by JohnNicholas on 01/27/2010
This is an article from Dirt Rider that was first published in 2007. It’s such a great story that it is “re-printed” here for your reading enjoyment.
Winning the crowd’s heart with a 250cc two-stroke.
By Ryan Orr – Photos by Jesse Ziegler and Jimmy Lewis
Nothing’s cooler than going to a National and racing with the best guys in the world. Nothing, that is, except going and being one of the heroes yourself! I’ve spent the past few years racing the Outdoor National Circuit, working construction and testing in the off-season to make ends meet.
Being a privateer can be tough though, and this year I wasn’t able to make it back to every one of the rounds. Maybe this is why I was doubly excited to again be invited to Dirt Rider’s annual National bike test. Along with getting my picture in the magazine,this test always provides a fun day of riding on a National track. But somewhere along the way, the plan changed a bit.
I flew into Mount Morris expecting just another race weekend but was treated to one of the most exciting trips of my life. For a couple of hours, I forgot that I had t work pounding nails when I got home. I felt like Ricky Carmichael.
It all started when DR Associate Editor Chris Denison called with a bright idea. “Since we’re going to be out at High Point anyways,” he asked, “why don’t we find you something to race?” Heck yes, I was pumped! The idea of flying to a National and having a dialed-in bike waiting is a privateer’s dream come true.
About a week later, I got another call from Chris with some news on the bike. “Check this out,” he reported. “We’ve found you a Cernic’s Suzuki to ride, and Pro-Action is going to get the thing totally built.” Nice! I figured that would be perfect, since I usually ride an RM-Z450.
But the best news was yet to come: “By the way…. it’s a 250 two-stroke.” Wait a minute! Are they even available? At first I was a bit worried, since four-strokes have all but exterminated real 250cc machines. Yet when I thought about it more. I realized that it might be kind of fun. After all, I hadn’t raced a two-stroke since about 2004, so at least it would be something different and fun.
After a few weeks of hectic planning and preparation I promptly missed my flight. I showed up to the track about an hour and a half before qualifying with little sleep and no gear, thinking that maybe flying wasn’t so great after all.
Luckily, the Pro-Action guys were already there and ready for me to hop on the finely tuned machine. As promised, head wrench D.J. Korzen had put together a beautiful RM250 two-stroke, complete with full race suspension, a built motor and custom graphics. We rushed the bike through tech and sound check (it passed, of course), set the sag, adjusted the bar and levers and then hurried down to my first timed practice with the unseeded riders to try to qualify.
Making my way through the pits, I noticed that people were turning their heads with curiosity to see what “that” noise was. I was getting a lot of attention, and I hadn’t even raced yet! When I went out on the track and opened up the throttle, they knew exactly what it was, and so did the announcer!
From the first lap, the bike was clean, crisp and extremely unique-sounding, and I got more than one double take from the other riders on the track. After two sight laps, I started to pick up the pace and shoot for my best time, which would put me in the show if it was one of the 40 fastest.
At first I was thinking that it would be nice to know where I was on the lap chart. Then I heard a voice from upstairs, “Ryan Orr, on a Suzuki 250 two-stroke, just broke into the top 10!” Thanks to eagle-eyed announcer Rob Buydos, I’d caught the crowd’s attention. People began cheering for me through the fence, which doubled my motivation. I put my head down and charged. Then I heard Buydo’s loud voice booming even better news. “Ryan Orr is up to fifith!”
At that point, I was thinking that I was in. I pushed it for a few more laps and settled down for the last few to end the practice. At the while, I could hear the crowd pulling for me and the only two-stroke at the entire National. Coming off the track, I felt like Ricky Carmichael, because no matter where I was at, I could hear the announcer shouting “Ryan Orr” and “Pro-Action RM250 two-stroke.”
I should have pushed a little more, though, because I eventually ended up 14th fastest in that practice once my four-stroke-riding competition settled in. I was having a little trouble with the bike wanting to stand up in the turns, which felt like a balance issue due to our lack of testing time. The Pro Action guys dropped the sag a tad and made some changes to allow the bike to settle down.
After I downed a few bottles of water and cooled off some, it was time for round two of practice. I made my way down through the pits and noticed even more spectators were turning their heads in curiosity at the bike. A lot of people were giving me the thumbs-up, and I heard more than a few yell, “Yeah, two-stroke!” With the extra motivation from my new “fans,” I got back out on the track and tried to get my lap times down.
The changes that we made between practice on the bike resulted in a lot smoother feel coming into the turns as well as a better feel of staying down in the turns. I was able to push the RM a little harder and dropped a few seconds off my lap times. Unfortunately, so did everyone else in my class. Through every lap of practice, I could hear my name and the words “RM250 two-stroke,” along with the occasional lap time.
Even though it had been a while since I had raced a two-stroke, the Pro-Action RM250 felt great. The strong smooth motor sported VForce reeds, FMF goodies and a Wiseco piston kit. With much more overrev than a stock RM250 that I rode in ’04, this bike ripped in the race line, though in the softer, deeper mud it would rev up and spin, whereas on a four-stroke you could ride a gear high and power through that mud like a tractor. Honestly, I think thi is the main advantage of running a four-stroke at the Nationals.
