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Honda CBF250 / Suzuki Inazuma Dilemma

Blog Date - 23 April 2015

By RoryD

Ren was kind enough to offer me his thoughts on a bike-buying dilemma I was having recently between two bikes reviewed on bikesandtravels.com. In return I agreed to jot down my thoughts on the two bikes and why I chose the one I did - and perhaps something in what I say might just help others with their own bike-buying dilemmas. But please bear in mind I have minimal biking experience. 

I’d been looking for a 250cc motorbike for under £2k; an affordable machine that would be reasonably economical to run for pleasure tripping (mainly around here in the north of Scotland) and not too scary for me as a newly licensed rider. It also had to have enough power to cope with our headwinds, hills and sometimes frenetic trunk road traffic. When I started the bike search over the winter I was really disappointed by the lack of relaxed/naked style 250s being advertised, particularly north of the border, so I was delighted when Gumtree featured two contrasting naked 250cc bikes around the time I secured my bike license this spring. One was a 2004 Honda CBF250 with around 9k miles and the other a 2013 Suzuki Inazuma 250 with under 6k mls on the clock. Both were located in Scotland, both appeared immaculate, both were around the £2k mark, both had many extras and both were red! 

I was immediately attracted by the lightness and simplicity of the Honda’s single cylinder air/oil-cooled engine with its choke/carburettor, its good fuel economy and massive tank range. In fact the bike seemed to meet the spec I’d mentally drawn up for my ideal bike  i.e. providing a bit more oomph than a 125, yet still being lightweight and simple and relatively cheap to run/maintain. In contrast, the Suzuki Inazuma seemed to be unnecessarily heavy and complex for a 250 with its water cooling, twin cylinders and electronic fuel injection – and its fatter tyres, massive twin pipes and indicator-swallowing side panels shouted “style over substance”. 

A red Honda CBF 250 in excellent condition
Honda's CBF 250. Simple, effective and reliable

I read the on-line reviews, watched YouTube videos, checked out “bikesandtravels.com”, “inazuma250.com” and “fuelly.com”, spoke with biking friends and emailed Ren for his thoughts as he had ridden and reviewed both bikes for the blog. Both bikes were well-liked by their owners, and it seemed either might be suitable for me. The Inazuma claimed a bit more power than the CBF (24 vs 20hp) but had a smaller fuel tank and possibly a bit lower fuel economy. But it was so much newer for around the same money - in fact still within its 2 year warranty. 

Suzuki's Inazuma 250 set against a scenic countryside background
Suzuki's Inazuma 250. More up to date but also more complex.

I then did some more research on the bikes’ running costs and servicing, and was horrified to discover the Suzuki’s service schedule specified valve clearance checks every 3,000 miles! A quick call to a local motorbike garage confirmed the time-consuming nature of the valve check – and consequently horrendous servicing costs. I was ready to rule out the Inazuma on these grounds but then, in a final effort, I joined the Inazuma 250 forum so I could contact one of its members who lived only 7 or so miles from me, to find out where he got his bike serviced and how much it cost. The owner enthused about the Inazuma, explained that he did all his own servicing - and then offered to teach me how to do the tappets myself! So the Suzuki was back in the frame. 

I checked out both bikes on a work trip “south” (i.e. to central Scotland!), having first negotiated the price of the CBF down £300 to a more sensible £1.8k, and the Inazuma down £100 to £1.9k; the 11 year old Honda was now at least slightly cheaper than the nearly-new Suzuki.  The Honda CBF250 was clearly cherished and in incredibly good condition for its age, and I was delighted to find she started from cold and idled perfectly, and I could hear no engine rattle either (potential issues highlighted by Ren). Riding it around in 1st/2nd gear reminded me a lot of the Suzuki DR250 farm bike I’d used daily three decades ago in NZ, and the only downsides I could find (apart from the price which I felt was still a bit high) - were a very worn drive sprocket, the MoT being due in a couple of months, and I didn’t really like the gear change (light/springy and not very positive). But this Honda was very nice indeed, it was exactly the type of bike I’d had in mind, it was loaded with extras (although I didn’t really need the small teddy bear tucked in behind the screen!), and the seller was very sound - so I considered buying it there and then. 

But the bloke selling the Suzuki had made arrangements with his work to be home for me to view it, so I owed it to him to at least check his bike out. The Inazuma 250 was indeed mint as it had only been used on the road for 5 of the 20mths since registration, and its drive sprocket, chain and tyres clearly had many, many, more miles in them than the Hondas’ had.  In comparison, it did seem a very heavy and bulky bike to wheel about, so initial impressions were not too positive and I started to feel guilty taking up his time as I’d pretty much made my mind up to buy the light Honda. But when I sat on the Suzuki its weight disappeared, and I really liked the bike’s chunky/ solid feel, the burble of the engine, the clunky/definite gear change and the smooth low speed manoeuvring. It almost had the big bike feel of the Honda CBF600 I’d recently had my training/tests on.

The mere £100 difference in price between the two reflected the good value of Inazuma’s generally, and this one in particular, whilst the CBF250 was probably still only fair value at the reduced price - even taking account of all the extras and its exceptional condition. For that extra £100, the Suzuki was 9 years younger, had a handy gear indicator, electronic fuel injection, a few more horses, a top box, and possibly had better resale and spares prospects. The bikes were clearly very different offerings, but my test rides and the logic were now starting to favour the Suzuki. Somehow, though, I was reluctant to accept it was the better bike for me and I bottled the decision, telling the sellers I’d take a day or two to think it over - and I headed back north with my van empty.  

