Reader’s Review- Anil Anupam Mohanty’s take on the Honda CBR250R

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Added in: Reviews

2011-Honda-CBR250R

Design, Build and Engineering:

It is easy to mistake the CBR for the larger capacity Hondas and the VFR series in particular. The bike immediately creates a big bike impression and the dimensions won’t make it feel out of place in the company of super bikes. Even the shoes are wide enough (unlike the R15 V1.0) to give it a planted look. Styling is very cutting edge and the curved visor looks the part. Somehow, the sleek rear end doesn’t gel well with curvy front and it does give the impression (at least to my eyes) that two different genre bikes are amalgamated to form a single design (Honda’s strategy of appealing to wider audience at work?). The Ninja 250 looks meaner if not fresher. The tank looks classy and well sculpted which is further complimented by the stylish flank panels. The sharp belly pan, compact silencer and stainless finish is neatly executed. I would have loved to see high intensity LEDs at the back to give it a purposeful look. The blue lit LCD instrumentation looks No-nonsense and practical. An analogue rev counter dominates the setup supported by the large digital speedo meter. The odometer and the trip counter looks bit too small for a casual look though.The Switchgear, alloy levers and palm grips feel to be of decent quality and do their job well. One serious grouse about the CBR that has surfaced in recent times is the less than satisfactory fit and finish. As if it is mandatory to have rusted bolts, I too found the issue with my bike.Even the clip-on handlebars and steering head had the paint job looking hastily done, devoid of the premium feel you expect from a 1.6 lakh rupees bike. The gear lever too had a fragile feel (My cbz x-treme’s lever feels more robust!) about itself. Rest of the bike is well engineered. I hope Honda addresses the issues as quick as possible.The two tone paint job had a deep gloss feel about itself. Somehow single tone paint jobs attract me more than these dual color schemes. They look purer. I would had preffered the all black paintjob that is available on the baby CBR in US of A.

Engine, gearbox and performance:

Crank up the 249.6 cc 4-stroke, dual overhead camshaft Liquied cooled PGM-Fi engine and it settles down to a refined tone, very typical of all Hondas. As expected you enjoy the vibe-free performance all through the rev range which is quite assuring. NVH levels are very well controlled and I would say it is a step ahead of the standard Karizma R in terms of overall refinement (The satin smooth Honda Unicorn is still the hallmark of outright refinement, which looks like impossible to better for a single cylinder engine!). Exhaust note is music to my ears at speed. Interestingly Honda stuck to an over square (48.5 x 33.8) rev happy engine configuration for a ‘not so sporty’ motorcycle. Ideally an under square long stroke as is with Karizma would have been ideal according to me. Yes, the engine needs to be revved to extract the juice as the bottom end torque is on the weaker side (My cbz x-treme betters it for the matter of fact.) There is no ‘torque at the tap’ feel of the Karizma and one irritatingly has to shift back to second (and sometimes first gear) while pulling the bike ahead with a pillion in busy traffic. The real game starts above 4000 RPM where the engine feels quite strong. Here onwards it just leaps forward very strongly all the way to it’s redline. Midrange is VERY strong and overtaking the sedate moving cars on the highway is a cake walk. As I have mentioned above it is a rev happy performer and it pulls cleanly to 9000+ RPM in almost every gear without any hiccup. Shockingly the power tapers off at around 9500 RPM for some strange reason. I would loved to see it crossing 10000 RPM. Acceleration as expected is pretty fast (especially above 3-4000 RPM) and 100-110kmph is achieved in an iffy. Beyond 120-125 the progress is slow though, and one needs proper planning & road conditions to achieve the estimated top speed (150+ kmph) Infact I could only achieve 130-135 Kmph max on the bike as the road conditions didn’t permit me to go beyond that. 150 + on speedo very much possible though. The bike can cruse all day long at 120-125 kmph (Karizma feels equally good at 100-110 kmph) without sweating provided you are safe enough to ride that fast. All said and done, I am not exactly wooed by the performance exhibited the bike. Nor am I exactly convinced about the configuration. There is no ‘super bike on 250cc ‘kind of feel associated and it is just a ‘More powerful’ 250cc bike. For the matter of fact, the smaller Pulsar 220 has got the sense of urgency right from the first gear is an exciting proposition. Yamaha R15 on the other hand has got the hair rising push beyond 6000-6500 RPM making for a thoroughly entertaining machine. Ceeber is more like a ‘safe and user-friendly’ bike that performs well but nothing dramatic about it. Make no mistake CBR is definitely the quickest and fastest accelerating bike manufactured in India (Ninja 250 is a CKD) that you can buy now. Its just that the way power is delivered is more sedate.

