Honda CBR250RR – A review for the new rider
It’s seems just about every second thread on which LAMS bike should I purchase lists a CBR250RR as an option. So I’ve decided that I would write a review for all curious new riders with some facts and personal experiences. This is written with the new rider in mind so I will try stay as simplistic as possible. I believe most of my facts are right, happy to add corrections if people find any. Hopefully people will use the search function when asking if they should buy a CBR250RR, lol...
The Honda CBR250 range of the 1990/80’s (not the 2011 and onwards models) are liquid cooled, 16 valve, inline 4 cylinder, 4 stroke, 250cc motorcycles. The Honda CBR250 series began life in the mid 1980’s. Originally only being sold in Japan. Very few if any (I’ve never seen one) of the mid 80’s model known as the MC14 made it to Australia. Any that did make it were imported as Grey Imports ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_import_vehicle)
The first common CBR250 model to make it to Australia was the MC19. The MC19 was also a grey import vehicle. These are also commonly referred to as CBR250R. This model was produced between 1987 and 1989. This model can often be found quite cheap however aftermarket sales and parts are more difficult to find due to the smaller number of R models imported to Australia. Their age is also now becoming a major hurdle when searching for a well sorted example. While sharing a similar engine to the later RR model the R model lacked the great chassis package boasted by the RR. Unfortunately some not so reputable private importers often paint the R model the with RR stickers. A quick way to tell what model you are looking at is to check the front brake. The R model has one single brake disc on the front, while the RR has twin front discs. There are other easy ways to pick the differences but for a newbie without much bike knowledge the brake disc method is often the easiest.
So that was a brief history, onto the RR. The MC22 or CBR250RR was produced between 1990 and 1996. Originally only selling in Japan during the early to mid 90’s. These early Japanese models reported power and torque figures of 45HP (33 kW) @ 15,000rpm* and 21.5 N.M @ 12,000 rpm*. Due to changes in Japanese law from 1994 onwards the MC22 power figures were revised to 40HP (29 kW) @ 14,500 rpm* and 23.5 N.M@ 11,500 rpm* (* ref Wikipedia). These decreases were achieved mainly through a modified engine head. There may be some other small differences but nothing too major.
In 1996 Honda Australia begun importing the CBR250RR. These bikes were sold as new from Honda until supply ran out around the year 2000. Note, no new bikes were built after 1996, however all bikes sold officially by Honda Australia were brand new leftover stock. So while a Honda Australia CBR250RR 1999 model was new in 1999 it was manufactured most likely in 1996. There were only ever two official Honda Australia colour schemes in which the CBR250RR was released.
The common tri-colour
and less common Red and Black. (thanks wilko for pics)
While this can help determine what year model CBR250RR you are looking at, it is not definitive. To find out exactly you will have to look at the VIN. The VIN is located on the right side of the bike, on the frame towards the handle bars. The following two pictures** show a Honda Australia CBR250RR (1st pic) and a grey import CBR250RR (2nd pic). The Honda Australia VIN has "Honda MPE PTY LTD" writing on the VIN. The grey import shows the private business who did the compliance work on the VIN. **(borrowed from CBR250.com)
Grey Import VIN
Without knowing the exact numbers I would hazard to guess that the majority of CBR250RR’s in Australia are grey imports. Ultimately the decision to buy a genuine import or a grey import is of little significance. However it is beneficial to understand what you are buying! Some Honda dealers will not sell parts for grey import bikes, however this is easily bypassed by telling the spare parts guy your CBR is a 1996-1999 Australian model. I don’t think this is a common problem but I have heard of it happening (hearsay so take of it what you will).
Some not so reputable dealers sell grey import CBR250RR’s as new. With year models right throughout the 2000’s and will try and sell new riders a 2011 CBR250RR despite the last models running off the plant floor around 1996. You may think that this sounds illegal. It is not. To keep it simple once a grey import agent has done the necessary minor modifications and paper work as far as Australian authorities are concerned the bike is able to be sold as a 2011 complianced model. Compliance is essentially the process of ensuring the overseas vehicle now meets Australian standards and ADR’s.
Most of these recently complianced models will be fitted with new aftermarket fairings. This is to give the bike a modern look. A common brand of aftermarket fairings for the CBR250RR is Tyga (http://tyga-performance.com/site/index.php). It is vitally important that when looking at a dealer bike being sold as a “2011” model that you have it thoroughly checked over by an experienced motorcyclist or mechanic. Glossy new fairings can often hide nasty mechanical and/or electrical gremlins lurking underneath the surface.
Essentially this is the most important thing to remember when looking at any second hand or used motorcycle. Have someone check it out for you! We can all get carried away in the search for our first bike so take someone knowledgeable and impartial with you. It would literally save you thousands of dollars.
