SUZUKI RGV250 (1987 - 1997) Review
- A real modern classic 2-stroke legend
- Huge enthusiast following
- Treated right, surprisingly reliable
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£500|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Back in the late 1980s and early 90s the two-stroke Suzuki RGV250 was the closest thing you could get to a Grand Prix bike on the road. If you were lucky enough to own what we regard as the best RGV250: the ‘N’ model, complete with its twin, piggy-back exhaust cans, upside down forks and a banana swingarm, here was a bike that looked just like the RGV500 Kevin Schwantz rode in 500cc Grand Prix.
The RGV250 ran from 1987 to 1997, but they were only officially imported into the UK from 1989 (RGV250 K) to 1994 (RGV250 R). It was a crime against motorcycling when Suzuki decided not to bring the beautifully curvy 1996/97 RGVs to our shores (or the 1991 SP version), which included the fantastic limited edition SP model, complete with a dry clutch, ram air and 70bhp.
Back in the day 250cc race replicas were the sharpest handling, most frenzied, maddest things you could buy on two wheels. Nowadays the RGV250 is a modern classic and is probably a bit slower and softer than you’d remember. It still looks good, sounds amazing and the smell of burning two-stroke oil will take you right back. Put simply, it’s still sensational.
As you'd expect from such an iconic motorbike, there's a massive enthusiast scene for the RGV models. After you've read this review, you could join the community at RGV250.co.uk.
Suzuki RGV250: 'It was a genuine giggle'
"It made me an internet star – before the internet was invented!"
First published 23 October 2017 by James Whitham, BSB legend
"I started my race career on smaller bikes but I didn’t know 20 years after I raced against Carl Fogarty on one it would be all over the net. I already knew it was a cool road bike and it had a great chassis, inverted forks and good power – I fancied it from the first moment. On track it was far more nimble than the four-stroke 400s as you could stop and turn them so quickly, but as lovely as the RGV was to ride it was also fragile, which is why I lost out to Carl in that Oulton Park race.
"His bike was faster in a straight line than mine, but I could catch him up on the brakes and in the bends, however after a few laps the RGV lost power and wouldn’t rev on. It turned out it had nipped a ring, which was a fairly typical RGV issue due to them having a cavernous exhaust port that used to catch the edge of the rings! We were having a genuine giggle."
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Compared to the best sportsbikes of today, with their fat tyres, stiff frames and racing suspension, the old RGV250 can seem a bit ‘woolly’ by comparison. But, with a good set of tyres and well sorted suspension the Suzuki will keep up with the best of them on tight B roads. The beefy aluminium frame and swingarm is more than a match for the power on tap, so the trick with the RGV is simply never to let off for the corners! Later models handle better than the early ‘K’ and ‘L’ bikes, but are 11kg heavier (up from 128kg to 139kg) thanks mainly to the heavier ‘banana’ and braced swingarms.
EngineNext up: Reliability
From the RGV250K to the RGV250R (the officially-imported UK models) the liquid-cooled, two-stroke, 249cc 90°V-twin remained fundamentally the same. Although they made around 55bhp@10,500rpm, give or take, the motors didn’t have to push much weight along so the Suzuki was still blindingly quick. Like any fast two-stroke, despite the power valves, there’s not much going on at low revs, so you’ve got to keep it revving to get anywhere fast.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Left unmolested, well-maintained and fed with good-quality (read ‘bloody expensive’) two-stroke oil, RGV engines are pretty reliable. Any deviation from this can spell a whole world of trouble. The chassis parts are all well-built, but the overall finish is lacking, so unless fastidiously looked-after RGVs can look tatty very quickly. Stay well clear of ex-race examples.
We've got two Suzuki RGV250 owners' reviews on the site, and it scores 5 stars out of 5. The only negative comment is around the lack of kit, which is understandble given the type of bike we're talking about.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
Depending on the age and model, a good RGV is going to cost around the £3500 mark, although they don’t come up that often and some can run to over twice that amount. If you do manage to find one in good condition, it’s a little amount of money for a lot of fast, sexy, mental, stinking, two-stroke history.
