Found: the missing link

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I am not a motorcycle journalist. I have many years of experience designing and developing them and nowhere near the experience of professional road testers who typically write new motorcycle reviews. But, owing to the fact that I have been a loud proponent of small, modern bikes and the industry’s need to stop ignoring young and beginner riders, the people at Honda invited me down to Los Angeles to try out the new Honda CBR250R.  Here is my story about what I believe is the best thing to happen to motorcycling in North America in a decade.

Michael Uhlarik previously wrote Motorcycling’s Missing Link in which he identified motorcycles that were short on capacity, but not short on curb appeal, as what was needed to reach today’s potential young riders. — Ed.

I live in a cold, rural area of Canada where the riding season is 8 months at a stretch, the road quality is famously awful and taxes and road insurance are high.  The good news is that we are blessed in this country to get a lot of Japanese machinery that is unavailable Stateside, which in Honda’s case mean bikes such as the CBF1000 standard and diminutive CBR125. This is a test market, of sorts, which has often been used as a barometer of whether or not a motorcycle will fly in America.  That four-stroke 125 was brought in a couple of years back and many naysayers talked trash about how no one in a country as big as ours, dominated by Baby Boomer bikers obsessed with power and gadgets would ever buy one. They were very wrong.

Lots of people seem to have forgotten that we all start somewhere, and that those same Boomers all began on small displacement motorcycles, like Suzuki T10s and FZ1-E’s. Honda itself sealed its reputation with the 1961 C72 Dream and later the CB77 Super Hawk 305. These clean, reliable bikes did 90mph and gave Triumph Bonnevilles and BMW R69s a run for their money, at a fraction of the price. Back then, Honda coined their famous slogan, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”, emphasizing that anyone, anywhere could enjoy fun, safe motorcycling at a reasonable cost. In doing so, Honda invented the modern motorcycle.

And yet today the same people who propelled the brand along in the ‘60s and ‘70s turn up their noses at the notion that another generation might enjoy the same pleasure. The marketing men say there is no market because there is no data to support “the business case.”  Veteran journalists say that with the price and attractive performance of 600cc middle weights eliminates the demand. And yet, in a shrinking American sales environment where 5,000 units of anything is considered a huge success, those people chose to ignore demonstrable facts, like the over-subscription of second hand, insurance-friendly and versatile bikes like Honda’s CBR600F and Kawasaki ZZR600. The appearance of grey import, used Japanese market 400s too, may seem insignificant, but it is an indicator that a demand for reasonable performance in a smaller package is there. Still they said: no market.

Kawasaki’s surprise introduction of the revised Ninja 250 in 2008 finally blew that argument out of the water, especially when it went on to become the fifth best selling motorcycle in America. American Honda clearly decided to return to its roots long before that happened, since the new 2011 Thai-built CBR250R and CBR125 had to have been in development at least three years ago. Unlike the littlest Ninja, which borrows heavily from a previous, much older engine architecture, the CBRs are all new motorcycles. They look alike, but share virtually no common parts, says Honda. Each is purpose designed from the ground up for their respective roles, to maximize performance and function. From my experience and what I have seen, they do just that.

You Meet The Nicest People on a Honda…Rain or Shine

Arriving at American Honda in Torrance was supposed to be a treat. After all, southern California is a damn sight more pleasant than Quebec in December, but fate conspired to dump heavy rains, low temperatures and add strong winds to our day, so it was definitely raining on the CBR’s parade.

First impressions are that with the 250, Honda got right the styling direction set out in the VFR1200. Where the big sports tourer is fat in the middle to the point of looking pregnant, the CBR is a lithe little beast, more like an Aprilia RS250 or NSR two-stroke. The floating side panels are beautifully executed, with fine, crisp details around the edges and featuring matching black inner panels, something unheard of on motorcycles at this price point. Quality looking cycle parts, from the five spoke wheels to the full instrument cluster to the gorgeous paint on the steel trellis frame push the CBR250R far above the perceived quality range of bikes costing literally twice as much.  I know I am a designer and maybe that makes me vulnerable to placing too much weight on styling, but the one thing I know is that good looks sell hardware. Of course, looks are subjective, and I personally don’t love Honda’s new design theme with its blunt nose and vertical emphasis, but that the design quality is extremely high is beyond doubt. Lots of time, care and money has been spent making each styled body part and mechanical component, that attention to detail is rare. In this price sensitive segment, where every part has to be scrutinized to save 10 cents, it is nothing less than miraculous that Honda could pull this off.  I know, because I have designed bikes this cheap. Even in low cost manufacturing countries, it is a challenge.

