As the Suzuki RM-Z250 and RM-Z450 remain unchanged for 2023, we wanted to rediscover the suspension and power characteristics of the RM-Zs and how they serve different rider styles. We gathered to test the 2023 RM-Z250 and RM-Z450 at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino. Easily one of the roughest tracks in Southern California, Glen Helen lends us many riding conditions and obstacles to put these machines to the test.We brought together riders with different backgrounds and skill levels. I am an amateur rider who rides for fun, tests for Ultimate Motorcycling, and races sometimes. Nicola (Nik) Gubert is a 250 two-stroke amateur rider who was partial to the late ’00s-era Suzuki RM-Z250, but had not yet ridden a modern RM-Z model. Colby Copp is a professional racer actively training for the 2023 Supercross season who has never ridden a Suzuki motorcycle before our test day. With these diverse backgrounds in motocross, we found out how the RM-Z250 and RM-Z450 work for each of us.
Although the bodywork is unchanged, the RM-Zs remain beautiful motorcycles, with sharp lines and comfortable ergonomics. Nik and I initially observed when initially throwing a leg over the 250 that the cockpit area is slim and compact compared to other 250s. Colby, however, suggests that the 2023 RM-Z450 feels slightly wider in the shrouds and heavier overall than other brands in its class.Let’s start with the RM-Z250’s suspension. Overall, it is balanced, and the KYB shock is amazing with factory settings. Nik and I agree that the RM-Z250 tracks solidly down the fast Glen Helen start straight on wide-open acceleration. Even climbing Shoei Hill, the shock keeps the rear Dunlop Geomax MX33 tire planted throughout acceleration. The chassis stays balanced and smooth through the fast acceleration areas of the track. Coming out of corners, the RM-Z250 tracks predictably through sandy and choppy acceleration bumps.Colby says that the most noticeable thing to him when riding the 2023 Suzuki RM-Z450 is how confidently the bike tracks throughout the turns, even in slippery conditions, such as after a thorough track watering. The 450 has a soft mid-range in the suspension stroke, allowing him to enter turns smoothly and exit aggressively. Another key part of the 450’s Showa suspension, as Colby points out, is how easily he can carry high speeds over bumps. The RM-Z450 does not suffer head shake, sticking to the ground and continuing to drive forward.Back on the RM-Z250, both Nik and I detected slight head shake in braking bumps at high speeds, though the bike never got out of control. I’ve said this before about the Suzuki—the stiff coil-spring KYB fork boosts your confidence through the rough stuff. Nik commented that he can hit the bumps pretty hard, and the front end responds just fine. The rear end on the 250 sometimes dances around while braking over bumps, though the yellow machine maintained stability, despite its playful nature. The firm fork shined on the jump landings with immediate braking into corners. As Nik mentioned, the stiffness of the forks keeps up with high-speed braking without losing control.Overall, the suspension systems on the 2023 Suzuki RM-Z450 (Showa) and RM-Z250 (KYB) do not require a ton of time and money to suit a variety of rider styles.The motors on both 2023 RM-Z models share similar power delivery characteristics.Colby says the 2023 Suzuki’s RM-Z450 motor has a strong bottom-end and a fairly mellow top-end. The bottom end pulls great up Glen Helen’s huge hills and doesn’t hit the rev limiter right away. After experimenting with various map settings, Colby preferred the more aggressive map for the RM-Z450, which noticeably picks up the engine’s power. The aggressive map allows for more bottom-end power, yet pulls for quite some time. The best thing about the aggressive map for Colby is that the 450 is controllable and not wanting to come out from underneath him, even when he is aggressive with the throttle. Colby’s final takeaway is that the overall power of the RM-Z450 is great, and he thinks it is a competitive bike in the class.The 2023 Suzuki RM-Z250’s power delivery is similar to the 450. It has a muscular bottom-to-midrange response, stretching into a more mellow high end of the rev range as the power plateaued. To stay in the meat of the 250’s power on some of the fast straights at Glen Helen requires 4th gear much sooner than expected. Nik had to ride a gear higher in some sections to keep the motor off the rev limiter. However, when in the higher gear, the RM-Z250 pulls through nicely.The RM-Z platform comes with three programmable couplers that can be tuned via Suzuki’s MX Tuner 2.0 system. We tested the standard and aggressive pre-programmed couplers and immediately decided the aggressive map was our favorite on the RM-Z250. The aggressive map delivers some added punch to the throttle response and a broader midrange making it easy to find the sweet spot of the power.When it comes to handling, the 2023 Suzuki RM-Z250 is as nimble as they come. You feel like you can throw the bike anywhere, and it will obey your command without fuss. Nik was especially impressed by how light the 250 felt in the ruts. Despite the RM-Z250 being a little heavier, the bike hides the heft on the track. Nik pointed out that the light feel can help beginners to mid-level amateur riders. I agree that Suzuki’s tried and true handling characteristics lend the rider a fun and controllable platform through the tight parts of a motocross course.Moving on to the 2023 Suzuki RM-Z450 handling characteristics, Colby said he felt right at home. He remarked that the RM-Z450 is one of the most stable bikes he’s ever been on. As the RM-Z450 is a broader, heavier bike in the class, Colby also pointed out that it stuck itself to the ground and allowed for more aggressive throttle input. Additionally, Colby says the incredible turning capability of the 450 came as a surprise to him. Similar to how we felt on the 250, Colby also feels like he can put the 450 wherever he wants, and it turns in when and where he wants it to.With few suspension adjustments, the 2023 Suzuki RM-Z450 and RM-Z250 platforms offer a balanced chassis setup and a great starting point for all rider levels. There have been mixed reviews about the high-sprung suspension of the 250 and 450, though it all comes down to rider style, personal preference, and riding conditions. We don’t mind the taut suspension, and the shock performed well in stock trim. In the straights and the corners, the 250 and 450 track consistently and maintain control.Although the Suzukis don’t come with all the bells and whistles like electric start and map switches, with a few minor tweaks to the suspension and chassis setup, you’ll have a competitive machine. To reflect the lower-tech, the 2023 Suzuki RM-Z250 has a price tag of $7899, and the 2023 RM-Z450’s MSRP is $8999—undercutting the Japanese competition by $600, and the Europeans by considerably more. Overall, the 2023 Suzuki RM-Z platform remains a solid choice for anyone looking for the fun factor in riding and racing dirt bikes.Photography by Will Embree and Don WilliamsNumber plate graphics byNLAB Studio
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Motos and Friends—the weekly Podcast brought to you by the editorial team at Ultimate Motorcycling.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
In this week’s first segment, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the much anticipated Yamaha MT-10 SP. That’s the model with the Ohlins semi-active suspension. It’s only been available in Europe for the last couple of years, but finally the good news is, that it’s coming to America. The big question is, whether the extra 3k you’re going to have to pony up for the Ohlins is actually worth it, or perhaps there’s just not that much improvement over the stock KYB suspension that has suited the Yamaha MT-10 so well until now?
In the second segment, Associate Editor Teejay Adams chats with Val Collins. Val grew up on motorcycles and learned to love speed, however her real love is Formula 1 tunnel-boat racing. These are the guys and gals that are strapped into a tiny cockpit and then hurtle down the straights at 120 mile per hour and pull 5G in the corners. We attended the recent season finale in Lake Havasu and watched our friend Mike Quindazzi try to take the win. Val chats with Teejay about her love for two-wheels and tunnel-boats. Yeah, it’s crazy stuff.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode and have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!