By: Ari Henning
Quarter-liter motorcycles have long been viewed as beginner bikes, but with budgets tightening and gas prices rising, more and more people are turning to 250s as affordable, efficient, and fun transportation. People, as in experienced riders, many of whom are willing to spend a little more for the added safety of anti-lock brakes. The CBR250R is about as economical as motorcycles come, with a totally attainable price and incredible gas mileage. And new for 2012, optional anti-lock brakes add $500, 11 pounds, and a measure of confidence for, well, The People.
Using larger bikes as a frame of reference, the CBR feels pokey at first, but it will beat traffic off the line if you hammer it. You soon learn to snap the throttle open instead of rolling it on gently like you would with a bigger bike. Pinning it is part of the CBR’s appeal; you can ride the Babyblade just about as hard as you want without obliterating—or even bruising—the speed limit. For a certain demographic, its resemblance to the VFR sport-tourer detracts from the CBR250R’s cool factor a little bit, but none of that matters from the saddle, or at the gas pump. No matter how hard we flogged it, the Honda insisted on squeezing at least 60 redline-scraping miles out of every gallon of unleaded.
The CBR250R’s ergos are surprisingly accommodating for a tiny bike. A low 30.5-inch seat height means short riders can get their feet flat on the ground at stops, yet the pegs are low enough that legroom is acceptable for taller riders, too. Clip-on bars that mount above the triple clamp offer a quasi-sportbike appearance and feel, while a small windscreen and full fairing do an adequate job of fending off the atmosphere. Maximum speed is just north of 90 mph, but the bike is much happier at 70 mph, where vibration is minimal and there’s still enough power on tap to make a pass.
And there’s simply nothing to complain about in terms of handling. The bike is so light that it immediately responds to steering inputs, but it’s not in the least bit flighty. Suspension action is tuned for featherweights rather than your average American, but even with both ends sagging under our well-fed mass, the Honda still turns quickly and holds a steady line, making it perfect for threading through traffic as well as charging down your favorite twisty road.
The CBR was the first bike in the category to offer trouble-free fuel injection and this year received optional ABS, both features that carry over to 2013 models. ABS could be a lifesaver for beginners and is a confidence-booster for more experienced riders, too. The ABS works well, with just a slight pulsation evident from the front brake lever as the front IRC tire howls and chirps at the edge of traction.
It’s comfortable, fun, and frugal, but the CBR isn’t without frustrations. The Honda’s fuel cap isn’t hinged, so you have to find a place to put it while you fill up. Then there’s the steel bar that prevents you from fully inserting the gas nozzle into the tank. The result is slow and occasionally messy fillups. Thankfully, the Honda’s 3.4-gallon tank doesn’t need to be topped off very often. We, The People, love that part.
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Motorcyclist.