Honda CBR250R Ownership Review by Tojo

Hello everyone, I am Tojo, a B.Com student from Kerala, this is the review of my bike, the CBR 250R, Its been with me for nearly 3 months now, So without further a due, let’s start with the review. The Kawasaki Ninja 250R had redefined the word “fast” for the masses in India, even at close to 3 Lakh Rupees, there were plenty of takers, but there was only one problem, the price tag.

Which, to be honest, was more than a fully loaded entry level car in this country. For a two wheeler, it was simply out of bounds for many, especially for students like me. The next less expensive sports bike available in the market was the Yamaha R15 which went for approximately 1,10,000Rs which wasn’t a very convincing price-tag for a slightly under-sized bike. For someone who wanted something in between the Pulsar 220 or R15 and a Ninja, there was simply no choice. This highlighted the huge gap between these two segments of bikes which had to be filled, sooner or later. On one end, it was the Ninja 250R and on the other the R15 and the Pulsar 220.

Many expected TVS to show up at the party with the RTR 250, or Yamaha with a Fazer 250, to no avail, time passed with absolutely no news, except for a lot of rumors, until, one day, Honda announced worldwide, that it was introducing a new ‘world bike’, to be sold in all major markets across the globe, and that too a single cylinder, 250cc mini CBR.

The motorcycling community and myself was awakened to this fresh rumor, soon pictures of camouflaged test mules in different disguises, roaming around all four corners of the globe were spotted, and slowly, bit by bit, the camou started to disappear, eventually revealing the machine itself.

Then came the news I was waiting for, that this new CBR 250 was actually coming to our shores. Before it actually did so, it was launched in USA, a few European countries and several countries in Asia including Thailand where it proved to be a huge hit with fan websites and owners clubs popping up overnight.

Initial impressions made by Honda CBR250R were very good to say the least; The online forums and ownership reviews had nothing but praise about the bike, after going through a few of the forums I finally decided, that if it is launched under 1,50,000Rs, this is the bike I would buy. I was even more impressed with the adverts which appeared on Indian television showing the bikes unique features and highlighting its rider friendly nature and sporty design.

So, the day came when I was finally able to book one, within a two months of booking, the bike was in my garage, and it was also one of the first CBR’s on the road in Kerala, hence the attention it gave me was tremendous. Anywhere you go, the city, the movies, the traffic signal, all eyeballs keep chasing the bike. It’s a star around here. Now let me take you through the different aspects of the bike.

Looks and Features

The first impression I had of the CBR 250 from a visual stand point was that it could easily be mistaken by people who don’t know, to be a liter class bike, there’s no single part that I could put a finger on, the front fairing, the tyres, the body, all are voluminous, The overall design of the is one that speaks a lot of sportiness and aggressiveness.

It’s a good looking machine and also a very photogenic one the amazing color combination of red and silver simply highlights the beauty of this bike, every angle I could take a picture from, even from up close, looked good, there is no spot from where it seems disproportionate or odd.

It’s simply beautiful, this just shows the level of attention the bogs at Honda have paid to designing this machine, just the fact that there has been no common negative opinion about any aspect of the CBR’s design, worldwide, is enough to give an idea of how good this machine looks.

Speaking of the attention to detail of the Honda CBR250R, despite the bike having ridden in excess of 1000km’s in pretty bad roads, I couldn’t not come across any misaligned panel or an ill-fitting component, absolutely anywhere on the bike, considering that Honda is currently working overtime to meet the unexpected number of orders for the CBR.

I expected at least a tiny lapse in this area, it was quite simply, engineered and assembled to perfection. My only gripe is that the tail light area has a bit of a resemblance to the CB twister and the single light bulb just lights up too lazily to be of justice for such an athletic machine, an LED unit would have improved the already good looks even further; now, how about the features?

Speaking of features, this bike surely has a long list. Starting with the design, it’s based on the VFR 1200. The bike is wind tunnel tested and it has an aerodynamic profile owing to the fairing, the side blades and the great windscreen help it channel air around the rider very well and also aids in increasing stability in high speeds and at high wind speeds.

The engine on the CBR is a single cylinder, fuel injected, liquid cooled unit tilted forward for the best center of gravity and performance (more on that later). The bike also sports a good looking instrument console, featuring a digital speedometer and an analogue rev counter, the unit displays water temperature, time, total kilometers covered, fuel level (which is missing on the Ninja) and the usual twin trip meter.

