Bikes > Ride

The Suzuki Raider J Crossover is a plucky, back-road bomber

Lightweight, affordable, and built to take a beating

You've probably seen a lot of these in the provinces. They're popular for a good reason. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

When I visited the Suzuki plant in Laguna several years ago, I asked their marketing team why they didn’t have an entry-level dual sport like the Honda CRF150 or the Yamaha WR155R.

Their reply was something along the lines of the market not being big enough to be worth the bother, and that they’d rather focus on the even more affordable, underbone market.

And with that, they pointed at crates and crates of Raider J Crossovers waiting to be unpacked, assembled, and sent off to their dealers. Plus, it’s proudly designed and built in the Philippines.

Since its launch in 2020, Suzuki has sold around 21,000 of the plucky little bike. Not an earthshaking number when compared to the hundreds of thousands of scooters and road-oriented underbones sold every year in this country, but enough to make a dent.

Light weight and tidy dimensions make it an ideal machine for back-road adventures. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The Raider J’s only other direct competitor used to be the Honda XRM125, but the recent introduction of the more nattily styled and pricier Yamaha PG-1 also made me curious as to how one of the OGs would ride.

With an SRP of P70,900, the Suzuki is very affordable. It’s cheaper than the XRM125 (P74,900), and much less than the PG-1 (P96,400). So, I’m more inclined to be, um, open-minded about the looks.

The loud yellow-and-blue color scheme is an attempt to look sporty, while the high front fender and headlamp cowl give it a dual sport aesthetic like Suzuki’s own RM-Z250. But I’ve never been attracted to underbones in the first place, and only my curiosity about the bike got me to finally get on it.

Very basic instrumentation. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

For an entry-level bike, expectations should be lowered. There’s nothing high-tech about the cockpit. Just a sturdy, metal handlebar with a cross brace for stiffness like a BMX and a very basic instrument panel with an analog speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer, and Neutral indicator.

But nothing rattles. Everything feels tightly screwed together, and—typical Suzuki—starts right up. There’s even a backup kickstart. The seat is firmly cushioned to last years of abuse (or neglect?), with a little trough in the middle so you don’t slide forward under braking.

You only get a tiny storage compartment. You'll need a topbox for carrying more stuff. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

With the little 113cc engine purring along, I got it in gear and quickly became acquainted with the semi-automatic four-speed. For those who’ve gotten used to manuals and CVTs, there’s a short learning curve to get things moving along smoothly.

With no clutch lever to manipulate, you simply press down on the heel-toe shifter as you would with the sequential transmission of a manual. But you also need to remember to close the throttle as you shift (just like with a manual), so the clutch can properly engage.

Heel-toe shifter requires some ankle flexibility on your part. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Keep the throttle open while shifting gears and the transmission will either stay in limbo between gears or lurch forward. It takes some muscle memory to get used to it, but the design of the shifter and rear foot brake is utilitarian and not that ergonomic.

If you have long legs, you have to consciously move your leg out so you can tap the shifter properly. Ditto with the foot brake, as the low seat forms an acute angle for your knee and ankle.

The airbox is placed relatively high, and is shielded from mud and debris like the engine. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

But bikes like this are designed for Asians of usually smaller stature, so a 5’5″ or shorter rider won’t have such issues.

The contact points for the shifter and the foot brake are also big enough that you can easily manipulate them wearing flip-flops. It’s not how you’re supposed to ride any motorcycle, but that’s just how riders do it, especially in the provinces.

A 3.7-liter fuel tank gives you decent range. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Even with just 9hp and 9Nm to work with from the 113cc motor, the bike is peppy at around-town speeds and has a cheerful little bark from the muffler, too.

Having just four gears to work with also means there’s less shifting to do at the cost of acceleration, and I typically found myself just puttering along in third or fourth gear, and starting from a dead stop in second gear.

Turn-in is light with the slender tires, and getting the bike to change direction is like riding a mountain bike—nimble and intuitive.

A chain drive makes the bike more ideal for rugged use compared to the CVT of a scooter. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

With ruggedized suspension compared to the road-oriented Raider R150, the Crossover sports a fork with thicker stanchions and boots, as well as twin tube shocks at the back while wearing semi-knobby tires.

They don’t have any official data on how many centimeters of suspension travel the bike has, but ground clearance of 145mm, a low seat height of 765mm, and a weight of just 96kg mean that the Raider J can tackle the typical gravel or muddy back road and occasional river crossing you’ll find in the boondocks.

High fender and headlamp cowl give it some dual sport vibes. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

With the air filter situated above the engine and behind the extended engine guard (as well as using a chain drive), shallow water crossings can be done safely. The low seat height also means that it’s easy to put a foot down and steady oneself when moving through sketchy terrain.

And if you drop it, 96kg is peanuts compared to a typical adventure bike or scrambler. Power from the petal-style front disc and rear drum is decent; a little mushy, but good enough. No ABS at this price point, of course.

I had more fun than I thought I would zipping across town and finding back roads wherever I could, my only regret being there wasn’t enough time to bring it to the farm in Zambales.

This heavily customized Raider by Thai custom builder Ranger Korat has us all hot and bothered. PHOTO FROM RANGER KORAT

It’s affordable to own and maintain, it hardly drinks gas (an easy 50km/L), and it’s a lot of fun to play with on back roads. Light and slow bikes are easier to goof around with; there’s a lower chance of breaking any of your bones if you drop it. I wouldn’t do a cross-country tour on it, but I know real-world owners can and do that sort of thing.

I’m not surprised that many people use it as a farm bike, a probinsya bike, or a motocamper. But for those with the resources, it can also be an interesting base for customization.

At least one custom builder, Ranger Korat from Thailand, has built probably the most interesting (and expensive) Raider J Crossover yet. With a long travel front fork (probably from a CRF judging by the gold stanchions), a longer swingarm, and big, motocross wheels, the Raider looks positively mean.

But in stock form, the Crossover does its job pretty well already and fills a niche that’s very specific to how life is outside of the city.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.