The RGV is an unashamed lightweight no-frills package, there’s no electric start here, you have to kick it into life yourself. But in its day, the ‘M’ and ‘N’ models had lots of technology from 500cc Grand Prix, like upside down forks, 17” wheels, a braced ‘banana’ swingarm and fully adjustable suspension.
|Engine type||Two-stroke V-twin|
|Frame type||Aluminium beam|
|Fuel capacity||17 litres|
|Front suspension||Fully-adjustable (M-R model)|
|Rear suspension||Fully-adjustable (M-R model)|
|Front brake||2 x 300mm discs|
|Rear brake||210mm disc|
|Front tyre size||110/70 17 in (M-R model)|
|Rear tyre size||150/60 17 in (M-R model)|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||30 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£44|
|Annual service cost||£500|
15 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||57 bhp|
|Max torque||29 ft-lb|
|Top speed||125 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||112 miles|
Model history & versions
- 1989 – RGV250 K. The RGV is officially imported into the UK.
- 1990 – RGV250 L. Bigger 34mm carbs and fully-adjustable suspension.
- 1991 – RGV250 M. Facelift model, including a new 17” rear wheel, upside down forks and ‘banana’ swingarm.
- 1992 – RGV250 N. Detail changes including a shorter seat unit and gold-coloured forks. The best RGV250 officially brought into the UK.
- 1993 – RGV250 P. Banana swingarm replaced with a braced item.
- 1994 – RGV250 R. Colour changes.
Various other Japanese-spec models, including RGVs built from 1995-onwards, ‘SP’ versions and the naked 1989/90 ‘Wolf’ model.
Owners' reviews for the SUZUKI RGV250 (1987 - 1997)
2 owners have reviewed their SUZUKI RGV250 (1987 - 1997) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£500|
Annual servicing cost: £500
Best of the 250 race reps,way better built than the aprilia,that doesnt go any faster than the RGV in practice.Eats NSR's,TZR's.
Will ride around the outside of most things on any fast bends,the new 4 stroke 390's are not even close,see you tube!
Really wants blueprinting and the restricting webs removed from motor to hear it whoosh like crazy,ignore people who say avoid tuned ones as most benefit from matched port heights etc,big bores not too good though,DONT TOUCH THE AIRBOX.
Run it on Castrol power one and service often and will run for 12k a time on pistons,considering the performance thats bloody good for a 130mph bike that you can thrash all day.
Not for long distance or commuting obviously,its for enjoyment,but also shockingly reliable.
There isnt any.
Buying experience: Dealers tend to know little or nothing about 2 strokes,put it to the test.Find a good clean example with nice mods and you will not be dissapointed.
I love this bike so much! Although mine is now 17 years old, it's no spotty adolescent! Yes it has it's tantrums from time to time but it's what you should expect from a feisty 2 stroke! Straight out of the box the bike is not ideal for the UK market! Designed for 7 stone Jap riders the springs in both the forks and shock are too soft and give the bike a wooly ride. But with the many many upgrades available for the RGV (especially the VJ22) it doesn't take too long to sort out and bring the bike into 2011. Some people (like my self) opt for utilizing the fork internals from a 94 ZXR400! With a small 20mm spacer the internals from the ZXR forks drop straight in giving the RGV stiffer springs and adjustable rebound damping. On the rear the shock can be serviced and improved but I would recommend replacing it with an Ohlins if your budget can stretch! With these areas sorted the bike will handle fantastically and always deliver a smile as you out brake a chubby 1000cc bike into the turns. Other upgrades available such as improved heads, exhausts and power valves (the bane of the RGV and a must to improve for all owners) all contribute to increasing the bikes performance and reliability. Being a 2 stroke they are very easy to work on, repair and maintain. With a bit of knowledge, time and a steady hand you can tune the barrels and eek out more power from the small 250cc engine. Although not a bike you want to go touring on the RGV is a race bike on the road and fuel economy is not great especially when you are addicted to the power-band surge that all owners live for. To me the power-band on all 2 strokes is what I love the most (after the smell) I love the sense of power kicking in from a powerless bottom end to a steady climb to a sudden punch in the gut sensation. Once you hit the power-band you live to stay in that zone and as a result the bike makes you work really hard to maintain your speed. You can't brake hard, mess up a corner and use all your horse power to put you back on track like on a 600 for example, you need to be precise each and every time, and when you are no other bike will make you feel so good than a 250.