Southern California’s freeways and back canyon roads played host to our introduction, giving us a good overall feeling for the all-new CBR in a wide variety of conditions.
Straddle the new Honda and riders are presented with a very easy-to-ride platform, perfectly suited to its entry-level ridership.
Swing a leg over, turn the key and hit the starter button. The little quarter-liter Single jumps to life with a quick and snappy, though aurally muted response; the fuel injection makes cold starting a breeze. Click the shift lever into gear and ease out the clutch, the CBR’s bottom end allows one to easily pull away from a stop without having to rev it to the moon. In fact, the clutch actuation and power delivery works so seamlessly that the bike is nearly impossible to stall, a major plus for those first learning to ride.
Once underway, bottom-end response is impressive for such a small displacement Single, allowing the rider to be a bit lazier when it comes to gear selection. That’s not to say you can just drop it in fourth gear and cruise, as come twisty roads one’s left foot still gets a pretty heavy workout. Though it is far more forgiving than that of its competition. The little CBR also features one of Honda’s trademark seamless transmissions; shifting is very easy while still being positive and engaging the next gear with confidence.
The counterbalancer does well to smooth out vibration through the bars, the 250R only getting slightly buzzy at the rider’s hands and feet as higher-end freeway speeds are approached. Due to the bike’s internal gearing and slightly less power, the CBR is not capable of the same 90-plus mph top speed of the Kawasaki; the Honda tops out in the mid-to-high 80s. But Kawasaki’s Ninja 250 benefits from an additional cylinder and a 2000 rpm higher rev limit, so for the Honda to be within only a few mph is impressive.
Also user friendly is the confidence-inspiring chassis. Though the suspension is on the soft side when pushed hard, 95% of the time it’s plush, compliant and reactive. Combined with its class-leading low weight, the new CBR flicks from side to side with even the slightest input through the raised-up clip-ons. Just think about turning and your pitching into the corner with haste, sometimes so quickly I had to readjust my line to not run off the inside of the road. But once acclimated to the mini CBR’s abilities, one can concentrate more on the riding and road conditions, as very little effort is expended controlling the actual machine.
At only 359 pounds fully-fueled, the CBR250R is a light, nimble handler. The biggest question related to the new Honda is how it will fare against the established dominator in the entry-level sportbike market - the Ninja 250R.
Once settled into the corner and on its side the Honda 250 is stable, planted and does not want to stand up, with only a twist of the throttle needed to lift the bike upright on corner exit. This will lend itself very well to those less experienced riders as at no time does the bike do anything other than what it is asked. Think about turning and you’re at the apex. Then twist the throttle, lift your head and a perfect line through to corner-exit is easily achieved – the Honda just plain does every thing like… well, a Honda.
The CBR’s seating position is an equal balance between freeway comfort and canyon-carving aggression. The footpegs are high enough to stay off the ground but don’t cramp even the taller riders, while the raised bars do well to keep weight off the wrists but are still low enough to tuck behind the windscreen when the pace increases. It’s for all these reasons that the new machine provides another perfect option for newer riders looking to get into the sport or for those more experienced pilots wanting a high-mileage, lightweight urban commuter.
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About the reviewer
Jan 3, 2011
Feb 11, 2011 09:20 AM UTC