It's funny really; the biggest buzz at American Honda as of late has been about something that, well, sounds more like an angry swarm of bees than a motorcycle when in action. This is no big surprise though, as the CBR250R is just what Honda has needed for some time. The bike, which features a number of technical innovations, provides Honda the opportunity to reach out to a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who, until now, only Kawasaki has made itself available to.
While at first glance the bike seems conventional at best, an overview of its features confirms otherwise. The liquid-cooled 249cc four-valve DOHC engine, which was designed specifically for this bike, features a forked roller rocker arm system, spiny cylinder sleeve and fuel injection. The bike also features an all-new diamond twin-spar steel frame, comes optional with ABS and all for a price that is relatively easy on your wallet.
During the CBR250R launch, Honda's Jon Seidel and Jeff Tigert had press riding in areas where I admittedly thought the single-cylinder machine would be out of place and begging for mercy. But lo and behold, the bike never came up for air. Instead, the Honda took on every obstacle with relative ease and asked for nothing more than a few additional gear changes.
The first big challenge for the all-new Honda was the freeway. To my surprise, the lightweight machine felt stable at highway speeds and even crossing large grooves failed to initiate any type of squirm. At cruising speeds, the fuel-injected motor runs at a consistent 7500 rpm without hesitation and that's a decent ways away from the 10,500-rpm redline and 8500-rpm power peak. Rolling the throttle on at 60 mph does however remind you though that you are on a 250cc machine, and additional speed is hard to come by without a downshift.
Once freeway approved, the CBR250R was put to the test in the hills along the coast of Southern California. I was at first very curious at how the featherweight machine would handle sections of the canyon that are usually meant to be thrashed on by larger displacement bikes (er... I mean for commuting). From start to finish though, the CBR250R was a complete riot. The 359-pound machine handled fast and slow corners alike with ease, and while the standard hydraulic disc brake system was no monster, the ABS-equipped model was great. The ABS version, which also features a linked brake system, removed any concerns I originally had while riding on the slightly damp and dirty roads along the coastline. Because the system does not initiate the rear brake when the front brake is applied, trail braking is done without any issues. Although you could feel the system cycle when mashing on the rear brake, grabbing a handful of front brake proved that the system worked without adversely affecting the suspension.
While the conventional front fork of the CBR250R was merely adequate in the corners and slightly soft for a heavier rider, it shined through the rougher sections of road. Where most sportbikes would judder your insides, the 37mm front fork and Pro-Link shock were compliant and the bike failed to ever jerk the bars or buck me from the seat - even on the roughest sections on the road.