The Suzuki TS250 missed the start of the trail bike revolution, but only by a hairsbreadth, the Yamaha DT1 pipped all to the post when it emerged in 1968. The Suzuki wasn’t far behind however and, on paper at least, was a far better machine, the Yamaha stopping short of the full capacity by a good 20cc’s, not a great start for an engine already short of capacity.
In practice however the DT1 was a good deal lighter, and with it, faster too, attributes that made it the better bike for off road riding, especially when the Yamaha factory kit was added, making the DT a superb choice for the amateur motocross rider. The Suzuki didn’t share the same success, even though a competition “hot up” kit was available increasing the power to a more impressive 32bhp, but still proved a popular addition to the brands line up. It was called the Hustler in Japan, and the Savage in the US, while the UK market simply got an unnamed TS250. We had to wait a while too, the rest of the world got the Suzuki during 1969, while the first examples didn’t hit our shores until well into the early 70’s, and even then, it was a hard to find model that didn’t sell well, with pre-79 models proving tricky to track down today.
Suzuki claimed the TS was heavily influenced and based upon the motocross machines of 1968 but, in reality the TS turned out to be a completely new design, particularly the five-speed gearbox that is significantly beefier than the off road competition machine’s transmission. The design of the early motocross machine suffered because of its heritage, having been patterned after the dated Villiers engine, with it’s under square, 66 x 72mm bore and stroke set up. In the early 60’s when work began on the project, this was a perfectly good design, so Suzuki was doing little wrong by copying it. The internal architecture did hold the design back so for the TS model, parts and dimensions from the all new, road going, T500 were implemented, making the TS250 effectively half of this ground breaking twin-cylinder design with a more manageable, and reliable, 72 x 64mm bore and stroke.
Although similar looking throughout its life, the TS250 engine did come in for a several major revisions, first in its second year of life when the casings and gearbox were extensively redesigned, creating a huge weight saving in the process and then again in 1977. In keeping with other two strokes in the Suzuki range, for 77 the TS engine grew a reed valve in the inlet system. This wasn’t inline with the inlet tract, as is the case with the Yamaha engine, but the original piston port set up was retained while the reed valve feeds the crankcases. This increases the inlet timing considerably, effectively making a 360 degree tract, without making the inlet port too big and thus requiring extra support for the piston while passing through the port, which in turn, would need to be opened up to allow the gasses through if the conventional piston port route was adhered to. The result is a tractable and punchy machine if kept within a small part of the rev range, although only producing a modest 22bhp, the TS does make it feel like more, mainly thanks to the sat up riding position. There isn’t the usual two-stroke power band as the revs rise, more a steady rise in revs and power, but not the sharp kick we have come to expect as a stroker rises up onto the pipe. This is a good thing in many ways, as such a peak can prove tricky to keep ahead of when off road, but it does add to the excitement when riding on the road making the acceleration feel twice what it actually is. Quite surprising is the low compression ratio used for this engine, usually engines needing a good punch in the midrange, particularly off-road machines, opt for a high ratio and in turn high levels of torque and power are allied to this set up, however Suzuki’s choice of a weedy 5.7:1 is not helping when the power plant needs it most.
Despite it off road styling, the TS250ERX is biased towards street use and in this mode is completely at home, having sweet handling and good all round manners. In use the TS is right enough on the hard stuff, but never lively enough to be a serious contender off road, 1st gear is simply too tall to be of any real use off road, barely lifting the front off the throttle alone and provides little engine braking down hill unless you are going far too fast for the occasion. On the road, this failing isn’t so much of a problem in fact it makes for a smoother running machine once on the move and the TS comes into its own once out of 1st gear, the midrange punch from the combined piston-port, reed-valve engine kicks in to make the middle three gear ratios into real mile munchers, especially if the change is made around the peak torque output rather than waiting for the redline. Suzuki designed this later version of the 250cc power plant to reach its peak of both torque and horsepower within 500rpm of each other, and this makes for a mad rush above 5000rpm that quickly dies out with little or no over rev facility, but has a maximum impact while the engine is kept within that range. Sustained high speed running does reveal an annoying and fatiguing buzziness so motorway work is definitely out for this machine, especially with its top speed just shy of 75mph. Trying to pass anything above 60mph can be a lengthy and buttock clenching affair and certainly not for the faint hearted. Keeping the engine at peak revs for anytime when in top can prove tricky too, the slightest incline or head wind having disastrous consequences for the Suzuki and requiring a hasty gear change to keep the thing buzzing with a subsequent drop in speed often just when you least need it.
