As I clamor toward the carpool lane and shift the testbike beneath me into fourth gear, I tuck my torso in for added aerodynamics and speed then begin my search for fifth and sixth gear. If I were on any other sportbike, I would have already blown by every car on the interstate and been on the verge of a high-speed pursuit. But I’m not on a Suzuki Hayabusa, GSX-R1000…or anything with power for that matter. I’m on Suzuki’s 2014 GW250 and going just 75 mph. The ultimate goal: to not get run over by the carpool-loving Prius that’s about to peel the Pearl Nebular Black paint off Suzuki’s newest entry-level bike.
You’ll eventually get up to speed on the GW250—as I did—though the task is easier said than done and will require a decent stretch of pavement in addition to an overly aggressive use of the throttle. And while the bike’s 248cc, liquid-cooled, SOHC parallel-twin engine might have room for improvement (it produced just 21.2 hp at 8,200 rpm and 14.8 foot-pounds of torque at 6,600 rpm), the bike itself is quite all right; Suzuki has paid great attention to the GW’s fit and finish, and it shows!
Certain design elements have been taken from the manufacturer’s moderately successful Hayabusa-engined naked bike, the B-King. This is so “the GW250 has the visual appeal of sophisticated models in larger-capacity classes,” Suzuki says. We say get rid of the large exhaust mufflers and oversize front fender, and it wouldn’t be too bad on the eyes.
The engine is no B-King-culled monster, but its long-stroke design is intended to provide more pep in the lower part of the rpm range, plus there’s a balance shaft for less vibration and engine noise. An electronic fuel-injection system with 26mm Mikuni throttle bodies ensures quick starts and smooth running.
Suzuki has paid great attention to the GW’s rider triangle and suggests the layout is best for commutes through the city. The bike’s 30.7-inch-tall seat is narrow for enhanced rider control, and a modestly sized 3.5-gallon tank keeps the midsection narrow for better influence over the bike. Furthermore, the GW gets tall clip-on-style handlebars and rubber-topped footpegs for reduced vibration at your feet.
Suzuki’s emphasis on comfort around town has resulted in a chassis centered on around-town performance. The KYB fork with light springs is non-adjustable, and the KYB shock is adjustable for preload only via seven easy-to-adjust steps. The steel frame isn’t light nor is the bike; our GW250 weighed 405 pounds or roughly 49 pounds more than the Honda CBR250R and 22 pounds more than the Kawasaki Ninja 300.
On The Road
Unless you’re looking to do some trackdays and are in love with the Ninja 300’s sportier layout, you’ll actually be quite pleased with the Suzuki’s rider triangle. The gap between the bike’s seat and footpegs is roughly 25mm longer than the same gap on the Honda or Kawasaki, and this makes the bike feel more comfortable than either of those models— especially if you’re as tall as me at 6-foot-3. The tall clip-on handlebars are easy to reach and positioned so there’s no excess weight on your wrists. The seat was plenty comfortable for either of our 50-plus-mile rides, and the easy-to-reference LCD panel provides a surplus of information, including gear position, dual tripmeters, and fuel level. For a new or inexperienced rider, having a shipshape tach and well-organized display could be the difference between being and not being comfortable on the first few outings. Suzuki has definitely hit all the right marks with its display for the GW.
Despite the long-stroke engine being “designed for enhanced performance in low– mid-rpm operation,” there’s little in the way of forward momentum until you sweep the tach needle past 7,000 rpm. From that point on up to the 11,000 rpm rev limiter there’s enough power to keep up with traffic but not enough to accelerate past the distracted driver who’s about to move into your lane. For this reason, we avoided the freeway as much as possible.
Whenever we did put the GW250 on the freeway we did so with its throttle to the stop, and that allowed us to keep up with Southern California soccer moms but also killed our fuel mileage. In extreme conditions (roughly 50-percent freeway riding) we averaged 42 mpg and managed 115 miles per tank. Expect that number to vary drastically if you ride in the slow lane or avoid the freeway altogether. Surprisingly, there are very few vibes through either of the controls at those high, freeway-induced revs.
The Suzuki is a lot more at home around town. Adding to the bike’s appeal is an engine with tractable power delivery; a smooth transmission that practically falls into neutral when prompted; a clutch lever with great feel and light pull; large mirrors with great view of what’s behind you; and a smooth on/off throttle transition. As a whole, the bike feels unintimidating and well suited to entry-level riders.
You can still have some fun with the GW in the canyons since its long-wheelbase chassis stays stable under load. The 290mm front brake disc doesn’t offer an overwhelming amount of power but won’t unnerve newer riders and has enough stopping power in the first part of the pull to set your corner speed; the rear brake will help you get slowed in panic situations. The suspension is soft, but movement was controlled enough to keep us on the road in those instances where we paid no attention to the bike’s design brief. The IRC RX-01 tires never gave us pause either.
There was very little to dislike about the Suzuki. The B-King design might not be as cool as Suzuki designers think it is, but the large-ish fairings were enough to fool a few of our buddies into thinking we weren’t on a 250. If you can come to grips with the styling, overlook the lackluster engine performance, and acknowledge the intended consumer base (entry-level riders), then you or the person who’s just being introduced to the sport will enjoy the Suzuki GW250. The bike is properly priced at $3,999, and while less sporty than the fully faired Honda ($4,199) or Kawasaki ($4,999), it’s very comfortable and feels very well put together.
An added plus? You’ll probably never get a speeding ticket.
Type Liquid-cooled parallel twin, 2 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke 53.5 x 55.2mm
Compression ratio 11.5:1
Induction Mikuni EFI, 26mm throttle bodies with single injector/cyl.
Front tire 110/80-17 IRC Road Winner RX-01F
Rear tire 140/70-17 IRC Road Winner RX-01R
Rake/trail 26.0°/4.1 in. (105mm)
Wheelbase 56.3 in. (1430mm)
Seat height 30.7 in. (780mm)
Fuel Capacity 3.5 gal. (13.3L)
Weight 405 lb. (184kg) wet; 384 lb. (174kg) dry