First Impression: 2006 Suzuki RM-Z250

Let’s get one thing straight: 2006 is a bad year to have Bold New Graphics in the 250cc four-stroke class. By 2005 standards, the Suzuki RM-Z250 (and its twin, the Kawasaki KX250F) was a great bike. In the hands of Davi Millsaps and Broc Hepler, the RM-Z won three Supercrosses and two 125cc Nationals, and in green trim, the bike earned the 125cc National Championship, as well as both the East and West Supercross titles.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the 2006 Suzuki RM-Z250 returns for ’06 with a new blue color scheme, a revised water pump and details like a hardened crankshaft surface, a shot-peened finish on the idler shaft, updated shift forks, increased durability of the water pump shaft, a one-piece magneto rotor, and a more efficient oil pump. Compared to the all-new Kawasaki KX250F (yes, that’s right; the alliance between Suzuki and Kawasaki is in its dwindling stages, and in ’07 it’ll once again be every manufacturer for itself), the new twin-muffler Honda CRF250R, the new aluminum-framed Yamaha YZ250F and even the updated and massively powerful KTM 250SFX, the RM-Z250 suddenly finds itself outdated. Still, when Suzuki’s Joe Felts rolled up to the TransWorld Motocross offices with the shiny new 2006 RM-Z250 in the back of his van, we were all anxious to head to the track with the new little yellow (and blue) thumper. After all, a new bike is a new bike. Changed or not, it is always a treat to ride a bike while everything is new, pristine and unbent.

Change Is Good

Low-end power is the RM-Z250 motor’s strong point. With great throttle response down low, the bike is great for tight tracks with Supercross-style obstacles that are placed right after corners. The bike pulls hard as soon as you engage the clutch, and continues to pull well through the middle of the powerband. As the revs begin to build, however, that is where the RM-Z shows its Achilles tendon. Try to overrev the bike in each gear, and the bike falls flat and will leave you longing for more. A successful RM-Z250 pilot will shift early and keep the bike in the sweet spot. Clutch and transmission action is nice; the bike shifts well under power and the clutch has a smooth pull with a positive feel at the lever.

The Kayaba suspension is definitely valved and sprung on the soft side. Unless you weigh under 150 lbs., the RM-Z will likely be soft for you when the jumps get big or the going gets rough.┬á The KYB bladder-style fork is the weakest link in the equation, as it dives under hard braking and bottoms with a loud clack that jars your wrist. (The steel bars don’t help this sensation┬┐)

Handling is superb. The RM-Z corners like a champ, thanks to its low-feeling center of gravity. Front-end traction is high, making the bike work great in flat, slippery corners and easy to navigate through tight, deep ruts. The bike slides predictably when coaxed, and claws for forward traction under acceleration. The bike is quite comfortable in the air, as it is a neutral flier and responds well to body English.

The fit and finish of the bike is good. The brakes work very well, the bodywork is smooth and easy to move around on and the bike has a good size that suits tall and short riders alike. Our biggest gripe is the steel handlebars. In a day and age (thank goodness) where bikes come stock with high-quality aluminum handlebars, the RM-Z250 is the only 2006 motocross bike that comes with cold steel.

If you’ve finished reading this feature and have come away with the impression that the 2006 Suzuki RM-Z250 is not a good bike, you’re wrong! Obviously, the bike has tons of hop-up potential and can be made as lethal as any other bike on the track. In stock condition, the bike is fun and easy to ride, just perhaps not the best for serious racers. As is, beginners and novices will be most pleased with the bike in stock condition.

But you know us motocrossers&helllip; Our bikes remain stock about as long as they remain clean!