Words: Barb Piatkowski
IMAGINE MY SURPRISE ….
Hello. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Barbara, I’m a motorcycle rider/ instructor and I’ve been friends with (CMG contributor) Nick Smirniw and Editor ‘arris for quite a while now; well, long enough at least to be trusted with this gig as a test rider.
Let me explain how this all began. Last summer Nick kept showing himself around town on brand new motorcycles, and quite frankly, if you knew Nick and his lack of income potential, then you’d know that these bikes were either stolen or test bikes. After seeing this, and no police cars in hot pursuit, I immediately became jealous and began my subtle yet persistent campaign of badgering Nick until he convinced Rob to give me my shot as a test pilot, er… test rider.
This brings us up to several weeks ago, when Nick announced that Rob would soon have a motorcycle for me to test ride. He refused to disclose any information regarding the bike, and I allowed my mind to wander… would it be a brand new double X, perhaps a Hayabusa? The suspense went on for days, and became affectionately known as Barb’s Magical Mystery Ride. Finally one night the call came and I arrived, expecting anything. I walked onto a darkened street and couldn’t quite figure out what Nick was pointing at. When I approached, I finally saw that my very first test bike was to be a 1999 Suzuki Marauder 250. Imagine my surprise….
|Barbs magical mystery ride|
After the laughter of those in attendance subsided, I approached my new ride and began the scrutiny. “This is a student bike!” I exclaimed to Nick and my other fellow rider training instructors. “This bike should be at a training course.”
Having apparently no choice in the matter, I swung a leg over and began familiarizing myself with the weight, control lever positions, and general feel of the bike. Hey, I began thinking, this thing is kinda cute, and besides a free brand new bike is a free brand new bike, isn’t it? So off I went to make the best of it.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
The bike started up effortlessly, and a gentle rumble emerged from the 2-into-1 pipes. Throttle action was smooth and easy, and the rumble sound grew only slightly louder as the throttle was twisted. You don’t have to fret about this baby cruiser waking up the neighbours.
The seating position was comfortable, and cruiser-ish, with pulled back handlebars, forward set foot pegs, rear brake and shifter, and a surprisingly well cushioned seat.
Standing 5’9′ tall and weighing one hundred and … um … suffice it to say that I’m ‘relatively’ height/weight proportionate, I found that I sat more to the back of the rider’s seat than directly in the middle. A person with less of an inseam than myself would sit squarely in the middle and would have little difficulty maintaining flat-footed contact when at a full stop atop the 680mm (27.8′) seat height.
At 302lbs dry, and given the slightly raked-out front end and 1450mm wheelbase, slow speed maneuvers on the 250 Marauder were no trouble at all. (Suzuki Canada’s website describes: ‘dramatically raked-out front forks from an extended wheelbase…’ uh… dramatically? Are you sure that’s the correct word boys?)
As the Marauder moved up in speed, I found that I couldn’t hesitate too long before changing gears. Fifth gear, the final one, saw me pinning the throttle at the end of its play and lying on the gas tank, for aerodynamic benefit, to get 120km/h out of the 250. I may have reached speeds of 125km/h or so, but I think that was the morning that I skipped breakfast so don’t hold me to that one. Gear shift lever and clutch operation was smooth and effortless and the Marauder responded well to throttle blips on the downshift. Oh, one final thing about higher speeds, the Marauder rumble changed into a whirr sound on the highway, but the sound almost seemed cyclical. It was as if it was panting slightly. You’d probably be panting too if I had you pinned wide open every chance I could (Barb, think of the imagery …. the imagery – Editor ‘arris).
So, did I scare myself? Well, only one time. It was under controlled conditions on a closed course (isn’t that what the television disclaimers say?) and I was attempting to put the Marauder through some stringent tests, all for the benefit of my article of course. During the straight line braking test, I wanted to see if I could in fact achieve 100% braking with the front disk brake, and lift the rear tire off of the ground. Well, the results were less than spectacular. I did manage my 100% front brake goal, actually, more like 102%, since I sent the front tire into quite a nasty little skid. (No, the rear tire never became airborne). The good news is that the bike is small and low enough that unexpected ‘saves’ are not a huge challenge. In fact, as my mind raced with thoughts of crashing my very first test bike, my feet sprang into action and managed to keep me afloat as the bike skidded (in a not so straight line) to a halt.
The peg scraping test followed and met with smooth success, unfortunately, with no peg feelers, the rubber foot pegs themselves were being ground. Fortunately, during the on-road test portions, the Marauder never reached dramatic enough lean angles that rubber was being removed from the foot pegs. (Not that I didn’t try).
THE FIT AND THE FINISH
So, how about looks? Well, this baby cruiser was very cute, no doubt, with retro-styled upswept front and rear fenders, and a lovely paint colour of ‘teal’ or ‘mallard green’ if you will. There’s a fine pinstriping on the tank and side panels, and the word ‘Marauder’ is written on the tank. In case you forget, ‘250’ adorns both side panels in bright gold.
The swingarm was a bit unattractive (‘ugly’ was the comment which I received, and yes, thanks, the commentator was referring to the swingarm).
My test bike arrived ‘sans mirrors’ so I can’t comment on them, but it did arrive with a rather pronounced and irritating squeak (more like “SQUEAK”), emanating from the rear drum brake upon stops. The “SQUEAK” was intermittent, but present during both slow and faster braking, and often garnered lots of sidewalk attention all on its own. (And yes, when you’re riding a 250 Marauder around town dressed in full leathers, you do want as much attention as possible.)
The only perceptible problem with my test bike was that the handlebar weights were noticed to be a bit loose.
Finally, an item worth mentioning was the script on the speedometer, which is the only instrument that you have to look at. The script was not quite in italics, it was more like, well … frisky. Not written, not printed, sort of in between.
Oh, before I forget, and in case you do, Suzuki has make it impossible to ride off with the sidestand down, as the 249cc engine cuts out if it’s put into gear while the sidestand is down. (The sidestand, by the way, operated smoothly and was positioned in a logical spot for the rider to access).
|Burn baby, bur … “Could we have some water over here please”|
Would I trade in my personal bike for a Marauder 250? No. After riding a supersport motorcycle for many years now, a girl gets spoiled and used to the extras. You know… extra power, extra braking ability, extra handling, extra everything. The Marauder 250 has no extras. But then again at a MSRP of $3999, you’re not paying for any extras either.
Would anyone want to own a Marauder 250? Yes. This motorcycle definitely has its place. For brand new riders who may be feeling a bit timid, for those who want a downtown commuter bike, for those with small inseams that want to plant both feet firmly on the ground at a stop, and for those who would like a bike to keep at the cottage for an occasional ride around the country roads, this one may definitely be for you.
Finally, thanks to Suzuki for the loan. It was fun while it lasted, and keep importing those 250 Marauders, they’re bound to be someone’s first pride and joy.
Unfortunately, there were no dyno stats available for this model, but unless you’re a gear head, your choice of motorcycle is based on a more visceral level anyway. (Your stomach does flip flops when you see the bike of your dreams). However, for those of you out there that just MUST know the gory details, here they are:
Suzuki GZ250 Marauder
Single cylinder, air-cooled four stroke
Mikuni BSR32SS, single carb
Five-speed, chain drive
Single 275mm disc with single piston caliper