So onto the important questions, the RR’s pre 1994 rev to 19,000RPM, while the post 1994 models redline at 18,000RPM. Top speed is a much discussed topic amongst riders, my 1999 Australian model only ever saw about 180KPH indicated (indicated and real speed are often not the same). Some people claim they can reach 200KPH indicated, whilst this may be possible given ideal conditions I would suggest the 180KPH indicated mark is as far as most will get. Of course I tested this on a track not the road. Dry weight is reported at 142kg and 0-100KPH can be achieved in sub 6 second times.
Onto the road test: I purchased my CBR250RR with 42200km’s on the odometer, exactly. Yes I did commit that to memory the day I bought it. By the time it left us and went to motorcycle heaven it had a about 75,000kms on it. Over those approximate 35,000km’s I toured, scratched, track day’d, and commuted in all kinds of conditions.
With standard gearing the CBR would cruise at 100KPH with the rev needle sitting at 9000RPM. It would do this all day if you asked it. I did more than a few 500KM+ days during my time with the bike. While the CBR will sit on the highway all day it really comes into its own in the twisty stuff. I think I must have spent every weekend for 18 months out at Canberra’s infamous Mt Mac flogging my CBR through the varying turns make their way through the lovely Brindabella Mountains. The CBR’s capability surprised more than a few experienced riders on these various short scratches. While you’ll never out gun a big capacity sports bike in a straight line there was something very satisfying about seeing those expensive superbikes disappear in your mirrors after two or three turns.
With a seat height of 725mm and weighing in at 150kg this bike is certainly a compact package. At 176cm I looked like a giant riding this small bike. However the bike never felt small, its riding position is quite relaxed with handle bars feeling sporty but much more upright then a modern sports bike. The pegs are quite comfortably positioned and after a long highway ride or a short blat on the track I never got off the bike feeling sore. Taller riders may find this bike a tad small however the only way to really tell is to sit on one and if you can take it for a test ride.
After a rather clumsy attempt at a fast take off from my friends house early in my riding career I discovered what will no doubt be something on most young riders minds.. Does it wheelie? Short answer is yes, pretty much any bike with a clutch will. But this bike takes a lot of effort to loft the front wheel and often the steady hand needed for this task is beyond that of a learner.
9 months into my riding career I was convinced to take my CBR onto the track. One of the main draw cards of these bikes to many learners is the sporty look. Essentially going fast and as a spin off racing is a draw card to these full faired bikes. The inline 4 cylinder 250cc motorcycles of the 1990’s are still without peer in terms of performance production 4 strokes for their capacity. These little bikes love the high RPM and melting rubber that only the race track can provide (legally). Their short wheel base, low curb weight and made for purpose sports bike chassis glided through corners with the greatest of ease. The corner speed these little bikes will hold is quite phenomenally when you put some sticky hoops on. The skills I developed on the track with the CBR have been invaluable as I venture further into the joyous sport of motorcycle racing.
However the bike is not perfect. As the last new bike was ridden from the dealers showroom sometime in about the year 2000 all these bikes are now at least 11 years old. Many approaching their 21st birthday. While my CBR never failed me during my ownership it was starting to show it’s age. I had ridden my bike to its edge. To have taken it any further it would have needed front and rear suspension overhauls, a good tune on a dyno and at least two new front brake rotors (it never made it that far after an incident at turn 5, Eastern Creek).
I maintained my CBR meticulously. I changed the oil and oil filter every 5000KMs, had the coolant flushed twice a year, had the valves checked and adjusted by a professional mechanic and did regular changes of other fluids and filters. I would like to think all CBR250’s have had the same level of care taken. However there are many which have not. This is why, and I’ll repeat again, when looking at any second hand or used motorcycle. Have someone check it out for you! We can all get carried away in the search for our first bike so take someone knowledgeable and impartial with you. It would literally save you thousands of dollars.
The tight chassis makes the basic suspension work superbly for any novice rider. With some decent brake pads and good brake fluid pulling up will never be an issue. And with over 40HP at your right wrist in a package weighing less than 150kg there is plenty of fun to be had. The CBR250RR really was a great bike. I don’t think we will ever see another replication of over engineered 250cc motorcycles like the 1990’s bought us.
So to return to the original point of writing this review, should I buy a CBR250RR, the answer is yes... and no. Yes this bike is a fantastic package engineered with the track in mind. However solid the engineering may be, the years have taken their toll. Many clapped out mistreated examples exist. But, if you find a well cared for, maintained gem they can be an absolute hoot.
Should you buy a NinjaR, GS500, VTR250, HyoWatever-CC. Sure, if you find one that suits our budget and style go for it. They will all teach you the same thing the CBR will teach you. You will not end your restrictions period a superior rider because of the bike you choose, but rather your skill will be determined by how much practice in all conditions you do with your chosen bike. All the major manufactures make great bikes to learn on, all with varying limitations. I know plenty of ex-GS500 riders that will stomp all over ex-CBR250 riders now they are off restrictions.
Ultimately pick the bike that draws you in the most. Don’t worry about other people perceptions. It will be your learner bike and I can guarantee no one on their full licence is gonna care how many RRRRR’s your LAMS bike has.