First Ride: 2013 Suzuki GW250 Review

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The 2013 Suzuki GW250 enters the market as the most affordable of the entry-level standards. Does that also mean it’s the least capable? We rode it around suburban Orlando to create this 2013 Suzuki GW250 Review.

What’s New
The GW250 is an all-new motorcycle, finally entering the American market after it was announced last year.

A steel tube chassis cradles a two-valve-per-cylinder, liquid-cooled, parallel-twin engine. That produces 24 bhp at 8,500 rpm and 16 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,600 rpm. That’s enough to give it an indicated 90 mph top speed, despite its relatively portly 403 lbs curb weight.

Styling is said to ape the Hayabusa-based Suzuki B-King, and it kinda does in the headlight and general plasticy-ness, but its over-sized tail unit, absolutely enormous front fender and shapeless tank conspire to give the GW a case of the uglies. It’s general awkwardness is aided by the two huge exhaust canisters and the exposed engine with its huge crankcase and tiny cylinders. It’s as if all the good stuff that’s supposed to be visually accentuated on a motorcycle has been shrunk and all the bad stuff that’s supposed to be visually de-emphasized has been made twice as large.

The upside? A $3,999 price point that makes it $200 cheaper than even Honda’s single-cylinder CBR250R. The GW is also the only naked bike in this class, giving it a more comfortable, upright riding position than either the Honda or Kawasaki Ninja 300.

2013 Suzuki GW250

The Ride
Suburban Orlando doesn’t have the kind of roads you dream about, but it’s low speed limits, insane overpopulation of stoplights, perfectly straight roads and congested freeways are the roads most Americans have to deal with.

In these conditions, the GW actually proves to be a surprisingly strong performer. Torque, from its long-stroke motor, kicks in instantly and performance remains linear, smooth and progressive all the way up to the 11,000 rpm redline.

Even on the freeway, the GW remains confident and capable of reasonably strong acceleration up to about 80 mph and can reach 90 with a bit of determination. It accelerates from on-ramp to highway speeds with confidence and holds its own in the fast lane. The idea that normal riders need more performance for typical American road conditions is simply nonsense.

It’s stable and comfortable on the freeway too, something again aided by its upright riding position, but also the half inch of additional wheelbase it carries over the Honda CBR250R.

Even running close to its redline at 85 mph, the engine remains very smooth, undoubtedly aided by its balancer shaft.

Despite its limited on-paper performance, the GW250’s powertrain is actually impressively capable. Aiding that low-down torque and smooth nature is a typically (for Suzuki) slick six-speed gearbox complete with good clutch feel. The fuel-injected engine is equipped with an idle speed control valve to help maintain even rpms while stopped and what feels like a relatively heavy flywheel keeps those revs up as you slip the clutch to pull away; the GW is nearly impossible to stall. Like the GSX-R, windows in the piston skirts reduce pumping losses. This is a slick, rider-friendly engine and gearbox.

Also surprisingly impressive is the quality of the suspension. The RWU forks and preload-adjustable monoshock may not look impressive, but reasonable quality damping and spot-on spring rates see both components working in harmony to deliver surprisingly good ride quality and confident handling.

Together, all those components combine to elevate the performance and riding experience far beyond what the GW’s third world looks would lead you to expect.

2013 Suzuki GW250
The GW250 is a late introduction 2013 model. The only change for 2014 will be the addition of this blue/white paint scheme.

The Good
The LED-lit instrument cluster is comprehensive and clear. The analog tachometer/digital speedometer layout is similar to that of more expensive performance bikes and includes both a fuel gauge and gear position indicator — handy for new riders.

The upright seating position is comfortable and leads to excellent control at lower speeds. Combine that with the good handling and willing motor and this is going to be a great little bike for navigating congested city traffic.

Straightline performance is surprisingly good, especially given the relatively high curb weight. You have the strong low-down torque to thank for that.

The GW is also more highway capable than you’d give it credit for. The smooth motor and comfortable ergonomics help there too.

