Easy Rider on a budget with Suzuki's zippy commuter

By Jacqui Madelin

GN125 sells at twice the rate of any of its competitors

The Suzuki GN125 is NZ's top selling bike. Photo / Jacqui Madelin
The Suzuki GN125 is NZ's top selling bike. Photo / Jacqui Madelin

Cruising past ocean-front cafes, spring wind in your face as the sun glints off chrome and candy-red paint, turning onto the highway for a relaxed run into the hills where you swing from bend to bend, part of the Sunday parade and at one with the freshly cut grass and early flowers in a way those car drivers will never be.

And Monday, threading stop-start traffic to arrive at work without the lingering tooth-grinding stress of a gridlocked driver, swinging your helmet under your desk while your wallet remains supremely undisturbed by sky-high parking bills - yes, a biker's life is the one to have, the freedom of the road at your elbow.

You might imagine, then, that New Zealand's biggest-selling road bike would be some rip-snorting toy, a Harley maybe or even a scooter - a glossy Italian step-thru that's both stylish and practical. But for many buyers two-wheeled freedom comes via this GN125, a bike that appeals to the wallet and yet has enough cruiser in its lines to suggest you're not a slave to convention.

It may not have the muscle to back it up but that whiff of the 80s imparts a classic air, suggesting the pre-cellphone big-hair-and-shoulderpads years in which it first arrived.

And Suzuki hasn't tampered with a successful formula, which means a wee 125cc air-cooled four-stroke single-cylinder engine prints your ticket to ride.

Pull out the manual organ-stop choke and thumb the start button to liberate an asthmatic idle that won't irritate the neighbours, slot into first and you're away, if not exactly charging through traffic, certainly thumbing your nose at it, and at the petrol pumps you'll rarely need.

And yes, you can cruise that coastal road, it will get to highway speeds given a relaxed approach to acceleration - easy given the comfy riding position - and it'll even make a reasonable fist of those bendy Sunday drives. The format uses a relatively long wheelbase for stability and a low seat that puts the centre of gravity nearer the tarmac. The armchair riding position imparted by the slightly forward-mounted footpegs and the lazy curve of the bars doesn't deliver the dynamic balance a keen rider may seek, but it does make the GN easy to get used Suzuki's zippy commuterAs a frugal commuter that delivers a taste of two-wheeled delight, the evergreen GN is hard to beat.Suzuki GN125

The GN125 has enough of the cruiser in its lines to recall the pre-cellphone big-hair-and-shoulderpads era of its 1980s origins.to, and though you won't get a knee down and emulate your MotoGP heroes, you can swing easily from bend to bend, taking a less frenetic (and safer) approach to progress.

You're not in much danger of an open-road speeding ticket either, though the GN's just brisk enough round town to hold its own at the lights - as long as it's Corollas and Cortinas issuing the challenge.

And while it doesn't field the speed, noise and drama that form the biker dream, it parks on a hanky and runs on fumes, so who cares? Cheap to buy, too, the $2195 price including six months' rego, a WoF and a full 10.3-litre tank of fuel. No wonder it sells over double the numbers of any other model here.

The price comes courtesy of three decades virtually unchanged, Suzuki's development costs paid off aeons ago. The last 250s arrived in 2006 after Suzuki failed to renew the licence for the Chinese factory building it.

Its smaller sibling continues to roll from a Suzuki-managed plant in China, where it's built alongside the AN125. There are only two potential spoilers.

Taller folk must fold like hairpins to get aboard. And the overly relaxed front disc and rear drum brakes quickly teach you to look ahead and anticipate - a habit as good for your fuel bill as it is for your health, that rapidly builds your hand muscles into iron rods capable of the vice-like grip required for anything resembling a rapid stop.

That apart, as a frugal commuter that delivers a taste of two-wheeled delight, the evergreen GN is hard to beat.

- NZ Herald

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