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Yamaha Readies 250 Class Sportbike to Compete with Kawasaki and Honda

Beginning with the Kawasaki Ninja 250, inexpensive, small displacement sportbikes have been a big hit here in the United States. Kawasaki, of course, has moved ahead to 300cc and the Ninja 300, while Honda does battle in the category with its single-cylinder CBR250R. Yamaha wants in on the action, and it is planning to manufacture a 250cc sportbike in India next year to be sold as a 2014 model.

Pictured above is the Indian-made YZF-R15 version 2.0, featuring a 149cc single. Yamaha is looking to export the R15 to other markets, and there is a good chance the 250cc bike would be available in the U.S. during its first model year given the success of Kawasaki and Honda with similar displacement sportbikes. Whether the new Yamaha would be a single (like the CBR) or a twin (like the Ninja) is unknown at this point.

62 Comments

  1. Barry B says:

    Honda are driving down the prices of 250/500′s using Thailand as a manufacturing base and a lot of the art they learnt in how to churn out millions of cheap 125cc step-thru’s whereas the new Yamaha seems to gain its cheapness from just using a simple engine and a slightly more dodgy manufacturing base in India. But be aware that currencies in places like India and Thailand are likely to gain against the dollar so the cheapness won’t last for long. Would have thought the new 500 twins from Honda are going to have a lot more appeal in the US than the smaller bikes as the price difference isn’t going to be huge but even then they are not much of an advance on older twins such as the CBF500 or even if we want to be perverse the seventies CB350/450.

    • Chris says:

      “have a lot more appeal in the US than the smaller bikes as the price difference isn’t going to be huge”

      About $4k vs about $6k… Seems like a huge price difference to me at that end of the price spectrum.

      • Dave says:

        Also, comparing a new I-twin to an old one is a bigger difference than Barry B is considering. Water cooling, fuel injection, fairing options, etc. The old bikes are still great pieces but the technology of the new bikes is very compelling.

  2. ROXX says:

    Hope it has 300cc’s or it’s dead on arrival.

    • Dave says:

      Has the Honda CBR250 stopped selling since the Kawasaki Ninja came out?

      • Miles McMillan says:

        It would do better if it could keep up with the Kawi 300.

        • Dave says:

          The US market is still very small in this displacement range. They are measuring their competitiveness in markets where Kawasaki is selling 250′s. I bet they’re doing just fine.

          • ROXX says:

            Actually the Ninja 250 has been Kawasaki’s best selling sportbike.
            To clarify, if this 150 cc Yamaha hits American shores with less than the Kawasaki it won’t be able to compete against it.

  3. K-Kid says:

    The European markets are still loaded with 400′s, just look at the grey market sales in the UK and Australia alone.
    The smaller displacement bikes are a necessity in Europe, Canada and other countries due to insanely high insurance costs, license restrictions and fees, which are tied to displacement. The US market isnt as hungry for smaller capacity due to our ability to just hop on a Busa as soon as we get a lisence, and even without one in a lot of places.
    But the 125 Yamaha’s styling has always been way better than the Honda’s, and until recently the Kawasaki’s. They tend to look just like a slightly smaller version of their bigger sports bikes. It will be interesting to see what they bring out.

    • ziggy says:

      You obviously don’t know much about riding in Canada as it is dirt cheap, just like the US. No one buys small displacement bikes here. Everything here is on an epic scale. Love these yanks who assume Canada is some expensive socialist nightmare. Why don’t you turn off fox news and cross the border to learn for yourself?

  4. Tom says:

    I think I would rather the Yamaha SR 400.

  5. TheBaron says:

    What is driving the interest of the Japanese manufacturers in small displacement motorcycles is the fact the Indian and Chinese manufacturers are giving them a whipping in developing countries. And those markets do not want to pay for stupidly expensive four cylinder 250s. Those things were sad. The uneducated raved about them (without riding them) but those of us who had the unfortunate experience to ride them discovered that it took the first 15,000 rpm (and some time) for the engine to overcome its own internal friction and start developing something that could vaguely be called ‘useful power’. A single (or twin) is much better in smaller displacements. Do you REALLY want to ride a bike with 62cc cylinders? The 250/4s were a result of the then fairly affluent Japanese market that wanted ‘race replica’ bikes. The Japanese market at that time had graduated licences for riders, so that 125cc was a big class, then 250cc, then 400. To get a licence for bikes over 400cc was a bit of a mission. The 250cc limit in Japan was abandoned in the mid to late 1990s and there are few markets with such an engine displacement limit. Many of the Asian countries (which buy BY FAR the most motorcycles) have a 150cc limit, but that appears to be changing. India obviously allows various engine displacements but has import tarrifs for many foreign countries. So Honda makes its CBR250 in Thailand (which has a free trade agreement with India) and Yamaha makes its YZF-R15 in India. A 175cc kit for the R15 would be great. As a 150, it tops out around 135 km/h but gives really good fuel economy (VERY important to Indian consumers – pity Americans could not learn from them).

