So you want to go fast on a motorcycle, huh? Well, you could do what all your peers did and buy a brand new liter bike, crash it and either hurt yourself badly or never ride again. It'll probably end up being both. But what if we told you there was a third way? Instead of looking for the bike to do the speed for you, learn to speed yourself. Do that and a whole new world will open up to you, you'll be faster, safer and have more fun. You'll probably even end up riding your whole life. Sound good? In that case, start right here with a Honda CBR250R.
Photos: Ashlee Goodwin
A 600 or 1000cc sportsbike is a professional level tool for going fast. It's the motorcycle equivalent of a professional DSLR camera — a lot of people spend too much money to use them for everyday activities. Out of the box with little to no skill, you just can't use either one to anywhere near its full potential. Sportsbikes and pro cameras are amazingly capable, but they're not so great to learn on. For that, you need something a little more user friendly, a lot less complex and a lot cheaper. You need accessibility.
The CBR250 is about as far from a proper sportsbike as you can get. It offers the bare minimum of power necessary to putt around on the freeway. An old-school steel chassis and swingarm, spongy brakes and the dirt cheap suspension make for a very, very slow bike. But, they also make it affordable — $4,000 brand new — for just about anyone that wants to start riding. So how the hell is a very, very slow bike going to help you go fast?
On this bike things happen slower. A straight that would be a stress-filled five seconds on a 600 is eight seconds of time on a CBR250. Those are valuable extra seconds to contemplate the corner you just left, find the right line, shift and think about braking for the next turn. You'll be able to refine the technical skills used to operate the bike and learn about cornering without the stress of speed.
Limited lean angle and suspension that never quite settles can also be used to your advantage. Go into a corner too hot and adjusting your line isn't a big deal. If the pegs aren't dragging, just muscle it over a little further and you'll be fine. Since cornering forces aren't nearly as high as they would be on a larger, heavier bike, it's unlikely you'll break traction and crash.
If you accidentally go from closed to wide-open throttle in a third gear corner, the motor won't have enough power to induce a slide or worse, a highside. The punishment for braking too much (thereby losing momentum) is harsh: you'll go through the next three corners slow while you work to build up momentum again.
You might think full leathers are overkill if you're just cruising around the canyons on a 250, but if you want to learn to go fast, the opposite is true. Aside from the important stuff like reducing your chances of injury or death, full racing leathers are really the number one thing that is going to allow a newer rider to push the limits of this (or any) motorcycle. Wearing all that protection does wonders for confidence, but you don't need to go out and spend thousands of dollars to feel like a superhero. Ask your friends, check eBay and endlessly troll Craigslist. Someone else's sweaty old rashed leathers could be yours for under $100 if you look hard enough.
Instead of wondering about road rash if you crash at 40mph in jeans, you'll be focusing on lines, looking where you want to go and having fun. It's also pretty hard to put your knee down corner after corner if there's no puck there.
Master riding a bike like this at the limit and you'll be ready to have fun on a real sportsbike. The 600 and 1000cc bikes of today have to be ridden extremely fast before they start to feel good at all. You don't even begin to get useful feedback until you are trail-braking and putting your knee down so they just won't inspire confidence unless you're riding at a very high level of ability. Every job has the right tool.
If you ask old slow guys, they'll tell you that it's always more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow. A lack of both engine and braking power encourage you to carry momentum when riding the CBR250, the budget suspension makes learning to muscle a bike around easy and versatile ergonomics allow for both bolt-upright and proper racing body positions. The CBR 250 begs you to stretch its throttle cables, avoid the brakes at all costs, be mindful of your lines and more than anything else, have fun. Motorcycling is the lifelong pursuit of greater skill; the CBR250 is the perfect place to start developing those skills.