1980 Suzuki RH250
This beautiful bike was ridden by Kent Howerton and used to win the 1980 AMA 250 Motocross Championship. The Suzuki RH250 from 1980 was the last of the Japanese works bikes to run twin rear shocks. At the time, all the major Japanese factories were experimenting with various single shock solutions. Honda had Pro-Link, Yamaha was fine tuning their pioneering Mono-cross design and Kawasaki had Uni-Track. Suzuki was expected to struggle against the single shock opposition, but instead it emerged victorious and carved a piece of history.
The Suzuki pictured is a fully blown works bike with most parts being completely handmade. The motor is sand cast, the pipe is hydro formed and the engine bolts are all titanium. This lightweight high strength concept is seen all over the bike with both the carby and hubs being sand cast magnesium units and everywhere you look there are more titanium bolts and brackets. The bike also sports aluminum triple clamps and a handmade alloy brake pedal. The suspension was also state of the art 1980 technology. The front forks are 43mm Kayaba units, whilst the rear end is suspended by Ohlins “piggy back” shocks designed especially for this bike.
This is the only works Suzuki that was given to a rider by American Suzuki. Kent Howerton was at the top of his game in 1980 and demanded this bike as a trophy for his Championship victory. Against company policy, Suzuki gave him the bike. Howerton rewarded the team for their gesture with another Championship victory in 1981.
Here is what Howerton said about his Championship winning machine on MXWorksbike.com “We didn’t get this bike until right before Hangtown, and we didn’t have much time to set it up. During the first couple of races, I had trouble with the front forks. They were too harsh and this gave me trouble in the corners. To compensate for this I used the low end torque cylinders and pipes. This helped until we got the front end working good and then I switched to the mid-top end set up. The rear end was real good especially with the Ohlins shocks. The bike had a real good geometry to it. It was well balanced and the handling was excellent. Mid way through the season, I already had the Championship about won, and we were at The Mount Morris National. We had just taken delivery of the new prototype Full Floater (single shock bike) earlier in the week. While riding in practice on the twin shock bike, there was a section that jarred my back every time I went through it. I was in a lot of pain from a back injury, so I took out the new bike, and going through the same section, there was no back no pain. The bike absorbed the bumps much better. I really wanted to race the new bike but Suzuki was against it because it was untested. The bike was so much better that I told them I wouldn’t race unless I could ride the new bike. They agreed. I won that race and finished out the season with the Full Floater.”
And so came to an end the reign of the Twin Shock works bike.
Images: Terry Good Collection