(Originally written and published on the old Geocities hosted SOC website in 1997)
With the UK Government thinking of ways to force commuters onto public transport on the one hand, soaking the motorist with the other hand - road tolls, commuting into City tolls, increased in Vehicle Excise Duty on top of another hike in petrol tax, the motorcycle couldn't be better placed to provide personal transport when you want it, in a more 'environmentally friendly' way.
So when I was offered the latest addition to the Suzuki commuter range, the TU250X, I was actually quite looking forward to trying a bike that might fit the bill for the beleaguered commuter of the future.
During my trips to Spain this Spring, I saw quite a few TU's on the streets in Murcia. Although not as popular as the Yamaha SR250, there were significantly more than you'd see in any UK town.
The Mediterranean weather is far more attractive for people to consider biking. Most of the city centres in Spain are old and not suitable for traffic, and parking can be a nightmare. So small bikes come into their own. With the UK Government starting to see the commuter motorist as a source of revenue for the Treasury, small bikes might be the way to go. Unfortunately, the first step was somewhat backward, when Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, actually raised VED on this capacity of small bike. Even Homer Simpson could have done a better job than that.
So what about the TU250 makes it so popular in Spain? Essentially it is a GN250 in new clothes. The engine, frame and running gear are the same as the custom styled stable mate. What we have here is a 249cc sohc, air-cooled single cylinder motor, the same as the GN250. Suzuki's paperwork, which came with the bike, made no hp claims. I would reckon that it's probably around 20bhp at most. The 'bars are lower and the seating position is far more comfortable for larger and taller riders.
The model I had was officially Warm Silver Metallic, but it looked more grey than silver. The other two colours are Candy President Maroon and Candy Teal Blueish Green. Both of these were very evident in the Spanish market. At 125kg it is very light and a seat height of 29.5 ins. makes it ideal for shorter riders as well.
The 12-litre tank and seat unit are very different to the GN. The tank is quite bulbous and the overall styling is supposed to reflect the bikes of the Sixties. The legend 'Super Classic' on the side panel is supposed to confirm this. The seat is actually a tan colour rather than the usual black. The front section is removable and underneath you'll find a small tray for small items such as a disc lock. I couldn't fit my cable-lock in it though. The handbook and a European Suzuki dealer list is cleverly hidden under the rear seat in a small plastic 'cigar-case' style box cum folder. A novel idea.
Once on the bike, like most new Suzuki’s there is a clutch interlock and a cut-out on the side stand. Starting means pulling out the choke from the single carb, pulling in the clutch and if in gear, pulling up the side stand before pressing the start button. The starter didn't fail to have the bike ticking over after only one press of the button. The choke can be put fully in immediately. The gearbox is the same reliable 5 speed unit that Suzuki have been perfecting over a number of years and this one is no different.
The controls all fall easily to hand and feet and are very easy to use. Suzuki has dropped the tachometer and has provided the rider with a single chrome surrounded speedo on the top yoke. The headlamp is a large, and effective, unit that features a painted body ands chrome rim. It also only boasts three idiot lights; two symmetrical green ones for neutral and indicator repeater and a small blue high-beam light inside the bottom of the speedo.
The demo bike also came equipped with a genuine Suzuki fork mounted fairing. This was perfectly colour matched and fitted rigidly to the top of the fork legs between the yokes. It kept the wind off quite well and didn't have any real effects on handling.
Handling isn't too bad given the light weight and spindly S rated tyres. Suspension is a little basic with only the rear shocks adjustable. However, it coped with me onboard very well. At higher speeds on sweeping bends there was a slight tendency for the bars to wobble slightly. This may be a combination of suspension, tyres and the light weight of the bike combining. At 65-70mph the bike was pretty stable.
Overtaking is a serious business though. On the flat the top speed varies from about 65-75mph, on downhill runs I found myself shutting off to keep it in the 70's. Catching up slower moving traffic on the open roads required a lot of forward observation and planning to make sure that you can get past, and back in, before anything comes the other way, or worse, an incline appears, and speed begins to scrub off naturally! In the end, you get used to it and ride everywhere at 3/4 throttle! It is FUN!
The bike had only 360 miles on the clock when I picked it up from Crawley, and I added another 360 on trips commuting to work and on the BMF's Dunstable Downs run on August Bank Holiday Sunday. Given the low mileage it took a while to ensure that it was run-in okay. I cruised back on the motorways and after 88 miles managed to squeeze a mere 5 litres into the tank. I didn't believe it either! I had been moving along quite well on the motorways almost door to door and I'm sure Tesco aren't selling more petrol than their pump says! The first refill gave figures of 79.9mpg!
Although more suited to a smaller and lighter rider, the TU manfully took on the job of a whole week's commuting 15 miles each way to work and back. Mainly on fast A road and the Bedford bypass. Speeds ranged between 55 and 70 for most of the way. So imagine my surprise to get 158.2 miles for 9.5 litres - 75.6mpg! A smaller lighter rider must be able to get figures well in the 80's.
Returning the bike back to Crawley saw 171.1 miles on the clock before it went on to reserve. Not bad for a bike with a 12 litre tank and an oversized rider.
I took it on the BMF's Dunstable Downs Run, and it generated a bit of interest from folks that had never seen one before. I did my sales pitch for Suzuki in return for the loan of the bike. Most people commented on the old bike styling, and I think that's what Suzuki's designers had in mind.
The TU250 is the Fiat Panda of the bike world, well, possibly the Seat Marbella. The GN is the original and therefore the Panda! It is cheap to run, has few frills but seems to be utterly reliable. I speak from a position of knowledge having had a Panda for 160000 miles!
Admittedly, the bike is a little small for someone as large as I am. It is certainly too small for two-up touring, but as a commuter and gadabout bike it is ideal. It would suit anyone returning to biking after a lay-off, and also any learners that want a small bike to learn on and then keep for trips after they have passed the test. It is the ideal solution to the latest of the Government's "soak the car drivers as usual" scheme.
At the top of the Suzuki brochure for the model it says 'A Fun Bike that "Grows on You"'. It's true. Although small and relatively under powered I had a grin on my face after riding it!
If you are in the market for a small commuter or fun bike for local trips, then at the Suzuki list price of £2899 you could do much worse. And think of the savings in petrol over your Volvo or Mr Prescott's rail fares!
I added the pix after I received a comment from a viewer, containing a few expletives that I won't publish, complaining about the lack of photos.
These are not ones I took as it was years ago and pre-digital era, although as soon as I get a scanner I can add the pics of the bike tested. Those here are 'net pix.