If the new Erik Buell Racing 1190 RX and BMW R nineT didn’t get your attention, maybe some news from the small-bike world will. Honda unveiled a freshened-up and stroked CBR300R at the China International Motorcycle Trade Exhibition to fire back at Kawasaki’s Ninja 300R. And Triumph was spotted testing what may well be its smallest motorcycle in a half century, a small-bore Single to take on emerging markets—and maybe boost Triumph’s sales to hundreds of thousands a year.
The Honda seems like a pretty obvious step: punch your 250 out to 300 as a cheap and easy way to compete with Kawasaki’s excellent Ninja 300R. At the show, Seiji Kuraishi, Honda’s COO for its operations in China, announced the company will start selling larger models like the CBR500R in China, as well as the new made-in Thailand CBR300R. Details on the 300 have surfaced in the form of a Chinese spec sheet (pictured). The motor has the same bore, but has been stroked 8 mm to 286 cc total displacement. Claimed horsepower jumps from 26 to 30.5 at the same 8500 rpm, while torque takes an even bigger jump (percentage-wise) from 17 to 20 foot/pounds.
Most interestingly, perhaps, it appears the new CBR300R may have a new chassis, because the reported wheelbase indicates an increase of 11 mm over the current 250, together with a lower seat height. We may see the CBR300R as early as next year.
Astute and wise readers who hang on my every word may recall a story last year where I reported Triumph India had a plan to start selling small-displacement Singles to take advantage of that nation’s 13-million-unit-per-year market. Motorcycle Sport and Leisure reported the new range would use liquid-cooled four-valve heads and displace 267-350cc.
Well, recently, a spy photographer snapped a small Single with familiar-looking headlights getting a workout on public roads. The bike looks like it won’t be a high-performance Ninja-beater either. It’s liquid-cooled, but has a tube-steel frame, skinny conventional fork, bias-ply tires and two-pot front caliper with rubber hoses—if you were hoping for a mini Street-Triple to terrorize your local racing club’s lightweight classes, you’ll be disappointed.
But that disappointment won’t be shared in markets like India, Brazil and China. The bike will probably be built in both Thailand and India, taking advantage of lower-cost labor and escaping tariffs. Triumph has made no secret of its desire to become a major global manufacturer, and exploiting this market segment is a must—and this bike looks like the way to do it. In this country, there’s plenty of demand in the under-500 segment as well, so expect this model to eventually go on sale in the USA, probably priced within $100 of the $4199 CBR250R or $3999 Suzuki GW250. Kawasaki bumped the price of its 300R (the only twin-cylinder in the group) up to $4999 ($5299 for ABS), showing the Green folk think there’s plenty of money to be made at that end of the pool.