I think I was so wedded to my long-held notion of having a simple, lightweight bike with the lowest possible running costs that I was subconsciously resisting the allure and value of the Suzuki – and maybe self-image also played a part (the Inazuma was too new and flash!). But logic prevailed in a day or two, and I collected the Suzuki Inazuma the following week. I’d probably have bought the Honda instead, though, had its seller been prepared to drop the price a further £200.

unloading the newly purchased inazuma from the van
Decision made and transport sorted.

So I ended up buying a very different bike to what I’d originally had in mind. Time will tell if it was the right choice, but I have found the Suzuki Inazuma to be excellent over the couple hundred miles I’ve ridden so far. It is a remarkably comfortable and stable/solid bike that inspires confidence for a new rider like me, and it is as happy burbling along twisty/ gritty single-tracks at 25-35mph as it is on the open road – where all that plastic around the radiator/indicators seems to shield some of my body from the wind blast. But I still haven’t found any benefit from these massive twin exhaust pipes! 

the newly purchased inazuma in the scottish countryside, Rory's first trip
Time for my first ride out.
Another image of the suzuki on Rory's first ride
Fantastic.

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Reader's Comments

Tony said :-
Good write up and clearly echoes my own deliberations when it comes to bikes. The last one I've seen is always THE ONE, until I see the next one!

I'm hopeless when it comes to decision time so well done for getting it bought and I'm sure you'll get a lot of pleasure from it.
UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Tony, you're right it is rather a good piece of writing, I'm rather embarrassed by Rory's talent.

I used to be indecisive too, I'm not so sure now...
UTC
John said :-
Great piece of writing. Hard to believe they were so close on price. Even so I'd find it tough to choose. I still think about replacing our trusty and well used YBR125 with some kind of 250 but my wife always talks me out of it.
UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
She's a sensible woman that wife of yours. Otherwise you'd go MAD!
UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Yes quite a dilema. It's so difficult to pick. Most bikes just like cars are all good these days. It's mainly a choice of style or ride height.

I wanted a cb500 but was actually talked out of the bigger bike by the bike shop.
He has both bikes in stock. But he was absolutely right about my needs.

I needed a commuter bike with the ability to do the odd longer ride on sunny days. Cheap insurance and 0% finance. The inzuma was a sensible choice to get back into biking.

Mines had its 3000miles service it was only £ 129
I think he mentioned the valves were adjusted. Happy enough with that and they washed it ....

I have always felt Honda were built slightly better than other bikes they seem a little higher finish on the paint etc

Neither bike will set the land speed record.
14/04/2016 18:57:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
£129 for a service! That's one thing that puts me off buying a bigger bike. At 3,000 miles between services I'd require around 4 or 5 services a year, at £129 that's at least £400 in servicing per year alone.

That's one thing that makes the CB500X or the CRF250L Honda's more attractive, the 8,000 mile service interval. I'd still change the oil myself at 4k between services but I could still keep the warranty.
15/04/2016 18:39:06 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
£ 129 did seem a little high but I realise now there were a couple of extra items on the bill. There were the 6cm mirror extensions as I'm such a wide fat chap and the sprocket they changed to reduce the revs at high speed. The actual service was £92. Still reasonable. I expect to do 6k on thd bike per year so with the services insurance tax I will spend about 320 running the bike. A fraction of the cost of my car
16/04/2016 21:48:16 UTC
Henrik said :-
A cassic dilemma, keeping the wattenty, 129£ most deffinately is plain roadside robbery at full daylight. Same pattern here in DK, I would never ever be trapped in to such a situation, but maybe Suzuki is an exeption. Suzuki DK got an extremely good ensurance by the compaggny IF, full kasko, little self-risc, damm cheap, and road-care plus free repair all over EU the first two years if service is keept. I would deffinately go for this if I swap out the KLE and got a new Zuma F-version for 2017. In this case I would keep the milage on the new bike down, by using my 125's also. I would try to get an agreement py paying the first service in advance, to an fair price, as a term for the trade, and this way avoid being totally robbed. You can ask these bastards what is the price for service when you bye the bike, and they will rise the price another 100£ pounds before you get back, its almost a rule of nature
17/04/2016 08:40:06 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I think if I were to purchase a brand new bike I'd want to keep the warranty.

So, £92 for the service, I'd expect 3 services per year for my mileage. That's £280 per year, acceptable if it means the computer goes pop and I get a new one. Suzuki are offering 3 years warranty too, I could put 36,000 miles on by then and I guess if anything's gonna break it'll break by then.

I think I'll speak to my local dealer(stealer). See what their prices are like.

Henrik, I don't know if Suzuki UK offer road-care or as we call it breakdown cover. I'll ask. Yes, the dealer tells you services are for example £100, then when you go back after 6 months it is suddenly £150. I don't know about Suzuki but Honda do a package at the time of purchase where you fix the service costs, this helps avoid the price rise problem and helps to plan the finance.
17/04/2016 09:50:59 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
The inzuma in the UK has a 2 year warranty. According to the book. It doesn't have to be services by a main dealer or use suzuki parts. However the warranty will only cover suzuki parts and nothing caused by a third party. So if you add heated grips and they cause a problem with the loom you are not covered for future electric issues.

I did get 1 years roadside assistance and recovery.

I think if you use anyone but suzuki dealers you may end up with problems. It suits me as I don't even own a spanner.
18/04/2016 11:28:43 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
According to my local dealer Suzuki are offering an impressive 3 year were at the moment!

Legally anyone can service the bike as long as they are a VAT registered business and use genuine Suzuki parts. This is enough to keep the warranty. BUT as you pointed out Pete there is a major risk of arguments over who is at fault and which bit's been broken and by whom. If all the work has been done by Suzuki dealers then it is up to Suzuki and the dealerships to sort any problems.
19/04/2016 00:18:37 UTC
 

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