2011 Honda CBR250R: MD Ride Review

April 6, 2011

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You may have read Gabe’s reports from the official press introduction of the 2011 Honda CBR250R here and here.  We asked Honda for a unit to test for a couple of weeks near our offices in Southern California.  The bike was ridden by three test riders other than Gabe over the course of our evaluation.

The first question I asked Gabe to focus on at the press introduction was whether the CBR250R was fast enough to feel comfortable on Southern California freeways.  Freeways, where traffic frequently flows faster than 70 mph, and where you want to have some motor left to get out of the way of that bonehead changing lanes into you.  A very important question in my mind, and one that Gabe answered in the affirmative.  I can confirm that everyone who rode the CBR250R felt that it was fast enough.  Yes, guys who ride 1000 cc superbikes and assorted other bikes routinely thought the little 250 had enough motor to be both fun and practical, and more importantly not dangerous on our crowded, often congested freeways.

In fact, the CBR250R feels very comfortable (not stressed) cruising at 75 mph on Southern California freeways, and can even cruise at speeds higher than that without feeling like it is about to grenade.  Top speed appears to be roughly 90 mph.

The bike is also fast enough around town.  It comfortably pulls away from stop lights quicker than just about any automobile short of an exotic sports car.  Something motorcycle riders expect.  Demand, even.

Yes, the CBR250R is slow when compared with many larger displacement motorcycles, but it is “fast enough”, and this conclusion addresses the single, biggest concern expressed by potential buyers who have not ridden the bike (many U.S. riders think “all single-cylinder 250s are too slow . . .”).

In addition to a relatively low curb weight, the narrow rear tire (a 140), light crank and other engine internals lend a very lithe, nimble feel to the bike not found on larger displacement machines.  Couple this with a motor that enjoys aggressive use of the throttle (flogging?) and you have an extremely fun riding experience.  So much so that every one of our test riders has entertained the thought of purchasing a CBR250R.  One of them would park it next to his Honda CBR1000RR in his garage, and carefully debate which one to take out for a Saturday morning canyon carving session.

Speaking of which, this particular test rider took the CBR250R to the local canyons, caught and passed several 600 cc and 1000 cc sportbike riders (safely), and lived to tell about it (chuckle about it?). Granted, this guy is very fast, and he has won road racing championships here in Southern California at the expert level, but he rides conservatively (for his ability level) on the street.  This tells you something about what this bike is capable of.

The CBR250R is comfortable with its relatively upright seating position compared to other sport bikes (it has a mild, by sport bike standards, ergonomic “triangle”), and offers good wind protection.  The largely non-adjustable suspension seemed to work for all of our riders (ranging from 155 to 205 pounds), and reminded us of Honda bikes we have ridden in the past that were able to find a surprising compromise, particularly with the front fork (older VFR’s, for instance).  The suspension is soft, but it doesn’t dive precipitously when hard on the front brake, nor does it squat noticeably when exiting corners (although that is partly attributable to the lack of power).

The transmission does its job without complaint, and the brakes are adequate for most circumstances.  The single-disc front brake does start to fade fairly quickly when pushed hard during aggressive riding in the twisties.

The single bulb headlight is shockingly bright. Indeed, we had to remove the bulb just to make sure it was a garden variety H4, and concluded that the reflector design used by Honda is spectacularly effective. It made me wonder how I might transfer these reflectors to one of my automobiles.

The fit and finish is good, although perhaps not quite up to some of Honda’s best.  The styling is attractive, in our opinion, and certainly modern looking.  Personally, I think it is better looking than the latest Kawasaki Ninja 250R.

We frankly didn’t expect spectacular gas mileage.  We assumed that the single-cylinder 250 cc machine might prove thirsty, because we were wringing its neck so frequently.  We were wrong.  We averaged 56 miles per gallon.  That may not sound like much, but we expect more reasonable riding would easily achieve greater than 60 miles per gallon.  Not too bad for a little motor that is working overtime to keep up with aggressive traffic flow here in Southern California.

Despite some of our testosterone driven prejudices, it is hard not to like the CBR250R.  Particularly, at an MSRP of $3,999 (non-ABS).  The modest power the bike makes in comparison to larger machines was not an issue for us.  In fact, it seemed to add to the fun (remember the old adage that it is more fun to ride a slow bike fast …).  It sure isn’t designed to function as a two-up touring machine, but it would make an effective, frugal, fun commuter.  With the attractive purchase price, we could see a lot of experienced riders adding the little CBR as a second or third bike.  Funny thing is, it just might lead to some dust gathering on larger stable mates.

The manufacturer provided Motorcycle Daily with this motorcycle for purposes of evaluation.

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