The CBR250R might have been designed to be the perfect starter sportbike for the first-time motorcycle owner, but with gas prices the way they are these days and predicted to get much higher in the next few months, the $3,999 and 77-mpg CBR250R has suddenly caught the attention of even the experienced motorcyclist, too.
We first rode the CBR250R when it made its debut about year ago. It was Honda’s answer to Kawasaki’s Ninja 250, and we were very much impressed by the Honda’s good looks, sporty performance and meager $3999 price tag. What a deal! But that was just a quick ride, and we parked the bike at the end of the day with a smile on our face but left wondering just how would this single-cylinder, 249.4cc streetbike stand up to the rigors of real world living and every day commuting. Pretty darn well, we recently discovered.
According to the brochure, the CBR250R, which is powered by a single cylinder, four-valve DOHC motor, has many desirable features. One, of course, is its ridiculously low $3,999 asking price, and our eyes give the CBR a two thumbs up in the looks department. It looks far better than its $3,999 price tag would suggest. The CBR250R is also extremely light at just 357 pounds all wet, and ABS is available as an option. ABS adds nine pounds to the overall weight of the motorcycle and $500 to the price tag.
The CBR250R is fitted with relatively wide 110/70 (front) and 140/70 (rear) radial tires that are mounted up to full-size 17-inch rims and racy five-spoke wheels. Not only do the wide tires provide added traction and a more stable ride, they also give the bike a burlier look than traditional entry-level machines.
It has fairly large disc brakes, front and rear, but what might catch the attention of perspective buyers the most about the CBR250R is its estimated fuel economy of 77 mpg. Combine that with a large 3.4-gallon gas tank and you won’t be stopping at the pumps all that often.
But there is a heavy price to pay for all of these goodies – horsepower, or the lack of it. A 249cc, single-cylinder, four-stroke just doesn’t produce a ton of power; it just can’t, especially after being hog-tied by emissions. But with a 250, you know that going in. Or at least you should. So the question is – does it have enough power? For the most part, the answer is, yes. It’s got some spunk.
My daily 60-mile (each way and mostly freeway) commute, however, might have been a little excessive for the CBR, but still very doable. The CBR’s sweet spot seems to be 65 mph. Every time I looked down, the digital speedo seemed to always read “65,” at 7000 rpm. Unfortunately, traffic in Los Angeles is either creeping along at five mph or smoking at 80 mph, but never 65, so I actually almost looked forward to lane-splitting on the little CBR; its small size, quick handling and responsive steering makes squeezing through traffic a breeze.
However, the CBR can cruise along okay at faster speeds. It can tolerate 70 mph (7500 rpm) quite well, but anything more than that, I started feeling a little guilty pushing it that hard. It will do 80 mph but takes forever getting there and the guilt will soon take over and I’d head for the “slow” lanes and let the traffic whiz past. I was frequently asked just how fast the CBR will go - I saw 88 mph on the speedo once, but that was on a slight downhill. On level ground, full tuck, 85 mph was about max.
Acceleration is pretty anemic at speed, so you have to plan accordingly – no popping out in front of approaching cars on a whim and expect to simply open the throttle and pull away. Just won’t happen, but a couple of downshifts – which always seems to come in twos on the little CBR – will certainly help move things along.
Surprisingly, the CBR does not produce a lot of vibration at high rpm, all you feel is a slight, high-frequency vibe through the handlebars, but that’s about it.
I accumulated about 1000 miles of commuting on the CBR250R and the bike still feels quite fresh and the motor still feels tight and new. According to my calculations, I averaged about 71 mpg on the CBR of mostly freeway riding with the throttle often pinned.
The CBR250R, however, is most fun on city streets and curvy back roads. It’s a blast to work the throttle with the six-speed transmission to get the most out of the motor, and it’s a fun challenge trying to maintain maximum momentum through the corners. Like we said in our first-ride impression, the CBR250R requires good technique to get things done quickly. In time, the CBR will certainly make a better rider out of you.
For such a small and agile motorcycle, the CBR250R is remarkably stable at speed. It’s a very good handling machine.
Suspension is adequate; you can certainly tell it’s not the highend stuff. The factory setting handled my 175 pounds just fine. If anything, the overall ride is a little on the stiff side but is well balanced. The single rear shock offers five-way spring pre-load adjustments. There is no damping adjustability at either ends.
Brakes are plenty strong at both ends, and the ABS works well, too. You hardly notice it’s there, since there is no pulsating from the rear-brake lever, which is linked to the front wheel but not the other way around. Overall, it’s a sound braking system.
The clutch lever is extremely light, and the clutch itself holds up well to a lot of abuse, mainly when launching from a stop, where you’ll tend to slip the clutch a little longer than you normally would on a more powerful bike. And for such a small bike with a low 30.5-inch seat height, the CBR250R did not feel cramped at all, even for my 6’1” frame. The seat is also quite comfortable, and the small windscreen does a good job helping make those long hauls even more comfortable.
Overall, the CBR250R is an impressive little bike, and just like the brochure says, it does indeed have a lot going for it, mainly price, fuel economy, great looks, comfort and great handling, but don’t expect explosive power, after all, it is a 250. But it’s for that exact reason that it makes for an outstanding and inexpensive around town go-getter and commuter (as long as that commute isn’t too far).
Originally published in the February 21, 2012 issue of CycleNews.com ®