Will the all-new 2011 Honda CBR250R be the new heavyweight super star in its debut year? Varad More leaves the ringside and jumps into the fight for the answer
Whizzing past cars on the national highway, the Honda CBR 250R is gulping down kilometers with surprising ease. The trip meter is indicating about 271 kilometers since my last stop. Not a big number then, but the defining fact here is I am feeling good to go for another 200-odd kilometers before stopping for rest. A huge part of this fatigue-free riding has to be attributed to the Honda’s fantastically configured ergonomics suited for fast paced sport-touring. It is indeed a sport-tourer’s delight – relaxed posture, comfortable saddle with lots of space for the rider to move around and fairly decent wind protection. Riding under the scorching sun, it’s a bit difficult to keep one’s cool but the breeze flowing through the helmet is doing a pretty good job letting me to enjoy this new steed from Honda.
Even though the handlebars are dropped for a sporty posture, the saddle is positioned further below in order to reduce stress from reaching the rider’s arms under hard riding and braking. The footpegs too aren’t positioned fully at the back but are placed just right to achieve a balanced riding stance. This hugely helps when one is going to spend a lot of time on the saddle over our tricky Indian road conditions. The ride planned ahead is about 900km in total and it includes major highway hauling as well as some winding roads. In my rather brief outing on the CBR250R in the cityscape the previous night, the quarter-litre Honda felt extremely easy-going and forgiving especially in Pune’s harrowing traffic conditions. Trademark Honda, the composed and dignified manners of the CBR250R instantly win the heart but somehow the bike does not quite excite or instigate the madness that’s expected from a fast fun-to-ride motorcycle. But the interesting part here is that the bike is significantly quick for a single cylinder machine and also an able handler for the street, which ideally should make it a very fun ride. Strange isn’t it?
Over 800km into the ride and the Honda did manage to change my opinion. I stand corrected then. It does excite you but after a particular point, which is chiefly above the 7,000rpm mark on the tachometer! The CBR250R is not an instantly ready-to-brawl storm-raiser but a more sedate and introvert machine which requires a little bit more time-spending before it begins to offer thrills that one usually seeks from fast bikes. Riding on the open road, potential of the 249.6cc liquid-cooled DOHC single cylinder powerplant of the CBR was evident with the bike comfortably cruising at about 100-110km/h in sixth gear with enough juice in it to flick the throttle and make that quick overtake without wasting precious seconds. Not only does the CBR offer strong in-gear acceleration but it is also pretty quick off-the-line with a 0-100km/h time of 8.6seconds and a top whack of over 150km/h. And despite fairly impressive performance numbers, the fuel efficiency is not entirely compromised with an overall fuel consumption figure adding up to 28.1kmpl under mixed riding conditions. One of the chief reasons behind the Honda’s fine balance between performance and frugality is the spot on fuelling from Honda’s PGM-Fi fuel injection system presenting the rider with superb throttle control abilities and greatly enhancing the overall ride experience. While many would question why a single cylinder and not a twin cylinder engine like most of the CBR’s rivals in the market, the answer lies in the fact that ‘bigger the better’ need not always be beneficial for a versatile bike like the CBR250R which has too many things to achieve and which it does fairly well.
Single cylinder configuration means lesser number of moving components within the engine, improving fuel efficiency as well as reliability of the motor with lesser wear and tear. Small size of the motor also translates into additional options for correctly packaging the engine inside the frame for ideal weight distribution. And of course, one cannot miss out on the fact that for a motorcycle to be fast and exciting, lighter the better. Hence a single cylinder also helps in keeping the weight under check making the motorcycle manageable for more number of riders. The grunty motor is packaged inside a lightweight diamond-shaped twin-spar chassis which is outstandingly communicative and tells the rider every single detail about what is happening between the road and the tyres. But the fantastic chassis dynamics are marred by the excessively softly sprung monoshock rear suspension and equally dive-happy 37mm front forks – which results in excellent ride quality but at the cost of racy handling and mid-corner stability. But then we need to look at whom the CBR250R is targeted at and suddenly the straight-road comfort and smooth ride quality starts making sense.
