Icon: Suzuki RGV250 VJ22
LIVING LEGENDS OF MOTORCYCLING
#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.
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”