We are back with yet another bike review,but this time it is relatively shorter ownership period. It’s been nearly half a year with the 2013 Honda CBR250R (Std version), the exclusive Tri-color edition for that. And 9,000 Kms later I am ready to pen down my views on this very capable quarter liter machine.
The CBR 250R was launched in India in spring 2011 , This bike shares a uncanny resemblance to the Honda VFR which is a motorcycle belonging to the sports touring genre. The resemblance stays beyond the looks too, the CBR 250 too is a bike with immense touring potential, and yet has the CBR badge to its name, which is honestly, a bit weird as the CBR series has always been about sport riding and such. It was probably a marketing strategy or something, but we aren’t the least bothered about that right now.
Now I got my Bike on August 2013, since it’s launch the CBR has had one update from it’s previous models, the updated models was introduced by the 3rd quarter of 2013, which were introduced with a completely new paint schemes with the previous(2011,2012) paint schemes being dis-continued, now that was just a visual refreshment, when it comes to performance figures, there was a 1 bhp bump in power as per the Honda website, which in my opinion is nothing but just a figure that can be written on paper and doesn’t translate to anything that can be felt in the real world usage when comparing the performance of both the before and after models. So , in all sense it was just a small ECU remap sort of mod. So that about sums up the difference between the 2 models.
So like I was saying, I got the 2013 models with the 26 BHP version and refreshed paint scheme. The New Tri-color edition , which in my personal opinion is the best looking among the current paint scheme available, with the all black theme coming in close second place, or maybe just as good, I just can’t get my head over which is better between the full black and the Tri-color editions.
So coming to the performance figures,the 2013 CBR 250R churns out 26 BHP , and 22.9 Nm of Torque, which is decent amount of power when it comes to a touring specific bike. And it was definitely a upgrade from the Pulsar 220 which served me well for over 3 years, but considering the specs, it wasn’t much of a upgrade either, and many people asked why i din go for the Duke 390 even though it was well within reach(actually, we do have a 390 in the garage :-D) and almost twice as powerful than the CBR.
So that brings us to the question , Why the CBR 250R ?
I had 3 reasons
1.I needed a touring specific bike and one with more power than the 220 for that matter, my riding comprises very little of city riding and mostly highway riding.
2. I was not comfortable riding on naked’s(read duke 390) and cruisers as I did not like the riding position or the wind blast I would have to take while touring long distances on a naked and I am not as tall built to handle a cruiser and riding a cruiser never seemed to work out for me for some strange reason.
3. It had just the right amount of power I required, nothing over the top and not under powered either, just the right amount of power to play with.
Also, honestly speaking, I also love to have a bit of a aggressive seating position too,though it doesn’t make much sense in a touring sense of view, but this bike just works in that way,so this fully faired touring machine did make sense, as it fit the bill and was exactly what I wanted.
So, it is important that you know what you want before getting a new bike, rather than just going for the cost,style or tend factor that makes most of the people do a impulse purchase and later find it hard to cope with the bike. But having said that the CBR is no slouch in the oomph factor, it gives a really beefy and big bike look to satisfy the ego of the owners who think size matters more 😛
Look wise the bike was great, I always loved the look of the VFR , so it was a given that I would love this too, the shape of the tank also did sweep me of my feet, just looked drop down gorgeous from a rear side angle,though in inspection the seating position might look normal, once you sit on it you will feel it to be a bit on the aggressive side, especially after using the 220 for about 3 years the seating position was indeed quite a change, and not to mention, just like I had the 220, it was a rare machine in my locality with an even rare paint scheme, all the more reason to opt for this bike.
Now let’s divide the review into smaller segments, here we go
First thing that I did when I sat on the bike was to pull in the clutch, now I do not know why I did that but that was my first reaction, and God was I blown away or what..!! I had never in my life felt a smoother and light clutch in my life. And there I was thinking Yamaha had the smoothest clutch. Now that made me immensely happy, a light clutch can be a real blessing during long rides or in heavy traffic conditions.
Now getting on into the first ride impression,
Highway : The power was just perfect, I had no trouble controlling the power at my will, the engine was responsive in a very linear way, just as expected.Mind you the bike was under run-in so no high rpm action was there for the first few days.
City: Then after a few kms of highway riding I entered within city limits, that is where I struggled , the bike is pretty sluggish , it’s like the bike is missing a gear, imagine a scenario like this, in bumper to bumper traffic, you are riding in 2nd gear and the bike starts knocking because 2nd gear is too tall for that gear, so naturally once would downshift to 1st cog , but that just makes it worse, suddenly 1st gear is too short for that kind of speed, so you shift up again and then 2nd is too tall for that speed. So basically you are stuck in a position where 1st gear is too short and 2nd gear is too tall for that speed. Now how do you handle such a situation, doing the gear dance every few second , now a light clutch might make it much more effortless than having a heavy/tight clutch, but then in this situation you get to feel the complete weight of the bike on your shoulders and it can get tiresome. So, it is safe to say that in-city performance at very low speed can be quite a handful for first time users
P.S: This is the initial impression phase that has been said above, a few days with the bike in city and you will get used to it and doing the gear dance wouldn’t be much of a bother , so it’s not that you cannot adapt to this trade-off of the bike, but the bottom line is, it just is not a city based bike as it is a highway oriented bike.