The brakes are strong and full of feel. ABS isn’t even an option, but it’s not really necessary.

Ride quality is excellent from the well-damped suspension.

2013 Suzuki GW250

The Bad
The styling. Oh, the styling. Had Suzuki expressly set out to make an ugly bike, they couldn’t have done any better than this. In fact, that may very well be what they did. The front fender looks six sizes too big for the front wheel, the fuel tank and integrated radiator shrouds/indicators looks like they melted in the sun, the absolutely enormous tail unit looks like it was pinched from a ‘90s touring bike and all that dwarfs the mechanical components, unfortunately emphasizing their diminutive proportions.

The GW uses the same awful, bias ply IRC Road Winner tires as the CBR250 and Ninja 300. It’s 2013, we expect radial tires to come standard on new bikes.

Despite their preposterous dimensions, the huge mirrors have a hard time showing anything but elbow.

2013 Suzuki GW250

What Others Say
“[Performance]…may well be enough to offset the combed hair and the sweater vest.” — Motorcyclist Online

The Price
$3,999 compares favorably to the $4,199 CBR250R. That bike looks far more upmarket and is far less hideous than the GW, but isn’t any faster or easier to ride.

That price also makes the GW250 far cheaper than the now $4,999 Ninja 300. The 38 bhp, 372 lbs Kawasaki is obviously a fair bit quicker, but comes with its own (in this case overly aggressive) image problems.

Suzuki’s own TU250X is also a few hundred dollars more expensive and it’s not really fast or stable enough for serious freeway work, but does resolve the looks and weight issues.

2013 Suzuki GW250

The Verdict
Surprising capability doesn’t compromise the GW250’s ease of use, despite the heavy curb weight. Enough bike to navigate surface streets or even commute on the highway. It’s upright ergonomics make it uniquely comfortable in the 250-ish, entry-level class and should make it an outstanding choice for navigating congested cities. Unfortunately, even at its low price, its very poor styling is going to limit its appeal to style-conscious riders.

RideApart Rating: 7/10

Gear
Helmet: Shoei RF-1200 ($438, Highly Recommended)
Jacket: Vanson AR3 ($550, Highly Recommended)
Gloves: Racer Mickey ($116, Highly Recommended)
Boots: Dainese Cafe ($240, Highly Recommended)

More Photos – Page 2 >>

  • augustdaysong

    I’ve never seen one of these. I didn’t even think they had them stateside

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      That’s likely because it’s brand new. They’ll be on-sale soon.

  • Daniel

    The black hides the ugly…sorta. The blue and white…doesn’t. I’d stick to the CBR here…especially with the 300 coming soon. I’ve said it and I’ll say it again: they need a CB300F variant!

    • Guillaume Béliveau

      Black hides the ugly : so true.

    • runnermatt

      I saw the first two pictures and I was like, “it doesn’t look that bad”. Then I saw the blue/white and my reaction was “ugh”. Then I saw the rear 3/4 view and it was “ugh” again.

      I’m glad to see a good inexpensive naked bike though. However, I wonder how it will compete with the CBR300 and Ninja 300 since those two moved up in displacement. I expect the CBR300 will have more than 30hp.

      Maybe in a couple of years the guy that redesigned the V-Strom 1000 will have worked his way through the rest of Suzuki’s lineup and this will end up being a good looking bike.

  • Dipendra Bagchee

    And people thought the Gladius was ugly!

    • yakimushi

      It’s like the B-King and the Gladius had a child. And then that child fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

  • Guillaume Béliveau

    Sweet little bike, but ABS it should be

    • yakimushi

      It’s like the B-King and the Gladius had a child. And then that child fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

  • Generic42

    I’m probably missing something but how does ” single-valve-per-cylinder” work? Or am I mis-reading and it’s one intake and one exhaust valve per cylinder?

  • Paul Elliot

    “A steel tube chassis cradles a single-valve-per-cylinder, liquid-cooled, parallel-twin engine”. So which cylinder has the intake valve? :-)
    I’m sure they meant 2 valves per cylinder…
    Looks like a very neat city bike with back road potential.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      D’oh.

