After years of bigger/better/faster, many of the world’s top sportbikemanufacturers took a step back and expanded downward into the pocket-rocket displacements. It’s unclear whether this was a response to a growing demand for small-engine sportbikes, or if the Powers-That-Be decided that manageable, entry-level trainers were needed to keep the kids from getting in over their heads right out of the gate, but that all the big names are coming out with 250-300 cc versions of their proven, big-bore bikes is a certainty. Suzuki jumps on that bandwagon with its GSX250R, a sportbike with all the genetic markers of the Katana family, and exactly what one would expect from one of the Big Four. All-new for 2018, the 250R is set to enter the race to the bottom, so without further ado, let’s see what all Suzuki has going on with this crotch-rocket trainer.
This may be a small-displacement bike at only a quarter-liter, but the overall design and bodywork is very much based on established performance principles. A full fairing encloses and protects the innards while vents in the engine cowl work to prevent power-robbing turbulence and buffeting in addition to directing hot air away from the rider. A cyclops headlight leads the way at the peak of the beak below the cut-down flyscreen, though the factory missed an opportunity to clean up the front end with recessed or mirror-mount turn signals, instead opting for winkers with short standoffs.
Below the headlight, the cowl opens up to scoop and funnel air over the radiator before it tapers back down to a natural chin spoiler. Only the merest glimpse of the engine is possible through the cutaway at the back of the cowl, so if you’re into being able to see the mill, I suggest you shift your focus to the naked-bikecategory ’cause this ain’t your kind of bike.
Short, clip-on bars and jockey-mount footpegs force the rider into an aggressive riding position, and even with arms straight most riders won’t be able to sit completely upright. There is quite a bit of rise to the pillion pad— a detail that not only acts as a butt-stop for the pilot, but also provides the passenger with plenty of clean air and an unimpeded view forward.
A kicked-up subframe gives it the nose-down/tail-up pose that makes it look rather like a sprinter crouched at the blocks, which is perfect if you do indeed intend to use this ride as a trainer before moving into the bigger supersports cause that’s the same attitude the big-boy bikes display. Seat height is relatively low for a sportbike at 31.1-inches high
Tubular steel members make up the semi double-cradle frame that comes set up to resist the forces involved in carving the corners, and a yoke-style, two-side swingarm completes the standing gear. Suzuki tucked the rear shock away out of sight so it doesn’t wreck the look of the ass end, but unfortunately, it also limited the adjustments to spring preload and nothing else. Granted, I know it’s an entry-level bike and cost is a factor, but I am a firm believer that trainer machines should bear at least some of the cream you can expect in the higher-tier bikes. Just sayin’.
RWU KYB front forks likewise do the job, but offer none of the tweaks you can expect in the higher brackets. Petal-cut discs work with the calipers to slow the wheels, but are likewise simple with no combined brakes, ABS or any other fandanglery to complicate the works. I’m OK with that, since I’m of the opinion that newbies benefit from feeling the feedback and learning to control the ride sans training wheels. The brakes aren’t straight vanilla though; the hand lever is adjustable to accommodate a range of hand sizes.
Cast, 17-inch wheels mount the 110/80 front hoop and 140/55 rear, and they sport a Y-spoke pattern meant to be strong while keeping unsprung weight and windage to a minimum.
Suzuki powers the GSX250R with a fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, parallel-twin engine. The factory built in details such as a street-grind cam for friendly and predictable power delivery with a revised valvetrain that sports roller-bearing rocker arms and tapered stems to reduce mechanical losses and increase volumetric efficiency.
If you’re looking for traction control, power-delivery modes or any of the other rider crutches here, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. There’s nothing to see here but raw, honest control and feedback without all the extra complication and expense of the fancy stuff— as a trainer bike should.
Slightly undersquare, the mill runs a 53.5 mm bore and 55.2 mm stroke for a total displacement of 248 cc. Electronic fuel injection manages the induction, but that’s to be expected, and is the limit of the gadgetry. At 11.5-to-1 the compression ratio is a bit warm, so you can go ahead and get used to the idea of buying the premium road champagne. I suppose that was necessary to get the most out of this little mill, and it certainly delivers. At 6,500 rpm the factory claims 17.3 pounds of grunt, but wind it up to an even 8 grand and all 24.7 horsepower is available for use. These numbers are not bad at all considering the small displacement, and this little mill definitely punches above its weight.
