photography by Kevin Wing
A whirring sound from beneath the gas tank as you switch on the Suzuki TU250X tells you this is no ordinary 250-class runabout. Poltergeists, perhaps? No, but something nearly as unexpected. The noise is the fuel pump pressurizing the TU’s electronic fuel-injection system, prepping it to fire up at the touch of the starter button. And fire it does, settling immediately into a calm idle and ready to ride away without a cough or stumble. Fuel injection may seem out of place on such an inexpensive ($3,799 MSRP) bike aimed at new riders and others looking for fun and reliable transportation, but removing the hassle of a carb-enrichener circuit with its inevitable high-idle buzz on cold starts makes this 250 a friendlier ride.
Friendly might be the key word for the TU. With its upright riding position, mildly tuned, single-overhead-cam engine and barely audible exhaust note, this Suzuki is one civilized motorcycle. It’s friendly to the planet, too—a catalytic converter and oxygen sensor for the closed-loop EFI minimize emissions, and excellent fuel mileage means it’ll burn less gas overall. The mill is a slightly higher-compression version (9.2:1 vs. 9.0:1) of the carbureted single in Suzuki’s GZ250 mini-cruiser. For better heat transfer and tighter piston clearances it uses the same Suzuki Composite Electrochemical Material cylinder coating as the Hayabusa. The first of the TU’s five gears is low enough for easy—if not brisk—escapes, clutch action is light and progressive, and the 275mm, dual-piston front disc brake system delivers solid, controllable stops. The rear drum brake takes a good stomping to be effective, perhaps a good thing for new riders since it’s difficult to skid the rear tire. Used together, the brakes haul the 327-pound, fully fueled TU down quickly.
Suzuki shelled out for the EFI and disc brake, so where did they cut costs on this bargain machine? Hit a bump and one area becomes obvious—the twin rear shocks have plenty of spring for my 145 pounds, but little rebound damping. With the preload at #2 on the five-level stiffness scale, the rear recoiled like a Colt .45 over major bumps on a sporty ride. Around town, the back end handles normal urban decay without much drama, with some comfort added by the cushy seat. The 37mm fork is better, keeping the front end planted and stable under most conditions. The compact TU sports a squat, stiff frame and a short 54-inch wheelbase. It’s rock steady on the freeway, rolling on 18-inch spoked rims and tube-type Chen Shin tires that are well matched to the bike’s abilities. I felt nary a twitch, shimmy or shake at an indicated 75 mph on both asphalt and cement highways.
The 250’s power builds steadily from low rpm, never hitting with a punch but revving freely to a muted scream. The EFI is flawless and won’t bog the motor if you impatiently grab too much throttle. I had a real kick tossing the TU back and forth on smooth, twisty pavement; notchy shifting was the only hindrance to carefree riding. The single slowed some with a passenger, but was still up to the challenge and is rated to carry 450 pounds. My wife enjoyed the pillion, giving the TU kudos for buzz-free passenger pegs, a comfortable perch and a high fun factor.
Keeping with the friendly theme, seat height is just over 30 inches, the reach to the short handlebar is comfortable, and the fat, folding footpegs place my knees at a reasonable angle. My 31-inch inseam is pushing the limit for long-term comfort on this bantam-sized bike, but I rode it for two hours with a 10-minute break and could have kept riding for another two. Vibration isn’t bad if you pick the right rpm, though your tush will tingle if you don’t. The bars and pegs never got too buzzy.
The TU is a detailer’s delight, but simple to maintain. With more chrome than you can shake a can of polish at and loads of metallic red paint, a shine-happy owner has plenty to keep sparkling. Still, a lazy rider like me can spruce up the TU with an old T-shirt and a can of Lemon Pledge in short order. A sight glass allows hands-off oil checks and the battery is maintenance free.
The centerpiece of the TU’s Spartan instrumentation is a round speedometer with trip odometer and tiny lights for turn signal, high beam and EFI status. Large fuel warning and neutral lights are set into a bracket near the ignition switch, but there’s no oil-
pressure light. The tank holds a healthy 3.2 gallons, giving this fuel-sipper a range of 205 miles based on our ham-fisted hills-and-highway test mileage of 64 mpg.
You can’t buy a TU250X in California as I write this, but Suzuki has a Golden State version in the works. I hope it shows up soon. As a small, economical motorcycle for short trips the TU is easy to get along with and doesn’t try to be anything it’s not—just what you’d look for in a friend.
2009 Suzuki TU250X Specifications
Base Price: $3,799
Engine Type: Air-cooled single, SOHC, 2 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 72.0mm x 61.2mm
Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 54.1 in.
Rake/Trail: 25.9 degrees/3.6 inches
Seat Height: 30.3 in.
Wet Weight: 327 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gals., last
0.6 gal. warning light on
Average mpg: 64