      • Paul Elliot

        We all be humanz… :-)

  • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

    7/10 seems a generous overall rating given how ugly and otherwise unremarkable the bike is. Is it a 7/10 only relative to its direct rivals? It’s kind of tough to know what these number ratings mean across the site. For example, in a recent review, RA gave the Ducati 899 Panigale a 9/10. If it’s the same scale, you’re saying that this ugly little intro bike is a C to the Ducati’s A-. I have to doubt that’s what you actually mean. Seems like if all bikes are going to be graded on the same scale, you guys might have to get more comfortable with giving less remarkable machines lower ratings. How ugly would it have to be in order to get the 4/10 or a 5/10 it probably deserves in the bigger picture?

    For the record, I don’t mean to snipe. I love what you guys are doing here in terms of creating a centralized place for this kind of information and reviews. I just think that if that’s our goal, then you might think about how you level the evaluation process. It seems like in this case, this very basic bike is being given way too much credit for simply not being terrible.

    • Dipendra Bagchee

      I assume they are ranking relative to the class the bike is in.

      • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

        Maybe, but how would anyone know that? And if so, what’s the full list of bikes on that particular scale? Where’s an index of all these different scales and what bikes are listed on each?

        • Ken Lindsay

          People who are longer term followers of this site get what Wes posts because he has us trained.

          You’re looking at it from the perspective of a new visitor. So basically, if there was a disclaimer whenever you used the comparison tool, the experience would be smoother.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      A bike is rated on its ability to achieve what it sets out to achieve. So think CBR250/Ninja 300/TU250X in this case; entry level 250s. It’s nearly as good to ride as the CBR, and it’s cheaper. But, it’s ugly. Really ugly.

      The 899 is comparable to other superbikes. And it’s better than most. Hence the 9/10.

      5/10 is average. You’ll find bikes rated at that level and lower in our buyer’s guide. My intent with all these ratings (and I make all of them personally) is to provide real data points you can actually use to compare motorcycles.

      • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

        Thanks for clarifying, Wes. It would be helpful to know the comparisons for each number set besides just what might be mentioned in the article text. Do you get what I’m driving at and how it can be confusing? It’s tough to actually USE the numbers if the context of the scale isn’t known. Might also be worth having some FAQ content around the numbers in terms of what the scales mean and what makes a 5 different from a 6 or a 7. Thanks for all you’re doing here.

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          If i gave you a list of smart phones, each with an x/10, you’d understand it, right? It really is that simple. There’s review content for each bike in the buyer’s guide that goes deeper, explaining any given bike’s pluses and minuses too.

          • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

            Totally get that. All I’m saying is that the “list” isn’t clear. By just saying 7/10, it sounds like the list of bikes is every bike you guys ever review. You’re saying that’s not what you mean and I believe you, all I’m saying is that it might be helpful to clarify what the list of bikes is for a given comparison if it’s not, in fact, all motorcycles you review. Does that make more sense? I feel like maybe I haven’t been effectively saying what I mean.

            • LS650

              I don’t think the rating is all that tough to understand. A 5 is average, a 7 is good but not great, and a 9 is superb. It seems pretty clear from the article that for a 250cc commuter, the GW is a good bike hurt by ugly styling, and deserves about a 7 out of 10.

              Sure if you compare it to a Panigale, the 250 doesn’t even rate, but you’re comparing a $4000 bike to one that costs many thousands of dollars more. Of course you can’t really compare the two on the same scale: someone looking at a Panigale isn’t shopping for a commuter, and vice versa.