Fortunately, the good news does not end there. Riding the CBR250R through Los Angeles on the freeway destroyed another misperception about small bikes: that they can’t handle highway speeds or distances. In driving winds and surrounded by lunatics in SUVs, our little convoy of CBRs flew down the left lane at a leisurely 75 for an hour, never missing a gap in traffic or unable to pull away easily. Sure, I got passed by some hero on an R6 wearing shorts, but other than that we owned the fast lane, blowing past everyone else. Power comes in a linear fashion, smoothly building with a slight increase in the buzz at the handlebar ends until it runs out of puff after 8,000rpm or so. It certainly won’t take your breath away if you are experienced with large motorcycles, but for what it is, and its intended audience of beginners, it is plenty.

Once in the mountains past Malibu, with visibility less than 30 yards and standing water in the hairpin corners, the CBR revealed solid footing, easy handling and excellent brakes. I rode both the ABS equipped and standard versions and I must say that the ABS was surprising. I am not a fan of budget ABS for obvious reasons. To get such technology into a low cost vehicle it usually means dumbing down other and, in my opinion, higher priority components. Other times it means that the ABS is one of those nasty, intrusive jobs that vibrates annoyingly and feels like the bike is actually taking longer to stop. The CBR’s ABS was smooth and confidence inspiring, almost invisible until you noticed that you didn’t lock up on a greasy patch of pavement.

And that, in a nutshell, is the amazing thing. That Honda could engineer a great little motorcycle is not surprising, but that they could do it for $3,999 is. Perhaps even more amazing is that American Honda, following Honda Canada’s lead with the CBR125, elected to offer it to American audiences at all. Sure, they want a piece of Kawasaki’s 250 market action, but Yamaha have similar 125 150 and 250cc sports models in Asia that compete dead on with these offerings, and they have done nothing. The world inside the walls of a major OEM are full of corporate politics, big picture economics and limitations on resources, all of which make paradigm shifting programs difficult to implement.

A New Dream, A Familiar Problem

Let there be no mistake, the Honda CBR250R is a paradigm shifting motorcycle. It is an excellent all around machine, which coming from Honda is not so special, but more than that it has raised the bar for bikes in this category so high that nothing else around $4,000 makes sense anymore. Paint, body part count, features, fuel economy, comfort and fun are all there, in portions that simply couldn’t be imagined at this price point before. The Ninja is good, but the CBR250 is a better product by an order of magnitude.

There are better bikes out there if you are in the market for speed, handling and sportbike image for cheap (a second hand Yamaha FZR400 or Aprilia RS250 spring to mind); better value for money exists too, if volume is your thing (Hyosung GT650); and certainly looks are in the eye of the beholder. But, what this Honda does is check literally every box and offer a modern, new motorcycle that can do just about everything well all day long, with Honda quality and after sales care, at a bargain price and with an ABS option. In our sometimes limited North American world view, that is a refreshing thing.

There are some doubts, however. Motorcycling in our countries has an image problem, one that puts up barriers in front of the venerable CBR250R and other machines like it. Despite our self-inflicted economic meltdown, big, bad-boy egotism still drives our industry. I will go so far as to say they are our industry. Everywhere else in the world, motorcycles are transport as much as they are recreation, and what’s more, they are OK with that. You don’t need to be on the extreme end of any spectrum: the fastest superbike in production; the baddest custom chopper; or some adventure soft-roader with GPS and aluminum hard cases to be cool. In Brazil, in Italy, in Japan and most every biker culture just being on a motorcycle, any motorcycle, is cool.  Not so here.  Ride outside the box at your peril.