The bike was run-in properly in a very progressive way, it is a mix of slow run-in and hard break-in, from experience i find it to be the best way to break-in a engine. A very important advice, when running in the engine it must be kept in mind to be aware of the RPM band you are working the motor, not the speed. And also avoid riding the motor at same rpm for prolonged period, always vary the RPM every now and then , and take the machine to high rpm after a few intervals, try to avoid sudden acceleration and keep a smooth throttle at all time.
Design and Build quality
The bike looks huge, no doubt in that. The neatly designed fairing and the beautifully sculpted tank and the fatty tyres all contribute to the huge SBK kind of look, though from the front it does look a bit small. Now coming to the quality of the plastic parts, they are all very much satisfactory, though I did feel the windshield to be a bit flimsy/weak , so raising a question on how good will it withstand high speed, but it was stable enough in triple digit speeds, so it was good enough for me.
The paint quality is also just OK, it could have been better, now having the white paint scheme meant that the tank loves to get scratch marks on it, so a tank pad is a must have if you want to protect the tank from scratches, waxing was needed to remove some of the micro scratches that the tank had due to usage. So to protect the tank I got hold of a tank pad made by Keiti from DJ Helmets and also waxed the whole bike surface to protect the paint from micro scratches.
Coming from the 220 the RVM’s was a huge blessing on this bike. It was just perfect when compared to the 220 RVm, this one had good coverage and a custom adjustment was possible to get the maximum view of what is happening on behind us , making my rides much more safer.
Faced no problem of fairing vibrations, even after 500kms long high speed runs I did to Bangalore from my place a few times, the fairing screws are in place and haven’t gotten loose yet. Now as far as negative design goes, the saree guard on this bike is a disaster, down right ugly to look at and has a weird angle that it sticks out. I removed it after just a few days of having it. Can be useful as a barbecue grill or something for in-house parties 😛
It’s a Honda, enough said. Even though it’s a highway specific designed Honda, the engine refinement is just as good in city traffic too, even after long time in traffic the engine doesn’t get grumpy and rough on you. The engine does get a bit heated up but it has a excellent cooling system in it that keeps the temperature at bay. Even in extreme heat the engine has not overheated(apart for once , which was no fault of the bike, but PDI gone wrong where the fan connector to the battery was not connected, which caused the radiator fan not to work, the issue was solved the following day)
The engine remains cool and performs consistently on long rides , the power delivery is good and linear until 6k-6.5k RPM band, the engine is quite silent too, an added advantage for tourers, you can just keep munching miles without having to stop for breaks on the bikes accord. Now post 7k rpm the bike is a absolute growler, the whole characteristic changes, it pulls like crazy and give this throaty and loud growl exhaust not from the exhaust, all this keeping the engine noise to a minimum, for a sedate rider that sound once in a while is just purely addictive, the bike is pretty much comfortable in handling triple digit speeds for long distances without breaking a sweat , shows no sign of fatigue at all. City riding behavior I have explained in the initial impression, nothing more to add in that.
No major service cost has been incurred yet, just the regular service charges.
P.S: Since this is a Liquid cooled bike, it is extremely important to check the working of the Radiator fan and an eye on the coolant level and looking for gasket leaks. Being careless in these areas can cost you a lot of money if it things go downhill. Also, when washing the bike, always make it a point not to spray or divert water directly onto the radiator fins directly, it will cause the fins to deform and cooling efficiency will be reduced.
As i have explained earlier ,the refinement of the engine is mainly maintained by using the correct grade of oil , draining at the correct time.So you change the engine oil religiously according to your usage pattern and drain interval for your bike’s engine to remain healthy
So now, talking about engine oil.
This bike requires a Fully Synthetic(FS) oil for it’s proper working, SS or mineral oil shouldn’t be used. Till now I have used only the OEM Honda FS oil which is available at the Honda service center. Other feasible options are Motul 7100 and Motul 300v. But I haven’t tried them out yet as the Honda oil has performed quite good for my requirements, i maintain a drain interval of about 5500 kms and the oil stays good until then, so I am content with the Honda oil, and it is pretty cheap too in comparison to Motul FS oils. So I might give Motul a try after adding a few more thousand kms on the bike. And will update my findings here.
Note: The FS oil is packaged in a black box. I have heard many stories of some svc using oil from a silver bottle(meant for scooters) in this bike and screwing up the engine. So always make it a point to make sure which engine oil they are pouring into the bike at the time of service.
Also do note to insist the mechanic to change the Engine oil filter with each engine oil change. It is always advised to do so.
The bike is not what one would say “All-Rounder” , it has some pretty evident short comings. Which is explained below.
Highway: Absolute delight, just the right amount of power, capable for covering long distances without having to take rest breaks. Great control and minimum wind blast. Can easily manage triple digit speeds for long distances without stressing the engine.