For me, it made the passing scene a little more difficult since my bike worked its best in the main line where everyone was. It seemed that I needed to square up a lot in corners, shooting across to find some harder terrain to get by the other riders. With all that work, I was still a few seconds shy of qualifying, forcing me to move on to the consolation race on Sunday morning.
By the next day, I had finally gotten some sleep and I was ready to go. I arrived at the track and the Pro-Action guys already had the bike preped and squeaky clean. This must be how factory riders feel! Chris “Mechanic for a Weekend” Denison and I cruised on down to the starting line and strategically picked the gate with the most practice starts from that morning, since the dirt was broken in. It was an outside gate, which is normally not a good choice, but I was hoping to carry my momentum around the outside and set myself up for the inside in corner two. In short, It didn’t work. The only other guy out where I decided to hook my bike in the first turn and drag me into the wall. I unhooked and made my way through the start in second to last.
They only take the top two riders from the consolation race to be alternatives, but I remember that I came all this way and the Pro-Action guys worked so hard on the machine, so I decided to give it a shot. I fell one more time with someone from the first lap but quickly got up, put my head down and hoped for the best.
I started to work my way through the pack with the crowd cheering abnormally loud for me. Actually they were cheering for the two-stroke! I could literally hear them yelling “two-stroke!” as I raced past. Not only was the crowd rooting for me, so was the announcer. At first I could hear, “and he’s coming up on No 207 and 558.” I looked up at the riders chest protectors in front of me and realized that I was passing 207 and 558. He was announcing my every move, and I could hear it everywhere on the track. I kept making my way forward through the pack, inspired by the crowd and the announcer and actually enjoying racing the crisp two-stroke very much.
Trust me, when RC and Stewart are having a good battle on the track, they can hear the crowd cheering! As I moved through the pack, the bike was working great. A god combination of motor and suspension setup made me feel comfortable in the chop, and I was having a blast. I know that I wasn’t going to finish first or second, but with everyone cheering me on, there was no way I was going to slow down. I pushed it all the way through the last lap, which happened to be my fastest lap of the qualifier.
In the end, I passed over half the field but was slightly short of the spot that I needed. But even after the race on my way back to the Pro-Action rig, people were giving me high fives and thanking me for giving it a try on the two-stroke. In reality the credit probably belongs to Jeff Cernic, D.J. and the rest of the guys at Pro-Action for working so hard and giving me a shot on the RM250, which could mark the last time anyone ever tries to qualify for a pro National on a two-stroke.
When I pulled into the pits and put the bike on the stand, I was almost mobbed by a mini-sized crowd that had been waiting by the truck, some bidding on my bike which was now for sale. In between gulps of water, handshakes and autographs, I couldn’t help but smile. At that moment, I felt like the most famous construction worker on earth.
Simple, Solid and Cheaper Than a Four-Stroke!
By Chris Dennison
With so much attention going to Ryan Orr’s 250cc two-stroke campaign, we decided that it would be worthwhile to spend some time aboard the 2008 version of the bike, a machine that Suzuki insists is still generating considerable interest. On the track, the ’08 RM250 oozes torque-a flattering comment for any two-stroke motor.
The power starts off strong and pulls hard in a swift, consistent arc that feels just as sweet as it sounds. While some care needs to be taken to ensure that the engine remains on the pipe, it takes little more than a snap of the throttle and a slight feathering of the clutch to get the Suzuki motor to the rpm range where it makes the maximum amount of ponies.
Shifting on the RM is smooth, and we saw no need to alter the stock jetting specs at sea level, confirmed by the fact that the bike ran fine (read; no detonation) on 91-octane Texaco pump gas.
Although the RM250 has no major handling flaws, the steel frame does seem to limit the mount of precision that you can get out of the bike. Suzuki partially made up for this with the inclusion of a Renthal fat bar handlebar, a gripper seat cover and some incredibly sharp foot pegs, which elevate rider control and help appease the somewhat-dated frame.
Initially, the RM had a tendency to under-steer in corners, but setting the shock sag at 101mm dissolved the issue. On a moderately, rough track, we saw no reason to modify the stock suspension settings, though we did go back-and-forth on the rear rebound to try and achieve a bit more balance.
Compared to a four-stroke 450, the differences between the two camps are certainly noticeable. The two-stroke provides way less engine-braking, which is felt when bombing into sharp turns. Also, the weight difference gives the much-lighter (10 pounds, but it feels like more) 250 a more flickable, agile and nimble personality.
Perhaps the biggest distinction, though, is in the RM250?s price tag-only $6099. They may mean the difference between going used on a four-stroke and buying a brand new bike. Say What you will about two-strokes, but if you’re looking for simple performance and solid reliability without burning up your wallet, the ’08 RM250 may be one of the best options out there.