As an industry, we encourage this high-school mentality. Just this morning I was at my local Honda dealer talking about maxi-scooters, explaining how terrific they are for cruising around the countryside. The dealer, a guy my age, shrugged dismissively and murmured “…they aren’t my thing.” No kidding. They aren’t my thing either, but for Mr. And Mrs. Retired Tourist, a 500cc Yamaha TMAX is an infinitely better choice to spend six weeks in the summer on than some V-twin cruiser costing twice as much. Have you ridden a TMAX? 100mph with waterproof, lockable luggage integrated into the body, excellent sporty handling and brakes, twist-and-go-transmission, wind protection and all-day comfort are cool to me, if my mission is to ride to Vancouver with my wife. But it’s not cool to a narrow demographic of opinion leaders, so to to hell with it… pushrod cruisers for everyone!

This is the mountain, the towering height of fickle public opinion, that the Honda CBR250R has to scale if it is to succeed. Honda are no doubt aiming at not only sensible types (the ones we labelled “uncool”), but also people completely outside motorcycling’s bandwidth. There are a lot of consumers out there who like the appeal of motorcycling, but until now have been too intimidated by the image and products on offer to step in. They are the kindergarden kids, looking over the fence at the grade 1 playground, envious of their toys and increased freedom, but too afraid to cross over. Those people, professionals and students, young and old, with the right media message, will discover that they too can be cool and enjoy riding motorcycles, just like another generation of ordinary Americans once discovered.

You meet the nicest people on a Honda. And that’s a lot of people.

Michael Uhlarik designed the Yamaha TZR 50, MT-03 and 2003 YZF-M1. Now, he runs Amarok Consultants and Motorcycle Market Watch and writes for Hell For Leather.

  • http://twowheelsplus.blogspot.com/ andehans

    Great article. You should be a journalist :)

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      He doesn’t have enough pairs of day glo leathers embroidered with his name across the back to qualify. Seriously, the moto-journalist union is very strict about such things.

      • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

        He’d never make it, you can’t talk about a sports motorcycle without pigeonholing it in a specific class and comparing the weight savings and stiffness of its cast injected molded swingarms to its direct competition.

        Oh, and what Wes said, how can a REAL motorcycle journalist wear practical rain gear without a clear shot of logos?

  • ike6116

    I think it’s absolutely imperative that dealers and motorcyclists shed this “beginner stigma.”

    “Ahhh, that’s a beginner’s bike”

    I don’t know what that means. It’s easy to ride? Why is that a detriment?

    “You’ll out grow it”

    I’m not really sure that’s a legit sentiment either. Motorcycles aren’t shoes it’s a way to get from here to there that happens to be fun. If this thing can do highway speeds comfortably why would someone “outgrow it?” Seems more like a rationalization for spending more money under the idea that it’s a better long term investment.

    No one ever says “Yeah, you’re going to outgrow that Honda Accord, what you really want is a BMW M3 or an Audi R8, something with some more sack”

    • 2ndderivative

      Then what should I say to my 23 year old colleague who wants to sell his 6-month old Ninja 250 and buy an R6, because he “needs” to go faster? This is also a guy who didn’t check tire pressure the first three months he had the bike because he had no idea that’s something you’re supposed to do.

      • ike6116

        Tell him he has a small dick and that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Learn how to properly eat a box and the ladies will want for nothing.

        • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

          Wow.

        • 2ndderivative

          Hah. He actually bats for the other team, I have no idea how competent he is in the relevant techniques, and while those dudes tend to be more fashionable I doubt a supersport is the one accessory that’ll greatly improve his chances.

          • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

            EVERYBODY gets laid more on a motorcycle.

          • Kevin

            I don’t know why I thought this, but I just imagined that gay men wouldn’t ride sport bikes. How stupid is that?

    • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

      “You’ll out grow it”. That is my biggest gripe with my limited direct experiences with the motorcycle industry.

      Part of this problem is the combination of general sleazy salesmanship (seriously, even the best motorcycle dealerships are like seedy used car dealers) and the hiring of knuckle-dragger employees. When I was buying my EX500, the salesman kept trying to push me to finance a ZX6r. I had been riding for less than a year. I lived in a congested city. I was going to use it for commuting; why the FUCK would I want a supersport? Not to mentioned that a few months earlier, when my female friend bought her Ninja 250, the salesman ignored her, talking only to me like she was an 11 yr old and I was her Dad, until she politely, but firmly, reminded the guy who was actually buying the bike. FYI, there is another 50% of the population that could be riding, but is not being engaged on any level by any OEMs.

