2015 Honda CB300F Review

Honda’s latest beginner bike takes off some clothes

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2015 Honda CB300F

Editor Score: 83.0%
Engine 18.0/20
Suspension/Handling 11.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.0/10
Brakes 7.0/10
Instruments/Controls4.0/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10
Appearance/Quality 8.0/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 9.5/10
Overall Score83/100

When we were introduced to the 2015 Honda CBR300R at its recent press introduction at Honda’s headquarters in Southern California, Honda reps teased us by displaying the 300R’s naked sibling, the CB300F, alongside it. We weren’t able to ride it, but there it sat, ready for the assembled press to sit, ogle and stare. Thankfully, Honda didn’t keep us waiting for long, as only weeks after I rode the fully faired 300R, we were given a 300F to throw around.

Less Is More

Judging the CB300F and CBR300R based on outward appearance really does reveal the difference between the two. Start with the latter, shed nearly all of the bodywork ahead of the engine, ditch the dual headlights for a single lamp, then swap the clip-ons for a handlebar and you’ve got the former. Otherwise, the two bikes are identical.

2015 Honda CBR300R First Ride Review

That is to say the 300F shares the same frame, wheels, brakes, tires and suspension as the 300R. Of course, both bikes also have the liquid-cooled, 286cc counterbalanced Single in common, too. Itself being simply a stroked version of the 249cc DOHC, four-valve engine first seen in yesteryear’s CBR250R. For full details on the CBR300R, click the link above to read all about it.

090414-2015-honda-cbr300r-cb300f-animated

This illustration clearly shows the differences between the fully-faired CBR300R and the naked CB300F. It really is a matter of stripping bodywork and adding handlebars.

Honda claimed a 17% increase in power over its predecessor, and after running our 300F on the MotoGP Werks dyno in Anaheim, California, those claims appear to be spot-on. With 26.2 horses at 8500 rpm, our test bike put out exactly 17% more power than the last CBR250R we tested (22.5 hp). Torque output is 17.4 ft-lbs at 6800 rpm. Not mind blowing, but respectable in the class and also 17% greater than the 250R.

090414-Honda-CB300F-vs-CBR250R-hp-torque-dyno

Being a stroked version of the CBR250R engine, it’s not surprising the graph for the 300F’s 286cc mill is almost identical to the outgoing engine, just higher on the chart.

“My first ride aboard the CB300F awakened me to the fact that the little Honda has considerably more oomph compared to the bikes against which we were testing in our forthcoming Lightweight Nakeds shootout,” says Content Editor, Tom Roderick.

When all is said and done, the 300F comes in 9 lbs lighter than the R model and also sheds some weight on price. Starting at $3999, it’s $400 cheaper than the R.

From The Saddle

As one would expect, riding the CB300F isn’t too dissimilar from the CBR300R. The obvious difference being the amount of forward tilt the rider experiences. While the 300R has the rider slightly hunched forward to grab the clip-ons, the 300F’s pilot is greeted to a much more neutral position thanks to the upright bars.

Handlebars instead of clip-ons give the rider a nearly upright riding position.

Handlebars instead of clip-ons give the rider a nearly upright riding position.

One of the nice aspects of the single-cylinder engine, especially for newer riders, is its narrow dimensions. This helps keep the rider’s legs from splaying too far apart once on the bike, and though the 300F’s 30.7-inch seat height is modest, the narrowness of the seat/gas tank junction aids shorter riders in planting both feet on the ground. For reference, my 30-inch inseam had no issues firmly getting both hoofs on tarmac.

Clutch pull is light, which should give the newer rider more confidence while leaving a stop. Most of our testers judged the Honda’s fueling to be fault-free, but kickstart-editor, John Burns, felt a slight hiccup during on/off throttle application. The shift lever easily moves from gear to gear, meaning its not only easy to pull away from a stop, but shifting as you pick up speed is simple, as well.

With more power and torque than the 250R, gaining forward momentum is done more briskly than before. Now that the 300F has more guts, merging with freeway traffic is less fear-inducing than we’ve experienced on other small-displacement bikes, including the 250R. There’s even a respectable amount of passing power in reserve, too, as the 300F will flirt with 90-plus mph if given enough room.

Suspension tuned for comfort on the daily commute results in diminished cornering performance. Keep it smooth and steady, and you’ll reap the rewards.

Suspension tuned for comfort on the daily commute results in diminished cornering performance. Keep it smooth and steady, and you’ll reap the rewards.

