I’m hoping that Suzuki’s Inazuma will be around for years, leading the way back to economical riding for the masses. This mild-mannered but modern 250cc twin-cylinder motorcycle costs a dirt cheap $5000 (plus on-road costs) to ride out of the shop.
Latest 300cc bikes go better, I know, but they cost about $8000.
The Inazuma goes well enough. It has everything you need and could even — at a pinch — tour the country, or carry you plus passenger from Auckland to Hamilton.
It seems strongly built and rugged, so I’m hoping it will step into the shoes of that legendary Suzuki from a previous era, the GN250. About 30,000 of those wonderful bikes were imported from the early 1980's to about 2000, with a few registered later than that.
And why am I bleating on about a now defunct 250? Because in its day the GN was more than a motorcycle. The wonderful little choppers, mainly red or black, were largely unchanged throughout their staggering life (in motorcycle terms) of 20-plus years, aside from the early swap of a front drum brake for a disc.
The humble GN did more, in my view, to bring motorcycling to the masses than any of the big names. What other 250cc bike could be picked up in reliable, secondhand condition from $800 to $1500, through much of its formidable production run?
But why all this emphasis on value for money? Aren’t motorcycles sold on emotional appeal and performance? Well, yes, but certain realities also apply.
If we’re talking about a $10,000 bike, for common mortals that will mean hire purchase, usually a low deposit with steep repayments.
I’ve sold many expensive bikes to young blokes on low deposit. That still keeps me awake at nights because nine times out of 10 there couldn’t be a worse investment for them. It’s no sort of life paying off a flash bike if you’re on the minimum wage or a benefit.
Among other drawbacks, once the bike is registered and driven around the block there’s near-zero equity in a low-deposit deal.
Hence the need for cheaper bikes, like the good old GN and — I sincerely hope — the new Inazuma. And to me a cheap but reliable motorcycle is of huge benefit. It can be a shelter in time of financial storms, or just what the Kiwi bloke needs following a crisis such as a redundancy, marriage split or illness.
The GN asked only a couple of dollars of gas to go many kilometres, was easy to repair because of the abundance of secondhand parts around, and a breeze to convert back to cash. Buyers knew what they were getting.
Come to think of it, the buzz of riding one helped you forget your troubles. I contend that owning a GN could reduce your tally on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale — a famous allocation of points measuring what can go wrong in your life.
For example, a divorce is 100 points; death of a close family member 53; change in financial state 38, and so on.
As it tended to ease financial burdens accompanying misfortune, a machine like the good old GN 250 could subtract, err, maybe 30. And if Suzuki’s new Inazuma 250 can likewise be manufactured and imported for a couple of decades, and if the price can be kept right down, it has the potential to do just the same thing. Be a friend indeed, in time of need.
■Paul’s test bike kindly provided by Holeshot Motorcycles, 65 Barry’s Point Rd, Takapuna.