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2011 Honda CBR250R: First Ride, Part I

Just 15 hours before I wrote this, I left my house in Oakland, rode to the airport, got a plane to LAX and then took a taxicab to Torrance so I could be one of the first USA moto-journalists to ride Honda’s all-new CBR250R. Why did I go to such lengths to ride this bike? Is it because I live but to give you, dear reader, the latest tidbits of moto-data? Not really. I could say it’s because it’s my job, but there are plenty of motorcycles I won’t suffer the indignities of a jam-packed Southwest flight to ride. But this bike, though  a mere 250, could be one of the most important models Honda has imported for decades.

Why? Well, this is a lead-in to my main story, so you’ll have to check back in a few days when we bring you the full Monty. For now, here are some appetizers:

The main question I had in my mind while riding in the cab from the airport was if this bike would be competition for the Kawasaki 250 Ninja. Would it be as good-looking, comfortable, easy to ride, and most importantly as fast as the little green machine? Reports were horsepower was in the low 20s (10 or 20 percent less than the Kawi), which is a big deal if you’re riding a small-displacement motorcycle on big, fast divided freeways in California and other places where the flow of traffic is 80 mph and up. We don’t need to go 180, but on the other hand, we’d like to go half that speed without feeling like our motorcycle is about to spin a bearing. Also, would the bike’s suspension, chassis and brakes be just as sportbike-serious as the trackworthy Nin-genie?

Without giving away too much detail, the answer is a resounding…probably. Freeway cruising is fine, the suspension works well enough, and the brakes and tires are every bit as good as the Kawi’s. In fact, the IRC Road Winner (they are every bit as good as they sound) tires are actually identical to the Kawi’s (if 10mm wider in back).

Bottom line is we’re going to have to do a serious quarter-liter shootout: street, touring and track between this bike, Hyosung’s all-new fuel-injected GT250R, and the Kawasaki. I’ll write more about our first impression soon.

127 Comments

  1. Morph says:

    Honda shoulda coulda woulda.. bla bla bla.. “They shoulda made it faster” “They shoulda made it a 500″ Yada Yada Yada.. Give it a rest!! Don’t you guys think Honda understands the difference between a 250cc and a 500cc or larger bike? Had they wanted to make or import a larger bike, They would have.

    This bike is a 250 for a reason. It’s lighter, handles better, a breeze to ride and sips fuel. Guaranteed to be more enjoyable, compared to larger bikes, in cities and congested traffic. You wont get any of that in a bigger bike. It’s also capable of cruising on the HW at 70mph effortlessly (according to another review).

    We don’t hear people saying Honda shoulda put a larger engine in the Civic. It’s a CIVIC! If you want something bigger, you buy an Accord!

  2. AK_Srouji says:

    this is a picture of my first motorcycle,
    a 1989 CBR 250 R, bought her in 2005 for 800$ !
    more pics upon request.

    http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-ash1/v153/71/79/127101044/n127101044_30570028_8333.jpg

  3. Gary says:

    I’d love to see “small” bikes make a comeback. I put the word in quotes because I remember when a 250 was considered a “midrange” bike. The RD250, Kawasaki 250 and Suzuki 250 were, at one time, the bread and butter of Japanese streetbikes. You would be surprised how much fun you can have with them.

    My first bike was 60 cc … then 100 cc, etc.

    Smaller bikes force you to become a better rider before jumping up to roadburners.

  4. loadedmind says:

    I really hope in the more revealing review that they perform “real-world” scenarios such as 30-60 roll-ons. It would also be nice to know actual fuel economy at 70, how many miles on a tank and a cockpit view. I wish more online mags provided stuff like this..

    • Gabe says:

      Sorry to let you down, but it’s only a First Ride Report–I was not allowed to take the bike for further testing. Honda says it only has 4 of these in its press fleet until full-scale production begins in the early spring.

      Here are my guesses: 30-60 roll-on in an appropriate gear is pretty brisk, more than enough to stay well ahead of car traffic on city streets.

      Fuel economy is around 50 in normal use, but I’ll bet you could squeeze 60 or better if you ride like a grandma. That means a 150-200 mile fuel range.

