BOAL: 2016 Suzuki TU250X – The Long Distance Touring City Bike

While I had learned to ride on a Honda Nighthawk what I really wanted to do was a big motorcycle trip and the Honda was just not suitable. So what I needed was a larger displacement, heavier bike that I could mount some bags on that would chew up the highway miles with ease. That is not what I bought, of course, but I still did embark on the trip.

As mentioned before in the Nighthawk write up I have very specific and frankly unreasonable wants and desires when it comes to motorcycles. I want them to have a classic British/Japanese standard look, run with minimal maintenance and not cost a lot. There are a few bikes that get close but only one that really fits the bill. I would have quite liked one of the modern, Hinckley built Triumph Bonneville/T100 bikes but I could not stomach the cost and how heavy it was. The Moto Guzzi V7 classic was quite nice but suffered from a higher initial cost and unknown to me reliability. The Kawasaki W650 had appeal but was never sold in Canada. There are a few more options these days like Royal Enfield and Kawasaki W800. At the time that left the delightfully retro Suzuki TU250X which was pricey for a 250 when purchased new but perhaps I could snag myself a lightly used example for a keen price.

I did manage to find one just prior to the riding season. It was located in Red Deer, Alberta which was 350 kms (217 miles) away. I enlisted the help of my wife to drive up there and prepared to ride it home. When we got the seller’s house I discovered his sister was selling it on his behalf as he had moved away. Unfortunately she and her boyfriend knew nothing at all about the bike. I am far from an expert motorcycle rider having only ridden my previous Honda and when putting the key we got what seem like normal noises and lights but the bike would not start. It had apparently been sitting all winter long so we figured the battery must have gone bad. The sister’s boyfriend went chasing after a new battery while I took my wife for lunch. He returned unsuccessful but the battery shop claimed the original was still good. Re-examining the bike I got a light bulb moment and held the clutch while pressing the starter. The bike quickly fired up.

After a short test drive I exchanged money for ownership and we were off. We had to stop at the Donut Mill in order to snag some tasty treats. As we left I heard my first passerby exclaim “look at the classic bike” which is quite common for a TU250X owner to hear. The bike itself had only a tad under 1600 kms on it (994 miles) so was like new but with a few scratches on tank from the previous owner.

While the TU250X looks retro it is mechanically modern with a twin piston disc brake on the front and an easy starting fuel injected engine. The engine is an air cooled, SOHC, single cylinder making a modest 16.1 hp @ 7200 rpm. Power is sent through a five speed transmission and then onto the rear wheel via a chain. The starter is electric but in the Japanese market one could have a kick starter.

We took home a dozen for the family to share.

Not far into the journey I realized it would be a long one as the temperature was only 6C (around 42F for those that do not speak metric temperature) and my very cheap gloves were not very warm. Compounding the issue was an extreme wind which blew the bike around and chilled me further. Every half hour or so I would pull over and jump into my wife’s truck to warm up. Despite it being April there was still plenty of snow in the fields but luckily none on the roads.

In order to lead up to the planned big bike trip I was able to do a smaller day trip as a practice in concept. The bike was reasonably comfortable and capable of highway speeds unless there was a big hill or strong wind.

The TU is a delightful bike which is a very light and toss-able. Reports from owners suggest that they are extremely reliable and with a very easy maintenance schedule. There were two things I felt I needed to resolve on my example. The first was the previous owner had stripped off all the logos from the bike which made the tank a little plain and generic looking. I was able to source a set of small round badges that while not stock worked well. I also bought a more retro looking Suzuki aftermarket gel seat. It was on the pricey side but improved the looks over the stock two part seat.

For the long trip I reverted back to the front portion of stock seat since it was a known quantity and a little more comfortable. For the road trip I had convert a motorbike designed for the city into one fit for traveling long distances. The design of the TU250X Suzuki appears to actually discourage mounting of bags with how they positioned the turn signals so the first step is to relocate the signals to the rear. There are kits available to do this but they cost money and I had some L-shaped brackets lying around that looked like they would do the trick. The wiring had to be cut and then extended with some old Mercedes wire I had left over from my old 220D parts car. A set of Chinese moped bags completed the bike transformation.

The trip was an epic 4500+ km (2800+ mile) journey through the mountains of Alberta and British Columbia. The bike performed admirably with many along the route in disbelief that such a small motorcycle was capable of the trip. You can read about the whole adventure in thirteen parts starting here.

Since the big trip the TU250X has participated in the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (not visible in the photo but with light snow), occasional commuter and several smaller day trips.

The latest such trip was to the Red Rock Coulee in southern Alberta.

Here water has eroded the top soil to expose large, round, reddish boulders around 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in width. They look rather like large cinnamon buns.

These rocks make for quite the sight again the flat prairies that surrounds them. The TU250X remains part of the fleet and is nosing up on the 10,000 km (6,200) milestone with hopefully many more trips to come.

My whole COAL series so far