.25 Caliber Shootout
Three Japanese Fighters Whip Out Their Little Guns
Get the Flash Player to see this player.Impressions:
1. Billy Bartels, Associate Editor
It's easy to become jaded when every bike you ride is practically brand new and usually purpose-built for the ride you have in mind. It's hard to remember what a bike needed to be when your choice was not which bike to ride, but whether to ride the bike or not. Each one of these bikes was designed with a specific task in mind, but they all need to be a daily ride too, and (according to the parameters of this test) a mount to learn on.
That said, I pick the Virago, despite the price, as the best beginner bike here; followed by the Ninja. The Virago will teach a beginner how to ride a cruiser better than the Ninja will teach sportbike riding. It's a well put together motorcycle, and shouldn't be ignored.2. Mark Hammond, Managing Editor
In my mind the Ninja was the clear winner. The Virago was cool; I enjoyed it much more than I believed I would. However, I would have picked the Ninja over the Virago even if the prices were the same. The reason: I would not outgrow this motorcycle as fast as the others. Tach, centerstand, front and rear disc brakes, full fairing, 100+ mph top speeds, and good handing make the Ninja a bike you may never want to trade in when you decide to go bigger, badder, faster. I'd keep it as a rainy day commuter. As for the Virago, well, there's something about a 250cc cruiser that just doesn't give me the right vibes. And the Nighthawk? A competent Motorcycle Safety Foundation course trainer but not much more.
3. Greg McClure, Assistant Editor
If you have an unreasonably titanic stack of papers, $3,400 that you have no idea how to spend, and no ordinary paperweight will do, buy the Nighthawk. It's light enough to move easily but heavy enough to hold down almost any pile of correspondence, documents, etc.
If you want a motorcycle, however, then it comes down to the Virago or the Ninja. And the Virago is definitely an enticing buy. For a 250, the power rolled off my wrist as smooth as the tanned skin on the naked back of my lithe girlfriend that one time when we... well, I digress. Suffice to say that with the linear torque curve, the fine fit and finish, and its real dedication to its cruiser role, I wouldn't be ashamed to own it. Until some half-helmeted heavyweight pulled up next to me at a stoplight aboard a Fat Boy. A 250 cruiser? Yipes. Give me the Ninja, thank you. It's got problems, but for a $1,000 less than the Virago I choose to call its shortcomings "character". I had just as much fun astride the Ninja, its got real sportbike features and as long as you don't fool yourself into believing that it can keep up with, well, any other sportbike made, you'll have a great time learning on it. Kawasaki Ninja 250R
1997 Ninja 250R
Manufacturer: Kawasaki Model: 1997 Ninja 250R Price: $2,999.00 Engine: dohc, 8-valve, inline-Twin Bore and Stroke: 62.0mm x 41.2mm Displacement: 248cc Carburetion: (2) 30mm Keihin Transmission: 6 speed Wheelbase: 55.1 in Seat Height: 29.3 in Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gal Claimed Dry Weight: 304 lbs
Yamaha Virago 250
Manufacturer: Yamaha Model: 1997 Virago 250 Price: $3,999.00 Engine: sohc, 2-valve, V-twin Bore and Stroke: 49mm x 66mm Displacement: 249cc Carburetion: (2) 26mm Mikuni Transmission: 5 speed Wheelbase: 58.7 in Seat Height: 27 in Fuel Capacity: 2.5 gal Claimed Dry Weight: 301 lbs
Manufacturer: Honda Model: 1997 Honda CB250 Nighthawk Price: $3,399.00 Engine: sohc, 2-valve, vertical twin Bore and Stroke: 53mm x 53mm Displacement: 234cc Carburetion: 26mm Keihin Transmission: 5 speed Wheelbase: 55.3 in Seat Height: 29.3 in Fuel Capacity: 4.3 gal Claimed Dry Weight: 286 lbs