All Rights Reserved © 2009/2015/2021 Thomas W. Day
This started off as a “review” and a really brief one (see [Initial Review August 2009] below). In May of 2021, I stumbled into decent buy on a TU250X and bought it, after assuming that my motorcycling days were long gone. So far, I’m still here and I’m still occasionally riding. I had BIG touring plans for this summer after buying the bike in the spring but cataract surgery on both eyes ate up all of July and half of August and the upper body strength I lost during that long period when I was supposed to avoid lifting more than 10-25 pounds, keep my head above my waist as much as possible, and a whole other list of strenuous activities pretty much diluted my initiative and courage out of commission. I suspect I may regret missing out on that trip for the rest of my life. Of course, at my age that is not a long-term bet.
I have taken a few 100-250 mile rides on the TU250X and the bike performed wonderfully, so far averaging 87mpg mostly running at near full throttle anytime I’m outside of city limits. This is the first motorcycle I’ve owned since the 70’s that allows me to be flat footed when I’m stopped. I haven’t cared much about that for the previous 50-some years of motorcycling, long suspensions being more important to me than stopped stability, but I’m old, not particularly limber or strong, and considerable less stable than in the past and it is a nice feature/function at this point in my life. Vibration is minimal at the bars, foot pegs, and seat; at least it is reasonable and minimal to me. Engine noise is also minimal, I’ve been “complimented” a few times with “Wow! That bike is really quiet.” Of course, most people just assume a motorcycle will be asshole-loud and that motorcyclists are obnoxious hooligans.
The speedometer, with stock tires, is “optimistic” at best. I ride with a GPS, so I know what my actual speed is and the speedo is about 7% faster than reality: 62mph indicated is about 55mph, for example. That said, cruising speed on the 250 on flat land without wind hindrance or assistance is about 55-65mph (max and in mild temps conditions). At that speed, the bike is incredibly easy to ride for long distances, with rest stops every hour or so. The passing “experience” is a throwback to my old VW Beetle days; plan on lots of space and no noticeable acceleration above 65mph. Even getting around farm implements is exciting and the only place I can ever pass a semi is on straight uphill sections.
Off pavement, the new handlebars made all the difference. I went from being tentative about turns, deep road sand and gravel, and wet sections to being irrationally confident that my old dirt skills would get me through most anything the road tossed at me. So far, so good.
Maintaining the TU is almost an old school experience. Valve adjustments are the old-fashioned screw adjustment system, which means it needs to be checked every 3,000 miles, but the components are fairly easily accessed and it only takes about 30 minutes once you’ve gone through the routine once or twice. The air filter is just a coin-screwdriver away and the oil change routine is nothing complicated or odd, except for the oil screen which is hidden behind the filter frame (some TU owners don’t know it is there).
I added a USB charge port to the handlebars to power my Garmin and charge my phone. Bar vibration is lower enough that I can read the little Garmin maps on the fly. The GPS has Bluetooth, but I don’t need it or want it talking to me while I ride. I read maps through the plastic case on my Darien’s thigh for 30 years. I can deal with a handlebar GPS just fine.
May 2021 POSTSCRIPT: As of May, this review turns into a “Bikes I’ve Owned and Loved (a lot or a little)” review. I bought a barely-used 2012 TU250X and now, I hope, this will turn into a long-term review of that motorcycle. Even after whining that I’d owned my last “customized motorcycle,” I immediately started personalizing my TU.
#1 Best Farkle: The T-Rex Racing “2009 – 2020 Suzuki TU250X Center Stand.” Installing this thing is a 3-handed job, but well worth the effort. Suddenly, many difficult maintenance and touring operations are much easier. Lubing the chain, for example is possible a half-dozen different ways.
#2: The Acerbis Dual Road Handguards. For me, handguards are a must, but there isn’t a lot of handlebar real estate on the TU. These guards solve that problem as well as it can be solved. They are a bar-end only attachment and with that limitation they robust and good protection for my hands and the bike controls.
#3: An old standby (for me), Oury Road/Street grips. These things have been on my street and dirt bikes for longer than I can remember. They soften the vibration and impact, add grip, add some diameter to the bars (easing arthritis pain and blood constriction), and stay where they belong until you cut them off. My comfort level on the TU dramatically improved by replacing the grips. The TU’s throttle is inconveniently specifically designed for Suzuki’s mediocre grips, who some Dremel carving is necessary where the handguard meets the throttle body.
#4: The stock cafe racer style bars are ok, on pavement, but I’m just not comfortable with narrow pullback bars. So, I replaced mine with Fly Racing Carbon Steel Honda CR bars, about 2″ wider, straighter, and marginally lower. What a difference! The first time I was on gravel, the bike felt squirrely and a little unstable in 2-4″ loose gravel and sand and I didn’t feel like steering responded particularly well. Nothing else has changed, except the bars, and the bike is almost as solid off-pavement as my V-Strom or WR250X.
Stay tuned. If my eyesight and health holds up, me and this little 250 are going to go a few places.
