It was almost 3 years back when I got my good old Honda Activa which I still love to ride. But then, I wanted a bike. Although, many suggested me to take a 150cc one and then upgrade to 250cc, I decided to jump for the quarter-litre segment directly. Again I was left in a big dilemma when I had to choose between the Honda CBR 250R and the KTM Duke 200. Finally, I chose the CBR250R because of two things. Firstly, I love the brand Honda and secondly, the Duke felt a bit too aggressive for daily usage and CBR250R was a better pick for long drives as it is much more planted at high speed than the Duke.
The Rides – As soon as I got the bike, it was time for my first long ride and I rode from Chennai to Mahabalipuram. Well, the one that rode parallel to me was the Duke 200. It was just a 150kms ride but I got to explore the bike and had an opportunity to open the throttle and shift into the 6th gear, something which we rarely get to do in the daily city commuting. The CBR isn’t thoroughly enjoyable on the city streets and it is prone to test your patience, but on the highway, it comes into a world of its own. It is comfortable and gobbles up the kilometres with ease. Once we reached our destination, we had good fun on the beach and rode on the coastal track. On the way back, the sunset was beautiful. Since it was my first ride. I didn’t push the bike much and the short ride came to an end.
The next trip I made was from Chennai to Bangalore. It was a total of nearly 1000kms of riding, so I inspected the bike and made sure everything was ready to go. I had left Chennai by Friday afternoon in a hope to reach Bangalore by night fall and was soon on the Bangalore highway which was quite busy with traffic.
I began to enjoy the ride and for the first time I met the enemy of the speed biking- the WIND!!! It was a big struggle with the wind as even at 100km/hr, the wind was strong enough to blow the bike from one lane to the other. But since I was doing this trip with the CBR, due to its heavy and lean forward nature, I could steer against the wind. I decided to take a break near vellore for some coffee before setting off again. I was running late because of the road works on the way and was suddenly stopped by the clanking of the chain. I stopped to inspect. The chain slider was hanging on the side. I got rid of the small rubber piece and continued with occasional clanking of the chain. I managed to reach Hosur by sunset and after tanking up the bike, dashed off to Bangalore only to find myself drenched in a shower. I reached my destination by 8 PM.
After two days of roaming around in Bangalore, it was time to ride back. I managed to get the chain slider fixed and also a screw had rattled out of the fairing, which was fixed too. This time, I decided to make a detour to Elagiri. I set off early in the morning after a quick breakfast. I reached Elagiri by mid-noon and just loved the ride uphill. It was brilliant and the climate was just perfect. Although, the clouds were looming above, there was no rain. I reached Chennai by 4 in the evening. I was delighted by the entire experience. It was just fabulous and I loved it to bits. I was more delighted by the bike returning 42km/l for the trip.
Looks and Ride – The CBR’s styling is not an eye candy but something you can live with. The front fairing is one of the key design features and it looks brilliant. In the rear, the lack of the led tail-lamp and turn indicators is disappointing. After the removal of the saree-guard, the bike looks much better and I have gone for the HRC(Honda Racing Colours). It is again a personal choice and it is something you will either like or dislike. The instrument cluster is easy to read and the blue back-light adds to it. Although, it has all the essentials like the coolant temperature, tachometer and trip-meter, it doesn’t give you an overload of information like the Duke and the fuel gauge isn’t very accurate. It is better to tank up as soon as the bike hits the reserve. The ride is very comfortable, especially for long-rides and the pillion seat is the most usable in class. The riding position is slightly lean forward and if you’re a tall rider, you would feel wrist pain initially till you get used but it isn’t a big problem. Well, I am 6’2”.
Performance – It is in this segment that CBR pulls ahead of its rivals namely the Duke and Pulsar 200 NS. Its 25 BHP, long-stroke engine provides ample torque throughout the rev range and peaking out at an impressive 22.9 Nm and this too is provided at more usable 7000 rpm. The engine shares similarities with its elder cousin CBR 1000RR. It is very refined and provides good low-end and mid-range grunt but the top-end although not disappointing could be stronger. This makes it terrific for the highways. You can cruise at 110-120 km/hr all day long and push the bike to the limit it hits its top speed of 164 km/hr at around 10,200 rpm but anything above 135 kmph takes ages to achieve.
Handling – The bike handling seems to be the weak link. This can be traced down to two things, first of all the suspension set up is too soft to provide any feedback, this is good for highways and straight roads but makes the bike unpredictable at curves. Stiffening the front forks should make it easier to handle. The bike comes with continental tyres which aren’t made up of soft rubber. This ensures long tire life but compromises on the handling aspect. If you can overcome these two barriers, one would realize that CBR’s handling is good too although not as good as R15. It is commendable but it needs certain expertise to get the best handling from the CBR.
Braking – The bike comes with an optional C-ABS but it is priced at Rs. 30,000/- more than the standard version. This makes one to rethink about their decision. After riding both the ABS and the non-ABS variant, I feel for an amateur rider, ABS is a must but if one is used to bikes, they can go for standard variant as well. The braking is really good on both the bikes and in dry surfaces one would hardly find the difference. But under wet conditions, the rider should be careful and understand the limitations. However, the ABS is really commendable and is really effective, bringing the bike to a safe stop under any condition. The ABS also has an extra one pot in the front.
Fuel and Oil – Honda recommends the usage of normal petrol and Honda’s 10w-30 synthetic oil. But after testing the bike with other fuels, I feel it’s better to stick to the speed 97 or at least speed as it makes the engine more refined and reduces vibrations because of the fuel additives present in the fuel. The oil 10w-30 or 10w-40 can be used. There won’t be much difference between the two but for long distance highway, 10w-40 should be better and for city running, the 10w-30. I am running my bike on semi-synthetic 10w-40 oil from shell and will shift to fully synthetic Mobil 1 or Castrol after 2nd service at 6000kms.
Points to note – The bike is brilliant under all circumstances but the build quality could have been better. The service is pathetic as most of the times, they pay no attention to your complaints and only the basic service is done. The bike returned around 32 km/l in city and 42 km/l on highway (both on speed 97 fuel).
Verdict – It is still the cheapest 250cc sports bike/tourer available for sale in India. After riding other bikes like the Duke and the Pulsar 200 NS, I feel they cannot be compared to CBR and while they are mostly good for city usage, the CBR sticks to its tag line of “Know The Unknown” and is a brilliant sports tourer. All that said, its not all that bad on the city roads too. It has the most impressive mileage in class and is the perfect one for a good weekend ride. In my opinion, its worth every rupee and although not perfect, its something which is fun to ride and that is the reason why one should buy it. It is right to say that CBR leads the quarter-litre bike segment in India atleast for now.
– Refined and powerful engine
– Mid-range grunt
– Sporty fairing
– Mileage (32 km/l)
– Build quality
– Unsatisfied services
– Saree Guard
– Lack of top-end grunt
– Rear tail lamp