although well styled, no one is likely to pin-up pictures of it in their office cubicle. However, for its intended purpose as a commuter bike/urban tear about, it works brilliantly! So much so, that I’m pondering whether I should actually buy the thing.
But I’m getting ahead of myself though, as some ‘splainin’ is required with regard to the title image…
Taking It One Step Too Far
After getting all the goodies mounted on the GW at Suzuki Canada, you may recall that my idea was to venture off the beaten path to see what the GW was capable of in stock form. The opportunity to do this came when Mr. Boss (remember him?) decided to resurrect his long-suffering 1983 Honda XL600.
We finally managed to coordinate what would turn out to be rather cool, cloudy, and ultimately rainy day where we were both able to ride, and followed our noses northeast of Toronto. I let Mr. Boss know we could veer off the beaten path a little and he took this to heart. Shortly thereafter we ended up in a mud bog that was the result of what we believed to be a Highway 407 extension in progress.
Of course, Mr. Boss’s XL, equipped with suitable tires, wasn’t too bothered by the situation and simply chugged through. I, on the other hand, with my stock road tires found the situation a bit more challenging. Thankfully, my Pakistani experience had taught me that I didn’t need to go overly fast, just keep the momentum going and I’d eventually get through.
Emboldened by this early success, we found ourselves parked up on the edge of the Ganaraska Forest, pondering our next move. For those of you who have not heard of the Ganaraska Forest, it’s a designated off road riding area. Generally people show up here in trucks with KTMs with full knobbies loaded in the back, and these are the bikes best suited for this environment. Indeed, back in the day, we actually tested KTMs here.
As the GW was coping well, I thought we could up the ante and take a quick loop through the forest trails. I was even confident enough to take the lead – a joy for Mr. Boss, who was entertained no end watching the tail end of the GW sliding around in the muckier sections.
Although the GW is bigger and heavier than my rides in Asia, it still got the job done. Alas, as the weather wasn’t clearing up, we decided to head back home with my mission accomplished.
At this point you may be thinking that this is all a bit, well, unCMG. A successful ending to what would seem to be another mentally challenged CMG endeavor? Don’t worry, just read on…
On our way out of the Ganaraska I was feeling pretty relaxed on board the GW and doing a decent pace, considering what I was riding. Coming upon a rather large puddle, I opted to veer to the right of it but in doing so managed to clip the edge of the puddle with the rear tire. The slippery muck sucked the rear in, and before I could react, I was unceremoniously slammed onto the trail.
Two thoughts crossed my mind. One: yes, I’ve definitely broken another rib or two, this time on my right side (at least that evened things out a bit as I’d previously cracked all the ribs on the left side, most of them several times). Two: how much damage did I inflict on the Suzuki?
Thankfully, Mr. Boss was there to help pick the bike up and much to our surprise, there was zero damage. There you go, crash bars tested – full marks! (What other magazine takes testing so seriously I ask you?)
This whole exercise seemed to confirm what I already knew from riding small bikes in challenging situations in South Asia; you don’t really need more than a slightly aggressive rear tire on a smaller ‘road’ bike to pretty much go anywhere, albeit at a slower pace. And if I had a more aggressive rear tire installed on that day, I likely would not have been sleeping so uncomfortably for the next six weeks.
If you don’t believe me, just ask Ed March — who travels the world on his Honda C90. Okay, that may be a little extreme, but the point is less weight, power and breakables is a recipe for a cost effective adventure travel. At the end of the day, I was satisfied that I had proved that the GW could take you just about anywhere.
Time for an update on any issues uncovered during the summer …
Perhaps the most noteworthy was the slight buzz at higher rpms (as in highway speeds) that I experienced in the early days. Unfortunately, it did not magically go away when the GW was fully broken in as I had hoped. During short commutes, I didn’t notice it, but after about half an hour to forty-five minutes on the slab, I would get fidgety, and by the hour mark I’d find myself standing up to get the blood circulating in my butt. The buzz is also noticeable in the pegs.
Don’t get me wrong, for a 250cc commuter bike I’m nitpicking here, but those with a sensitive butt, considering the GW250 for longer distances may want to put aside a few extra bucks to address this. I had a pair of fancy Rukka pants that have the air cushion system built into their seat, and they solved the problem for me (full review to follow).
Other than the buzzing issue, there is very little to complain about after a season of use. I did notice that the paint on the frame and side panels, where my boots and pants rub against them, was scuffed up. Also, the fuel gauge remained a little irritating but I discovered that it is set up for a worst-case scenario.
As you may have noted in the intro article, I had figured that the GW should get 300+ km out of the tank, so I wondered why the low fuel warning consistently came on at around 200 km mark? I eventually managed to run the bike out of fuel (on the 401 no less) with 270 km on the trip meter, albeit after a day of thrashing. So the moral of the story is, gas it up at 250 kms and you should never run out, regardless of how hard you are thrashing the thing.
The Suzuki crash bars (well tested), centre stand, and rack are all solid accessories, although with the GW’s tail section kicking up at the back, the top box ends up mounted quite high. As a result, it felt like my bigger Shad top box was catching more wind than I would have liked. Likely the smaller Suzuki top box would the best option for the GW.
The accessory tank bag worked great around town but as I like to travel with an old-school paper map when I get outside the city, not having a map holder was an issue for me.
Wrapping It Up
So we’ve discovered that the GW is more than an economical urban runabout. You can take it off the beaten path, and with the right pants or an Airhawk cushion, you can do distance with it too.
The GW was perfectly happy to hold 120 km/h on the highway, and you even have a bit of juice left to pass. Add the low buy-in price, with an average fuel economy of 25 km/l (if you don’t thrash it), cheap insurance, and you’ve got more money to spend while you’re actually traveling.
That said, where the bike really shines is in the city or doing shorter commutes. It’s comfortable for both rider and passenger, the mill is powerful enough to blow off most cars from a stoplight, it’s agile, and the suspension is forgiving over road irregularities.
The GW has also proved to be stone axe reliable. This may not seem like a question that needs to be asked for a Suzuki, but the GW is built in China and that can raise reliability questions.
This all adds up to up to being a great value, which is why I’m pondering it myself. If you are considering a purchase as well and can find a 2013 GW still on the floor at your local Suzuki dealer, they can be had at season’s end rebated cost of $3499. For that price, it’s hard to go wrong.
BTW, there’s now a full-faired GW250F version that has been introduced for 2015, and it’s only $300 more than the naked one I had. With the fairing, the GWF would make quite a competent and inexpensive mini sport tourer.
Enjoy the ride!