    • todd says:

      I’m sorry, the CBR250R inline-4 spanks the new CBR250 single everywhere. There’s just no comparison. The old bike has twice the acceleration. Sure, compared to a 650 single with the same horsepower you have to rev the bike quite a bit higher but you get to those RPM in the blink of an eye. I’ve never since seen a bike that could rev as quickly as the old 250 fours. Those bikes were glorious and painfully expensive to manufacture vs. an Indian or Thai built single. People in the market for a 250 don’t typically go there for the power so the less expensive bikes (like the Ninja 250 twin) outsold the fours many times over. Don’t kid yourself though, every kid that bought the cheaper bikes wished they had the same power of the fours but wouldn’t have paid for it.

  6. Rocky V says:

    Japan had 4 cylinder 250′s and those bikes were nice –it’s a dollar thing–they could make a very nice triple — or a junky one–$$

  7. Don Fraser says:

    to little, to late, I just turned 62 and have been riding EX 250 for last 5 years, 2nd favorite bike ever, after ’72 H2.

  8. Jim says:

    Has the makings of an (relatively) inexpensive track day tool.

  9. Rocky V says:

    If they built a 3 cylinder – wow the news is that the R1 is going triple

  10. Buster says:

    Today, riders 18-25yr still make up around 20% of the market not 1 in 100 and EPA & DOT have nothing to do with the factories using singles & twins (its all about $).

  11. Tom Shields says:

    Very cool. What for years was a class of one now has three contenders.

    I’ve seen a couple of these ridden at track days (they really do need a special class!) and while they’re dog-ass slow in anything resembling a straight patch of track, they can carry good speed through corners and generally look like a blast to ride.

  12. Victor says:

    I read somewhere that in 1973, 1 rider in 4 was between the ages of 18-25. Today that figure is 1 in 100. As a man in my late forties, who has been riding for many years, I’m not likely to buy a bike such as this, and neither, I suspect, are many of the other readers of this forum. But I think it’s great that these little bikes are being introduced, and I hope they are cheap enough to be able to catch on with the younger crowd. Nothing would help all of us more, as riders, than to see these great little bikes become as popular as, say, the xbox.

    Plus, I bet they’re a total blast to ride in the twisties.

  13. soi cowboy says:

    Take the wr250r engine, add a cylinder to make it a twin. Put it in the sr400 chassis. Add a windshield and trunk.

  14. Bud says:

    Nice styling job.

  15. Gpokluda says:

    I also wish Honda would bring back the CB-1 and maybe Suzuki could bring back the original Bandit which was a 400.

    • joe says:

      loved the the bandit 400.

    • zx7Ramsay says:

      I used to have a CB-1 and I have to say it is the bike I miss the most.

    • Adem says:

      No one ask me, but hahaha, I think is a very srtnog paint, in my very personal interpretation, I think is an eye, and it’s like a picture, then I can translate it like a memory, a girl playing (may be one of his sisters, why not?), and the eye represents how we remember this images, the black lines seems like veins or nerves of the eye. Holy Mother, five years at the architecture school makes you weird.

  16. PN says:

    That looks really nice. As for the 400 screamers of 15 years ago, bring back an updated 1975-77 CB400F instead. That was one of the best bikes Honda ever made.

    • mpolans says:

      It already exists and never went away, it’s just not exported to the U.S. Google CBR400F SuperFour; they’ve been making them forever. I agree, it too would also do well in the U.S.

  17. Miles McMillan says:

    Yamaha would be dumb if they built a 250 when the new standard in the small displacement market is a 300.

    • Dave says:

      Only in the US. In other markets that sell many more of these, 250cc is a catch weight displacement. If they’re not willing to do two models then 250 is the way they should go globally.

    • MGNorge says:

      The “new” standard is not 300cc unless of course you only see “green”? Kawasaki’s move is mostly marketing derived and serves as an easy way to increase performance and distance yourself from the competition. But that bump has also shown as a bump in price. Time will tell if it pays off. In the meantime, being a 300 knock’s the Ninjette out of standard racing classes that run the 250cc classes. Also, define small displacement? Honda’s coming 500′s increase power even more. If Honda brings those in not too much further up the vine than the Ninjette then why stop at 300cc? We’ve all seen this before folks! This is how our bikes got so big to begin with!

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “We’ve all seen this before folks! This is how our bikes got so big to begin with!”

        yup, and the wheels on the bus (or in this case, “bike”) go round and round.

      • Dave says:

        There is no “new standard” but 250cc is simply too small for our US highway system. The Ninja 300 will succeed because it’s *just* big enough. The new Honda should do well too but it will require young Americans to shrug off their egos a little bit. 500 is a bigger bike numerically and we’re all about the numbers.

