50 Shades of Grey Bikes: The Suzuki RGV250SP VJ23

When the Suzuki RGV250 arrived in 1988, it was so gorgeous that it made the outgoing RG250 look silly. The K and L (VJ21) models took on the Yamaha TZR250s and Kawasaki KR1s in showrooms and on racetracks around the world.

In 1991 the M model (VJ22) arrived to take on the RGV baton, complete with all the latest must-have tackle like upside-down forks and a banana swing arm, which was a neat touch but turned into a braced unit on the P, R and S models. But by the mid-90s the two-stroke was pretty much dead outside of Japan, as tighter emission laws in Europe and America saw mainstream manufacturers stop building the bikes in such large numbers.

But within the Japanese bike market they still knocked them out, and each new model gained trick new features to top the competition, especially as two strokes continued in mainstream bike racing for years to come. It wasn’t just Suzuki still building fancy strokers, as Honda kept the NSR series going, and so did Yamaha with their TZR 250 3XV V-twin.


The ultimate RGV250?

Suzuki’s weapon from the mid-90s was this, the RGV250SP VJ23, which started appearing in Japan in 1996. It was an all-new model, the engine even came with a starter motor, and while the engine barrels were still in a ‘V’ shape they were tilted tighter into a 70 degree configuration, just like the factory race bikes.

Suzuki RGV250SP VJ23 Front 3 quarters

The Suzuki RGV250SP VJ23

Another feature straight from the racetrack was the dry clutch set up, the VJ23 also boasted a ram air set up, to get air into the air-box and help feed the pair of Mikuni 32mm carbs.


Sadly never officially imported into the UK, but the 90’s interest in the grey bike market and the obsessions two-strokes can inspire meant that some examples trickled over in containers from Japan. This particular model appears to have a genuine factory Lucky Strike paint job, making a rare model ever rarer. In fact, it’s so rare that if you poke it, you’ll probably end up with blood on your fingers…


For a mid-1990s Suzuki, this bike is in excellent shape. There’s no sign of any repairs to the bodywork, all the exposed metal is still bright and other than the faintest signs of a bit of light corrosion on the odd bolt it’s pretty much showroom.


Power outputs depend on if the bike is still artificially restricted to around 40bhp, with the right electrical box of tricks you can almost double that bhp.


If you don’t already own one, then they can be tricky and expensive to obtain. They were never a cheap bike in the first place to be fair (the common myth that smaller capacity grey imports were dirt cheap has always been fantasy!), but the small numbers unofficially imported are now being chased by hordes of middle-aged blokes. You’re looking at upwards of £6,000 for a bike in comparable condition to this one.


If you’ve got a grey import, or have more info on RGVs, then we’d love to hear from you – leave a comment, send us a message and let us feature your bike!

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