The unit also has a separate engine fault indicator which glows in case of any malfunctions, Also as an option, was the combined ABS feature developed by Honda, it basically activates both the brakes in the right proportion in case of any detected wheel slip, this helps in decreasing braking time as well as distance leading to a safer ride, I had not chosen the ABS option mainly due to the considerable difference in price for which I could get myself proper safety gear, Now let’s move on to the best aspect of the CBR.

Engine and Performance

One well known aspect about Honda is that they have a stellar reputation in building truly rock solid engines, examples are in plenty in India, from the Hero Honda Splendor to the Unicorn to the Karizma, this is not because of any secrets they have, its due to the fact that they create mechanically simple engines, which are built of high quality materials.

In addition to this, they put in enormous amounts of time and effort into the testing of these engines, for the Honda CBR250R it had to be so, especially because it is a ‘world bike’, which had to perform equally well in regardless of different climates, fuel quality, air quality, altitudes, riders and roads.

Hence they had to develop an engine that was not only supremely reliable and powerful, but also very versatile, one which could be used equally well from the streets of New Delhi to New York from Bangalore to Bangkok. While meeting the challenging environmental, noise and safety regulations stipulated by the major automotive markets in the world. This, my friends, was no easy task.

Hence, they tested the engine for over 3 years riding over a combined million kilometers conducting tests in different climates, altitudes, roads, and fuel and riding conditions. The result is the gem of an engine featured on this bike, an all-new, single cylinder 249.5 cc, fuel injected, liquid cooled, featuring four valves per cylinder and a counter – balancer.

The power peaks at a comparatively low 8,500 RPM, producing a claimed 25 bhp and 22.9 nm of torque at 7,000 RPM. As mentioned earlier, Honda had 27 patents for this machine; almost all of them were just for this single cylinder engine. Well, a lot of patents could mean only one thing, that there is something special in the engine.

There is a reason why they had to have so many patents for just an engine, as you may know, single cylinders are known for their tendency to create vibrations, due to the lack of an extra piston that would otherwise have balanced it. As the cc’s get higher, so do the forces and hence the vibrations, here, in the design of this engine, Honda focused on three major aspects, mainly, low friction, low operating noise and the elimination of vibration.

They used innovative components in the design and construction of the engine through which they have managed to eliminate drivetrain losses (the difference in power produced at the engine and received at the wheel) due to friction to a large extent, dyno tests show that the bike products 23.5 Bhp at the wheel, just 1.5 Bhp short of the 25 Bhp produced at the crankshaft while at the same time making it very silent in terms of operation and not exhaust, and free of any noticeable vibrations at the red-line or anywhere between it.

Well, that’s all what it is in theory, now how does it feel in real life? Sit on the bike, turn the key on, and the fuel injection system does a whirr while the speedo and tachometer does the self-check, push the starter and the engine eagerly comes into life, settling into idle with an exhaust note which is quite similar to that of the FZ, but louder; give a few quick twists of the throttle in neutral and you instantly notice how responsive the engine is, reaching the redline in the blink of an eye and due to the lack of the rev-limiter, it touches 11,000 RPM in half a second and makes that awesome bouncing-over-rev noise.

The noise it makes is loud and filled with bass. Speaking of vibrations, a keychain can best display any signs of vibrations on a bike since it rests in the area above the engine. At 11,000 RPM and over the red-line on the CBR, it barely even shook as you can see in the video, a testimony to Honda’s effort and all the patents gathered on the engine in this regard. It also shows how well the counter-balancer has been implemented in the engine to eliminate any vibes.

The first time I rode the CBR, it was a test drive bike at one of the main Honda dealership’s, It was an experience that I remember way too well. As I started the bike, I put it into first and released the clutch, the bike moved forward just like any other machine, no burst of power, no jerks, basically giving no hint of the 25 odd- horses under its tank till this point;

Got onto the road, went ahead and shifted to second at 4,000 RPM, for me until then It felt just like the Karizma R / ZMA, smooth, responsive and calm, but that was only until I twisted the throttle to its very limit, expecting a mild surge, man, was I in for a shock! Soon the needle went past 4,000 and after that it was like “hang-on brother!!”.