      /rant, but this is an excellent piece. Honda needs to lever the good will and excellent engineering the CBR250r brings to the table with a dealership experience similar to Mini; friendly, urban, young, and hip.

      • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

        I’m not surprised that the dealer tried to upsell. It’s probably the same kind of dealer who would put a beginner on a GSXR 600. The long-term profit is higher: There’s a much greater chance that the superbike will get wrecked and the same shop will make money on repairs, or selling the customer another superbike if it’s been totaled.

        That said, there are many dealers who are mindful of beginners, and who will try to steer customers into a more fitting bike. It’s just a shame they’re few and far in-between.

      • ike6116

        You’re in Cambridge right? Last night I hit every green light on memorial drive it was frickin’ sweet.

        • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

          :) That is a rare, rare occurance, but so awesome when it happens. Some fun curves there, following the river when there are no other cars on it is a blast.

          • miles_prower

            I wish 1 day out of the year, Cambridge and Boston would close down Mem Dr, Storrow Dr, and Soldier’s Field Road to cars, and open up a “loop” for motorcycles.

            Thanksgiving afternoon and Easter early morning are two of my favorite times to do “the river loop.”

      • seanslides

        Last time I was at my local dealer (Del Amo Motorsports), the salesman was trying to sell a guy a ZX-14 as his first bike.

        • JRl

          Del Amo blows. The sales people are there to sell bikes and that’s it. They don’t care about your well-being.

      • MisterGone

        Speaking as one of those knuckle-draggers I can tell you that only shops with a short term vision for the future act like your description. I’ve flat out refused to sell bikes before because I knew they weren’t right for them, like a 19yr old kid who wanted a brand new R1 since his CBR F4i (which he had all of half a season worth of riding experience on)”wasn’t fast enough”, his father was with him and got very mad that I kept giving them reasons why he should go for it, they ended up complaining to my manager (who was completely on my side) and storming out.
        The reason we don’t try to upsell is that normally a new rider on too much bike doesn’t ride very long before scaring themselves and then quitting biking completely, either that or they crash and then we’re really out a customer (and we rarely see a customer return after a crash unless it wasn’t the riders fault).
        Its a bad dealership that doesn’t put their customers on the right bike, and its a successful dealership that gets riders at their first bike and keeps them as they grow and mature.
        Also, I love when women are shopping for a bike because if you actually talk directly to them they can normally tell you much more clearly (and without trying to be a badass) what they plan to do with the bike, and how much bike they’d be comfortable with. without.
        But

  • noone1569

    Man, between the previous coverage of the 250 and this article, I am wanting one. Sure I might buy it under the guise of it being for my girlfriend, but it sounds very commuter friendly.

    • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

      It’s not just commuter friendly, it’s rider friendly, and that’s the important thing. And don’t even bother pretending it’s for your girl. We all know better. Buy it for you!

  • Johndo

    I think its a perfect solo commuter machine. Looks great too. Amazing mpg, low insurance costs, whats not to like for a daily commuter.

  • David

    I’m not into the sport bike looks, I’d rather have a naked version of it but I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel compelled to go put a deposit down for one of these today.

    The more I read about it, the more it seems like the bike for me. I couldn’t give a damn about what people perceive the bike to be.

    • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

      Take the fairing off and put some sliders on it. It’ll be that much cheaper to fix if you drop it.

      I was going to say that this might be the perfect city bike, but it sounds like it might be the perfect anything bike: cheap to own, cheap to operate, and you can have a blast on it.

  • stempere

    I have a question regarding small capacity bikes, in regards to comments refering to this bike as a “perfect commuter”.
    I often thought so myself (about 250~400cc bikes) but here (france), your insurance won’t take in account your previous contracts if you’re riding something <400cc, meaning you'll pay the same insurance price (or a very close one anyway) for a bigger bike (let's say a Z750, the most sold bike here) with 3 years experience on a 250cc than a guy who just got his license.
    This is perhapse the biggest reason why nobody rides 250~400cc here and almost every new rider starts on a 500~750cc roadster.

    Is it the same in the US? Is there a minimum displacement for your experience to be taken into account?

    • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

      In California the insurance is based on your year/make/model of motorcycle and how long you’ve been riding. But they don’t care WHAT you were riding; it’s not a factor.

