74 suzuki RL250 opinions

Discussion in 'Trials' started by neanderthaler, Dec 5, 2012.

  1. neanderthaler

    neanderthaler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    florida
    after i just bought a bultaco sherpa t model 92, i found a RL250 not too far away, and it sounds like the price and condition are great. i'm brand new to trials so i'm looking for some feedback. i know the bultaco has some historical significance of winning and some famous names as riders of that model. i'm too new and inexperienced to be brand loyal yet. i know that kicking on the left side and shifting on the right (along with r. braking on the left) is taking some getting used to. what can you tell me about the Suzuki. was it a sales flop, how does it handle, any known issues, any famous trials wins, anyone competing on one now, what differences would i notice from the sherpa???
    #1
  2. Todd Miller

    Todd Miller Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    10
    I have owned 3 1974 RL250's and currently compete on one. They are great vintage Trials bikes. Like any other vintage bike they are no match for the modern bikes however. The RL250 was only imported into the USA for 2 years 1974-75, they are exactly the same bike except for the allum. tank on the 74 vs. metal tank on the 75. Engines are bullit proof. The only thing I hear about the RL is that it is a little heavy compaired to some of the older vintage trisl bikes. Can't say anything about the Bultaco except that they are very cool looking bikes and I see guys competing on them well. There is a guy named Mike out west who has a web site I think named Matrix Motor Sports and he deals only in parts and repairs to RL250's. I have bought from him and he is extremely knowledable about the RL and has about anything for them including upgrades. Hope this helps. Get the RL out and compete on it.
    #2
  3. Sting32

    Sting32 Trials Evangelist

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,493
    Location:
    Minneapolis, Ks
    Ill try to give you quick...

    I Believe they didnt sell well. I dont know why, seems yamaha was prefered ride of all the "jap bikes" of that 74-76 era. Partialy I think, since we also have a couple of these that we tinkered with to fix up, Might be that there are several possible reasons... Today? I think you can make it or any jap bike just as competive as the other, 99% is the rider anyhow, just like modern

    1 long rake on front wheel, compared to Bul & Montessa of same era?
    2 higher in front rider position, more (imho) like today's bikes?

    I had a buddy that had one, back in those days, it was his first bike, he seemed to be able to have the bike come over backwards at whim, or even without. Back in the day, low front helped you turn least that is what I feel. at those times I had the montessa 172 cota. Montessa was a great bike to me. Hard to compare because I could outride him easily, so compareing me on 'tessa him on suzuki was unfair, but we suspected at the time the layout of the suz, was just enough different it caused troubles for most riders of his ability.

    He moved to a sherpa-t (79 model) after struggling for a while on the RL250. in 80 I bought the sherpa-t which helped me move on up in trials. He'd struggled on the sherpa. lastly, he ended up with 76'sh I think ty175 that fit him the best. he was a novice to amature rider.

    I also laugh without total "photographic memory" of some details, but I think Suzuki made one or 2 batches, they didnt sell that well, another private person/company bought all remaining and modified the frames and sold them with tanks and other things, Beamish is the name I couldnt think of.

    I cannot tell you what the weak parts of it is except 2 frames I have, been welded above the left footpeg, on the pipe headed to the fender mount

    should make a decent bike though.

    I think learning on modern more, then dabbling in oldstyle TwinShock and the techniques would advance a person faster, since new bikes are so much lighter, and less affected by 'wrist" sized obstacles in a section, than any 2 shocker is. I have at shop 3 of the 4 of that era jap bikes, except the Kawasaki trials. plus 2 84 Fantics. I've played with them all on the same area i practice and teach on, the 2 shocks take me back to my youth, but they also make me say, "Jesus, I sure am glad I ride the new ones for competition, instead of these heavy ass old brutes" when the rear wheel "hangs" slightly on a wrist sized rock or stick or what not, that you hit while hitting that 6 inch tall railroad tie, that might be just wheelbase apart, the object that doesnt even infinitesimally bother a modern bike...

