RGV250: V2 Screamer
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RGV250: V2 Screamer

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By JeffWare - 24 November 2020
Suzuki RGV250

WORDS: Jeff Ware PHOTOGRAPHY: Alexandra Cooper

In my motorcycling life, no bike has had an impact on me more than the Suzuki RGV250. As soon as I got my Ls and my first road bike, a $1500 near wreck 1985 RZ250FN, I dreamed about an RGV. It was 1992 and I was at school. The RGV was a year old and all I could think about, other than girls, was a blue and white M model. I went to my local Suzuki dealer a few times a week after school and just looked at that stunning bike. At the time, it felt like I could never own one. But I kept the dream alive…

Suzuki RGV250
249cc 90º V-twin two-stroke, Teflon coated pistons, chrome bore, water-cooled, three-stage powervalve system, high tech ECU controlled 34mm Mikuni flat slides, cassette-style gearbox.

Fast forward to January 1995. I’m a third year apprentice mechanic at Parry’s Motorcycles and I’ve finally got a credit rating. I’m 19 and I get a personal loan approved for five grand. You ripper!

Suzuki RGV250
Mid 1990s graphics on the N model reminds us of Hypercolour T-shirts and blonde tipped hair…

A few days scouring the local classifieds and I find a blue and white M model for $4500 just up the road. I’ll never, ever forget that ride home. My sister dropped me up there and I followed her home. The adrenaline and buzz was amazing – I just could not believe I was on my very own RGV250M. I remember that night, I put the bike in my shed and stripped it all back and cleaned it all up with WD40 and a rag. It looked so good. I still smile when I think back…

Suzuki RGV250
This is the blue and white M Model the day Jeff got it home in 1994. It’s the same yellow bike in the van… 

I rode the bike for a month that summer on the streets, up the local twisties racing anyone I could find on the Old Road. Then I started converting it into a race bike. I blueprinted the engine myself and put so much heart and soul into it. Once jetted, it made 62RWHP. Amazing.

Suzuki RGV250
The logo that would become absolute legend. The RGV was the RD LC of the 1990s.

I painted it yellow with pink highlights – ala Ralph Waldman’s Honda 250 GP bike at the time. And I started racing. That bike took me to B grade and a 1996 RGV took me to A grade. My love affair with RGVs grew from there.

Suzuki RGV250
Jeff aged 18 or 19, back in 1994, on his very first RGV racer, in the back of his Mitsubishi race van. Check the Hypercolour t-shirt!

They were a great bike. A longish wheelbase by today’s standards of 1385mm, a real lightweight at 139kg and near on 60hp made them genuine 230km/h machines that were thrilling to ride. Despite the powervalve system spreading the powercurve a little, the RGV was a peaky sucker and not the easiest two-stroke to keep on the boil.

Progress was often jerky as the rpm variation between some gears was wider than ideal and it was not always easy to keep it in the sweet spot without a heap of clutch slip! They were mechanically noisy little buggers too and sounded terrible at idle. But once on the pipe, man, you got one hell of a ride!

Suzuki RGV250
Jeff back in 1996 at Phillip Island, racing in the Shell Oils Australian Superbike Championship in 250 Production.

The shock was very basic by today’s standards but could be improved. The forks worked well with progressive springs fitted and a reduced air gap. And the bike loved gearing lowered by a tooth on the front. A set of sticky GPR50s and life was fantastic!

The days of 250s absolutely flogging big bore four strokes through the local mountains may be over but the memories remain.

If you can get an RGV250 – do it!

Jeff
Boy racer Jeff, 1996, Wakefied Park Raceway at a NSW State Title round. 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

80 per cent of RGVs sold in Australia were used for 250 Production Racing, huge between 1989 and 1999 before the Aprilia RS250 arrived, making the RGV250 the less popular racer.

It was in 1999 and 2000 that the used bike market was absolutely flooded with RGV250s and they were absolute bargains back then as there were so many.

Suzuki RGV250
Styling was a hit, with real Grand Prix inspired full fairing.

Just because a bike has been raced does not mean it is a lemon. In fact, the majority of race bikes were much better maintained than the road only bikes. When purchasing an RGV250 look for original fairings and markings, as Chinese replica plastics are easily and cheaply available now. Check wheel alignment as many suffered huge crashes. The swingarms were prone to bending after a big hit. Check fork seals and fork bushes. The fuel tanks can rust near the tap. And make sure the powervalves are operating correctly. It is common for the servo pulleys to flog out on the powervalve actuation shafts. When the servo goes through its cleaning and positioning cycle when you first start the bike, watch the pulleys with a torch (this requires fairing removal) to make sure they are working OK. If not, it may also indicate a stuck powervalve. They were very prone to snapping off (shearing the centre locator pin, which was weak and made of rolled pressed steel) and dropping into the cylinders, smashing the pistons and ruining barrels. Nasty. They need constant maintenance and care.

Suzuki RGV250
30º steering angle and 1380mm wheelbase kept the kids smiling.
Suzuki RGV250
Fat 150 rear tyre and banana swingarm, every teenager’s fantasy! Twin right-side baffles look like the real GP deal.

Rear cylinders tend to overheat so pull the radiator cap off and make sure there are no signs of a leaky head. Also water pump shaft seals go, so make sure the gearbox oil is not contaminated with coolant and/or coolant is not contaminated with oil.

Front master-cylinders are prone to seizing up. Countershaft bearings can wear and collapse so check for play and noise. The clutch baskets, although heavy and over-engineered, were prone to excessive wear with deep grooves in the basket fingers. Clutch steel plates prone to warping, so if the clutch actuation is grabby, the clutch may be stuffed.

Suzuki RGV250
The GP styled clocks added to the experience, they looked just like Kevin Schwantz’s ones we all saw on the telly on a Sunday night.
Suzuki RGV250
The later M and N model clocks were even more GP inspired than the earlier 1988 to 1990 items pictured elsewhere.

The cassette gearbox on the RGV was often installed in a misaligned fashion by mechanics using the wrong dowels. This caused excessive gear wear and a slight whine in all gears but louder in second gear. Excessive chrome hardening or metal in the gearbox oil is an indicator of this.

Suzuki RGV250
The early models had one pipe each side. The later ones had the better looking right-side dual exit pipes.

The 34mm Mikuni carb’s were great but often race bikes had jetting all over the place. Many riders removed the restrictor ball from the power jet feed house from the bowl to the body but the bike performed better with this restrictor on the road. Mismatched jetting to help maintain even cylinder temperature was common (the rear cylinder runs hotter than the front).

Suzuki RGV250
Rear shock was not so good. An upgrade made the world of difference. 

Some racers put restrictor washers in the front cylinder water hose to direct more water flow to the rear cylinder – it worked well.

Suzuki RGV250
Huge front brakes left many a boy and girl racer on the ground wondering what had happened.

BR9ECM were the better plug on the road and 8s often were too hot for the bike. There was a race kit that included a rear ride height spacer that was good for the track but made the bike too snappy on bumpy roads. Also, race bikes often have the oil pump adjustment very lean – which is a danger on the road, so ensure it is aligned to the correct marks via cable adjustment.

Suzuki RGV250
Riding an RGV 20-years later at The Farm, Jeff felt like a teenager again. Top fun!

THE BAD

Flogged out ex-race bikes

Spares are extremely expensive

Tyre choice limited

THE GOOD

Seriously talented chassis that is hard to beat, even today

Fun factor

Collectability

Suzuki RGV250
The RGV is 139kg, and has a claimed 59RWHP

Protect your motorbike. Call Shannons Insurance on 13 46 46 to get a quote today.