      You can spend 10 years on a 250 and then get a literbike and that 10 years experience counts the same on your insurance as if you rode a literbike for the previous 10 years.

      • Devin

        Same in Ontario, Canada.

        • Ducky

          In Ontario, Canada they will charge you up to $30K if you are under the age of 20 (yes, $30,000) riding a supersport; whereas the CBR125R will cost you about $1600 first year, $800 second year.

          The only time the companies don’t care so much about what you are riding is after the age of 25, where differences amount to a few hundred dollars a year for every bike you could possibly ride.

          • Matt the sperglord

            In BC it’s displacement, accident history, and declared value so you’re basically paying the same or more for an average cruiser with twice the weight and half the power than you pay for a liter-bike.

            The insurance bracket for bikes from 110cc(don’t ask)-400cc are signigicantly cheaper than bikes in the 401-750cc bracket so 400cc grey market Japanese supersports are quite popular here.

    • jp182

      in New Jersey it’s all about the displacement and if it’s a sportbike. So a Z750 is MUCH cheaper than a GSXR 750. Age is also a factor but not riding experience which sucks big time.

  • Tony

    Man, if I hadn’t just bought my Ninja in August I’d be all over buying one of these. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Ninja, but fuel injection (and a clock on my instrument panel) would be quite awesome. If only I could convince my buddy that he really wants a 250 instead of a used 600 as his first bike…

  • Andrew

    I am so happy that Honda made this bike! I had an ’09 Ninja 250R last year and while I am looking for something different this year I see another small displacement bike in my future.

    My only desire is for a naked version. I have no problem with the styling of these, but for a commuter I would prefer something that didn’t look anything like a sport bike to keep the eye of the law off me.

    • Devin

      Agreed. The closest thing you can get to a small naked is a Suzuki GS500. The CCW Misfit might fit this catergory, but I would love a naked version of a ~400cc standard bike.

      I’m in the market for a good two-up rider now, so I’m out regardless.

      • David

        There’s also the Hyosung GT250 naked. It’s sort of a little SV650 cross with a GS500 I plan to cross-shop that and a few other with the CBR250 in a few months.

  • Steve

    Great story, but may I suggest you edit down the photos a bit? How many of us are going to scroll through 92(!) photos? Many are dupes or nearly so. Please edit them down to the 20 or so that matter.

    If the Ninja 250 is the “Ninjette,” what are we calling this thing? “Missing link” misses the mark as a nickname.

    • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

      Baby Beluga (can’t take credit for that one, but it is hilarious)

      • MajesticTrout

        I like WeeBR.

        • Ducky

          the CBR125R already took that in Canada

  • Devin

    CBR600R – The biggest failure is all the R’s in the name. To a beginner rider in Ontario, that is a 250% premium as opposed to a non “R” bike. When I first needed insurance in ’04 I focussed my search on an EX500 or a GS500 for this reason.

    Some insurance companies also charge extra for bikes with a full fairing, and this is kind of a three quarter.

    Insurance varies with jurisdiction, but I know here for a beginner it will have a steeper insurance than expected.

  • fasterfaster

    “Let there be no mistake, the Honda CBR250R is a paradigm shifting motorcycle. It is an excellent all around machine, which coming from Honda is not so special, but more than that it has raised the bar for bikes in this category so high that nothing else around $4,000 makes sense anymore. ”

    The article fails to mention the Ninja 250. This is the $4,000 question. If it’s been answered, at least explain why only the Honda “makes sense anymore.”

    Given the recent styling update of the Ninja, I fail to see how the Honda is paradigm-shifting, except for the ABS.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      Pretty sure he discussed the Ninja 250′s 2008 revision as well as Yamaha models in the 5th paragraph.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The Ninja 250 gets a lot of praise heaped on it since it was previously the only option at this capacity. But that doesn’t change the fact that’s it’s a heap of crap that was designed in the early ’80s.

      Aside from being heavier than it needs to be and feeling like every component was made to be as cheap and crappy as possible, it’s got finnicky carbs in an age of hassle-free fuel injection, you have to rev it to 14,000rpm just to get it out of the garage and, even with the revision, it’s shit ugly.

