When it comes to top tier two-stroke motorcycles of days gone by in the 250 class there are several contenders for the top spot and here we take a look at one of the best of them, the Suzuki RG250 Gamma.
More often than not it is the Yamaha RD250LC that comes out as the people’s favourite 80’s hooligan machine.
However, it would be criminal in my book (and many others) to overlook the Suzuki RG250 Gamma.
Released in 1983 the RG250 Gamma followed on from the successful 1978 X7 which in turn had replaced the GT250 from its reign throughout the 1970’s.
A quick note is that in Japan only, the Suzuki X7 was actually named as the RG250, whereas everywhere else adopted the model as the X7.
The RG250 Gamma remained in production until 1987 and was knocked from the line up by the all new RGV250 for 1988.
As close to a street-legal racer as you can get, the Suzuki RG250 Gamma was not only setting new standards in design and engineering, but pushing the benchmark of what a 250cc road-going machine was capable and deserving of.
Let’s get into it.
Suzuki RG250 Gamma Review
Before the RG250 Gamma was born, there was the RG500 Gamma, the closest thing to a race motorcycle that a road-going replica could physically get.
Privateers would get their hands on one and enter races to much success. The RG500 Gamma was at the forefront of the revolution of race replicas where performance matched the race styled sportsbike design.
The Japanese giants knew that they had a winning recipe and so when the shift came to bring the Suzuki X7 into the present, they knew that the new model had a blueprint to follow with its big brother.
So while the 250 and 500 share similarities, they all end when it comes to the engine department. It would have been far too expensive and unnecessary to build a 250cc version of the 500cc square four engine, so instead they opted for a solid parallel twin.
The engine was mated with Suzuki’s Power Reed intake system and Mikuni carbs which would draw air from a huge airbox.
Interestingly the crankcase is liquid cooled and quite efficiently so too. From the water pump, coolant goes through the upper half of the crankcase directly to the bottoms of the cylinders by the exhaust port.
This is the hottest part of the engine and is therefore very effective at keeping things cool, unlike some designs where water is pumped down through the cylinders, warming before it reaches the bottom.
After cooling the bottom, the coolant rises up through the cylinder, to the head and into the radiator.
Boasting 45 bhp the Suzuki RG250 Gamma was faster than the Yamaha RD250LC and was actually nearly as quick as the 350LC.
Price wise on release the Gamma was nearly as expensive as the Yamaha RD350LC and some argued that it was priced outside of its capacity.
Whereas others would come back and say that its performance was more than a traditional 250cc capacity too, so one negated the other.
Equipped with 6 gears and a wet clutch, the RG250 has a narrow powerband of around 2,000rpm, so the 5 upper gears are close together to cope.
First gear is just a starting gear, and it takes some serious revving to get the rider over the hump into second and beyond. There is a knack to mastering the bike at first but once you nail it, you’re ready for some fun.
It is safe to say that below 7,000rpm not much is going on with the RG250. It is a relatively tame bike, but after 8000/ 8500rpm that is where the fire is and things start happening. Fast.
The engine packs a punch, delivering power on tap with ease, there when you need it and begging you to twist the throttle more.
It wasn’t a revolutionary engine, but it was a tried and tested achievement that matched much more bigger bikes.
Of course it wasn’t just the engine that made the Suzuki RG250 Gamma but everything that surrounded it, largely the GP derived chassis.
The RG250 was the first mass-production motorcycle to be given a box frame full aluminum chassis.
As a result the Suzuki RG250 Gamma was very lightweight and it certainly contributed to the increased power-weight ratio, improving performance above both the X7 predecessor and the competition from the likes of Yamaha and Kawasaki.
The chassis was cloaked in plastic bodywork with a huge aerodynamic ¾ length fairing.
For the MKIII 1985 model the RG250 was given fully-enclosed bodywork which went some way to making it a very attractive machine.
Fundamentally the RG250 Gamma looked like a racer with lights, it performed like one too.
Suzuki fitted the bike with full-floater suspension and anti-dive forks (which Suzuki had only ever used on the race spec GP bikes).
Initially fitted with a single disc upfront the RG250 soon got dual discs for stopping power.
The brakes were exceptional and are considered some of the best of the era. This is largely down to the fact that they were the same as those used on the race 500cc bikes.
So, in reality (especially when dual discs were fitted), the stopping power was overkill.
Although, for a production racer that was forging a 250cc supersport class, impressive brakes were certainly useful.
So, what does all this mean when it comes to riding the Suzuki RG250 Gamma?
It is monstrous. It feels like it shouldn’t be on the road, and should only be legal to use on a track, which is the very thin line that Suzuki were deliberately walking with it.
The lightweight chassis made for an extremely nimble machine, agile to throw around and get it down round the bends.
The fairing broke the air up perfectly to make the most out of the speed the engine was capable of and it felt a whole lot more than just a 250cc parallel twin.
