Mag­nif­i­cence in mo­tor­cy­cle form – the Suzuki XR96 RGV250

Classic Racer - - WHAT’S INSIDE - Words: Tony Carter Pho­to­graphs: Gary D Chap­man

One of the rarest mo­tor­cy­cles on the planet, this is Steve Wheat­man’s Suzuki RGV250. A fac­tory race­bike now looked af­ter by the ex­pert hands of Nathan Colombi, you won’t see an­other one of these – we prom­ise you that. It’s ut­terly de­li­cious and a gen­uine work of me­chan­i­cal art.

What we have here is unique, one of the most rare rac­ing mo­tor­cy­cles ever built. This one in par­tic­u­lar is rarer than a Honda 6. Aside from sin­gu­larly be­spoke rac­ing bikes (and let’s face it, those mo­tor­cy­cles are of­ten made us­ing parts from other – more widely avail­able ma­chines – so hardly count as ‘rare’ in the truest sense) there’s al­most noth­ing as scarce as this mo­tor­cy­cle. So let’s cut to the rub. This is a Suzuki RGV250. One of the XR se­ries of Grand Prix mo­tor­cy­cles that el­e­vated the Suzuki rac­ing ef­forts in the late 1980s and the ma­jor­ity of the 1990s. Specif­i­cally, this is the XR94 (built in 1994, hence the num­ber). So, this range of the spe­cific run of quar­ter-litre ma­chines ran around 30 years ago. And as can of­ten be the way y with fac­tory GP ex­ot­ica var­i­ous ver­sion ns and var­i­ous mod­els of these few quarte er-litre weapons have van­ished into who-know wswhere, which is why Clas­sic Racer is s o chuffed to be able to fea­ture this bike. Usu­ally kept hid­den away from pryin ng eyes in a se­cret lo­ca­tion some­where in n the mid­dle of Eng­land, CR was given ac­ces ss to this fac­tory 250 for an ex­ten­sive look at thtwhat made it specif­i­cally so spe­cial. The XR94 is owned by Steve Wheat­man, whom you may know for his exquisitely main­tained ex-sch­wantz RGV500S and gor­geous XR69 repli­cas.

When a fac­tory makes a hand­ful of mo­tor­cy­cles – only a hand­ful – to race at the high­est level in one of the most com­pet­i­tive cham­pi­onships ever seen, you get this. What a bike. What a rare piece of rac­ing his­tory.

And Steve him­self has a fan-based view on these par­tic­u­lar 250s, he said: “I think that it’s a case of ‘what if Suzuki had pushed the de­vel­op­ment more?’ “That could pos­si­bly have hap­pened had the mo­tor­cy­cles’ de­vel­op­ment and rac­ing­world dis­tri­bu­tion been fu­elled by Suzuki of­fer­ing them com­mer­cially to other race teams or the pub­lic, the same busi­ness model as we saw with Yamaha , Honda, Aprilia etc. “But then, if that had hap­pened, this mo­tor­cy­cle and the oth­ers in the range wouldn’t be so rare and spe­cial.” And he has a point. While Suzuki pulled the plug on the fac­tory 250 class, for­ever to leave us all won­der­ing ‘what if’, the de­ci­sion to not fill the pad­docks with fac­tory-replica scream­ers at least left us with Swiss-watch style, hand-crafted fac­tory beauty. Think about it, when did you ever see one be­ing rid­den in the past 18 years? Prob­a­bly never. And while you’d be ex­tremely lucky to get close to a Suzuki 250, find­ing other bikes from other fac­to­ries in this class is easy. With per­haps the one ex­cep­tion of the near-myth

Kawasaki 250 project bikes (in­clud­ing a natty up­side-down en­gined bike). Steve adds: “There are fewer of these run­ning in the world than there are Honda 6s! It’s pretty un­likely that you’ll ever get two of these in the Clas­sic TT paddock.” He makes more than a strong point, does Steve. And it’s wor­thy of draw­ing a par­al­lel be­tween the ‘ul­ti­mate’ tag of both the Honda 6 and the XR range of the 250cc Suzukis fur­ther. Af­ter all, if the Honda 6 is the true Holy Grail of clas­sic Ja­panese race bikes (which Steve points out: “I be­lieve it

is”) then per­haps it’s not out the realms of pos­si­bil­ity that the fac­tory RGV250S are the two-stroke equiv­a­lents? It’s an ar­gu­ment that stands up in terms of rar­ity. And you’d be hard pushed to find any­where on ei­ther the 6 or this XR that tops the beauty of the other. Yes, they are very dif­fer­ent in cer­tain as­pects, but in terms of what they were, and when they were made, these com­par­isons do stand up. There’s cer­tainly no other small-ca­pac­ity mo­tor­cy­cles that have quite the same ef­fect on grown men when the dust­sheets are whipped back...

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