As you can see from the copyright date below, I wrote this one a long time ago for the Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly Magazine. I don’t know why it didn’t get moved to my WordPress blog, but here it is now and it will continue to grow as I hopefully get to explore the capabilities off my new motorcycle.
All Rights Reserved © 2009 Thomas W. Day
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.
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.
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.
Stay tuned. If my eyesight and health holds up, me and this little 250 are going to go a few places.