    (edit) But since I have them, I might incorporate it into my "class" of a newbie, just so he can feel the rear "needing help" to get over things, that for some reason, lol, they think the suspension is just fine doing for them, on the modern... :p
    #3
  4. neanderthaler

    neanderthaler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    florida
    todd, thanks for the quick response. sting, as always, i thank you for the wisdom. i think the plan, for the moment anyways, is going to be... pick up the suzuki, keep both, and see which one i like better. to be honest, i will never be able to ride, compete or practice enough to need two vintage trials bikes. i wish my garage (and bank acct) were big enough. i have the worlds smallest garage right now and after selling a couple bikes, i'm down to 2 modern ktm hare scramble racers, a 78 rm125, a crf70 pit bike, and the bultaco. if i could get my 14 yr old harescrambler son into trials with me, i could get rid of the rm125 and keep the bultaco AND the suzuki rl. if not, then, unfortunately, one of the trials machines may go. for the price, i'm going to arrange to buy the suzuki, and see how it works out. if someone has a garage stretcher or extender they can let me borrow, let me know :rofl. sting, i know about going back and forth between old and new bikes. i was alternating between racing a 2009 ktm200xc and a 1987 kawi kdx200 (and before that an 81 yamaha it250). the older ones sure teach line selection. they have so much more style and soul than the new ones, in my opinion
    #4
  5. LowPSI

    LowPSI Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    280
    Location:
    California
    Thet RL 250 had problems with frames breaking just above the swing arm pivot. Some people love 'em some don't. They became popular with some riders because they sold for $700.00 new.
    #5
  6. oldyams

    oldyams Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    19
    Location:
    Nebraska
    I was inclined to chime in on the Bultaco discussion with my 2 cents worth but will now with the additional bike talk.
    I started riding trials a few years ago at "middle age" after picking up a very nice Ty175 and the 2 TY250's. The twinshocks in our club ride the novice/womens/twinshock enduro line which for the most part can be pretty easy after riding a couple years. In my situation now I still like riding the old bikes but most times I am the only rider in my class. I have been encouraged to move up to amature class but as you may find out also soon you will be throwing your pristine condition Sherpa or RL down on the rocks or logs which is a shame to do to a survivor.So my point is, unless you have a local club that has a active twinshock or vintage group or you plan on traveling halfway across the nation to ride in vintage trials you may want to get a more modern bike.
    #6
  7. neanderthaler

    neanderthaler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    florida
    i just had the seller e-mail me some detailed photos. apparently his version of "great shape" and mine aren't the same. i'm not looking for museum quality, but. . .
    lowpsi, thanks for the info. i'm going to enlarge that area in the pics and see how it looks.
    so far, i see pitted fork tubes, and possible cracks in the wheels. no cracked fins or anything on the cylinder or head. my initial excitement has worn off and i can look at the bike in a more rational way now.
    keep the responses coming
    #7
  8. neanderthaler

    neanderthaler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    florida
    oldyams, yes i'm unfortunately finding this out also. my local trials club says there aren't enough old bikes for a separate class, and i'm nowhere even remotely close to a riding spot, so again, unfortunately, this bike, whichever one, is mostly going to be my yard and neighborhood rider. if i am lucky, a couple or few trials a year. i might just keep the sherpa and not invest more $$$ until i ride trials more. i do ride/race a lot, just not enough trials i guess. also, i like the vintage "style" more. modern bikes are super trick, but i'd really like to keep with the vintage style. all good points though - well said
    #8
  9. neanderthaler

    neanderthaler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    florida
    i'm just gonna stick with the sherpa t. the bike i have is in way better condition than the RL. being such a novice, i don't think my choice of bike would make too much of a difference, anyway. i like that the bultaco had so many years of development behind it, and so many legends competed on the same model. the bike has "soul"
    #9
  10. Old Geezer

    Old Geezer Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2012
    Oddometer:
    186
    Location:
    New Mexico
    Vintage Trials is growing, more and more guys are geting into the older bikes with sections that are ridable. Yes we do have to travel a bit for our events but you can not match the fun we have. My club "Mtn. West Vintage Trials Assoc." holds events in NM, CO, WY, UT and next year we may have events in OK. Check us out on facebook, we are a ITSA chartered club. :clap:clap:clap
    #10
  11. neanderthaler

    neanderthaler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    florida
    thanks for the invite gesser. i've been to the itsa website, and that is part of what got me into the whole vintage trials thing. unfortunately (or fortunately depending upon your outlook) i'm in south florida - great place to live and work, crap for a trials "scene." looks to me like the closest i'm going to get to a genuine vintage observed trial is the AHRMA event in march at gatorback/gainesville, florida. again, being new, i only know what i've read, about the ITSA/AHRMA debate. i've never been a part of either. i don't want to think of trials as an afterthought or a sideshow to a main event, so i imagine ITSA would be more devoted to trials only. if i'm wrong, please correct me, i have absolutely no firsthand knowledge of either organization. looks like the closest ITSA comes to me would be tennessee. quite a little trip (for me anyway). AHRMA might not be perfect, but they're closer. G-D willing, i'll be there, and hope to meet some of you all
    #11
  12. Old Geezer