All the while, the RG250 didn’t feel flimsy or unsure of itself, point it where you want to go and with little effort it will get you there precisely and smoothly.
The one thing to be absolutely careful of is hard braking, with a fully floating suspension set up, and lightweight chassis, it was neither impossible or ridiculous to be able to pop the rear wheel up with a handful of too much front brake.
That isn’t exactly a pleasant feeling in corners or well ever… unless you are into stunts, so brake with caution and exercise restraint was advised.
Front and rear suspension are good, but do edge on the lighter side of things, so some knocks in the road may make you a little uneasy and have your back sore.
The RG250 Gamma wasn’t built as a touring bike or even a commuter, it was built really for one reason, and that was to go fast.
As a result comfort wasn’t up on the design agenda, speed was the focus and that filters down into everything. The narrow tank, overall slimline look and thin seat all make for a focused racer which disregards any desire to be a sensible road bike.
Narrow bars, high pegs and the thin seat, all ensure that you will be ready for a break pretty quickly. The position is aggressive and prompts the rider to feel in control, once seated you are ready to take on the back roads as if you were on the track.
The feedback the rider receives from the RG250 is instantaneous and as such it makes for a thrilling ride, but you need to be on your game and focused. This isn’t a machine to cruise around distracted on.
You have a very clear 2000 rpm window to remain in and the bike offers such sharp responses that you need to know where you are going without hesitation.
The good news is that at around 35 mpg you only have about a 120 mile tank range so your next fuel stop is never too far away.
Even the steering head angle is in accordance with racers of the era with a 24.7 degree and 4” trail. On the racetrack riders need to be able to steer the bike as quick as they think, so steep rake angles are inevitable.
Overall the RG250 Gamma is a beastly little wonder of a machine, one that outclassed the competition without fail.
Arguably the bike was built to go fast and not necessarily to last, the likely expectation being that owners would want to get the best of the bikes, and would give them a hard life by enjoying them.
Even in its short life, Suzuki modified it to improve upon itself, from a shorter wheelbase in 1985 to a full fairing in 1986 and boost power figures to around 50 horsepower.
The natural progression to a V-twin was destined for the racing 250, so it was soon replaced by the V-twin, RGV250 Gamma, which owes an awful lot to its predecessor.
Suzuki RG250 Gamma Specifications
Engine and Transmission
- Engine – Two-stroke, parallel twin, reed valve
- Capacity – 247 cc
- Bore x Stroke – 54 x 54mm
- Compression Ratio – 7.4:1
- Cooling System – Air-cooled/ partly liquid cooled
- Induction – 2 x Mikuni VM28SS flat side carbs
- Max Power – 45 horsepower at 8,500rpm
- Max Torque – 37Nm at 8,000rpm
- Clutch – Wet, multi-plate
- Transmission – 6 Speed
- Final Drive – Chain
Chassis and Dimensions
- Front Suspension – Telescopic fork
- Rear Suspension – Full floater, mono-shock
- Front Brakes – 2 x 260mm discs, 1 piston caliper
- Rear Brakes – Single 210mm disc, 1 piston caliper
- Rake – 24.7 degree
- Trail – 102mm
- Length – 2050mm
- Width – 685mm
- Height – 1220mm
- Wheelbase – 1385mm
- Ground Clearance – 155mm
- Seat Height – 785mm
- Dry Weight – 131kg
- Fuel Capacity – 17 litres
Suzuki RG250 Gamma Top speed
The original Suzuki RG250 Gamma was capable of around 110mph, but the later MKIII models were said to be able to reach just short of 120mph.
Finding a Suzuki RG250 Gamma For Sale
Today between £2,500-£5,000 will pick you up a RG250 Gamma in the UK.
The bikes were never sold in the US so they are harder to find and you are best looking towards Canada where a specific Canadian model was sold, else look towards Europe.
That is not to say they don’t come up in the US because they do, as some models found their way to the country via private imports. One such example is this Walter Wolf model on Raresportsbikes which was advertised at just $2,394.
It is worth noting that there are some very good examples available, in great condition and then some not so good, unrideable examples that would need a lot of work.
So make sure you do your research into the bikes, look for spare parts etc. so you know what to look out for and ensure you are buying the model to suit you.
You can check out this 1985 Gamma priced at £4,195 with very low miles and in great condition.
Suzuki held no punches with the RG250 Gamma, they threw as much Grand Prix derived race technology at this 250 that they could and they did it with much success.
While the later V-twin bearing RGV250 often gets the most attention, the original Suzuki RG250 Gamma set the benchmark that everything else after had to meet and beat in order to be considered worthy.
It is a brilliant racer from the 80’s that any two-stroke bike fan would be proud to add to their collection.
Take your time and hold out for a good condition model, then let it rip out on the backroads, knowing your financial investment is also sure to be safe.