All the while, we were impressed at the relative lack of vibration from the engine. Singles are known to rumble at high engine speeds, but Honda has done a commendable job quelling vibes on the 300F. Vibes are really only felt once pushing past 80 mph, and are noticed more in the pegs than the bars. Keep speeds modest, and she’s virtually vibe-free.

Handling from the CB is neutral, as the bars provide good leverage to flick from one direction to the next. The 37mm fork and preload-adjustable shock are dialed on the soft side. So, backroad bombing isn’t its specialty, but the rider who emphasizes smoothness over aggression will be rewarded with a pleasant experience.

About the only thing we could fault from the CB300F are its brakes. Equipped with a 296mm disc in front and 220mm disc in the rear, stopping performance was merely adequate. While certainly not bad, our particular test bike had a spongy lever, which I don’t remember from the CBR300R. Some new pads and steel-braided lines would likely go a long way towards dramatically improving the 300’s stopping power.

Naked Learners

From practically the beginning of time, whenever we’ve been asked what bike a new rider should start on, we almost always side with the baby Ninja or CBR. However, those days might be coming to an end. With the CB300F, riders will get all the performance the fully-faired versions carry, with some added benefits.

First, handlebars instead of clip-ons are more comfortable for normal riding, and they make it slightly easier for riders to learn tight, slow-speed maneuvers. Second, the 300F costs less than the CBR (and Ninja 300). Third, and more importantly, the lack of bodywork means the inevitable tipover won’t have as severe a consequence. Factor in the ease of maintenance from the lack of bodywork, and the CB300F draws a strong case for itself as the prime starter bike.

Experienced riders will also find the 300F a fun bike. Its relative lack of power will keep them out of trouble while simultaneously serving as a great learning tool for instilling proper technique to maintain speed. Also, take into account the nearly 60 mpg we returned from our test unit, and riders of all experience levels should find the CB300F appealing for the daily grind.

+ Highs

  • More comfortable than the 300R
  • Cheaper, too!
  • Maybe the perfect motorcycle for the new rider
- Sighs

  • Mushy brakes
  • Uh …
  • Bueller?

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  • JMDonald

    I had a CB350 in high school. This bike is so much better. Honda should get some new riders with this one.

    • Kenneth

      Yes: My first brand new bike was a ’71 CB350 (which was an actual 323cc, if I remember correctly). I soon-after rode it from Detroit to Denver, to southern Minnesota, then back, with no problem (well, no mechanical problem). We require less than what we might believe.

      • JMDonald

        Mine was a 73 in red. I loved that bike.

    • Chris_in_Kalifornia

      I have to wonder if your CB shook as much as my SL. I had a 71 SL350 which was my first brand new bike. Could have mixed paint on the seat at 60 mph.

  • Reid

    Bikes like these would be perfect for a basic rider safety course.

  • Martin Buck

    I had an XL350 single, and never felt underpowered. The handling was spectacular after I lowered it with old RD350 shocks, and lengthened the swing arm by 2 inches.
    My brother’s CB350 was a torque less, heavy pig of a bike by comparison. I think I changed gears maybe three times over a long mountain range, and he wore his foot out with gear changing. I used to ride on the throttle, hardly ever using the brakes, but when I had to in a hurry, I could skid it sideways under full control to stop quickly. I loved that bike.

    • Andrew Cooler Can

      350cc is a good size engine. If Honda makes a CRF350L I would buy it right away

  • Old MOron

    I’m very happy that most of the OEM’s have brought smaller, funner bikes to the US market. I really, really, really hope people buy them.

    • rudedog4

      me too

    • Mic Redford

      I have.

  • hunkyleepickle

    it reminds me a just a tad of a much smaller, more pedestrian ducati street fighter….

  • jon

    I’ll be 61 on November 1st, and starting riding at 8 years old. I am thinking this might be a great little motorcycle for me. I don’t need big power any more. We live on the island of Hawaii, not far from Pahoa, where the lava flow is heading. We have no freeways here. Our main highways are posted at 55 mph. This bike would be just fine here. We don’t ride two up any more either. But, I am leaning towards another dual sport bike…….we’ll see.

  • Andrew Cooler Can

    I wish Honda would make a CRF300L

  • Chris_in_Kalifornia

    I have to wonder about engines. I seem to remember most of the 250/305 class bikes from the 60′s would do mid to high 80′s to maybe just a shade over 100 for the 250 Ducati. Are the Manufacturers so interested in cheapness/affordability that they simply can’t put the money into better designs? Cycle world tests are what I remember. Maybe they exaggerated?