    Old Geezer Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2012
    Oddometer:
    186
    Location:
    New Mexico
    ITSA "By Trials Riders for Trials Riders" its all we do!!
    #12
  13. neanderthaler

    neanderthaler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    florida
    I got bored, changed my mind and made the drive to see the Suzuki. glad i did. i hated making a decision based on pictures. i bought a 1974 RL250 exacta from a great family. these guys have been riding trials for a long time. the bike really only needs a basic clean up, a new air filter, return springs for the footpegs and kickstarter, tires/tubes, and repair of a very small fuel leak where the tank meets the seat. thank you for the info on matrix motor sports, they will probably be my 1st call. i hope to post pictures later
    #13
  14. neanderthaler

    neanderthaler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    florida
    well, i found the gas tank leaking badly in a couple spots that looked like one of the two previous owners must've tried to jb weld. i'm gonna look locally to find someone to weld them. the best was what i found in the airbox - the air filter was a scotchbrite pad!!! i guess that is better than no air filter, or a filthy, torn filter. seemed to work halfway decent, the rubber tube from the filter to the carb wasn't terrible and the carb was clean. everything else washed up pretty nicely. oil came out pretty clean. i'll try tommorow to get pics in the daylight.
    #14
  15. neanderthaler

    neanderthaler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    florida
    [​IMG]
    #15
  16. neanderthaler

    neanderthaler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    florida
    [​IMG]
    #16
  17. 2old2Bbold

    2old2Bbold was 2bold2getold

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,938
    Location:
    DFW TX
    I rode a "74 Sherpa T in the Texas State Trials Series in 1976. Loved that bike, although sometimes it would run backwards under the right conditions.:eek1 I took it to CO one year, it made a pretty good trail bike too. I had a friend with a RL250. I remember having to weld a few spots on the frame, but nothing major. It did seem to have the forks raked out more than the other trials bikes ( so did the TLs), but you can fix that if you want to. It needed more flywheel weight, so I had a bronze weight cast a local foundry and turned it down on a lathe to fit the flywheel. Got no idea what it weighed, but it made a BIG difference in the way it performed. Really smoothed out the slow RPM hits, and quick throttle, and pulled better over slick stuff. As I remember, at least in our area, the Bultaco did the best, followed closely by Montessa and Yamaha. Although the best rider here used a Kawasaki, but he could have won on anything.
    #17
  18. vintagetour

    vintagetour Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    50
    Location:
    Palestine Tx.
    I rode a new one in 75 and rescued one a few years ago, put new tires, chain and sprockets and rode it at a AHRMA event before selling it after the trials. It had a broken frame also. Adding weight to the flywheel was a big improvement. In my opinion if you are a novice rider you will probably not notice any huge difference between the RL and any other trials bike of that era. That being said if I had a Bultaco sitting in the garage I know which one I would be learning on :wink:. You might be able to repair the Suzuki tank with Caswell tank sealer if you don't want to weld it. Here in Texas we are fortunate to have a lot of Vintage riders so it is easy to go vintage. Modern or vintage just ride and you will have fun. Of course we all know that the vintage riders look cooler and are much better looking than those modern guys :roflhfvtt.com
    #18
  19. Old Geezer

    Old Geezer Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2012
    Oddometer:
    186
    Location:
    New Mexico
    :clap:clap:lol3:lol3
    #19
  20. neanderthaler

    neanderthaler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    florida
    here is my honest opinion after riding both bikes at the same spot (sherpa t and rl, extremely novice, small drainage ditch lined with trees). i like the Suzuki more. i don't want to. it looks so pedestrian compared to the mighty sherpa, i haven't read a single good review of the suzuki anywhere, every time i look at it - it needs something replaced, no "legends" in the sport had much to do with it (except you legendary ADV gu:Dys ), however, to me, once it is off the stand it feels 50% lighter, starts easier, controls are more "natural" in panic situations, hasn't run backwards like the bul has, and mostly, it is a breeze to work on compared to the bultaco. the sherpa isn't going anywhere (unless i get some good offers), but i am going to ride what i am most comfortable on - the exacta. opinions might change once i get some experience under my belt. i don't mind being the odd man on the odd bike. also, just ordered new shocks to replace the blown one i just found
    #20