  • AndrewF

    It would be a great platform for some brave custom builder to show off their skills. Strip the ugly plastics, leave the capable running gear… paging Doc’s Chops, Roland Sands, Wrenchmonkees…

  • Matthew Marino

    Ya know,
    you guy’s are the thing that kills the motorcycle industry. Just calling something “ugly”. Kills it just like that. Go stand next to your $15’000 FREE TEST RIDE motorcycle’s and take some selfies.
    All other things. Price. Comfort. Performance. Maint costs. Availability, etc. Those, are all wonderful things to talk about. (judge) But, shunning away potential buyers of an entry level bike, (or any) just because it does not fit into YOUR perception of asthetics?!?!

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      I think you’ll actually find that it’s the designers who are responsible for the ugly. We just call it like we see it.

      • Piglet2010

        Most new motorcycles are ugly, including many that are $15K+. Whoever decided that motorcycles should look like Transformers™, along with having no bodywork behind the engine resulting in those horrible trusses supporting the rear lights and plate should be flogged. Heck, my pre-gen Ninjette and TW200 look better than most new bikes, and no one ever accused either of being beautiful.

      • julian

        I dont think its ugly. Think its kinda cool. I call it how i see it. -)

    • tobykeller

      I read HFL because they’re the only ones who’ll call an ugly bike ugly. It needs to be said.

      • Jay

        ^This. Can’t trust a publication that won’t call an ugly bike ugly. And most don’t. Sometimes beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the proportions and details here are just bad. A little sexy would go a long way towards getting new riders on an appropriate bike.

      • Piglet2010

        I prefer articles that minimize the amount of space used to discuss styling – a picture is worth much more than a thousand words in these cases.

    • LS650

      I commute every day across town and appreciate a ‘practical’ bike, but you gotta admit, someone gave this bike a good beat-down with the ugly stick.

  • Michael Love

    I don’t think Suzuki has made a bike in the past 10 years that I thought looked good. They’re definitely on a roll now.

    • runnermatt

      The new V-strom 1000 might be the first.

      • Piglet2010

        I think the big Strom looks like Woody Woodpecker.

        • runnermatt

          Well, yeah there is the whole beak thing. I understand they are trying to emulate the front fender on dirt bikes, but maybe they should make it look more like a fender and less “beaky”

  • Paul Elliot

    As to the styling…well, you probably don’t have to worry about it getting stolen…

    • runnermatt

      I expect most bikes in this class you don’t have to worry about them getting stolen. Especially the ones made in Thailand because new replacement parts are already cheap so their isn’t much money to make on used replacement parts.

  • Nathan Haley

    If you’re looking for a CBR250-like experience with a more upright position, maybe a CRF250L should be on your list. I know it’s a dualsport and it won’t be as composed on the highway but it scoots around town well and it’s very comfortable for such a small bike. It also has inverted cartridge forks and you open yourself up to opportunities beyond the pavement.

    • Justin McClintock

      And this is why I bought a used DRZ400SM.

  • Jordan

    I like the blue and white because it reminds me of my first bike, a GS500F. The only problem is it also reminds me of the Honda Wing, too

    The styling might be a little bit of a let down (I think the CBR250 is worse) but it’s good to see Suzuki cashing in on cheap, accessible bikes. The consumers win by having more choices for bikes and the manufacturers win by hopefully selling in large volume to help pull them out of a slump. The extra refinement of the machine doesn’t hurt, either…

    All that’s left now is to see what Yamaha’s bid will be for the $4500-ish entry level bike.

    • runnermatt

      And will Triumph beat Yamaha to market with theirs.

      • Justin McClintock

        Problem is, that Triumph out-uglies everything.

    • Chris Cope

      If Yamaha’s keen to play, I’d expect them to roll out a 250 YBR — the 125 YBR is a stalwart in Europe.

  • Mark D

    Aren’t steel tube cradle frames a bit outdated? Even on a budget bike, you’d think a simple single backbone frame, like the Honda and even the ancient Ninja 250/300, would be the norm in 2013. That might have something to do with why there is a >400 lb., 250cc bike on the market.

  • Alvin Davenport

    Put this drivetrain in the TU 250 and then you have something.

    • Justin McClintock

      I really do love the styling of the TU250, but it needs more power. You really hit the nail on the head with that one. That would be a phenomenal entry level package. I might actually be tempted to buy a new bike!

