2011 Honda CBR250R

A reasonably priced entry level sportbike

While it won’t emit the fierce high-rpm wail of its larger, multi-cylinder brothers, Honda’s latest CBR nevertheless earns its place in the family by delivering entertainment and value for new as well as more experienced riders.

Yesterday was our first opportunity to sample the mono-cylinder CBR250R on U.S. soil. After flogging it on the interstate, around town, and along some of the best curvy roads in the country – in the canyons above Malibu, Calif. – we came away reasonably impressed, although not surprised.

Living up to the predictions of its spec sheet recently analyzed in our tech review, the fuel-injected bike starts and warms seamlessly with no stuttering when pulling away cold from a stop.

2011 Honda CBR250R

Max torque hits at 7000 rpm and peak horsepower arrives soon after at 8500 rpm. The CBR250R is grunty off the line, user-friendly, and comfortable for short-to-average size riders.

2011 Honda CBR250R

While seated on its 30.5-inch-high saddle, and neutrally postured with slightly rearset pegs and a minor forward reach to the bars, the wind screen and fairing offer typical sportbike protection. At 6 feet tall, and with long legs, I could sit back a little too easily into the passenger pillion. And while I hunkered on the bike, with long legs folded to the point that former Motorcycle.com editor Gabe Ets-Hokin – who was along for the ride – said I looked too big on the bike, it felt manageable, and if starting out, I’d still consider it. 

The bike accelerates acceptably quick to highway velocity. After cresting peak power, particularly in fifth and sixth gears, additional speed comes sedately. More specifically, a kitted-up 185-lb rider can hit 65 no problem. Reaching 75 is a bit more effort. And after that, the next 10 mph comes considerably slower. Once into the upper 80s, a long stretch is required to push its indicated speed past that big 9-0, maybe into the low 90s – and Japanese speedometers are notoriously optimistic by a few percent.

We’re giving you this detail because lots of people want to know how it stacks up against Kawasaki’s Twin-cylinder Ninja 250R. We’ve seen that bike hit an indicated 101 mph, and in stock form Gabe tells me it has been clocked at a true 93 mph or better.

2011 Honda CBR250R

The 13,000-redline Kawi is quicker, but you have to scream it. The 10,500-rpm Honda delivers better low-end thrust without the drama. It’s that simple. Pick your preference, and keep in mind, a good bike is not only measured by its top speed.

With regards to handling, the Honda inspires confidence in the twisties at all speeds. Its geometry balances stability and nimbleness. Like the Kawasaki’s suspenders, the lighter-weight Honda’s non-adjustable fork, and preload-adjustable shock are fairly soft, while offering a good compromise between compliance and control. When banked over, it can be unnerving to suddenly traverse rough spots, but then that is true of a lot of bikes.

Our group of experienced riders was pushing somewhat briskly, and during these spirited stints I found myself lifting off the seat to compensate for the budget-minded suspension's inability to perfectly absorb the jabs, right hooks and undercuts thrown at it by several sections of especially rugged pavement. My knees, while having no external adjustments either, do offer decent rebound and compression compliance. It’s a trick anyone who’s ridden off road knows. If necessary, in lieu of sophisticated suspenders do it like they do it in the dirt.

Check out the Honda CBR250R Forum.

The CBR250R’s overall stopping power is acceptable. Then again, if my seat-of-the-pants decelerometer is accurate, I’d rate braking close to the Ninja 250R.

2011 Honda CBR250R

The new CBR250R one-ups Kawasaki's Ninjette with optional ABS.

Honda's Combined-ABS (C-ABS) links the rear brake with one of the front caliper’s three pistons, and if pushed past the limit, linearly hauls the bike down with the usual mild pulsing. The front ABS brakes work the same but actuate the front caliper only, while audibly chirping the not-too-soft compound IRC Road Winner tires.

2011 Honda CBR250R

These basic rubber-Os, while one of the ways Honda kept the cost down, nevertheless do the job. We cornered in the wet and dry. When somewhat pushed, naturally the tires will break loose sooner in the wet. They are not scary slippery, but even on good dry pavement no one was willing to drag a knee.

2011 Honda CBR250R

The CBR250R runs quiet. It’s obviously choked down to satisfy Uncle Sam, and his syndicate bosses at the EPA. The conservative ECU settings the Feds extorted from Honda, combined with the catalytic converter and narrow single exhaust pipe, sap power.

I think this is an engine that begs to be opened up. If you are a member of the Sierra Club, and take offense, none intended.

"I wish I had a bike this cool when I was starting out."

And if you are new, or merely on a budget, fear not: The stock bike is plenty quick for most uses. I wish I had a bike this cool when I was starting out.

Instrumentation is clear and functional. Official EPA figures are not available yet, but should be in the neighborhood of 60 mpg. No fuel stops were necessary after several hours of spirited riding, and fuel gauges on our press bikes indicated several bars left. A full tank should achieve the 200 miles, more or less, as estimated by Honda.

Is the CBR250R a Ninja 250R killer? No. Is it solid competition? You bet. That the CBR is fuel injected -- albeit as a Single, not a Twin -- is itself a value. And to some riders, the optional ABS may add enough value to the littlest CBR so as to outweigh the extra $500 required beyond the $3999 MSRP. Honda says the CBR250R will be available some time in the spring.

Overall fit and finish for both the Red/Silver and Metallic Black were good on the bikes we rode. There’s a small cubby with room for a few essentials under the passenger pillion.

2011 Honda CBR250R

We look forward to doing a full review as soon as Honda will give us a CBR250R for more time. At this juncture, we can tell you it may not win a drag race with some other 250s, but it is a winner in its own right.

Related Reading
2011 Honda CBR250R Tech Review
2011 Honda CBR250R Review
2011 Honda CBR250R Unveiled in Canada
See the CBR250R in Action
Honda CBR250R Forum
2009 250cc Streetbike Shootout
2010 Bennche Megelli 250R Review
2010 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Review
Moriwaki MD250H vs. Aprilia RS125 Shootout

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