The bike screamed and pulled so hard, that I was pushed backwards and my hands almost came off the handlebar, boy, I wasn’t prepared for this, I got serious and continued, and even before I knew it, the speedo showed 79 km/h at the red line while I was only in second gear, shifted to third, the wind became so prominent that I had to lower the helmet visor.

The next time I looked at the speedo, it showed 102 km/h while I was in third gear, went forward and touched close to 110 in fourth gear and that’s when hit the brakes and slowed down due to traffic. It wasn’t just fast, it was much faster than what a normal person is used to, If you are a person who has not ridden the Ninja 250, or anything beyond a Pulsar 220, rest assured, the CBR will not just impress you, it will truly blow away your minds by its performance, it simply blew away my mind, it’s honestly hard to explain the adrenalin rush this machine offers, before long I found myself taking U-turns to repeat the same just for the thrill of it.

It’s addictively powerful. To put this into perspective, it has a 0-100 km/h time of 8 seconds, which Is faster than most luxury cars available in the country. Speaking of top-speed, you would need a really empty stretch of road, one that is safe from any surprising obstacles like pedestrians, animals etc, having said that it was hard to go over 130 in Kerala, the only time it can be done is either during early mornings or during the midday.

On the NH 47 on the way to Cochin, I managed to hit 145km/h before I decided to back off the throttle. So if you ask me about top-speed I’d say there is enough and more of it. After the first service was completed at 1,100, the engine felt really smooth and best of all, it sounded really good, it has a bass to its exhaust note combined with an edge which is quite similar FZ, only that it’s much louder.

In my experience I learnt that the bike seems to have a twin character to it, one of a very relaxed bike that is very similar to a Karizma, silent, smooth, refined and responsive and another akin to a performance machine with a lot of power and character, this happens when the bike is either below 5000RPM or above it. Its most comfortable zone is around the same mark, at this spot the engine feels settled and on the boil.

Overtaking with this mini-CBR is also something to mention about, it can be done in two ways, assume you are behind a long truck doing around 50 km/h in 6th gear, simply twist the throttle and hold it there and watch the bike glide forward quickly towards the front of the truck, making no fuzz about it, another way is to shift down to 2nd and open it up, in this scenario, not only do you overtake the truck, you end up teleporting 2kms ahead of you in a flash.

It’s simply too quick when you want it to be and at the same time, quiet and comfortable when it’s asked to be so. In a way this is the highlight of the bike, it’s not just the peak power that seems to have been the focus of Honda in the development of this bike, but, the overall usability. It performs admirably well in a variety of conditions. Slow speed riding in traffic, red-lining all the way to glory, overtaking on the highway, are all taken very well in its stride.

The smoothness of the engine can be felt at all times adding to a really pleasant journey. The cooling system is also very efficient at dissipating heat, since despite being a new bike having run just over a 1000 km’s and even after several red-lining and high speed driving sessions in mid-day heat, the temperature never shows over 3 bars out of 6 on the display.

Ride, Handling and Braking

When you take a look at the Honda CBR250R, it gives a sense of size, in relation to other bikes, it seems to be taller, wider and heavier than say, a Pulsar 220 or a Fazer, but all that perception is blown away, once you sit on it; To start with, the saddle is quite low to the ground, giving average height (175cm / 5ft; 7inch) guys like me plenty of breathing space in terms of footing.

Even though it weighs in at around 161 Kg’s (with fluids) it feels surprisingly light, which can be attributed to the lightweight materials used for the front fairing, the side and rear panels. The handlebar’s fall nicely into the hands and the rear set foot-pegs keeps the legs busy. The riding position and even the handle bar position was more or less the same as that of the RTR 180, it was sporty yet comfortable.

The handle bars were thick and were pleasant to hold on to. Special mention has to be made of the seat which was soft and well cushioned. The raised rear split seat is also designed to keep the rider from sliding backwards under hard acceleration which this bike is very well capable of. All in all, in terms of the ergonomics, it’s a well thought out layout, which is flexible enough for a wide variety of riders, from tall to short, slim to the not – so – slim.