[July 2015 POSTSCRIPT]
Last month, I added a little track time to my TU250X riding experience. What I learned from that is that the TU250X is a fully capable urban commuting bike. I still don’t know what the top speed is, but it’s got to be above 70mph because I hit that a couple of times on the Dakota Community Technical College straight-away and I had some top end yet to go before I bailed out and started braking before the chicane and carousel. A better rider would have gone faster and deeper into the corner before hitting the brakes. Regardless, the TU wasn’t straining at 70mph and I had a good time on the bike and the course; meeting and exceeding all of my expectations.
Last summer, my brother bought a TU on my recommendation and, as of May 2015, he had 17,000 miles on the bike and has ridden it all over Arizona deserts, mountains, and back country. He still likes the bike and doesn’t seem to feel the need for more power or status, since he’s knocking down 70-90mpg regularly and saving a bucket of retirement cash in the process. His big complaint about the TU, after taking a Lake Superior Loop ride with me in 2011 and seeing how much insane fun I was having on my WR250X, was that his TU wasn’t very good on gravel roads and, especially, steep gravel road hills around the lakes near his house in Arizona. So, I recommended a collection of tire options and he upped the “aggressiveness” of his tires and I haven’t heard a word of dissatisfaction from him since. I remain jealous of his mileage, youth, and common sense.
[Initial Review August 2009]
This will be a very limited review, since I’ve only “test ridden” the Suzuki on an MSF range. But it is a work in progress. I will find one of these bikes in licensed condition and I’ll add that to the report. If I have to, I’ll even buy the damn bike myself.
Suzuki’s newest entry for 2009 was the TU250X; a 330 pound, air-cooled, fuel-injected, catalytic-converted, electric-starting, 82mpg, retro-looking, standard bike that is the kind of machine that riders have been wanting in every major motorcycle market in the world; except the US. This $3,800 bike has everything that an urban commuter could want. Most especially, the fuel-injection makes it friendly to new riders and those of us who are tired of the hold-your-mouth-just-right starting routines carbureted bikes require from us in cold weather. The 3.17-gallon fuel tank should provide close to a 250 mile range for most commuters.
Cosmetically, Suzuki went straight after the vintage-Brit-bike-lovers’ market. Suzuki’s marketing department describes the TU250X as a bike with “classic styling – including spoked wheels, a round headlight and low-slung tapered muffler.” With its pin-striped red paint job, it reminds me so much of old small-bore BSA and Triumphs that it gives me flashbacks. The only obvious nod to the 21st Century is the front disk brake, but the rear brake is a competently functioning drum, just like the old days. 18″ wheels, front and back, add something to the vintage appearance and help give the bike a neutral handling character. Turning or going straight, the TU250X doesn’t resist change and it doesn’t do anything unexpected. The Cheng-Shin tires suck, but the 90/90 and 110/90-18 tire sizes are available in Metzeler Lasertecs, Dunlop GTs, Conti Go! and Ultra TKV11/12 among other tire options.
The frame is silver-painted steel and is pretty rigid, if a little heavy feeling. The engine is a stressed-member of the frame and the square-tubed backbone adds to the frame strength. The rear suspension (3.7″) is a traditional dual-shock rig, slightly canted. The moderately long (54.1″) wheelbase of the bike makes it stable for all sorts of street use without being difficult to maneuver. The TU has a low (30″) seat height, so it’s accessible to riders of all heights. The twin-section seat puts the rider in sort of a neutral-cafe-racer posture. The independent passenger seat is reasonably large and comfortable, for a 250. Your feet are mildly bent, but the 27″ wide straight bars put most riders in a slightly aggressive riding position. It works for a variety of riders, from 6′ and a little over (see photo on right) to the rest of us (a 5’8″ rider is pictured at left). A bar-mounted windshield would be a useful addition to the bike’s aerodynamics and comfort.
The 249cc, 4-stroke, single-cylinder, air-cooled, SOHC, wet-sump engine is mostly straightforward. The cylinder is SCEM-plated (nickel-silicon-phosphorous) to reduce weight and increase heat transfer, just like most of Suzuki’s competition off-road bikes. The motor is tied to a wide-ratio 5-speed transmission linked to the rear wheel by chain drive. The air filter is washable foam and is easily removed for service. The plug, oil filter, screw-and-locknut valve adjustments, and battery access are readily available and straightforward. The bike has a 3,000 mile service interval, including valves, so it’s a good thing that it is reasonably easy to service. Well cared for, it ought to last tens-of-thousands miles. Suzuki puts a “12 month unlimited warranty” on the TU250X, to give buyers a bit of confidence in the model.
The bad news is that the TU250X is hard to find. My local dealer was given one for the season. One. More than 80 buyers signed up for first shot at the bike, but it vanished as it hit the floor when a walk-in customer snagged it. That’s it for 2009’s stock from that substantial Suzuki dealer. I know of one buyer who drove from Minnesota to Georgia to buy one.
The TU250X is, obviously, fitting a niche. In the rest of the world, it has been such a hit that Suzuki has been overwhelmed by the demand, which means the paltry small-bike US market is going to be even more starved for attention and inventory. The good news is, if you are really a vintage Brit bike fan, you’ll miss the puddle of oil in your garage. Take that as a consolation for not being able to see, ride, or buy this cool little bike.