A six-speed, constant-mesh gearbox and standard clutch make the final connection from engine to ground and help keep the mill in its usable powerband from 15 mph through 55 mph. In other words, hit the superslab at your own risk with this ride.
Base MSRP on a 2018 GSX250R will set you back $4,499, well within the means of most first-time buyers. Suzuki covers you with a 12-month, unlimited mileage, limited warranty with extensions available through Suzuki Extended Protection .
It’s hard to imagine sportbikes— even trainers like this one— getting any smaller than around 250 cc, and the bottom tier has yet to fill out with most manufacturers stopping around 300 cc. With that in mind, I decided the Honda CBR 300R would be a close-enough and logical place to start, so let’s get started.
Lookswise, there is little to choose between the two. Both fit within the sportbike mold and look fast standing still with little to nothing in the way of brand-specific DNA in evidence. Unless, of course, you count the Honda-Red livery on the CBR. Suspension components are rather uninspired across the board with only an adjustable preload at the rear shock in the way of tweaks, but I reckon that’s OK since they have to keep price down somehow. Honda does take the step of adding ABS protection, and that may be a selling point for folks who feel like they need that to be safe, so no matter where you land on that argument, one of these manufacturers has you covered.
Honda recently bumped displacement up to 289 cc, hence the “300” in the title, but it’s only a skosh bigger than the 248 cc Suzuki mill. Naturally, liquid cooling and electronic fuel injection is the order of the day, but while Suzuki runs a twin-cylinder plant, Honda opts for a thumper. Neither seem to gain an advantage beyond the slight difference in displacement; Honda milks 30 ponies and 19.9 pounds of grunt from its one-lung engine against 24.7/17.3 from Suzuki’s parallel-twin. Honestly, this performance offset is so slight as to be imperceptible, and won’t even be a blip on the most sensitive heinie dyno.
Pricing is identical at $4,499, so in the end there is actually very little difference between these rides, and since most buyers looking at this tier will likely have no brand loyalty yet, I’d say it’s a real toss-up here. Good luck choosing.
“Definitely a good trainer in my humble opinion. Could it be better? Sure, but said improvements would do nothing to help the price, and makers of these entry-level bikes are already cutting it to the bone at the checkout. There are cheaper bikes out there with similar builds and purposes, but most are Chinese-built rides, and they can’t quite stand up to the fit-and-finish of the Big Four. For all that the price is low, this is a quality machine, and I look forward to seeing how it performs in the market as the race to the bottom continues.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I like how the sportbike field is filling out in the 250-to-300 cc range. It opens it up for new folks looking to get their first ride and experienced riders looking for that fun experience even if it’s just for a commute. I look forward to giving this baby a whirl.”
|Engine:||Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, parallel-twin|
|Displacement:||248 cm3 (15.13 cubic in.)|
|Bore x Stroke:||53.5 x 55.2 mm (2.10 x 2.17 in.)|
|Compression Ratio:||11.5: 1|
|Fuel System:||Suzuki Fuel Injection|
|Transmission:||6-speed constant mesh|
|Clutch:||Wet, multi-plate type|
|Final Drive:||Chain, Sealed O-ring type|
|Suspension Front:||Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped|
|Suspension Rear:||Single shock, coil spring, oil damped|
|Brakes Front:||Single disc, Nissin 2-piston caliper|
|Brakes Rear:||Single-disc, Nissin 1-piston caliper|
|Tires Front:||110/80-17M/C 57H tubeless|
|Tires Rear:||140/55-17M/C 66H tubeless|
|Fuel Tank Capacity:||4.0 US gal. (15 L)|
|Ignition:||Electronic ignition (Transistorized)|
|Headlight:||12V 55/60W (H4 halogen) & LED position lights|
|Overall Length:||82.08 in. (2,085 mm)|
|Overall Width:||29.13 in. (740 mm)|
|Overall Height:||43.7 in. (1,110 mm)|
|Wheelbase:||56.29 in. (1,430 mm)|
|Ground Clearance:||6.29 in. (160 mm)|
|Seat Height:||31.1 in. (790 mm)|
|Curb Weight:||392.4 lbs. (178 kg.)|
|Warranty:||12-month, unlimited mileage, limited warranty (Extensions available through Suzuki Extended Protection (SEP))|
|Color:||Pearl Glacier White No. 2, Pearl Nebular Black|