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Suzuki TS250 Savage 1969-81

In 1969 the Suzuki TS250 was released, known as the Savage in the US and the Hustler in Japan. The UK however, just got the designation letters as numbers as the title – TS250.

The headline in Cycle World’s magazine at the time of release was “The sometimes trail bike for a back road sneak.”

It was heavily influenced by the motocross machines of the 60’s, with the TM250 as the foundation for the new model. It was at its core a detuned version of this early motocross machine with improvements for road use.

The idea behind the Suzuki TS250 was that it could be practical both on and off road, opening up a riders life to new possibilities of riding on mixed terrain and covering more ground.

The introduction of the Suzuki TS250 came not long after the Yamaha DT250 and the Honda SL350 so the race was on to see who had/could produce the best dual sport motorcycle for the demanding US market.

The DT1 250 was particularly inexpensive when it was introduced, it was a lightweight two stroke and the world loved it.

Suzuki had big shoes to follow so it was imperative they could match if not beat the Yamaha on price and be equally reliable and competent.

Suzuki TS250 Review

Suzuki TS250
Cjp24, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

First hitting showrooms in 1969 the Suzuki TS250, would stay in production until 1981/2 when it was paused until it came back as a new model in 1985 as the Suzuki TS 250X.

Throughout its lifespan the model received various upgrades and improvements so it could keep up with the performance and trends of both the market and competition.

Engine and Transmission

Suzuki implemented a detuned and modified TM250 engine into the Savage and mated it to an effective five speed gearbox. This is where the Savage truly shines, the bore x stroke dimensions are on par with the TM along with the finning style.

However, it is at that point similarities end and differences begin, with the new five speed gearbox, compression ratios, piston design and carbs among other things.

The under square 66 x 72mm bore x stroke set up was identical to that of the dated Villiers engine from the Starmaker. Suzuki had emulated the Greeves Challenger as it was what Japanese manufacturers were modelling some of their two strokes on at the time and in turn Greeves had got their engines from Villier.

The irony here was that the Suzuki TS250 turned out significantly beefier with more power than those old Villier bikes could have ever dreamed of.

Suzuki claimed 23 horsepower and 26.5 Nm of torque out of the engine with a top speed of around 80mph. This was considered pretty fast at the time and they even offered a ‘go-faster’ kit which increased the power output to 31 horsepower.

The Posi-Force system unique to Suzuki, uses metered oil injection which alleviates the need of traditional two-stroke mixing of oil and fuel. It is an effective method and keeps exhaust smoke to a minimum.

Chassis, Suspension, Brakes

Containing the motor was a pretty simple chassis consisting of a simple single top tube, single downtube, double cradle frame, a telescopic fork with 6.5″ of travel and dual shocks bringing up the rear.

There was no damping on the rebound and this affected stability and steering on rough terrain, although the compression phase of the forks were really good. The rear shocks were 3-way adjustable. The suspension set up as whole made for a comfortable motorcycle on and off road.

In reality if riders wanted a Motocross bike then they could opt for a TM250, the TS250 was intended to be used more casually off road and on lighter trails, so the forks not being amazing wasn’t the end of the world.

Drum brakes were typical of the era and adequate.

Suzuki TS250 Styling and Handling

In terms of styling Suzuki really worked hard on the TS to make it an attractive, appealing model but were keen to keep it withing a competitive price range too.

The engine casings are particularly smart, being pressure die-cast, the finish is of a very high standard.

Standard equipment included a headlight, indicators, front and rear mudguard and an effective heat shield protecting the rider from the exhaust.

It didn’t take long for the Suzuki TS250 to start getting updates. After the first model year the bike received a new exhaust and heat shield. Later models received more detailed tank branding unlike the early bikes that had the simple S logo on the tank.

Check out the variants section coming up further down the page for more details of how Suzuki changed the model.

In terms of handling the motorcycle was easy and fun to ride, comfortable, capable and stored enough puff in it’s 250 motor to get you up to speed in most situations. It was also completely reliable and solid, ready to take on some abuse in the dirt if that was your thing.

Suzuki TS250 Performance

Cycle World’s early opening statement in their 1969 review went as follows:

“Were it not for the fact that it looks so stylized, Suzuki’s new TS-250 Savage could pass for a serious dirt bike. But it is the best Japanese dual purpose street and trail 250 ever tested by CW.”

Maybe not as ground breaking as the Yamaha DT1 or as refined, the Suzuki was a down and dirty motorcycle, and although it received multiple styling changes, Suzuki didn’t change too much mechanically, more just updates through its production run. It sold well in the US and abroad and still has a following to date.

Suzuki TS250 Specs

Engine and Transmission

  • Engine – Two stroke, single cylinder

  • Capacity – 246cc

  • Bore x Stroke – 76 x 24mm

  • Compression Ratio –  6.7:1

  • Cooling System – Air cooled

  • Starting – Kick

  • Lubrication System – Fuel/Oil mix, Posi-force, CCI

  • Transmission – 5 speed

  • Final Drive – Chain

  • Max Power – 23 horsepower

  • Max Torque – 26.5Nm

  • Top Speed – 80mph

Chassis and Dimensions

  • Frame – Double cradle, tubular steel, single top tube and single downtube

  • Front Suspension – Telescopic fork, oil damped

  • Rear Suspension – Dual Shocks, Coil springs

  • Front Brakes -Drum

  • Rear Brakes – Drum

  • Dry Weight – 128kg/282lbs

  • Wheelbase – 1370mm

  • Height – 1125mm

  • Width – 880mm

  • Length – 2115mm

  • Seat Height – 820mm

  • Fuel Capacity – 9.1 litres

Suzuki TS250 Variants

1969 TS250

First model to be released, silver side panels, banana shaped exhaust, chrome heat guard and chrome mudguards. Pine green tank.

1970 TS250 II

New paint in orange with chrome, Suzuki branded tank. Lights, speedo and tacho changed along with exhaust and heat guard receiving modifications.

1971-75

Received more power and PEI Pointless Ignition System. New Strip Orange paint scheme among others and increased carb size.

1976 TS250 B

Double front tubes added and reed valve system replaced the old piston ported design. Major styling overhaul and gas/oil rear shocks fitted.

After this point until 1981 it was mainly cosmetic changes made and by the last model the bike received a box section swingarm and monoshock instead of dual rear shocks.

Buying a Used Suzuki TS250

In the US prices for a TS250 sit between $1,500-$3,000. With some bikes popping up for as little as $500. If you don’t mind getting out a wrench and getting to work you could pick up a serious bargain to fix up then have some fun with.

In the UK prices start at £2,000 and go up to £6,000. There are far fewer models in the UK and advertised for sale so you may need to bide your time to get yourself a good working model in top quality condition.

Verdict

Overall the Suzuki TS250 is a cool little dual sport with a big boy attitude, nice styling and bright performance.

As some of you will know I love my small capacity bikes so the Savage is right up my street, I would love to take one out to play and see what it can do both on and off road.

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