  • tobykeller

    Dear Suzuki, here’s how it’s done: http://www.kawasaki.co.th/th/detail.html (too bad Kawi doesn’t sell the Z250 in the States…)

    • Mark D

      That is shockingly better looking.

    • El Isbani

      So many cool bikes over seas, we don’t everything here. We get a huge share of cool stuff, but not all.

      • tobykeller

        Yeah, the good news for America is that anything you do get tends to be incredibly cheap compared to other countries. Take the Street Triple R: we can get it here… for $25,000. It’s $10k in the States. Panigale R? $73,300.

    • orangelion03

      Nice! Very much in the same family as the Z1000 visually.

  • brutusfly

    Apt assessment Wes. When I took the WR250 test ride in Orlando Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised. A somewhat sporty tone to the exhaust note, nimble, comfortable, smooth. Not pretty, but I tend to find that the more practical something is the better it looks. Just need to take a dremel to the rear fender. Way better looking than a scooter of the same price and much better performance.

    • LS650

      Indeed. I think that huge mud fairing (or whatever it is) over the rear wheel is insanely ugly.

  • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

    …now I just wanna buy a b -king

    • BryonCLewis

      Do it, bought mine (a 2008) in 2010 with 0 miles on showroom floor for under $8k. Got close to 30,000 on it right now and don’t regret it at all.

  • LS650

    Well, the good part is it’s pretty much theft-proof.

  • ThinkingInImages

    It’s overdone, style-wise, but it has potential. The fenders are oversized, particualrly the rear fender, but it’s not something a saw can’t fix. The radiator shroud is a bit much. In blue and white, and in profile, it makes more sense and the design looks more balanced.

    I’ve seen motorcycles that make this look fantastic.

  • michaelmatos

    In black with your leg draped over it, it looks pretty decent. The body balances out the abundance of plastic and gives purpose to its form. Remove the rider and it coalesces into a misshapen mass of polymers poured onto a steel frame.

    • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

      In black, At night. In a dark room.

  • Brian

    would you think the heavier bike weight might help with crosswind stability versus the competition?

  • Justin McClintock

    Suzuki and Triumph are racing to see who can make the uglier bike. The new mini-Triumph is still winning though.

  • chupa

    Suzuki got it right style-wise with the TU250X. If only they’d put this GW motor in the TU. 25hp vs 17hp.

    • El Isbani

      True. Often glad my TUX doesn’t have a tachometer as much as I’m on the freeway. The way they made the lights on this model is different in a cool way though.

      • Piglet2010

        Same for a TW200 – but the vibration will convince you to get off the freeway as soon as possible.

        On the other hand, I have run my Honda Elite flat out for nearly a hundred miles on a warm day, and the temperature gauge barely moved above normal.

  • Reid

    Attending school at the University of Central Florida made me swear off suburban living forever. Those are some of the worst roads ever dreamed up.

  • 200 Fathoms

    Awesome to see more of these entry-level bikes.

  • Charles Quinn

    What I don’t get about the GW250 (called Inazuma – “Lightning”[!] – elsewhere) is the B-King modelling. “Hey, let’s make it look like a bike everyone thinks is ugly as sin and hardly anyone buys!” They could have styled it like a Bandit (full naked, with a half-faired S option) and it would have sold truckloads in Europe. I feel for Suzuki, they make some great bikes at great prices and then make them look like … this.

  • orangelion03

    This should be popular with MSF courses!

  • Sparkles

    Suzuki: You have made the X6 Hustler, the ’70′s GS550, the Katana, the 1985–>GSX-R series etc. You people do not need to leave your house to find industry-defining style. If you are so determined to NOT want compete with Kawasaki and Honda in the quarter liter class, why bother? You KNOW there isn’t ONE person at your company that felt good about the looks of this bike, not a SINGLE piece is up to snuff. Please! Hit delete and start again! the 250cc class needs your amazing designs, not this. It is just not ok. Thank you.