With an excellent all-rounder like the Honda CBR 250R raring to prove its mettle it was but natural that Bike India should put it through its paces. And what better occasion than the sixth anniversary of the publication?
Story: Adhish Alawani
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
It was that time of the year when everyone at Bike India was in the brainstorm mode in an attempt to come up with novel ideas for the sixth anniversary issue. So while a track test to pit the CBR 250R against three other highly potent motorcycles was being finalised, we also thought of actually riding this Honda from Pune to the race-track in Chennai and back to see how this bike could prove itself to be a real all-rounder – in congested traffic, on highways and, finally, on the track.
The idea was that while my colleagues drove in a car to Sriperumbudur, I should hop on the CBR to cover this distance of approximately 1,150 kilometres in one day. In spite of everyone warning me that it was not advisable to ride for that long a distance in one single day, especially considering that the monsoon was round the corner, I stuck fast to my idea of leaving in the morning and reaching the destination by night. It was going to be a long chase, and a timed one with 1,150 km to be covered in approximately 17 hours.
On May 28, I left Pune at 4.00 am sharp. My initial calculation was to travel 75 km per hour to cover those 1,200 km in 17 hours safely. However, I soon realised that I had to cover at least 90 km every hour – taking into account the numerous breaks for fuel, food and rest – so as to make it to Chennai by nightfall. As I covered 80 km in the first pre-dawn hour of riding, I realised that I had to quicken my pace if this time chase was to be successful. With the sun now starting to peep out of the horizon, the second hour of riding proved to be quicker as I covered 180 km by 6.00 am. Another 40 km later, at 200 km on the trip meter, I took my first halt at hotel Sai International, where my colleagues in the car had promised to catch up with me for breakfast. However, a phone call to them revealed that they were still 100 km behind me. Should I stick around, waiting for them, or head further on alone? It was risky both ways, but I decided to wait, have breakfast and then start again with my car-borne colleagues.
Unfortunately, the car got stuck in traffic around the Khambatki Ghat and my colleagues reached the hotel by 7.30 am. A quick breakfast and we left the hotel at 7.50.
Almost an hour-and-a-half of sitting idle was a big setback for me. There was a lot of catching up to do time-wise and twisting the throttle a little more was inevitable. By 10.30 am I found myself crossing Hubli in Karnataka. A distance of 460 km had been covered in six-and-a-half hours and the average speed was now pretty much close to my target. The credit for this goes to the CBR, which showed no hint of nervousness or stress even while cruising at 120 km/h.
The speed dropped once I rode past Dharwad where the road narrowed down to two lanes. Heavy truck traffic made it a little difficult to maintain a constant speed. Now there was a different problem I had to face. The fuel tank of the CBR holds just about 10 litres and owing to the high speeds that I was constantly doing, the bike was returning a fuel efficiency of not more than 30 km per litre. This necessitated a tank-up after every 250 km. Moreover, the inlet of the fuel tank is such that it has a metal strip across its diameter from inside that prevents the dispenser nozzle from going in completely. The attendants at every petrol pump grumbled about it.
As I neared Chitradurga, the road improved drastically and the four-lane, straight highway incited me to test the top speed of the CBR. Going flat out, ducked down, I managed to touch the 158 km/h mark on a slight descent. On the flat surface, the bike reached 153 km/h. The second problem of the day arose now: the right hand side mirror’s allen-key screw fell off. The mirror started rotating around one screw and what a rotating mirror can do to your speed is quite surprising. One, it distracts you and, two, it restricts your ability to ride confidently and execute safe overtakes. Since the road had opened up, the car was going great guns and there was no chance of getting the mirror fixed until we stopped for lunch. Just after Chitradurga, we took a break for a quick (and bland) lunch after which I used a duct tape from the car to fix the mirror temporarily.
We were close to 700 km on the trip meter and over 550 km were yet to be covered before the end of the day. The next destination was the NICE ring road that bypasses Bengaluru and takes you straight on to the Hosur Road near Electronics City. It is hard to believe that we have such a road in our country, which is constantly ridiculed for the pathetic condition of its roads. Get on to the NICE Road and you may think that you are in Malaysia or Singapore. Four lanes and at times even six lanes of tarmac with lush greenery separating the two driving sides make for a relaxed and pleasant ride. For the first time in all the rides I have done across the country, I came across a toll booth for motorcycle. Rs 50 for that kind of a road (and bypassing Bengaluru city completely) was well worth it.
Another hour or so in the heavy truck traffic and narrow roads of the industrial hub of Hosur and I was ready for the last 300 km of the ride. I caught up with my colleagues in the car for a final refreshment at a Kamat restaurant en route. A last tank up was also required.
It was already five o’clock in the evening and we decided to extend our arrival in Sriperumbudur by one hour. A distance of 300 km in the next five hours was not impossible. However, the rain gods had something else in store for me. At about 6.30 pm the sky became completely overcast, dampening my hopes of achieving the goal on time. It started pouring very soon. I was forced to dump my mobile phones and camera in the car. The rain lasted hardly for 20 km, but it still left me completely drenched. Now the final 200 km were a real test both for the rider and the ride. On that wet road I thanked Honda for equipping the CBR with C-ABS, although I didn’t have to call the system to assist me even once.
Fatigue had started creeping in. My eyes were struggling for vision in the darkness through a visor that had become dirty after the rain. The bum was aching and the wrists felt strained. The brain was hard put to concentrating on the road. Whereas I was able to do non-stop runs of 150 to 200 km in the morning, I started halting for a couple of minutes after every 30-35 km towards the end. After what seemed like hours, I finally saw the Nokia factory board – the sign that told me I was very close to Sriperumbudur. With a sigh of relief, I rode the last 10-15 km down the highway and reached Pleasant Days hotel. The clock said 10.20 pm. It had been 18 hours and 20 minutes since I left home in the morning and 1,166 km had been travelled. Even though I had become tired towards the end, it was obvious that the bike was capable of doing even more. I could manage to ride for that long a distance because of the comfort offered by the CBR. The bike had proved to be more than an able tourer.
The big ride was over, but a lot was still to come. A day’s rest and I had to head for the race-track for a track day on the CBR. I had heard people say of the CBR that “it handled like a boat”. Now it was time to check the final attribute of the bike – performance on the track.