American Suzuki invited the motorcycle press out to Cahuilla Creek MX Park for two days of testing aboard the new 2004 RM125 and RM250 motocross bikes, and it is with a sore back and blistered hands that I write this first impression. Sometimes, being a motocross journalist is pretty stinkin’ cool. Having spent the last two days aboard the new RM two-strokes, the entire TWMX staff came away thoroughly impressed. Though the RM-Z250 four-stroke may be the bike that’s most anxiously awaited, the two new two-stroke motocross bikes from Suzuki are definitely the best RMs we’ve thrown a leg over to date.
Some of the most noticeable things about both RMs are the new control components. In addition to having all-new front and rear brake systems, the RMs now have better clutch and front brake levers. The clutch perch features an on-the-fly adjustment mechanism, and it appears as if the days of rattley RM levers are a thing of the past. Both the front and rear brakes work much better than last year’s, with the front binder being the most improved. Both bikes benefit from a redesigned shock linkage system, new lower seats and revised suspension settings.
Armed with a new long-rod engine, the 2004 RM125 pumps out great power that starts impressively down low, but really comes to life in the mid-range portion of the powerband. The RM125 pulls hard -- real hard -- right in the middle of the rpm range, and continues to pull well into the upper echelons. We found that adding a tooth to the rear sprocket (up from 50 to 51 teeth) helped the bike pull better out of tight, loamy corners that had a tendency to bog the motor down. By going down with the gearing, riders were able to exit corners a full gear higher, yet still allow the engine to rev out nearly as far as with the stock gearing. Compared to last year’s model, the new RM125 is much beefier in the engine department; the ’03 was a top-end motor, while the ’04 is a mid-range motor. Every test rider who threw a leg over the bike felt that it was easier to go fast on, thanks to the improved mid-range.
Handling-wise, the RM125 is as quick and agile as ever. The bike goes exactly where you point it and does so in a predictable manner, whether it’s a tight inside line or a fast, high-line rail. The fork and shock are well balanced and set up right on the money for riders in the target weight range (145-165 lbs. for a 125cc bike). In new condition, the bike even worked quite well for the heavier riders on our staff.
The biggest surprise of the past couple of days, however, has been the 2004 Suzuki RM250. In the past, RM250s have always seemed to struggle with jetting woes and it was hard to get them to run without pinging. Race gas was the easiest fix, but not everyone can afford $5.00 per gallon race fuel! The 2004 bike runs like a champ on pump gas, and not once did we touch the carburetor for adjustments, all day long. The new RM250 engine flat-out kicks butt! Power is super beefy right off idle, and the abundant low-end pull transfers into a very impressive mid-range hit. Top-end power is equally good, as the bike pulls hard enough in each gear to satisfy even the laziest riders. At the same time, however, the engine can be short shifted because it has so much power on tap, which makes the RM250 one of the most versatile, great all-around performing bikes we’ve ridden. A couple weeks ago we raved about the 2004 Yamaha YZ250 and declared it the favorite to win TransWorld Motocross’ 2004 250cc MX Shootout, but having ridden the much-improved ‘Zook, we must admit that we may have spoken too soon.
The RM250 handles just as well as its little brother, and possesses the same lightning quick handling characteristics. The bike can carve a line anywhere on the track, as the front wheel claws at the dirt for traction and leads the rear wwith authority. One thing that both RMs do wonderfully is slide. Yeah, that’s right: slide. We have never ridden a bike that slides through flat, slippery corners with more authority. Heck, if the AMA ever decided to try and revive DTX flat track racing (the Super Moto of the early 90s), the RM250 would be the bike of choice!
All in all, we’re all very impressed with the new Suzukis. Thus far, every 2004 bike we’ve tested has the potential to top their respective shootouts. The next few months should be very, very interesting. Stay tuned!
Want to see more? Click the links on the upper right to see videos on both the RM 125 and RM 250.