Hark,The King Is Born!

Honda fly Adhish Alawani to Thailand and give him a taste of their latest offering in the form of a quarter-litre machine – the CBR250R. Should the competition fear slaughter?
Photography: Rishad Cooper & Honda Press

Honda fly Adhish Alawani to Thailand and give him a taste of their latest offering in the form of a quarter-litre machine – the CBR250R. Should the competition fear slaughter?
Photography: Rishad Cooper & Honda Press

Five years ago, if a motorcycle enthusiast in India went out to buy a motorcycle that would give him all the kicks that he dreamt of, the best he could hope for was probably the Karizma. Then slowly the market started opening up with the grown up Pulsars. In 2008 Yamaha revolutionised the way a motorcycle was conceived in India by introducing the R15. A new era of performance motorcycles was unveiled. The pace at which the performance two-wheeler market was growing quickened and the Kawasaki Ninja 250R made an entry for the niche customers. While all this was happening, there were some engineers, somewhere in Japan, who were scratching their heads and pondering over the idea of making a motorcycle that would kill the competition in one fell blow. Perhaps, that is how the Honda CBR250R was born!

The concept was simple – make a bike with a quarter-litre mill, enough juice to click at least 150 km/h, enough comfort for everyday use and styling to die for. With inputs from the south-east Asian market, the engineers came up with something seen in the images around these pages.

The Honda CBR250R is a stunner to look at. Drawing cues from the VFR1200F, the 250R has a (pseudo) twin fairing, a bulging headlamp, a sharp tail and a meaty tank. However, without a doubt, the CBR looks much better in its smaller form and proportional figure than does its elder sibling, the VFR. The exhaust looks a little bulky, but not so much out of place. The way the lines flow from the headlamp to the tail clearly show the amount of thought that has gone into the styling of the bike. The 250R’s properly gelling fairings are not just good looking, but offer a lot of functional value by providing good aerodynamics. Move on to the finer details of the bike and everything from the front visor, clip-on handlebar, switches, instrumentation console to the grab rails and foot pegs impresses you with its quality, styling and functionality.

If the aesthetics of the bike are the first thing that strike you (and they impress you to the extent of making you fall in love with them), then your expectations of the motorcycle are bound to rise all the more. The CBR250R lives up to them in a splendid manner!

After spending a day just looking at the motorcycle, I finally got a few minutes in the saddle the next day at the Bira Circuit in Pattaya. More excited than ever, I hopped on to the bike and went out for a few laps around the 2.41-km racetrack.

The first thing that one notices as soon as the motor comes to life is the typical single cylinder note along with Honda’s trademark smoothness. After a couple of orientation laps, I got off to a race-like start and the CBR250R responded without the slightest effort. Impressive! The engine revved easily through the low and mid ranges. However, the motor did not rev as briskly as one would expect it to considering its short stroke configuration (76 mm x 55 mm). A little hesitation was perceptible towards the top revs. The red line is at 10,500 rpm and yet the bike did go up to almost 10,800 before hitting the limiter.

Since I didn’t have data logging equipment with me, the top speeds on the speedometer were all that I could note. For the first four gears these were 50 km/h, 85 km/h, 110 km/h and 136 km/h respectively. Going by these and considering a couple of more cogs to choose, there is no doubt that the CBR will give one speeds past 150 km/h. The good part is that reaching those speeds does not take much time either thanks to the 26 PS (approximate peak power output in the Thailand spec motorcycle) and 23 Nm of torque. While the peak power is achieved at 8,500 rpm, the max torque is delivered at 5,500 rpm, according to the company. It was surprising that Honda did not quote these figures in their official press release or in the spec sheet of the motorcycle and talked about approximate figures only.

Considering that there is quite a good amount of power that needs to be transferred to the tarmac, one expects equally good handling and grip. The CBR250R scores well on this front too with good handling from its diamond frame and monoshock prolink rear suspension. However, don’t expect earthshaking stuff, because the motorcycle is not meant for it. The CBR is basically aimed at everyday riding and weekend touring. It is meant to take on the traffic of the bustling metropolises and glide comfortably at 130-140 km/h on the highways. Honda have addressed these needs perfectly well. The suspension is slightly on the softer side to provide the requisite comfort and ease of riding. The footpeg–seat–handlebar geometry is relaxed and easy, neither too aggressive nor too upright. And don’t expect this Honda to demonstrate point-and-shoot precision, for it is not designed for hardcore track purposes. The power is put down to the surface through a 140/70-R17 tyre at the rear and a 110/70-R17 tyre at the front.

The task of slowing down has been entrusted to disc brakes on both the wheels and, for the first time for a bike in this segment, the option of Combined-ABS is available. Seen in bigger machines like the Fireblade and the VFR, the Combined-ABS comes as a part of the bike’s safety features. The ABS unit here is not as advanced as that found on the CBR1000RR. In the event of hard braking, the ABS kicks in and prevents the wheels from locking up. However, the unit is a little jerky and pumps out the brake lever quite a lot. Furthermore, soft suspension at the front results in a tremendous nosedive under hard braking. 

All this brings one to one most crucial question. The power is good and so is the handling. The bike offers great comfort as well. But will it sell in India? The answer is most definitely ‘Yes’. Honda have done the smartest thing. They have made a bike that is more powerful than any other bike manufactured in India at the moment and priced it at approximately Rs 1.5 lakh. Yes, you got that right. The CBR250R will carry a tag of a little less than Rs 1.5 lakh (ex-showroom) for the non-ABS version. As a package at that price, Honda have offered a deal that is too hard to resist. So start saving right away, because this Honda is expected to appear in Indian showrooms by April next year!

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