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CBR250R for USA Market

After almost 20 years of being absent in the USA 250cc sportbike market, American Honda is coming back with the aggressively styled liquid-cooled CBR250R and CBR250R ABS. Although pricing hasn’t been released, there are plenty of details that may make Kawasaki — makers of the outstanding $3999 Ninja 250R — nervous about its USA sales (which have been tremendous).

The new CBR is clearly aimed at the smallest Ninja. The motor is a 249cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve dual-overhead-cam Single, smoothed out and sophisticated with fuel-injection and a counterbalancer. The frame appears to be tubular steel, and the bodywork — love it or hate it — seems heavily influenced by the controversial new VFR1200. Wheels are 17-inchers, shod with radial tires (the back tire, a 140/70-17, is 10mm wider than the Ninja’s), and braking is handled with a two-piston caliper and 296mm disc in front. ABS is available. Seat height is .4 inches higher than the Ninja’s at 30.9 inches, but the seat looks very narrow at the front, negating that difference. Curb weight is a claimed 359 pounds, 15 pounds lighter than the 250R (add 9 pounds for ABS). Tank size is smaller than the Ninja’s 4.8 gallons at 3.4 gallons of dino-milk, but I’m guessing the FI Single might best the parallel-twin Ninja on range thanks to better fuel economy.

The theme in the moto-press for 2011 will be how the two bikes compare. It looks like the Honda will be a more nimble performer (both bikes have monoshock suspension and 37mm forks) thanks to its lighter weight and shorter 53.9-inch wheelbase. However, the motor could fall short in performance — it’s not the zesty, big-power mill out of the CRF250R motocrosser, but an all-new unit with lower compression and longer stroke, probably tuned for torque and newbie-friendliness. If the Ninja puts around 26 horsepower on the ground, expect the CBR to do somewhat less — although it may best it on torque.

But the main issue will be price. Honda usually prices its products at a slight premium over the competition, which means the base model could be $4500 or more and the ABS-equipped version could be over $5000. But will the sporty styling and Honda nameplate be enough to lure customers away from Kawasaki’s best-selling sportbike? Whatever the results, 2011 will be doubly interesting to small-displacement sportbike fans.


  1. DARABBIT222 says:

    Anybody worried about the weight of this bike:

    Keep in mind that Honda publishes only curb weight, which is the weight of the bike WITH a full tank of gas.

    It looks great and should be an excellent first bike for the new riders!

    Should be a great bike for the ‘ol lady!


  2. William says:

    I think it looks great, styling is spot on for me. It would make a great commuter bike as I never have to get on the highway. Now if they would only price it to compete with the Ninja 250, it would be more attractive to me. Wasn’t Kawasaki going to come out with a Ninja 400? I thought I read that somewhere.

    I have been contemplating a Ninja 250 for awhile now just for the ride to work.
    Wait till gas goes back up to 4 bucks a gallon and these will sell like crazy.

  3. Tom says:

    Great to see some competition in the 250cc segment. I own both a Ninja 250 and an Aprilia rs125. As others have mentioned, I’m not sure why Honda or Kawasaki can’t bring in these bikes at about 300 lbs wet. In any event, Honda having an offering in the 250cc market is bound to make Kawasaki a little quicker to upgrade their 250, which is a sweet little bike.

    Now, how about a cbr400rr, an inline 4 with 600rr level suspension, pushing out about 55 hp and weighing about 350 lbs wet?

  4. Bo knows says:

    Deja Vu all over again… Honda will be reminded that street singles in the US don’t sell in any real numbers (like the ill-fated Yamaha SRX250 of 1986). They would have been better served bringing over the Ducati monster-esque VTR250, which is similarly priced to the Ninja (at least in Japan) and should produce better power than the single…

    • Tim says:

      The country has changed a bit in 25 years.

      • Bo knows says:

        but for exactly the wrong reasons for this bike to succeed. In 1986 an 1100 cruiser was a heavyweight, now it’s a mid-size. All 4 Japanese brands sold sport 750’s in good numbers. After the first comparison tests show the Ninja’s performance edge and lower price point, these things will be sitting unsold next to all the DN01’s and VFR1200’s at the Honda shops. American STILL is not ready for a sport single, especially a 250…

        • Bo knows says:

          Looking into the bike a little more, Euro reports put the CBR’s output at 26 crankshaft HP, 4 less than a Yamaha WR and 6 less than a Ninja 250. As a fully-faired sportbike, this thing is toast if it costs more than the Kawi. Shame, because it IS pretty. Maybe they (and Yamaha for that matter) should try a streetfighter version(Hornet 250 or FZ-25 or better yet FZ-3), with a LOW seat height, decent suspension and a price a couple hundred under the Ninja. That might fly…and while I’m wishing…how ’bout a TW350?!?