      I think what Michael’s saying here is that the CBR has something called “damping” in its suspension, an engine that does engine-like things when you want it to and a lever on the right handlebar that’s connected to something. It’s a product of 2011, not 1987.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

        Sadly, the 1984 GPz250R, which became 1985′s Ninja in the US, was pure hotness and is still better looking than the current 250 Ninja by miles.

        sigh…

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

          Oh, and it probably handles about the same, too.

          • seanslides

            I’d put down money that it handles better. My XR100 handles better than my ninjette ever did.

            • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

              I think Grant’s talking about the GPz and Ninjette handling the same.

              • seanslides

                I meant that the GPz probably outdoes the ninjette.

      • ike6116

        slowclap

      • Ian

        Easy, Wes. I can get my 2004 out of the garage with only 12,500rpm ;).

      • fasterfaster

        Cool, that’s what I was looking for, thanks. In spec sheet racing the Honda is weaker. In pictures, the aesthetics are arguably equal or just different. What I wanted to hear was the specifics in the details and riding experience that actually make one bike better than the other.

      • http://www.ninja250blog.com R.Sallee

        Obviously I can’t compare the bikes without throwing a leg over the WeeBR, but I can confidently say the Ninja 250 looks way better than Honda’s 250–in my opinion, it’s not even close.

        The quality on the Ninja is clearly weaker than more expensive bikes, I’d love to see how close the CBR250 compares to more expensive bikes. But “crappy” is a bit of an overstatement. At 30,000 miles, my bike’s been roughly flawless, and 100k Ninjettes aren’t unheard of.

        Also funny to berate the bike’s power in an article espousing the virtues of small bikes.

        But man, eff carbs. Especially criminally lean-fuelling carbs.

      • Charles

        Careful, you’re getting into “Reviews of the 1964 Corvair” territory there – the idea behind the cheap components is for the motorcycle to be cheap to buy and cheap to fix, and I haven’t seen a negative review of the Ninja 250 yet.

        • Ducky

          What makes you think the CBR250R won’t be as inexpensive to fix? The CBR125R, which also comes out of the same factory in Thailand, offers fairing bits for around $70 a panel, rearsets for $40, and handlebars and levers for around $10…

          • jp182

            as an ex CBR600RR owner, I can attest that those prices are DIRT CHEAP!

  • Matt

    This looks like an awesome first bike. I want one. (Yes, as a first bike.)

    But I live in NYC… the prospect of having to dodge taxicabs while learning to ride scares the sh*t out of me.

    One more reason to move? ….

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Eh, just do it. You can move later.

      • Kevin

        If I can do it, you definitely can. I learned to ride commuting to midtown Manhattan for work aboard a Suzuki GS500. Easy? No, but you learn really quickly how to swerve out of the way with ease.

  • Ceolwulf

    Timely I wonder? MPI (Manitoba provincial communist insurance) just sent me my insurance renewal, and, astonishingly enough (i.e. not at all) my premiums are going up almost 20% yet again, like they do almost every year. Paying over $1300 for my old CBR600F3, with over 15 years completely clean record, and not even living in the city. I cannot sufficiently express my loathing for these people. Anyway this 250 would cut my premiums by 30 or 40%. And it wouldn’t lack for performance, except when I ride with my buddy on his litrebike, which doesn’t happen often. Actually he might not even be able to insure it this year, wouldn’t surprise me if his insurance topped three grand …

    • Ceolwulf

      Oh … just saw that with the 13 litre tank capacity, Honda has it figured over 320km range … that would handily beat my 600′s 200~ km … hmm. Might even tour better than what I have.

  • Corey

    Ok, there is one I just don’t understand about this bike. If Honda wanted to sell an affordable low output CBR to the youth market WHY DIDN’T THEY MAKE IT LOOK LIKE A CBR? This probably is a better bike than the Ninja 250 but at least the Ninja 250 “looks like” a mini ZX6R. This bike looks like a mini Sport tourer, and it is 99% safe to say that almost no young American wants a sport tourer.

    The American youth market is the most image conscious market segment in existence. If I was 18 and had $4,000 to spend on a motorcycle I would go with the Slightly used 600RR EVERY SINGLE TIME. If it doesn’t look the part, than it’s just not the same.

    • http://michael.uhlarik@amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

      It doesn’t look like a CBR600/1000 made now….

