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Suzuki’s RM-Z250 has always been known for its good reliability, handling, ergonomics, and motor. So it’s no surprise that the bike consistently ranks as a very well rounded motorcycle among test riders. But in the always-evolving world of motocrossers, the yellow machine has slowly been falling behind its competition. Suzuki revamped the 2016 RM-Z250, making improvements to the suspension, chassis, and motor. On the surface, the bike appears to be unchanged, but there is a lot going on under the familiar plastic.

By far the biggest positive change is from Showa’s SFF Air Fork to Kayaba’s PSF2 Pneumatic Spring fork, which uses balanced air chambers in each fork leg for adjustments. Both fork legs work together to produce progressive suspension action and allow for fine-tuned adjustments.

2016 Suzuki RM-Z250 KYB suspension adjusters

2016 Suzuki RM-Z250 KYB suspension adjusters

Mated to the new fork is an all-new Kayaba shock that features new upper adjustment dials, which provide easy changes to high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping. Complementing the new suspension is a redesigned chassis, boasting a new stronger, more rigid head tube; new side beams for added strength and reduced weight; a new front cradle area designed to hold the motor more precisely; and lastly, a revised subframe with new mounting points.

The suspension and chassis updates are impressive in themselves; however, the motor was given just as many improvements. Up top, there’s a new piston ring and pin along with coatings on the piston for improved durability and performance. The camshafts and intake valves are also new to help broaden the powerband. Down low, the crankshaft is new, reducing weight and improving efficiency for a slight power increase. The engine rotor is new with increased mass to smooth power delivery, and to maintain engine balance with the new crankshaft. Further enhancing engine performance is a revised throttle body for reduced engine braking and improved throttle response. And the kickstarter and idle gears are changed to ease starting by increasing leverage.

2016 Suzuki RM-Z250 engine details

Lastly, and perhaps one of the biggest engine improvements to the RM-Z250, is the addition of Suzuki’s Holeshot Assist Control button. Located on the handlebars, the button is engaged behind the gate and disengages after the start. It engages in one of two modes—A or B—with each offering different characteristics for varying starting surfaces. Mode A is designed for slippery conditions—concrete or hard-packed—and Mode B is designed for conditions where traction is plentiful.

What makes S-HAC stand out from others, though, is the fact that the power is delivered in three stages in each mode. When the clutch is released, the motor goes into the initial launch mode, followed by stage two for riding over the gate, and then stage three as the bike accelerates down the start straight. The S-HAC is then disengaged once the bike does one of the following three: The throttle is closed, the transmission is shifted into fourth, or six seconds have elapsed since the initial launch.

2016 Suzuki RM-Z250 off-road track cornering actionON THE TRACK
The RM-Z250 has been a favorite among test riders, but as we’ve mentioned, it had begun to fall behind. Visually and ergonomically, the bike is unchanged from last year. We immediately felt comfortable when sitting on the RM-Z, and our comfort level only increased as we spun laps. The ergonomics are neutral and confidence inspiring. When compared to last year’s machine, the suspension on the ’16 is a night-and-day improvement.

The Showa SFF fork on the ’15 wasn’t horrible, but the new KYB fork and shock offer much more adjustability and a very plush, predictable ride. Throughout our testing, however, we did find that while the bottoming resistance was good, the overall feel of the fork and shock needed to be stiffened up with more bias placed on the front end while entering corners. Some minor air pressure changes to the fork and clicker adjustments to the shock helped to improve the feel of the bike, alleviating the soft feel.

In corners, the bike still lives up to the reputation that Suzuki has earned over the years as one of the best turning bikes on the market. You can throw it into ruts or loamy berms and maintain traction in flat hard-packed corners. Overall, our testers were impressed with the handling and suspension of the RM-Z.

2016 Suzuki RM-Z250 static side view

In spite of numerous updates to the engine, the power department is where the bike falls short. On the plus side, the engine has a very free revving feel that comes on strong and revs further than most 250cc four-strokes. The downside, though, is that the overall power is a little flat, as distinguishing between bottom-, mid-, and top-end power is difficult. We found that the more aggressive/lean coupler provided a harder hit on the bottom, but gave up the longer top-end pull that the standard/rich coupler provided. Coupler choice is better left up to track conditions and rider preference, as each has its own advantages and disadvantages. As a whole, the motor is a step forward when compared to the ’15 machine, and gaining some extra power out of it shouldn’t be a problem.

Another important talking point with the motor is the new Suzuki Holeshot Assist Control button. The two modes make it easier to control the power off the line and get better starts. We especially like the three-stage engagement, as it offers a smoother transition over the gate and onto the start straight.

2016 Suzuki RM-Z250 catching air off a jumpTHE VERDICT
We’ve already said it, but for a couple years now the RM-Z250 has needed some TLC, and the ’16 model received just that. The improvements to the engine, chassis, and suspension have yielded a bike that is a marked improvement over last year’s. The motor revs out further and more freely than the ’15 machine, the KYB suspension is a huge improvement, and the ergonomics and handling are as spot on as ever. With not many of the 250cc four-strokes receiving huge changes for ’16, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Suzuki stacks up against its rivals.

– Engine revs freely and pulls through the top-end
– Comfortable ergonomics
– Excellent suspension action and bottoming resistance
– Fork and shock can be fine-tuned in more ways than ever
– Suzuki Holeshot Assist Control works well, offering an advantage in most starting conditions
– Easy to start, even when hot
– Predictable, precise turning
– Great straight-line stability

– Power is linear and needs a boost
– With what Suzuki is calling an “all-new model,” it would be nice to have all-new bodywork

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