Riding stance and ergonomics :

Very few manufacturers can beat Hondas at designing ergonomically well balanced riding stance and the CBR just vouches the same. 10 minutes onto the ride and I am already accustomed to the set up. This fully faired bike doesn’t feel bulbous or bulky (a.k.a. Karizma ZM-R) and the thoughtfully designed fairing is compact enough to make you feel agile in the city traffic. Tank recesses and the driving geometry are spot on. Riding stance in itself is on the aggressive side,(compared to Karizma ZM-R or even Pulsar 220) though it doesn’t feel uncomfortable once you get used to. The rear view mirrors are functional and provide good view of what is trying to overtake you. There are no irritating fairing vibrations at speed as well. On the flip side the radiations from the engine can be very well felt via the fairing, something which even ZM-R suffers from. While it isn’t boiling hot, but you do feel the heat being transmitted after a laboring stint in the city traffic. Pillion seat on the other hand is quite narrow and isn’t exactly advisable to have a pillion at high-speed(not as bad as Yamaha Fazer though). Ride Quality and Dynamics: CBR250R’s setup without doubt is on the softer side and in spite of the track bike like suspension configuration I found the suspension supple enough to handle the standard Indian road condition. Infact I would go to some extend and consider this motorcycle as a ‘great low speed riding ’ bike in the way it handled few bad patches of the road. While R15 would struggle and fumble handling such bumpy roads, the Honda felt quite comfortable. Wider tyres just glide over the undulations and overall it felt quite a spine friendly experience. It still doesn’t possess the exact flat ride quality of a karizma or P220 but it is close. It can be a forgiving feel for the long drives and tours and tuning is clearly more ‘real world’. There is no bounciness at speed as well. Honestly what could have been a seriously racy handling tool is more like a ‘decent’ handler. Don’t get me wrong, but the softly sprung monoshock and dive-happy front forks don’t give you the same unflappable and razor sharp poise provided by the meaner R15 which just begs being pushed and ridden hard. While the straight line stability and high speed manners are pretty good but softer setup means that vice like grip is missing. Not that it will make you nervous at speed, far from that and at 110-115 it is well balanced though the rider needs being alert above 120 kmph is what I felt. Notably CBR is streets ahead of the standard karizma or the pulsar in terms of stability but R15 remains the real king (With the CBR coming close second). My ride was limited to few highway stretches and city traffic cycle so I am not the best person to elaborate how well it corners though the bike felt surprisingly agile for the size. The wide continental tyres provided pretty good traction and at no point did I feel like running out of road grip though its performance in wet roads as well as at corners needs to be confirmed. Honda intelligently but amusingly struck with a setup that will appeal the widest possible audience with a forgiving handling capability accompanied by decent ride quality. Surely a stiffer chassis would have provided a more exciting riding experience. Braking: Unfortunately I ride a bike that is sans the ABS system and I was terribly disappointed at not being able harness the real highlight of the CBR’s combined ABS braking system. The NON ABS version performs effectively well though. (Front: 296 mm Rear: 220 mm disc) There is the familiar progressive braking as is with most Hondas available in India and it is very easy to get used to. While safety is of prime concern and ABS is a life saving equipment , it would be even better if Honda can provide the system at more wallet friendly price.

Ride Quality and Dynamics:

CBR250R’s setup without doubt is on the softer side and in spite of the track bike like suspension configuration I found the suspension supple enough to handle the standard Indian road condition. Infact I would go to some extend and consider this motorcycle as a ‘great low speed riding ’ bike in the way it handled few bad patches of the road. While R15 would struggle and fumble handling such bumpy roads, the Honda felt quite comfortable. Wider tyres just glide over the undulations and overall it felt quite a spine friendly experience. It still doesn’t possess the exact flat ride quality of a karizma or P220 but it is close. It can be a forgiving feel for the long drives and tours and tuning is clearly more ‘real world’. There is no bounciness at speed as well. Honestly what could have been a seriously racy handling tool is more like a ‘decent’ handler. Don’t get me wrong, but the softly sprung monoshock and dive-happy front forks don’t give you the same unflappable and razor sharp poise provided by the meaner R15 which just begs being pushed and ridden hard. While the straight line stability and high speed manners are pretty good but softer setup means that vice like grip is missing. Not that it will make you nervous at speed, far from that and at 110-115 it is well balanced though the rider needs being alert above 120 kmph is what I felt. Notably CBR is streets ahead of the standard karizma or the pulsar in terms of stability but R15 remains the real king (With the CBR coming close second). My ride was limited to few highway stretches and city traffic cycle so I am not the best person to elaborate how well it corners though the bike felt surprisingly agile for the size. The wide continental tyres provided pretty good traction and at no point did I feel like running out of road grip though its performance in wet roads as well as at corners needs to be confirmed. Honda intelligently but amusingly struck with a setup that will appeal the widest possible audience with a forgiving handling capability accompanied by decent ride quality. Surely a stiffer chassis would have provided a more exciting riding experience.

Braking:

Unfortunately I ride a bike that came sans the ABS system and I was terribly disappointed at not being able harness the real highlight of the CBR’s combined ABS braking system. The NON ABS version performs effectively well though. (Front: 296 mm Rear: 220 mm disc) There is the familiar progressive braking as is with most Hondas available in India and it is very easy to get used to. While safety is of prime concern and ABS is a life saving equipment , it would be even better if Honda can provide the system at more wallet friendly price.

Overall:

CBR250R comes up as a thoroughly well engineered and good value motorcycle that does most of the things effectively well. Still, it doesn’t have any ground breaking feel that one expects while spending such a big amount of money (did I hear someone say I should try the C-ABS?). No, it’s not a proper tourer’s delight nor is it a track bike. It’s a competent motorcycle that is adequately comfortable on highways but feels decently sporty too. I must say that the baby CBR is a very satisfying motorcycle, albeit, not very exciting.

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