      The VFR set the new style code for Honda. Wait for upcoming big CBRs to follow suit.

      • Corey

        Very interesting… I guess it’s my understanding that sport bike styling is usually a trickle down effect from what is going on with MotoGP, WSBK, etc, etc.

        I’m not a mini Shamu fan yet, but we shall see.

    • ike6116

      I think the market honda is going for with this one is not the tank top, 2 fast 2 furious, squid crowd that wants it to look exactly like a super sport. I think they (and I should say we) just want a bike that looks good and well designed and this bike has that in spades. It does a better job of looking like Shamu than Shamu does.

  • DoctorNine

    Heck, I’m thinking about buying one, just because it’s so cheap, I can loan it to friends who don’t own a cycle but are cycle-curious, when they want to ride up a local mountain with me. My current dilemma: garage space…

    • Matt

      DoctorNine, do you leave near NYC? :-)

      • DoctorNine

        About 75 miles from Deal’s Gap, actually.

  • Peter

    I wish they’d make a naked version of this. It’d be lighter, cheaper to make, and friendlier to street parking in a big city. Replacing the odd clutch lever is annoying enough.

    • Mattro

      first thing i thought, too. well, the first thing i thought was “i’d probably just take a lot of that plastic off”, but then i realized i’d be better off if it weren’t put on to begin with…

  • Kyle

    I’m seriously eyeing this thing. What I really want is a KTM 250 duke but that’s probably a year off.

  • Ducky

    You know what’s funny? For those of us who live in the Soviet Republic of Canuckistan, the CBR250R is considered an upgrade over the CBR125R.

  • Cheese302

    kudos to honda, i want to ride one. another thing at the very end of the article… i wish the yamaha mt-03 was available in the states, saw one in rio…. dead sexy.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      They’re great to ride too.

  • Ed

    Honda may be rediscovering the strategy that helped it take over the world … change the perception of motorcycling and open it up to new markets. Love this article and I’m thinking of buying one of these. Can’t wait for a test ride, although every time I walk into my dealer he shunts me over to the metric pirate bikes. I love riding bikes, don’t care who sees me on one or what I look like. Guess What? My hard core Harley buddies at work still talk to me even though they know I ride an old CB400.

  • jp182

    Why did you have to post this article?!?!? Maybe I can get my fiancee to sell her 94 250 so we can replace it with one of these…..

  • Mattro

    excellent article; definitely deserving of the praise it’s receiving.

    interesting product, too. i’m not much for the transformer styling, but great technology at an affordable price is good for everyone. can’t wait to see where the market goes to compete with motorcycling’s new killer app.

  • Toby

    I just sold my V-Strom 650 and moved to Thailand in November.

    Imported “big bikes” are taxed a huge amount here, on the order of 100%. That fact plus moving expenses meant I had to look for something a bit smaller than I was used to…

    Exactly on cue, Honda released the CBR250. I bought the first one here in Chiang Mai, and have owned it for just under a month now.

    My thoughts so far: I love it! It handles much better than my old SV650, thanks to the front suspension being better suited to the bike. The build quality is nothing short of amazing for a bike that (here in Thailand) costs less than $3500 US. The only “cheap” feeling component is the ignition keyhole, which is easily scratched pot metal.

    I was worried about the size of the thing, as a 6’1 / 185lb dude. The Cycle Ergo site seemed to suggest the riding position was pretty darn close to the SV, though, and that has turned out to be the case. Plenty of room and a nice seat to boot.

    The power is great for a 250. It’s torquey and nimble, and fits the pace of Thai traffic to a T. If I were riding it in the States, I would certainly notice the lack of passing power above 70mph, but here in Thailand that’s more or less a suicidal speed anyway, so it’s a non-issue.

    I’ve noticed one odd thing: there is no kickstand/ignition interlock switch. Every other bike I’ve ridden here in Thailand, including scooters, have one, and considering the CBR is geared towards new riders, this seems like a huge omission. There is no wiring or switch anywhere near the kickstand, so it doesn’t appear to be a malfunction, either. I’d be interested to hear from someone who’s ridden a US-spec bike whether the switch is present or not…

    At any rate, thought I’d pass on my two cents. This is a fantastic bike, and has totally changed my perception of small bikes. Thanks, HFL, for giving it the attention it deserves!