  5. Mongrel says:

    I have a KLR 250 that I mostly use as a commuter bike, alternately, with my V-Star 1100. I don’t agree with the negative comments about the Honda using a 250cc single. The more I ride the KLR, the more fun it gets. I think the performance of a 250 single can be quite adequate.

  6. Dave says:

    Great to see Honda coming into the low displacement market in the US, it’s been a long time coming, though I can’t seem to get my head around how this little bike weighs 360lb.

    Imagine how much fun this chassis could be with a diet and a 450cc single shoehorned into it.

    • Kurtdesign says:

      I completely agree. Email me and we can do it for you.

      Look up Honda CB450R. A modern 450cc can be put in this chassis easily.

  7. Tim says:

    So, I have this dream that Honda could take this new, possibly CBR1000RR derived thumper and put it in a few more models. First up, how about replacing the CRF230L dual sport and CRF230F motard “playbikes” with similar models with the new engine? How about an adventure-ish model like the old NX250? I know. Even if they have these plans on the table, the US market isn’t likely to see any of them – unless this CBR sells well.

  8. strogateta says:

    just saw this official information from Honda on the CBR250 engine,
    in which it is almost evident that the single-cyl.engine is an entirely
    new and very developed DOHC low-friction unit, whilst the basic engine
    internal geometry (bore/stroke = 76 x 55) is SAME as in the CBR1000RR
    Fireblade…. Could this mean that in fact some parts of this new
    “thumper” could be actually “one quarter” of the Fireblades inline-four ??
    The info can be found on their world dot honda dot com website.

    P.S. the intake valve head dia. seems to be cca. 30mm or thereabouts, which gives
    a Bore/IVHD ratio of approx. 2,40-2,45 – that is coincidentally the perfect ratio
    for a wide and useful rev-range but still with loads of reserve for high-end power. This WILL be a tunable engine definitely.

    Can’t wait to hear the price. I’m in.

    • MikeD says:

      Don’t xpect CRF250F Performance from it. Here reliability and performance could go to bed togheter and one of them will be gone already by dawn.

  9. johnny ro says:

    The power comes from the design target not the fact that its 250 cc. If Honda wanted it to have 40 hp it would have 40 hp. If they wanted to sell a 60 hp 250 they would make that. More would be feasible. Formula engines got there with that much CC many years ago.

    Its a mid 20s HP product targeted at new riders. It is likely that many very experienced riders will fall in love with it as was found with the first gen EX250.

    If its not priced too high in which case it will be a rare bird like the 700, the 650 hawk, others. Price will reflect FI which Kawi took out for US market.

    Lets all throw them a bone for bringing to USA something other than silly fast supersports and cruisers.

  10. strogateta says:

    Cheers to Honda for taking the bait and throwing their gauntlet to the Kwaks. Not an easy task. Now there IS officially a 250cc class with decent-sized, sporty-appearance commuter bikes. CONGRATULATIONS !

    bad news : it is amazing to see how people’s greed for “more, bigger, faster” obviously ruins the chances for the 250cc category to be revived : “big-bore kit..”, “450cc would be fine..”, “why not give it more power..”, “will it barely move on the freeway..” etc. etc. — it is comments like these that show why the 250cc category dissappeared once at the first place. Greed. 250s existed once, remember? (kind reminder).

    good news : we have nothing to lose – if Honda MSRPs this made-in-india teaser properly against the made-in-malaysia Kwak, the 250 class will definitely flourish. If they fail to (again), they won’t retreat but will try again with the VTR250. In any case it is just a matter of months before Yamaha and/or Suzuki join the dancefloor.

    Let the good times roll.

    • The other Bob says:

      In the USA, the greed factor for bigger and more powerful is well justified, especially in the name of safety. In the USA, we’re spread out over great distances and travel via multi lane superslabs, have much higher speed limits and need the extra power to push us to speed. In Asia and the UK (much of Europe as well) the towns are so old and therefore close together and are littered with so many stop signs and lights, that top speed isn’t a big deal like the USA. Commuting in Europe is a slower and more tedious affair in the vast majority of populated areas.

      • MikeD says:

        Don’t forget most of us are overweight too in BigMac & MacRib Land…LMAO.
        I’ll pay for that comment…(runs for cover in a trench and grabs an AK).

  11. Hyosung Hermit says:

    Doesn’t anyone know anything about Hyosung motorcycles? They make two 250s that should considered in this discussion. These bikes have an air/oil cooled V twin engine with four valves per cylinder and are red-lined at 12,000 RPM. I was working at a local motorcycle dealer when we took on the Hyosung line. I was so impressed with the first one of their 250 Comets that I put together that I bought it. The bike is fast (for a 250), fun to ride (it’s all about corner speed) and gets 62MPG or better all the time.If you are consiering a 250, take a look at these bikes.

