I’ve always been a fan of small-displacement motorcycles. A 250, usually touted as a beginner bike, can also be a useful tool for the urban commuter, while giving you enough power to venture out further when you want to.
Done right, an entry-level motorcycle can be a useful tool later as well. They won’t be ideal for touring, and they might not be as great for errands as a lightweight CVT-driven scooter, but bikes of this class can do a variety of things very well, and for a very reasonable price too. They can be ridden, abused, dented and dinged and give you more “grins per kilometer” than a larger motorcycle.
When I look at a bike in this class, I’m asking myself more than just “Is this a good beginner bike?” – I’m asking myself “Can I ride this downtown?” and “Can I take this on a side highway up to the cottage?” Most of all, I’m asking “Is it fun?”.
After testing the Suzuki GW250, I’m quite happy to report that the answer to all of those questions is a definite yes.
The made-in-China, sold-from-Japan GW250 is a naked standard street bike, with a relatively high spec liquid-cooled 248cc parallel twin, SOHC fuel injected engine. What this translates to in practical terms is a powerplant with decent low- and mid-range power and good throttle response, without the buzzy vibration you get on some small-engined motorcycles.
This is also an easy bike to ride. The clutch has a light pull and shifting is impressively smooth. It’s easy to find neutral (even with a gearbox with just about zero break-in on the demonstration bike I was riding.) The throttle is very easy to control – making it easy to crawl along at a low speed or give it a serious twist when you want to get up and go.
These attributes, while excellent for a beginner bike, also make it a good choice for a daily commuter. Stop and go traffic won’t leave you with a hand permanently twisted into a claw-like shape by excessive clutch pull. That might be fine if you wanted to enter a pirate lookalike contest, but if you were into that, you’d probably be riding a cruiser.
The power is respectable for a 250; acceleration is good up to about 110 kph, and at that speed you still have a fair bit left in reserve. You won’t be leaving black streaks of rubber and clouds of smoke when you gun it, but you should handily beat many cars off the line at a stoplight. By no means is this bike a high speed performer, but you won’t have a problem hopping on a highway for a bit to get somewhere.
Range should be good on the bike. Since we only got the test at the very end of the season (the GW certainly took it’s time to finally get to Canada), I was unable to run it long enough to get an accurate measurement of how long it’ll go until empty, but with a fuel-sipping EFI 250 cc engine and a 13.3-litre (3.5 US Gallons) fuel tank, you should be able to run for a long way before having to stop to fill up the tank.
Suspension and braking both get good marks from me as well. The suspension has enough travel (120mm at the front, and 125mm in the rear) to soak up most of the potholes and ruts in my daily commute, and handles speed bumps with ease. Braking, with a single disc front and back, is also good, though this being an end of the season test with brand new tires I didn’t push the braking envelope very hard. Under regular braking usage, I had no issues coming to a stop and thought that the brakes had good feel and control.
I liked the bike’s ergonomics. too. The seat is not overly high at 780mm (just under 31 inches), but despite my initial reservations it had no issues accommodating my six foot+ sized frame. The upright seating position, combined with indentations in the tank for your legs and the shape of the seat, keep you from sliding around and give a feeling of control over the bike as you lean into turns and use body weight to help maneuver.
The instrument panel is very well designed, with all of the basic information you need quite easily found – including a gear indicator (which is handy at times given just how smooth the gearbox is – coming from a Ural as my daily rider I had to use it at first to reassure myself I had shifted as there is only a very slight “click” as you change gears). Switchgear on the handlebars is also well done – a pet peeve of mine is horn buttons that are just a little too close to the turn signal switch, something Suzuki has managed to avoid on the GW250.
Storage? Not there. You can stick the owners manual and a small tool roll under the seat, but that’s about it.
This brings us to the less quantifiable part of the review … the looks of the bike. And this is where I am somewhat conflicted at times. On one hand, from many angles, I do like the design of the GW250. It doesn’t look like a sportbike (which can avoid certain preconceptions people have) and the naked styling has a certain charm.
But, the front turn signals (which are molded into the gas tank covers) just don’t quite click with me. Maybe they are a touch square on a bike with so many rounded edges? I’m not quite sure why they don’t work for me, but there is something just slightly off about that.
As well, when you view the rear of the bike from the incorrect angle it perhaps seems a touch on the portly side. Minor points really, but I think the styling could be a touch better.
The Final Word
At $3,999 MSRP for the 2013 GW250, the price is certainly reasonable (and a relief after Suzuki knobbled their excellent TU250 by giving it a $5,299 price tag), especially considering that you get a twin motor, EFI, and discs front and back.
It’s also actually cheaper than the lowly priced Honda CBR250R (though at the time of the writing of this article, Honda is offering a manufacturer’s discount for the 2013 CBR250R, bringing the price down to $3,799 MSRP). Surely a sign that Suzuki is intending to sell a lot of units.
In the short time I had aboard the bike, I couldn’t find any reason to fault it mechanically. The gearbox is impressive and I’ve never had a bike with so few kilometers be so easy to find neutral on. Power, braking, suspension are all good.
All in all, this is an excellent starter bike that can easily go far beyond the beginner. After all, unless you are touring or hitting the racetrack you can only use so much power. If you spend most of your riding time going downtown, this bike can do that while giving you enough reserve to go further distances.
If you like the styling (and I suspect it is styling that will lend itself to being loved or hated), you really cannot go very wrong with this bike, be you a motorcycling novice or someone with a lot of road dust trapped in your well-worn riding gear. The combination of a relatively low price point, worry free mechanics, and a fun ride should make for a successful combination when the 2014 buying season starts.
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.
|Bike||2013 Suzuki GW250|
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled parallel twin, SOHC|
|Tank Capacity||13.3 L|
|Tires, front||110/80-17M/C 57H|
|Tires, rear||140/70-17M/C 66H|
|Seat height||780 mm|
|Wet weight*||183 kg|
|Warranty||12 months, unlimited mileage|