With such soft seats and a comfortable yet sporty layout, long trips can be carried out with the ease of sitting on a couch, well, almost. The only problem I have when riding nonstop for long distances is a slightly painful knee since it rests on the foot pegs in a slightly bent-backwards style.

On the technical side, The bike features a ‘diamond frame’ with a steel truss structure, is a very rigid layout owing to the extensive use of steel in its construction, the engine is the stressed member which means that its block is designed to act as a part of the frame itself, this sort of a layout makes the chassis very stiff while allowing a slight degree of chassis flex to aid in handling.

Adding to this chassis setup was the suspension which was the standard twin shock absorbers at front which had a generous 130mm travel and the pro-link monoshock at the rear with 105mm of travel. Complementing the whole chassis and suspension setup is a pair of Continental tyres branded Conti GO!, the front had a width of 110mm and the rear 140mm, both are 17 inchers which gives a lot of choice for tyre replacement.

Over smooth roads, the CBR simply glides along like a magic carpet this is due to the well sorted suspension and the soft seats, the excellent continental tyres give the great confidence when taking curves quite fast, it has limits much higher than one would want on a bike, hence it feels safe.

When bad roads are shown to it, the front suspension takes bumps and potholes very well, the rear, due to its firmness tends to be a bit harsh, but the real purpose of this setup can be understood when a pillion is on board the bike, in such a scenario, the firmness of the rear suspension is reduced and it feels very settled. With such a setup, kilometer after kilometer of roads, can be covered with the least of fuzz.

Overall, in terms of ride comfort over our Indian roads in general, it doesn’t make you complain and Honda seems to have put in a lot of effort to make sure that the suspension features the best of both worlds, that is ride comfort as well as control and stability, like the other bikes in the market, it features an adjustable rear shock which can be set between five settings from soft to hard, this can be chosen to match the type of road that it would be ridden on thereby adding to an even pleasant journey.

When taking it around the twisted roads, the suspension system and the good tyres coupled with the massive levels of torque and acceleration makes the bike a balanced and poised athlete around the bends, taking it all very well, without creating any drama. Even mid corner bumps are handled with ease by the CBR.

Another important aspect of the CBR that is worth attention is the brakes, it features a 296mm disk setup in the front and a 220mm disk at the rear, both are manufactured by Bybre, which as you may know is the Indian motorcycle arm of the world’s best car and bike braking specialist, Brembo. I tested the brakes several times just to be sure of its limits.

What I noticed was that even though the front disk had enough and more bite to stop the bike very well, it required an effort on the pedal, to stop real hard, the front brake lever has to be pulled to nearly 60% of its total travel when going at over 70km/h, mind you, this is despite the bike having adequate fluid and no air in the braking system.

But still, its braking performance was superb, the fat sticky rubber up front and the Bybre made the CBR come to a complete halt in about 4 bike lengths from where I applied the brakes. No other bike offers the confidence that the CBR offers when braking, this was even without ABS.

The Competition

Now, coming to the topic of the competition, well, there is only one other bike in the 250cc segment in India, for now at least, and that as you all know is the Ninja 250, it’s hard to compare these two bikes since, there is a fundamental difference in the engine, the CBR is a single cylinder while the Ninja is a twin cylinder, this means that in the CBR, it’s just a single 250cc engine, but in the Ninja, its two 125cc engines working in parallel.

This makes a lot of difference in terms of power delivery, throttle response, torque curve and engine note. A complete picture of the differences and the cohesions of the bikes can be known through a side by side test and comparison of both the bikes, these are some of the performance statistics of these two bikes in completely stock condition.

Honda CBR 250R

0-100 km/h : 8.0 sec
Top Speed : 151 km/h
Dry Weight : 152 kg
HP : 26.4
Price (OTR) : Rs. 1,52,000 (Std) / Rs. 1,81,000 (ABS)

Kawasaki Ninja 250

0-100 km/h : 7.7 sec
Top Speed : 160 km/h
Dry Weight : 161 kg
HP : 33
Price (OTR) : Rs. 2,96,000

With bikes, a lot of variations in figures like top speed and 0 – 100 times arise due to a variety of factors, mainly, rider weight and wind conditions. The above is an average of what each bike obtains from a mix of conditions. Looking at the figures above, it’s clear that the CBR is definitely not a replacement for the Kawasaki in terms of performance, but it definitely is a tough competitor especially when the other aspects of the CBR are compared to the Ninja such as its lighter weight.