      • Miles McMillan says:

        300cc’s might prove to be the sweet spot for folks considering a smaller bike. More power than the 250 and less weight than the 500′s. If the Kawi 300 is as good as the reviews say it is, then 300 may indeed become the new standard. I’ll bet Kawasaki hopes that it is.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “the new standard in the small displacement market is a 300.”

      curious, since KTM has a 350 and honda has a 500, why aren’t either of those small displacements the “new standard”…?

  18. andy1300 says:

    Yea, a 300 twin would work out nice here…

  19. mpolans says:

    Anybody else wish all the Japanese makers would just start building the same inline four 250s and 400s they had in the 1990s and import them? Tooling costs should have been amortized long ago and Japan’s inflation has been close to nil for the past 15 years (thanks to their poor economy), so the prices should be close to what they were 15 years ago. I’d love a Kawasaki ZXR400 or a CBR250rr.

    • sl says:

      An fzr400 would rock. Enough power to get out of the way, and enough chassis to… Well rock. Yea the kawi was supposed to be a laser compared to the razor fzr, but I am a yamaman.

    • SausageCreature says:

      Those bikes had carbs though…at least the Kawi did. I doubt they would meet emissions as is and would need serious modifications to allow for FI, valve train changes, catalytic converter, etc…probably enough to prevent using much of whatever tooling still exists. It might even be cheaper to design and build an entirely new motor than retrofit an older design

      Also, I suspect that building a 400cc 16-valve, dohc engine isn’t significantly less expensive than building a 600cc engine would be, but you’d have to charge less for it, which might cut into the already thin margins that manufacturers face in the 600cc class. You could make up for some of that with cheaper brake/suspension components, but only to a certain point.

      In the end, I think if it was that simple, it would have been done already.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “I suspect that building a 400cc 16-valve, dohc engine isn’t significantly less expensive than building a 600cc engine would be, but you’d have to charge less for it, which might cut into the already thin margins that manufacturers face”

        follow the money trail, or in this case LACK of money trail.

      • Southerner says:

        Too expensive, indeed. The reason Honda went from the 400 4 to the Hawk twins was about the costs. Loved the Hawks and nearly bought one.

        Also, from a fuel economy standpoint, twins have more volumetric efficiency than a 4. Most US motorcycle riders don’t care about fuel economy but it makes more of a difference to most people who will be buying in this class instead of something larger and more expensive.

        I think this new emphasis on smaller bikes is a good thing. I myself am keeping my eye on the new Honda 500 twins. They remind me of my old GS450S Suzuki. On those lines, it’s ironic to note that the GS500F only recently exited the scene, the last of the 500cc class twins from the Big Four. Now Honda is back and sooner than expected.

        • David Duarte says:

          I have a 1980 GS450E, and the GS500 that Suzuki recently stopped selling here wasn’t too much different (except the chassis was better with the 500), as it was still aic-cooled, 2 valve per cylinder and carbureted.. The new Honda 500′s are liquid cooled, 4 valve per cylinder and fuel injected. I’m hoping to park a 500F in my garage soon so I can ride a motorcycle more than I have to work on it :)

    • soi cowboy says:

      The problem is epa and dot certification. I think this is why trucks are going to v6. There are less emissions when there are fewer cylinders that are more highly loaded than a v8 at light load.

      • Dave says:

        That and small displacement twins deliver better usable power for street riding. You have to wind small I-4′s to the moon to get them going. Not enough people like that and the US doesn’t have displacement/licensing restrictions to help it along. I really liked the CB-1, those fetch big $$ still.

        • sl says:

          I used to want a CB1. There was a pretty blue one at the local dealer.

        • randy says:

          It doesn’t have to be that way – the air cooled Honda CB400 is very flexible. It doesn’t need to be rev’d anymore than a twin. I too assumed this bike was peaky and was very surprised at this quality when I got to ride one. That particular bike went down Baja with a group of us in 2006 and still is being flogged with hardly any attention given it.

  20. todd says:

    yeah, they need to replace their WR250 with something built in India to compete with Honda on price. It would then be a no-brainer to slap that all in an uprated YZF chassis for a nice little sport bike. I’d be waiting in line, little Yamahas have been in my garage all my life.

    -todd

  21. drbyers says:

    Nice looking but that front wheel is TINY…

  22. Tim says:

    Seems like using the single from their 250 dual sport would be a no-brainer if they are targeting the beginner-ish market.

  23. Oilhead says:

    Yamaha have virtually abandoned the small displacement street sporting motorcycle in the U.S. since ending sales of their much loved 2-strokes. I don’t know what is driving new interest in the 250cc sporting class, but it sure is fun watching the competition heat up. The engineering trickled down from the uber-sports has provided a venue for attracting a wide cross-section of enthusiasts. Dollar for dollar, these price leaders seem to provide more bang for the buck that a lot of us riders are looking for!

  24. HotDog says:

    Yee Haa!!!