      Dirck is going to post some cockpit photos.

  5. John A. Kuzmenko says:

    Yeah, I’d like to see a shootout like that, too, although I can already envision the closing paragraph:

    There are no losers in this shootout…

    :)

    • Gabe says:

      What else are you supposed to write when there is no clear winner?

      • Wilson R says:

        The problem is that most article written seem to end that way (not just yours). The bikes are so close these days in performance that nearly every test comes out with no clear winner. When Supersports are tested they are usually so close (a few of tenth’s on the circuit) that the gap between the winner and the loser is truly irrelevant for a bike operated on the street. Good article on the CBR, by the way. Looks like it will be a little easier to ride on the street than the Kawi.

  6. SupraStar says:

    For fun, add in Yamaha’s hooligan WR250X into the quarter liter shootout….

  7. SupraStar says:

    For fun, throw in the Yamaha WR205X into the quarter-liter shootout.

  8. MacinSteve says:

    Kawasaki product also has a parallel twin which looks and sounds like its larger siblings. I like CBRs but I’m afraid the little Ninja has the edge here.

  9. Kevin says:

    The bike could have (should have) been a 500 single. It would have appealed to the exact same beginner and added a much more experienced potential buyer group as well. The same extra torque that makes it easy to exit a parking lot or accelerate onto the freeway also makes it yummy to whack open the throttle at mid corner. At the same time a 500 single overwhelms no one. Eric Buell understood this as demonstrated with the poorly executed “Blast”. The 500 single is as weak as you can have in America and still retain freeway capability in hill country.

    • PeteP says:

      That would have been great for this country (US). For other countries, there is a 250cc tier with a horsepower limit. Clearly, this bike is meant to sell there as well.

  10. Jon says:

    Remember when the 350’s, 400 & 500’s where everywhere? I do. So when something like a Nighthawk 750 is called an entry level bike… it makes me wonder why they don’t drop the 250 and pump up the CC’s? Just a thought. What do you guys think?

  11. Wilson R says:

    The little 250 should be capable of making 40 hp if it was styled after the CBR1000R. After all, the 1000R makes over 160 hp. 40 hp would be sufficient to deal with the pesky NINJA 250. But alas, rumors of a sub 30 hp HONDA 250 are floating around and if it’s true it will sway some buyers over to the Kawi that are on the fence. I really do think that HONDA should have pressed the little 250 motor to get more out of it.

    • MGNorge says:

      Again we’re back to tractability. Most certainly Honda could have wrung it out to get more out of it but new riders especially might not have liked the results. Yes, there will always be those that compare on peak numbers but those tell only part of the story. Until there is a back to back comparison of what the riding experience is like it’s early to write off a bike simply because it produces less peak power.

    • MikeD says:

      I can support the whole “HP ain’t all at a bike”. Rode a 1982 GS1100G (89HP) for almost 2 years. It felt more of a joy at all times but COLD Starting it than my current SV1000N (118HP). JMHO.

      Maybe they were looking for reliability and durability over all things with this 250 ? Go figure.

    • Norm G. says:

      actually no, honda shouldn’t have done any of those things. that’s our typical yankee thought process. right or wrong, we LOVE referencing everything in U.S. terms. LOL i suppose we can be forgiven for that. anyway, i know it’s hard for some to come to grips with this, but this bike was NOT designed for america or americans. repeat, NOT designed for america or americans. it’s simply being “sold” in america. vastly different.

      • Wilson R says:

        There’s a minimum amount of performance that must be present for a motorcycle to be safe on the street and on the highway. A motorcycle if it is sold in America should be able to run with the traffic in the carpool lanes. Traditionally, the carpool lane is the safest place for a motorcycle to be on the freeway and I just hope that it will have enough power to stay ahead of the cars. I know that this bike wasn’t designed solely for the American market, but we do have minimum performance requirements if this bike is to be safe for beginners.

  12. Heh… good luck with that. Suspensions are generally rubbish on liter bikes that go for 10K and up.

  13. Calvin and Hobbes says:

    as long as the suspension isn’t rubbish

  14. Steve says:

    Neat bike. Bigger, faster and louder only goes so far.