Its better features like ABS, it’s easy to ride nature, the great fully featured digital console, the arguably better looks, the variety of colors, and most of all, the excellent pricing, the CBR turns out to be a very, very good competitor. Expect to see a lot more CBR’s on the roads within the coming months, also with the growing rise in its popularity across the world, it wouldn’t be too long before after market performance kits like ECU upgrades, exhaust kits and other performance parts start to appear for the CBR.

Hence, with such additions, the differences in real world performance compared to the Ninja may be eliminated. For a moment let me share my opinion on how it’s well and good to choose the CBR over the Ninja, to this date I have not seen a Ninja at a traffic light, and I don’t mind losing to a signal light drag race as long as I can beat almost all other cars and bikes on the road.

Secondly, as far as top speed is concerned, it’s almost irrelevant for a bike capable of going over 150 since, those kind of speeds appear very rarely on the speedo and that its useless unless and only unless you plan to ride on the real open highways, going from state to state.

All things considered, If I were to pay 1,50,000 more over the price I bought my bike at, I would get a machine that was, statistically speaking, just 0.3 seconds faster to 100kmph and which has just a 9 km/h higher top speed and much lesser mileage. Speaking of which this bike gives me a consistent 30kmpl + all the time, the best was 35, the worst was 27, not bad in any way for such a powerful machine.

The Imperfections

Someone once said, no person is perfect, well, the same goes to bikes, the CBR does have its tiny niggles, let’s start from the beginning:

Firstly it’s the problem with Honda and the delivery of bikes, there is already a long queue for the CBR 250R around the country, adding to this is the occasional strikes at their plant. In addition to this, even though there are plenty of showrooms that sell the bike, there are only a few that have mechanics trained to service the CBR.

Parts for the bike are also not yet widely available and parts arrivals take anywhere from a week to a month of ordering depending on the location, So far the service center has been very courteous and prompt at servicing my bike at I hope that It stays the same way in the coming months, the only problem is having to ride 60km to the service center which is capable of servicing the CBR.

The bike also has another problem and that is with the front mudguard, you would notice from the pictures that it doesn’t cover the back of the front tyre, the problem with this is that, it kicks up all kinds of nasty stuff onto the engine, the hot silencer and the equally hot radiator, since the engine itself is covered by the fairing from the sides, cleaning in and around those areas would require the use of a high pressure water pump.

It is almost impossible to reach those places with bare hands, I have noticed that the R15 doesn’t have such an issue since the mudguard is longer and also the engine is actually protected very well from dirt by the design of the fairing which only has an opening for the radiator, leaving only the radiator exposed to any mud or dirt. This needs to be looked into by Honda since the last thing anyone would want on their engine and especially the radiator and silencer, is a load of dirt and slush from road which can’t be cleaned.

Another tiny issue I noticed was with the left hand side mirror and its bolts, the bike despite being just under a month old had two rusted bolts at the base of the mirror, and this was also reported by other Honda CBR250R owners in message boards in India itself, some have reported receiving free replacement bolts of better quality, as a solution, one can apply a bit of grease on the bolt itself to prevent rusting.

The Impression

Overall it must be said that the CBR is a brilliant package, for 1,50,000 (non-abs) approximately, you get a touring machine, a powerful screamer, a wheelie popper, a city slicker, an eye catching photogenic model, a technological wonder, all rolled into one very versatile package, the fact that this has a Honda badge on it is enough to send people running for their check books without even looking at the bike and with such a tempting price for a such a long list of goodies.

If you are in the waiting list for one of these bikes, having paid the booking amount, rest assured that once you open it up after the break in period, you would in all certainty, fall in love with this machine, being a performance enthusiast myself, I have ridden almost all of the bikes in the Indian market including the Pulsar 220, the R15 and the ZMA, but the CBR is a bike that is very different from the rest.

It has a lot of character to it, and it by all means exceeds the best of expectations, I have been very satisfied with my ownership of the CBR, I do believe that this bike would perform in the exact same manner 3 or 4 years from now and that it would still electrify my nerves then as it does today. This is exactly what makes Honda bikes the most sought after in the country. Thanks for reading, hope it was informative. Leave your comments!