City: A bit of a struggle, needs to play the gear dance quite often and get a bit annoying, weight of the bike is felt on the shoulders when moving about in low speeds, adding on to the struggle in city spaces. Causal low traffic city rides will be a breeze once you get used to this behavior of this bike.
Off-roading: Haven’t actually tried much offroading as I tried with the 220 , as this being being a fully faired bike one must be careful and a drop will cost you dearly. Though I have tried taking it out on a mildly offroad slope and performed quite nicely. Still, my advice would be not to push it too hard on loose terrain and to take it at your own risk.
I would like to approach this part from 2 different perspective,
1. Tourers perspective : The bike is a great handler, the handlebars are precise and gives the exact feedback according to the rider inputs , handling around those potholes can be easy and effortless , the tyre being a semi soft type compound can last a bit longer than the soft compounds. So from a touring perspective, the bike handles great
2.Cornering enthusiast perspective :The bike is seriously held back due to the bad quality tyres and soft front shocks , it has a lot of scope for improvement, the first and foremost are the tyres, the stock tyre does no justice to the handling potential of the bike, as far as you are on a dry dust free tarmac the contigo allows you to have a lot of fun, but even then the bike is just not planted enough or that confidence inspiring,on a wet tarmac cornering can be really scary if on the stock tyres.
The soft front shocks also are a reason for this,although being a touring oriented bike, a stiff front shock wouldn’t translate to comfortable riding as well , so we can take that into account as a trade-off
People who have replaced the stock tyres with MRF and Michelin’s have given overwhelmingly good response in the bump in handling they have experienced. So getting rid of the Conti-go would be the first thing to do to increase the handling capability of the bike.
This is one area where Honda compromised on quality and that too big time, the stock Conti-Go tyres are not road worthy..!! That is the most simple way to put it.
For argument sake we can say the dry grip is kind of OK, manageable most of the time, but the tyre tends to lose traction a lot , a bit of rear brake pressure causes the rear wheels to lock and the bike rear starts stepping out and is all over the place.
Wet grip is just plain nightmare. Using the rear brakes is a life threatening prospect during the monsoons, have had many fishtails during the monsoons season using the rear brake. Even on the dry tarmac a bit of prolonged usage of the rear brake seems to lock the wheel . I have always been able to manage the slides so far. I have no idea when I will be presented with a slide that I won’t be able to handle.
I also had the misfortune of having a defective rear tyre. I had to change the rear tyre as early as 6k on the ODO, the problem being that the right shoulder of the rear tyre having accelerated wear and was worn down to the level of the bottom patches being exposed, and the rest of the tyre wearing off at a normal rate. On doing a bit of research found that this too has been a common problem for many people but all at different period of the tyres life-cycle. I had it replaced , thanks to the helpful mentality from the service center manager, despite continental rejecting my claim for warranty at first.
The sad part being that this has been the feedback from customers right from 2011 when the bike was launched and Honda hasn’t done anything concrete to counter this problem. Though a few lucky souls have got their CBR with stock sized MRF Revs rubber when delivered (same model as the R15 V2.0 but in stock CBR sizes, testing phase probably) , but then again the Dealers have no idea of it and sourcing this tyre from MRF is next to impossible , having been trying to do that from last 3-4 months. Probably it is a sign that the future 2014 models might see a change in the tyre options and will be much better.
But now we do have a few other options until this problem is resolved. Michelin has introduced tyres in stock CBR sized that is 110/70-17 and 140/70-17 . Claiming to have more life than a set of PSD and much more grip. It is readily available in the market now , but can be a bit on the expensive side. Initial reviews on this tyre have been great, people seem to be feeling much more stability and control with this tyre than the stock ones.
Another option is the Duke 200 or Duke 390 tyres, which has been a popular option right from the time the Duke was launched. Though using the duke’s tyre meant up-sizing, but no negative sides have been reported so far. The metzelers from the 390 is also a options, but a very expensive option for that matter.
The braking power of the CBR is a bit of a let down, though it does manage to stop just right in time, would have loved to have a bit more bite for the front brakes, rear brake is also being the same, could do with being a bit more responsive.
The ABS version bikes seems to have a bit more better feedback from the brakes as compared to the Standard versions. The Brake unit for the ABS versions are from Nissin while the standard version has the units from Bybre.
After almost 6 months of owning this beautiful machine, I can say that I made the right choice in choosing a upgrade for my 220. Though the pricing is a bit steep, it was a bike which fit all my requirements within the 2L price bracket.
So if you want a great looking bike,with a decently powerful engine, good comfort, apt for long rides get the Honda CBR 250R and change the tyres to a better pair and enjoy thousands of miles of happy touring.
So, I guess it’s time to wind up the review here, I am certain I might have missed some aspect here and there, after-all clearing all grounds is a rather tough and time consuming job. So if you find some aspect that i have missed here and want to know about it , do leave me a feedback in the comments section and i will surely get back to you with the answer, or you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.