Icon: Suzuki RGV250 VJ22


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#28 Suzuki RGV250 VJ22 Where did it come from?

Ja­panese li­cens­ing rules in the 80s and early 90s meant a su­per-strict ex­tra test to ride any­thing over 400cc, so big bikes went for ex­port while the tid­dlers — twostroke 250s and four-stroke 400s — ruled the roost at home. That cre­ated a hy­per­com­pet­i­tive, fash­ion-led do­mes­tic mar­ket; so for a decade, this was where a lot of the re­ally in­ter­est­ing stuff was hap­pen­ing in bike de­sign and tech. The orig­i­nal RGV250 VJ21 of 1988 was a huge step on from the ear­lier RG and ob­vi­ously very closely styled on Suzuki’s Grand Prix bikes. But it was 1991’s VJ22 that re­ally set jaws drop­ping. Up­side-down forks, twin stingers on one side of a trick banana-shaped swing arm, looks from the grid and brakes that could stop a su­per­bike. Oh, and an in­cred­i­ble (and gen­uine) 200bhp per litre in a pro­duc­tion bike, with more avail­able for rac­ers.

What changed?

Not a lot. In 1992 there was a re­vised power-valve as­sem­bly, a re­mote reser­voir shock and a slightly dif­fer­ent seat unit (two vents in­stead of three), a new braced swing arm in 1993 and up­graded carbs for 1994. Then no changes ’til its demise at the end of 1996.

Why do peo­ple like it?

Are you blind? It’s gor­geous! And it still works its magic — on mod­ern tyres and with re­freshed sus­pen­sion, a lightly tuned RGV is still a po­tent pack­age, with only the clunky gear­box let­ting it down a bit. Maybe if two-stroke de­vel­op­ment had con­tin­ued to the present day, the RGV would have been con­signed to his­tory by now, but 90s 250s rep­re­sent the tech­no­log­i­cal high-water mark for pro­duc­tion stro­kers, so as long as there’s a sup­ply of spare pis­tons and posh oil to be had, there’ll be plenty of peo­ple thrash­ing them on road and track.

Cult rat­ing 4/5

Maybe not so sought af­ter as some mod­els of Honda’s NSR250 (none of which were of­fi­cially im­ported to the UK), but not far off. And the su­per-rare SP ver­sion — with dry clutch, close ra­tio gear­box and the com­pre­hen­sive race kit op­tion — is even more de­sir­able.

The prob­lem is...

Not just one prob­lem, but sev­eral. Firstly, find­ing one. So many were crashed, stolen, raced and abused that good ones are hard to find. Se­condly, it’s a highly tuned two-stroke — it needs a lot of main­te­nance even when it’s in per­fect con­di­tion. And if you don’t use it reg­u­larly, it’ll be even worse — they don’t like be­ing sat for long pe­ri­ods. Crank seals harden, two-stroke oil con­geals, carbs gum up and tanks rust out.

With­out the RGV250...

Life would have gone on but it wouldn’t have been so much fun...

“A lightly tuned RGV is still a po­tent pack­age”

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