My lovely BMW GS started showing menacing messages on the dashboard the other week, with SERVICE outlined in black appearing. A great opportunity to fish around the back of the garage for some of the more seldom-used metal. Today’s choice falls on the 1994 Suzuki RGV250, fresh from a comprehensive service, new power valves, new tyres and new brake lines. Lovely isn’t it?
First things first, it’s utterly, ridiculously, worryingly tiny. Granted, I’d arrived on an adventure bike, but this is ridiculously Lilliputian. Your knees, used to the slightly portlier dimensions of a full-size adult motorcycle automatically splay outwards, but here you can tuck them right in, the bars are low, but not offensively so in relation to the seat height, which is perfect for those of a shorter leg. Another interesting detail is this metallic appendage, protruding from the right side of the bike.
Which, depending on who you ask is either a symbol of the simplicity and Chapman-esque ‘add lightness’ engineering purity of the RGV or a bit of a pain in the rear, particularly if you’re a rounder gentleman decked out in a rather heavy leather jacket on an unseasonably hot early spring morning.
While the bike warms I take it very easily and take stock of my surroundings, the car in front slows for an intersection, I too back off the throttle and nothing fucking happens. Oh yeah, two strokes don’t have engine braking, forgot about that. Having nearly inserted this pristine beacon of motorcycling’s glory days into the boot of an unsuspecting Fiat Panda I quickly exit town and head to the hills.
If you’re spoiled on larger-engined, more modern bikes, riding this thing can be a bit of a chore if you’re not in the mood. It doesn’t work below a certain number of revs, you need to shift down eleven billion gears to overtake something when you’re not giving it the berries and pulling away from a stop involves far too much clutch slipping which automatically makes you look like a moron.
It’s not a bad-looking bike, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s not exactly stylish, the fairing appears to be designed merely to cover what’s underneath and the graphics are, erm, ‘period.’ I’m so glad that Suzuki felt the urge to tell the world that the bike was equipped with SAPC (whatever the fuck that is) in great big pink-purple letters on the seat unit, saves me the trouble.
All of these considerations fade into the background when you head north of 8000rpm, the powervalves open and the bike starts working. It’s a brilliant little weapon on the tighter stuff we ride on in Tuscany. Compared to the GS and the Tuono, this is entertaining at far more reasonable speeds. Chasing redlines, braking late and generally acting like a loon are all much more civilised when you’re only playing with 50-odd horsepower. At one point I exit a tight first gear corner and nail it to the red all the way to fifth. Such an operation with the 1100cc Tuono would find me at a speed entirely incompatible with these roads and most people’s perceptions of what is acceptable conduct, with this, I’m barely hitting 150km/h, still quick, but not the nun-raping, kitten-drowning velocities associated with bigger bikes.
The problems only really start when you calm down. I’ve already mentioned the all or nothing power, but it’s also violently uncomfortable for longer trips and the less said about the speed with which it disposes of tankloads of fuel when you’re having fun, the better.
I’ve always made plain my disdain for vintage motorcycles, however if I stop and think about it, the RGV is 23 years old. Does this make me an owner of a vintage motorcycle? Does it mean I’ll have to start fitting mirrors to the end of my bars, saying ‘period-correct’ every few sentences and riding everywhere with a stupid bubble visor on my helmet?
I hope not.