RGV250 re­mem­bered

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week In Mcn - Shane Byrne Reign­ing and five-times BSB cham­pion

The last RGV250 may have of­fi­cially landed in the UK way back in 1994 but the light­weight screamer still lives strong in the hearts of a gen­er­a­tion for which the Suzuki V-twin re­mains the ul­ti­mate two-stroke 250 racer replica.

From 1986 through to the mid-’90s this breed of light­weight, ul­tra-fast 250s were the clos­est thing to a road­go­ing GP bike and, as such, in­spired more than a few would-be rac­ers.

Chris Walker was one. “I bought an RGV for a cou­ple of grand, nicked my dad’s van and went road racing,” he told MCN. “I won twice in my first meet­ing.”

Reign­ing and five-times MCE Bri­tish Su­per­bike cham­pion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne is an­other. “I had the ba­nana swingarm one with the twin ex­hausts and was proper in love with it as a teenager,” he told MCN. “It was the most beau­ti­ful bike I’d ever seen, and I had one for about five days… then it blew it­self to smithereens. I never quite got it out of my sys­tem.”

Even MCN Se­nior Road Tester Michael Neeves says the RGV is one of his favourite bikes. “I had two – the first K model and the sexy N with its ba­nana swingarm. It was a crisp, mini-ver­sion of Sch­wantz’s RGV500 and went round cor­ners faster than any­thing.”

But if the RGV was among the most pop­u­lar of the 250 GP reps, there were plenty of oth­ers to choose from. Yamaha had a liq­uid-cooled par­al­lel twin TZR; Kawasaki had their par­al­lel twin KR-1 and S; and Honda a se­ries of NSRS. All were the re­sult of Ja­panese do­mes­tic li­cens­ing laws which, un­til 1997, favoured 250cc two-strokes and 400cc four-strokes – hence the pro­lif­er­a­tion of such sports­bikes, many of which were Ja­panese mar­ket only, although some trick­led into the UK.

What set the RGV apart was its racing pedi­gree and the fact it was pretty much the only one of­fi­cially im­ported into the UK through most of its life­time. (Honda’s ar­guably even more de­sir­able NSR250, for ex­am­ple, never of­fi­cially came here).

That race pedi­gree dates back to Sheene-era RG500S. Fol­low­ing Lucchinelli and Uncini’s 500 crowns for Suzuki in ’81 and ’82, the first road go­ing ver­sion, the wa­ter-cooled, al­loy-framed, fully-faired, par­al­lel twin RG250 Gamma was launched in 1983 and rev­o­lu­tionised the quar­ter-litre class overnight. Af­ter two RG up­dates, ri­vals be­gan to re­spond with bikes such as Yamaha’s TZR250 in 1986. Then, in 1987, Suzuki un­veiled their own V-twin RGV (it wasn’t im­ported into the UK un­til 1989) and, with 56bhp and ra­zor­sharp han­dling, was in­stantly re­garded as the most ex­treme sports 250 of all.

Although Yamaha, like Honda, didn’t of­fi­cially im­port their up­dated 250 there­after, the Suzuki didn’t have things in the UK all their own way – in­deed a fierce bat­tle en­sued with Kawasaki’s KR-1 (and KR-1S) to be top dog 250.

Reader Michael Coutts was an­other of them. “I bought a new RGV250 which I loved,” he told MCN. “I had it for two years and toured all over be­fore trad­ing it in but I still have very fond mem­o­ries and a place in my heart for the RGV.”

That over­all im­pact is down to a va­ri­ety of fac­tors. First, thanks to a se­ries of up­dates, the RGV was al­ways there­abouts THE sports stro­ker 250. That first Uk-im­ported K (or VJ21) model was up­dated into the M (or VJ22) in 1991 with USD forks, ba­nana swinger and other changes. This then evolved again into the P (or VJ22P) with a stronger, braced swingarm in 1993. What’s more, the RGV was also al­ways con­sid­ered a mini-replica of hugely pop­u­lar GP star Kevin Sch­wantz’s ma­chine, rea­son enough for it to be a huge hit. Plus, the cute Suzuki went just as well as it looked. Back in the early ’90s there was no finer twostroke or han­dling thrill.

It’s these later mod­els (the RGV was dropped in the UK in 1994 although a facelifted, VJ23 ver­sion was sold in Ja­pan be­tween 1996 and 1998) that, to­day, are most prized of all with prices for good ones now top­ping five grand.

Shakey’s love for it, mean­while, was suf­fi­ciently strong that he fi­nally bought an­other as a project. “It’s go­ing to be ab­so­lutely im­mac­u­late,” he told MCN at the time. “It’s only go­ing to be a sunny day bike – I might ride it to get its MOT, but it’ll look nice in the garage!”

The RGV250 has that ef­fect on peo­ple – lots of them.

‘I had the ba­nana swingarm one. It was the most beau­ti­ful bike I’d ever seen’

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