Ryan Nitzen | April 1, 2022
We revisit Suzuki’s RM-Z dirt bikes.
Photography by Kit Palmer and Nitzen
We’re well into 2022, and with the new year comes new bikes and new technology. However, our friends at Suzuki stuck to a more traditional path, re-enlisting their tried-and-true RM-Z250s and 450s for another model year. In fact, the ’22 is identical to the ’21, even down to the graphics. All is well, however. We had a lot of fun on our 2021 RM-Zs and jumped at the invitation to ride all 22 with the Suzuki techs.
2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 and RM-Z450 review | go big
Let’s start with the RM-Z450. He got a facelift in 2018, and just before that he was busy winning titles with Ken Roczen before his move to Honda. At this time the RM-Z received a new frame, suspension and bodywork but retained much of the previous engine. This included the three-map coupler system and (unfortunately) the traditional manual starter. Since its redesign in 2018, which is an eternity by motocross standards, the bike has hardly changed.
For 22, it returns again as it was with its fuel-injected, 449cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, four-valve, DOHC engine. This engine is strong and reliable, but lacks the punch of its competitors. It makes about 50 horsepower, which still seems like a lot, but it’s down about five horsepower from the current-gen Honda and other 450s.
The Suzuki also has built-in electronics like a three-map coupler system, launch control and an MX tuner that allow owners to specifically tune each individual coupler. The MX Tuner is controlled via a smartphone app but is powered by an accessory battery since the RM-Z does not have built-in electronic start capabilities. The tuner is a cool tool to have, but the drums and plug-in system are a little clunkier than, say, the streamlined Yamaha Power Tuner. The Suzuki is the cheapest motorcycle in the 450 class at $8999 and the heaviest at 246 pounds with fuel.
2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 and RM-Z450 review | The little Z
The RM-Z250 follows in the footsteps of its 450 siblings. The smaller of the two Suzukis underwent a similar redesign in 2019 and, like the 450, has seen little development since then. The 250 is fitted with a five-speed, fuel-injected 249cc engine and also comes with three programmable couplers that can be tuned through the same MX Tuner setup as the 450s. Launch control is another standard feature on the 250, as are DID Dirtstar wheels, Renthal Fatbars and a 270mm front rotor. The 250 uses KYB suspension and Dunlop tires versus the 450’s Showa suspension and Bridgestone tires. Likewise, the RM-Z250 is the cheapest bike in the 250F bunch at $7899 and 233 pounds.
2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 and RM-Z450 review | Lap time
Suzuki RM-Z250 2022
We met the Suzuki crew at Glen Helen Raceway for a day on the 250 and 450 with their technicians on hand to help and offer their advice with the setup.
Kickstart engaged; we started our day on the 250. The scrappy little 250 is a howler, and the hills of Glen Helen were the perfect place to let it stretch its legs. We came out with the stock map first, but didn’t wait long to insert the more aggressively tuned coupler. It’s no secret that right out of the crate, the RM-Z250 isn’t the power king; the more aggressive coupler gives it a bit more snap, which it desperately needs. It lacks a bit of low end, but the sweet spot is in that mid to upper range. A quick feather from the easy-pull clutch wakes the bike up and puts it where it wants to be. The RM-Z250 is still a joy to fly despite what keyboard reviewers say. There’s something to be said for turning the tricks on a bike closer to its full potential; you know, holding the throttle wide open all around the track, at least more so on the Suzuki than on more powerful bikes.
The brakes, clutch and rider cockpit are the same as before, which we continue to love. It’s a super neutral setup that’s easy to get used to right away. Nothing crazy in this department, just a proven Suzuki. When it comes to handling, the bike is as nimble as it gets. In slick conditions, the RM-Z250 slices the trail on the inside or outside lines, and despite a claimed weight of 233 pounds, it doesn’t feel too heavy. But numbers are numbers.
Suzuki RM-Z450 2022
Then the 450. The RM-Z450 is the latest of its kind for kick-start machines, but if your current bike requires a kick, that won’t seem like a big deal. Once you transition to the button, however, the kicker seems like a nuisance. The team at Suzuki knows what makes their bike work best and set the suspension to 112mm, which is 7mm higher than the traditional 105mm mark. This is supposed to give the bike more squat in the rear and allow the front to track better in high-speed conditions.
