Honda CBR 250R: First Ride

Set for its Indian launch in April 2011, the Honda CBR250R is a well-rounded new bike for the world, and promises to have something for every sort of rider - all that at a great price point


The muggy morning in Pattaya makes things inside the helmet almost as sticky as the friendly ladies on the streets the evening before. In the pit lane of the local Bira Circuit however lie promises of a good morning, neatly lined up in rows. Riding an all new bike is almost always like venturing into untested waters, but what’s special is that this time around, the territory is uncharted for the manufacturer and the market too. That ought to justify the nervous excitement at the time of the launch of the bike, barely 24 hours back in Bangkok. This has not been tried before, and while everyone can see its potential, no one knows for sure if everyone else can see things the same way.


The CBR250R, for one, marks a bunch of firsts for the world’s largest motorcycle company. It is the first sportbike from the company to be manufactured completely in the ASEAN region, with Thailand and India as the only manufacturing hubs. The shift towards smaller displacement, more accessible bikes has been obvious worldwide, but the quarter-litre CBR breaks new ground in this category as well, by becoming one of the first modern single cylinder sportbikes with this displacement. It is not just about the displacement and the engine configuration though, the CBR250R marks a new way of thinking from the Big H. And it all starts with the bike’s design.



Baby Ceeber? More like baby Veefer…
The CBR badge has been the proud carrier of Honda’s race replica tradition, but for the first time ever, this is a CBR that looks more like a VFR – Honda’s sport-touring range. The futuristic theme of large, flowing and delicately contoured panels flows along the length and width of the bike. The Y-headlamp at the front presents distinct areas for the main beam and the pilot lights, enhancing the visual spread of the front end. The centerpiece of the bike’s design though is the large middle cowl, which gives the CBR250R a baby VFR1200F appeal. Couple that with a chunky pentagonal exhaust, and you have a profile that that stands for being sporty yet tame, fast yet elegant. Most importantly though, the design of the CBR250R says a lot about Honda’s intentions to leave track bikes on the racetrack, and become more accessible and mainstream with its street offerings. Swing your leg astride the wide saddle, and this statement of purpose of the new bike becomes as clear as daylight.



In the saddle
Tall clip-ons and lots of space on the seat again hint at a more touring role than a proper corner carver, which should widen the base of buyers, while making it an even better bike for a daily commute. Bring the engine to life and its smoothness and refinement despite the solitary reciprocating piston make the work gone into achieving this obvious. Slot the precise gearshift into first, release the light clutch and you have acceleration aided by easily rising revs that make the front wheel go light with haste. The short stroke motor (76mm bore x 55mm stroke) has almost the same dimensions as Honda’s famed litre-class CBR1000RR, as shown by the eagerness of the engine to pick speed. As the throaty engine note rises, the torque drops just a tad bit in the midrange before a blastful top end hits around 8,500 rpm and then continues up to its high-revving redline. Throttle response is excellent and expect the engine to work just as well in city traffic as on highways and twisties.



When it came to chucking the bike into corners at the Bira Circuit, composure was the name of the game, in true Honda style. The diamond frame which uses the engine as a stressed member and trusses on the chassis for extra rigidity works like a charm, and handles all of the ample acceleration that the engine throws at it. While it tips easily into corner entry, the bike does tend to stand up if mid-corner corrections are not subtle. Through Bira’s two left-right chicanes though, it was easy to change direction which points at a sorted out steering geometry, which will stand the riders in good stead on city streets through traffic. Braking at the front and back is stellar, with ample bite and feedback, so you know exactly when and how to shed speed despite a small amount of front end dive that comes into play as you hit the lever. The CBR250R is not a sharp track attack weapon dripping with feedback, and going with the flow is the best way to extract most out of its not-so-light 161 kilogram mass. The ride characteristics are apt for city riding and touring, with enough potential to carry a good clip on mountain passes.





Will you and me be able to buy it?
The key to the CBR250R however is its price, which should thrill Indian enthusiasts to bits. 80 percent of the 16 million Honda bikes sold worldwide end up on the streets of Asia-Oceania, and we all know the importance of a “good price” in our region – be it the street market or the motorcycle showroom. An affordable price point was one of the basic objectives defined for the bike, and the development of the bike followed this directive. From the single cylinder configuration to the steel-tube diamond frame, the focus of the baby CBR stays decidedly on keeping input costs low, but with enough moolah thrown into the R&D of the bike, what you have is a world class product in terms of quality and performance at a price that rivals local players.



Honda has managed to bring that price down to 1 lakh Thai Baht, which comes out to about Rs 1.5 lakh, thanks to an amazing 95-percent of components being manufactured and sourced locally. Plans are to follow the same strategy in India as well, and if converted, the bike will most certainly bring in a new wave of leisure motorcycling in the country. At that price, the Honda CBR250R will threaten every ‘performance’ bike in India, from the Karizma right up to the Ninja. For hoards of enthusiasts who have until now been strangled either by price or performance, the baby Ceeber promises to offer the best of both worlds, and more importantly, should shake the competition out of its comfort zone into bringing out their own next-gen performance bikes. Most critically however, the CBR250R is a thumping acknowledgement of the changing times and shifted priorities for international bike makers. India clearly figures in that list in a big way. And that is as much a reason to look forward to the future, as is the arrival of Honda’s new baby in India by April 2011.




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