    • Kawboy says:

      Yes, I’m a little familiar with them now, and the new FI GTR 250’s I’m sure will out perform the now dated comets. From all that I read, the newest ones are regarded as the tops or very near the top of 250 performance and reliabililty, and will run with the Kawasaki’s. Although I don’t see myself getting a 250, if I would, I would definately check the Hyosungs out, especially with a nearby dealer.

      • Kawboy says:

        Correction: The GTR 250’s are a standard styled 250 (they make two 250’s), the GTR250R is the sport bike version. I belive both are the same except for handlebars, fairings, and maybe a few other smaller differences.

  12. MrHonda says:

    I owned a CB250RS, brought from the UK in 1980. Beautiful machine, 90 mph and 90 mpg at the Craig Vetter Fuel Economy run. Bike weighed about 300lbs dry. Compare the specs to the new CB250RS
    I also own a 1964 CB77 Super Hawk that weighs about 350 lbs wet and made 22hp on a dyno last year. So, basically they have recreated the CB77 in a single-cylinder form. Hope it captures the same riding spirit as the original!

  13. Sands says:

    I think they really made a mistake with this bike….A 250cc single cylinder street bike…I think at least a twin of the same displacement would have been a better idea.

    • MikeD says:

      Someone pointed out that it could prove the other way for Honda. A single(given same displacement as a multi-cylinder) usually has better response where it matters most (low-mid range) and has to be revved less to get “moving”…unlike the Ninjas Peaky Paralell Twin.
      If i were to be doing a lot of Highway riding i would take the Ninja with my eyes closed (engine architecture more suited that enviroment).

  14. Hasaf says:

    Something most are not catching on is the ABS. This will be one of the first small bikes to offer ABS. As I see this, and its other small competitors, as being well sized for commuting, ABS is a real boon. Commuting is not like riding a well groomed track, or even like recreational riding; it is riding in the worst of conditions with the most distracted drivers around and one of the places that almost no one debates the benefit of ABS.

    FI is also helpful in commuting as the bike is often ridden before it is fully warmed up (I know on my current bile I am on the second block before I push in the choke in the morning). The full bodywork is also desirable because it can both reduce wind related fatigue and help keep the rider drier.

    I find the idea of a 250 (although I consider 400cc to be about the ideal) with FI and ABS to be very interesting. This may be my next bike. Like everyone else, I will have to wait to see the price.

  15. The other Bob says:

    Aside from the Asian market, many here have missed the fact that Europe has a graduated licensing system. After the 11 HP 125 cc bikes, they can ride a 26 HP 250cc bike for another 2 years before being allowed to get whatever they want. So there is a whole Euro market of learner riders that would be interested. These 125 and 250s need to be on the approved list for the Euros.

    As for the US, cool to have an option of something small and fun but, for the USA, it should have been a twin. But it will likely have good low end thump like a CRF250, but with a little less snap. I’m sure the flywheel will be much heavier and a 3 ring piston for sure for reliability.

    That aside, I think it looks better than the VFR1200.

  16. Chris says:

    With wider rubber than the Ninjette this bike should be king of the canyon carvers. Yes, a street bike can be fun at 30 mph, you just have to have twisty enough roads. Seeing if you can keep it pegged around a hair pin for me is much more fun than hitting terminal velocity.

    • todd says:

      I see Ninja 250s running rings around bikes with much wider tires. Tire width is a very, very small factor of good handling.

  17. Hoshiko says:

    Nice, finally some real world comuter bikes. TU250x, Ninja 250 and now SBR250r
    I don’t care what you ride, the fact that more little bikes are introduced in the USA market, more people will ride, more people riding will create motorcycle parking spots in the cities, mybe we will be respected on the road.
    I personally like this bike, I have to try that combined brake ABS stuff.

    • MikeD says:

      Hoping too for the 250 class to gain some momentum here. Maybe these bikes with enough demand could get more meaty parts and been look at more seriously by both the manufacturer and consumer alike?
      Here’s a pipe dream: Aprilia should drop a “clean” 60*V2 250 4stroker “a la Rotax” on the RS125 and make a street legal version of that little HOOT of a bike.

  18. DingerJunkie says:

    The styling is sex-on-wheels to me. The bike would likely be VERY fun to ride as-is. Most important, here where there is no emission-check, the possibility of shoehorning a CR125 or 250 smoker powerplant into that thing is TOTALLY tempting.

    Now, cut the price to match or beat the Ninja 250, or I’ll just shake my head, laugh and walk away.

    • MikeD says:

      Thats so “Sweet Music to the Old Ear” that i might just have to buy a welder,cutter and grinder and get it out of my system.
      Nah, but it could fun to see someone try it. Any Ginea Pigs willing to take on it? lol.