The Indian sub-continent offers tremendous amounts of scenic landscapes in all four directions and there are plenty of bikers out there and growing who are taking to two-wheels to explore the beauty of Mother India. The 2011 CBR250R is not a track scorcher but an outcome of growing demand in the global market for a practical yet fun small capacity motorcycle with big-bike looks and good comfort for the street. Although the CBR250R will be raced from this year onwards in the Honda One-Make Cup series, it is not a true-blue race-machine like the previous CBR-generations but a fine mix of performance and comfort primarily for road use. For the cornering junkies though it’s just a matter of tweaking the adjustable rear suspension on the CBR and changing to better rubber than the OEM-fitted Continental ConitGo tyres for the sport-riding kicks. Although, the involvement factor that is quite apparent in the motorcycling world is a bit missing from this Honda. To some extent you could blame the Continental tyres for that though. Although they offer sufficient grip, the ContinGo tyres fail to keep up with the feedback provided by the ultra-communicative chassis of the CBR and ward off the rider from getting accurate information when pushing hard. On our test bike though the configuration was ideally set for long distance riding and it truly showed how well the bike floated over road undulations, taking every pothole and bump in its stride without feeling unsettled at any given time.
To some it might seem boring enough too, a bike that is quite un-involving yet fast and sporty. But what Honda has achieved with the overall dynamics of the CBR250R simply speaks volumes about the engineering prowess going behind every single machine rolling out of the Honda factory. The CBR250R is as Honda as it can get. Absolutely functional, successfully achieves all the objectives that it has set for itself and this time, at a fantastic price point. But let me be honest here. I am not a big fan of new-age technology coming into motorcycles like the anti-wheelie system or some fancy slipper clutch or whatever they call it. The madness and mayhem is inevitably more appealing and honest when you wring that throttle and all hell breaks loose! But that does not hold true incase of Honda’s Combined Antilock Braking System, which on our Indian roads makes stopping often and with haste, a child’s play. Squeeze the lever hard or stand on the rear brake lever and the quarter-litre Honda will come to a stop with urgency without either of the two wheels locking up. Kudos.
Aided by Combined-ABS, stopping power on the CBR250R comes from 296mm disc with a dual-piston caliper upfront and a 220mm disc with single-pot caliper on the rear. The Combined-ABS automatically triggers the front brake mechanism even when only the rear-brake lever is operated. There is a separate individual piston within the front caliper for actuating the front brake when the C-ABS is operational. Worth mentioning here is that despite such forceful braking maneuvers, the CBR250R maintains its calm composure while keeping the rider in complete control of the situation. Technology isn’t that bad after all I guess. Truly it isn’t, as the CBR250R also proved it during our braking test where the bike took just 17.1 metres and merely 1.98 seconds to come to a halt from 60km/h and 31metres/3.2seconds in the 80-0km/h run. Not at all bad for a 250cc machine weighing 165kg plus the rider!
There it is then, a perfectly affordable yet tech-laden quarter-litre motorcycle that is fast, nimble and comfortable over long distances, and yet can be your everyday ride to work and back in the city, without forcing your back into physiotherapy sessions or over-heating and spewing coolant on your brand new denims. Couple that to the comfort and the right set of tools for sports touring like pillion footpegs with loops to hook bungee cords, big enough pillion saddle to keep the luggage in place and a decent tank range and you know the baby-CBR is going to make a lot touring bikers out there happy, who have been waiting there for a decent product like the CBR ever since they got their motorcycle licenses or even before. Although there are few bugs like the windscreen could have been larger for better wind protection as well as a more powerful headlight for Indian roads and also better stress point for the side-stand which in its current form feels very flimsy. But then these are trivial issues and not ones which shall hamper the buying decision for any biker, especially in a market like ours where there is a severe deficiency of a good quarter-litre performance motorcycle at an affordable price point.
There is no doubt that Honda has successfully tapped the Rs. 1.5 to 2.0 lakh price bracket where no other Indian bike maker has ventured in yet. This has allowed the Japanese biggie to make the most of its first mover advantage by delivering a knock-out punch with a great new motorcycle like the CBR250R along with superb price advantage. With over 2,400 orders in place within the announcement of the bookings opening, there is certainly no doubt that there are plenty of eager bikers waiting to get their hands on the baby-CBR. The question which many would ask is whether to opt for the non-C-ABS model costing Rs. 1.51 lakh (ex-showrrom, Delhi) or the more expensive, top-of-the-line C-ABS-equipped CBR250R worth Rs. 1.77 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). Irrespective of the version you go for (which should be the C-ABS equipped variant, it’s well worth the money) the Honda CBR250R remains a bike that should not only be a winner for Honda, but also a game-changer for the Indian bike sphere.