|More Information on the Yamaha FZR250|
Conservation of momentum is the name of the game: wind 'er up to a flat out and don't back off for anything. Overtaking must be planned carefully 'coz there ain't no surplus power to rely on. Measure the distance with your senses, weigh it up, make imperceptible changes to throttle position to keep speed constant, drop back to wind up...now...full throttle, suck up behind the car, whip out of its slipstream and past. And onto the next one. It's a rewarding way of riding and it makes you a better rider too: you learn to read traffic and anticipate its movements. More than the Suzuki, the Yam encourages hedonistic lunacy. Maybe it's because it revs even harder that the GSX-R - 10,500rpm at 70mph and redline at 18,500rpm. Maybe it's because it's more of a proper motorbike than the toy-like GSX-R - heavier, larger and rougher. Or maybe it's because the FSR's got a better engine. Performance figures don't tell the whole story. At the top end both bikes are roughly equal, and absolute top speed has more to do with which rider had the museli and which the fry-up breakfast. What counts is the ways the Yam's throttle response and roll-on power romper-stomps on the Suzuki. From low down the FZR eggs all over the GSX-R only pulls it back at the very top end. On the road, the Yam's more flexible and less rev-critical - the difference between going down three gears to accelerate instead of going down one. Just as well, because this FZR's box is sloppier than a bowl full of runny porridge. False neutrals lurk behind every change (particularly nasty on a bike that revs so high, and none too pleasant changing down into a corner either) apart from the one between first and second. But what and engine. No ride is ever an easy dwadle; every trip turns into a mad, headlong dash for oblivion. Never before has the reason for travelling been so much for the journey and so little for the arrival. It's breathless and exhausting stuff. Sweeping comers are taken flat oot fer the lads with the throttle wide open — none of this big bike on/off/on nervousness. Just get yer head down and go for it. The featherweight FZR skittles about, bars giving the occasional twitch over bigger bumps, but always in control and always fun. The Yam's unadjustable suspension manages to be supple and taut at the same time; soft enough to soak up the bumps and well-damped enough to let the rider know they're there and that the bike is doing something about them. The GSX-R is vague in comparison. Tight corners are a chance for some demon late braking before flicking the Yam in so fast your knee's on the deck before you remember to hang off. In fact the FZR is so immensely capable of high turn-in and cornering speeds that overreacting is a real problem. The wailing exhaust and silly figures on the tacho make you think you're going much faster than you really are. At the first hint of a bend you bang it down a couple and lunge at the brakes, then wobble round the corner at a fraction of the speed you could. With a red face you get back on the power and hope no one from Team Roberts was watching. Which they're unlikely to be in the pissing rain in the middle of winter on some Godforsaken moor in Devon, but you never know. I could've sworn the sheep were laughing. Again the FZR teaches about riding; reading the road and watching for vanishing points through corners is vital to maintain maximum speed and avoid those shoulda-gone-faster blues. And to avoid having to wade through piles of revs to get back up to flat-out again. The baby Exup's motor is rougher than the Suzuki's. This one is much rougher, needing a good lean on the starter button before it deigns to fire up, hot or cold, racing at 4,000rpm before a quick fiddle with the fairing-mounted choke knocks it back, then slapping away to itself on tickover as the camchain flaps around. The Suzuki starts and idles more easily, and runs cleaner on the bar-mounted choke. Life can survive in the most inhospitable climates, but how long an engine can last at 18,000rpm is anybody's guess. Probably as long as a man can survive on a diet of Guinness and cream teas, which turns out to be not much more than three days judging by the time Kev spent on the loo. The Yamaha looks more like big brother Exup than the Suzuki does the 1100. While Kenny was fussing over the photos in sunny (not) Lynmouth, Mr and Mrs Matching Honda Paddock Jacket sauntered past. Eager to impress his other half, Mr MHPJ nodded wisely at the GSX-R and said, "That's a Grey Import 400, isn't it?" then, "And what's that? An Exup?" I can forgive him his errors, if not his choice of apparel: the GSX-R looks small where the FZR looks... bigger. They both look dated: the five year old Suzuki wears its years better than the younger Yamaha in terms of looks, but both have suffered minor chips, knocks and dints. The Yam's mirrors are only marginally less useless than the Suzuki's; it takes a tilt of the head and a tuck of the elbows to see anything behind. The FZR's riding position is less comfortable over long distance mainly because its seat is so bloody hard, otherwise there's nothing in it. Or the seat, har har. The pillion seat is a joke until you sit on it, but it's not as funny as the Suzuki which has pillion pegs and no pillion seat. Odd that anyone bothered to build a 250 four stroke in the first place. Who buys them? They're nowhere against a KR-1S or RGV in handling, torque or power. But they are a few years old, so maybe a comparison with the TZR250 would be more appropriate. But then five-year-old TZRs don't cost two and a half grand. The FZR and GSX-R's appeal must be very specific. You'd have to hate two strokes, love regular valve clearance checks, have impossibly high insurance, 11 points on your licence and the mechanical sympathy of a bike journalist to be able to put up with them for long and remain sane. The FZR is the best choice. It hasn't the trick suspension of the GSX-R, but it doesn't need it. It doesn't look as cute or as trick as the Suzuki either, but its engine is much better. And when you're only packing 40bhp, you need all the engine you can get.