Equally challenging at speed is the diminutive brakes, these work well at low speed, with feel and power aplenty, but are at the limits of their abilities once around the legal speed limits. Judicious use of the engine braking has to be implemented to ensure the TS hauls up in time for all but the most forward planned of stopping events. Around town the TS never causes any concerns and could have been built for the daily commute in confined spaces, everything works as it should and the whole design makes perfect sense, being easy to throw around while remaining stable and predictable.
The twin shock rear end is in keeping with the large capacity Suzuki motocross racers of the period that never saw the introduction of a monoshock rear end, although the Suzuki full floater rear is added to the smaller TS models and was waiting in the wings for the RG and GSX-R series. Quite why the larger of the TS models didn’t get the modern rear-end treatment may never be known but low sales figures and the impending doom of the model must have played a major role in the decision. Even so the TS benefits from 195mm and 132mm of travel, front and rear respectively, making it pretty good over the rough stuff although its extreme weight when compared to a pukka off-road machine does cause some handling problems. This machine isn’t really meant to be used in any serous way off tarmac, it looks the part sounds the part too but is more of a road machine than anything else. As the type developed from its basic late 60’s origins it became softer and easier to live with on the road. This is true of its nearest rival the Yamaha DT250, yet another machine far too heavy for any real dirty work and certainly more at home chugging around the urban jungle.
Suzuki TS250 Timeline
1969 TS250 – chassis number TS250-l00001
Easily distinguishable from later models due to the lack of any tank branding except the S logo, at 127kgs it was also the heaviest of all the TS250’s. It was known as the Hustler in Japan and the Savage in the US, the UK didn’t get a name though just the designation letters and numbers
1970 TS250 II – chassis number TS2502-12526
The TS loses 6kgs, thanks to a redesign in the engine department with lighter casings and gearbox internals. Suzuki is added to the tank logo and changes are made to the rear mudguard and light assembly, speedo and tacho, as well as the exhaust and heat shield.
1971 TS250R – chassis number TS2502-15961
The TS gets more road friendly as the wheelbase grows by 47mm and Suzuki’s PEI electronic ignition is fitted for improved reliability. The diet is working well too as a further 6kgs is shed from the all up weight.
1972 TS250J – chassis number TS2502-20256
Except for new graphics and still more weight loss, 5kgs down on the R model, there is little new for 72
1973 TS250K – chassis number TS2502-48350
The Mikuni VM28SC instrument is replaced by an SH model for better mid range fuelling while the graphics and exhaust guard are updated.
1974 TS250L – chassis number TS2502-56053
For 1974 there was no mechanical updates just graphics and paintwork changes. It was also available with chrome mudguards for the dedicated street rider.
1975 TS250M – chassis number TS2502-86770With a new model in the wings the TS remained virtually unchanged
1976 TS250A – chassis number TS2503-102989
At 109kgs this was the lightest of the TS easily recognisable thanks to its black engine casings and the clutch actuator arm is moved to the far right of the engine out of the way of the chain run. Alloy wheel rims are also added.
1977 – TS250B chassis number TS2504-10001
New twin-downtube frame replaces the original single item and the rear shocks adopt a laid down stance. A reed valve was also introduced, laying flat below the cylinder barrel and feeding the crankcases giving the engine a 360-degree inlet timing
1978 TS250C – chassis number TS2504-21274
Graphics apart there was no major changes for this model
1979 TS250ERN – chassis number TS2504-100024
once again a graphic and paint change but little else as the ER series is planned
1980 TS250ERT – chassis number TS2504-100841
1980 saw a total face-lift with improved plastics and box section swing arm, it gained a kilo too. This model, and the one following it, was known as the DS250 in the states.
1981 TS250ERX – chassis number TS2504-109343
The last of the air-cooled TS250’s remained unchanged save for a colour scheme update. The type was discontinued for the next 4 years remerging as the all-new, liquid-cooled, TS250X in 1985
1981 Suzuki TS250ERX Specifications
- Engine – air-cooled single-cylinder reed valve two-stroke
- Capacity – 246cc
- Bore & stroke – 70 x 64mm
- Carburetion – 28mm Mikuni VM28SS
- Max Power – 22bhp @ 5500rpm
- Torque – 19.4ft-lbs @ 5000pm
- Ignition – PEI electronic
- Transmission – 5-speed, wet clutch, chain final drive
- Frame – steel twin down tube
- Suspension – 34mm telescopic forks, twin shock rear
- Wheels – 300 x 21 130/90 x 18
- Brakes – 150mm single leading shoe drum, 150mm single leading shoe drum
- Wheelbase – 1415mm
- Weight – 119kgs
- Fuel capacity – 9ltrs
- Top speed – 75mph
- Suzuki TS250 Gallery