The RM-Z450 is a solid motorcycle. It feels heavier than other bikes we’ve ridden recently, but that will equate to a more “planted” feel for some. The power is meaty and has good pull in the midrange, which isn’t a bad thing at all. This makes it more user friendly compared to the more powerful 450s. But I want a little more “snap” from the Suzuki – a little more response. I generally prefer softer, smoother maps on other 450cc motocrossers, but quickly settled on the aggressive coupler on the Suzuki. For me, he needs it. The map we used was programmed by Suzuki and is available as a standard option in their MX Tuner app. I instantly felt more connection between the throttle and the rear wheel. It’s something I’ve never felt before with the RM-Z, and it gave the bike a faster but more controlled character at the same time. Since I dropped that card in the bike, I haven’t changed.
The 450 looks nearly identical to the 250 when it comes to ergonomics. We like the comfortable, neutral features that are classic for Japanese-style machines. The bars, seat, and footrests provide a solid platform that’s easy to get used to right away. The brakes have good bite front and rear, and the clutch system works well but doesn’t have a reputation for being super strong.
In the looks department, the clean lines, yellow/blue color combination and gold forks still make this bike one of the best looking, in our opinion.
Ultimately, the Suzuki falls short in the suspension/chassis department. We’ve said it before, but the 250 and 450 are too sprung and just too stiff. For a few laps on a prepared track, it’s fine, but as soon as the braking bumps start to form, your arms and legs are ready for some serious training. It’s an obvious hiccup, so it’s a mystery to us why it still comes from the factory configured that way.
Yes, a trip to your favorite suspension specialist can surely fix you, but that’s probably not what you want to do after just writing a big check for a new bike; or you might be the type to drive straight to your suspension guru with any bike before you even take your new vehicle back to the dealership. If that’s you, well, that might not be a problem. The money you save on the RM-Z could be well spent in the suspension shop. Add a new exhaust system, and you’re just around the MSRP of a new Husqvarna FC 450 and have competitive motocross.
Overall, the Suzuki is a solid platform for someone who wants a new bike at a great price. We’ve said it before and will say it again that the RM-Z450 does a lot of things right, but nothing particularly exceptional right out of the box.
We know the RM-Z250 and 450 are still competitive with a little work. We’ve seen 250s and 450s run out the front in recent years, including Justin Bogle’s holeshot and brief front run at the recent Detroit Supercross. Both Bogle and Suzuki teammate Brandon Hartranft finished in the top 10, so there’s proof the RM-Z450 can perform competitively at the top level with a bit of tearing. Same with the RM-Z250 and the BAR-X Suzuki team, as they have also produced top-10 finishes in the past.
Yes, the suspension can be ironed out, but, unfortunately, two of our main gripes—hand-start and excessive weight—with both RM-Zs cannot, at least easily. But if you’re old-school and don’t mind kicking it, both RM-Zs are still worth a closer look. NC
2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 / RM-Z450 Characteristics
|MSRP:||$7899 / $8999|
|Type of engine:||4 stroke, single cylinder|
|Valve train:||DOHC, 4 valves|
|Shift:||249cc / 449cc|
|Bore x stroke:||77.0 x 53.6mm / 96.0×62.1mm|
|Fuel system:||EFI, twin injector type with 3 refueling couplers / EFI, 44mm throttle body with 3 refueling couplers, Suzuki MX-Tuner 2.0 engine tuner|
|Transmission:||5-speed constant mesh|
|Final drive:||#520, DONE|
|Framework:||Aluminum, double spar|
|Handlebar:||Renthal Tapered Aluminum|
|Front suspension:||KYB, 48mm inverted fork, coil spring, fully adjustable / Fork Showa, USD, coil spring, fully adjustable|
|Rear suspension:||KYB, single shock, fully adjustable / Showa monoshock, linkage, BFRC technology, fully adjustable|
|Front brake:||Single 270mm disc, 2-piston caliper|
|Rear brake:||Single disc, 1 piston caliper|
|Wheels:||DID Dirt Star rims, black|
|Front tire:||80/100-21″ Dunlop MX33 / 80/100-21″ Bridgestone Battlecross X30|
|Rear wheel:||100/90-19″ Dunlop MX33 / 110/90-19″ Bridgestone Battlecross X30|
|Wheelbase:||58.46 in / 58.3 in.|
|Ground clearance :||13.0 inches|
|Seat height :||37.5 in / 37.8 in.|
|Fuel capacity:||1.66 gal. / 1.7 gal.|
|Weight (empty, claimed):||233 pounds/ 247 pounds.|
|Driving aids:||Suzuki Holeshot Assist Control (S-HAC), traction management system / S-HAC (Suzuki Holeshot Assist Control), ECM (Electronic Control Module)|
Click here to read the Review of the 2022 Suzuki RM-Z250 and RM-Z450 in the Cycle news Digital edition magazine.
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