Though I had decided to post a review at 10,000 kms- 13,050 kms is what my odometer reads at present, with most of the numbers have been clicked while commuting- approximately 3,500 kms have been rolled on touring. From the daily drudge of riding in traffic to the twisting ghat sections to arrow straight wide highways to roads so bad that you'd think twice even taking an off-roader. Hence except for riding on wet surface, I had a pretty good taste of most of the conditions that I would consider to sum up my experience on the Honda CBR250R that I purchased 5 months ago. Since this is more of a performance review, I would be happily skipping the styling part and the perpetual harping done by some blokes on the quality part (to write-off) even after they have been rectified by Honda.
To begin with, I feel and would state that every penny I've put on this bike is largely compensated by the engine alone. Though not outright torqeuy as the my earlier bike- the ZMA, but it gathers up pretty well once past the 3000 revs mark. You can feel the momentum building up from 4000 and once past 5000- you can feel the pull right to its redline specially in the first 4 gears. The peaky torque surge between 5000-8000 rpm is something I just love about the engine. Not a typical electric-motor sounding Honda, it keeps that buzz aloud to know its there and revving. One thing I've noticed from what couple or riders have told me on the vibes from the engine. I feel its pure psychological- as stated earier, this is not a typical smooth sounding Honda, but the buzz somewhat makes you to believe that the engine gets into a vibey state as the rpm soars. As far as my experience goes on Honda engines from an Activa to a Honda CRV- they have a peculiar trait of being at their gruffiest at low rpms. Get the motor spinning and the vibes go into hiding, and this bike is no different. To clear the confusion, my advice would be to just try riding once listening to music- though I don't advocate listening to music while riding for safety reasons, but maybe on a safe stretch one can try this out. Put on the music and whack the throttle in every gear and feel the vibes on the bars, pegs or the seat.....I bet that vibe psychology would be cleared. To shamefully admit, my CBR is well past its second service i.e. 12,000 kms mark- The engine oil is more than 7000 kms old since last change, but even high speed runs i.e. 130-140 kph in the searing heat, the engine never showed signs of overheating or power-loss. I see it as a punishment to the bike to do something like this, but to my astonishment- after every such punishment, the bike runs smoother than before. This engine is definitely made to handle stress at the highest order, or to put it straight a boon for touring. After I sold my ZMA, I wanted something that would replicate the engine characteristic one level further, and am happy the CBR does it gleefully and at a level more than one.
Its a decent box- not bad, but not excellent either i.e. specially the first 3 gears, it needs a minute more effort to ensure a perfect slot. Not everytime, but ocassionally during high rev-shifting it used to slip back to the previous gear. Its more prominent from 1st to second. 4th and 5th gears are absolutely fine. For the sake of comparison, I liked the shift-feel on one of my friend's 3rd batch CBR (tri-colour)- typical no-nonsense Honda shifts. Will need to highlight at my 3rd service and hopefully the service centre MIGHT be able to solve it. In the end not much complaining, but the engineering expectation that tags along with the Honda badge makes me wish for a slight better experience.
PLUSH is the word. Though can't fiddle much with the front (heck its already soft), but I run a softer setting on the monoshock, thanks to a lunar landscape called western express highway in Mumbai. Another element that spells 'T-O-U-R-I-N-G" on this motorcycle. With the relentless engine as it companion, the suspension is made to much miles on Indian roads unless and until the road gets really terrible. And here its not the suspension that will stress or tire you out- rather it'll be the hard seat (though softer in the new batch CBRs) and the slightly forward-lean riding position. After all the praises, comes the proverbial "double-edged" sword. The very same plush suspension would make you roll back the throttle once you hit a relatively tight corner. Wide sweepers are no-brainers and fun indeed, but tight corners squeeze your eyebrows closer to your eyelids- and the only thing that you'd pray before entering into any corner is no bumps, midcorner-correction or braking or else you're in for a camelback ride experience. The front also ensures that the excitement just doesn't end here, in case of a panic/tight braking situation the front-dive makes the rear extremely light resulting in a distorted feedback from the rear brakes. Though I don't completely blame the bike- you can't have the best of everything, but I wish it wasn't as soft as this especially the front.
The first time I saw the tyres on the CBR, it was a "WOW"...I was no different than the regular band who loved fat tyres on their bikes. Unfortunately form and function do not always go hand in hand. I don't find much issues with the front tyre, but the rear tyre has always made me go low on confidence and evoke that fear of crashing my lovely red bike. The high profile makes you hit the edge of the tyre pretty soon restraining any further lean leaving you with only two options- brake and slow down (bad choice to do in a corner) or alter your line to a wider curve. After reading experiences of veteran riders like Dr. Arnob Gupta- I used to send my apprehensions to the back-bench and carry on with my usual riding with new confidence, but everytime...every single time, the rear tyre responded with lost traction telling me not to push any harder. On a few wet surfaces during summer season, I've missed heartbeats on braking. How it fares in monsoons is to be seen. At present I have adopted a conservative cornering mindset and will retain till I upgrade to better rubber.
I'd put the braking feel right between the Pulsar (sharp) and a ZMA (slightly spongy). Gradual braking is not an issue at all, but the feedback from the front is not very linear specially in an event of hard braking, its more like a staggered line graph being transmitted from the rotors to your wrists. I wouldn't dump the entire blame on the brakes itself, the front suspension aids a substantial part of the sin. I like the rear brakes- they really do work. Initially I found them to be sharp relative to the input on the brake pedal- it was understood considering that the other rear-disc'd bike I rode most of the time was a P220. As of now, I've got used to the rear brakes and pretty happy with it. But the front needs some skills to operate.
This bike has send me back to the drawing boards and made me feel like a novice when I used to go too easy and fast on it. The weight and a longer wheelbase make straight line stability at high speeds an absolute delight, and so are sudden direction changes i.e. flicking lanes. A stupid instance to cite (strictly not advised)- I once happened to cut between two cars doing 142 kph (was in a completely different trance that moment), I went in and came out in a flash- the bike didn't shiver an inch. Wide twisties too- holds well, its only when the corners tighten up- it starts to disobey your decided line of turn and would go a few inches or even a metre wide depending upon the corner. The high profile rear tyres will ensure that you don't lean as much as your riding buddies would do on the R15s and the Dukes. But then as mentioned early, this bike has send me back to school- I have seen my other friends on the CBR go much faster around corners. Ample scope for me to understand this bike as far as the handling goes, but give me a Duke or an R15 or even a ZMA, I will hit much higher speeds on these than I'd do on the CBR.
The seating position has become second nature now and I find it comfortable for my liking- the only bug is the hard seat which violent slaps your bottom when the roads start to get really bad. A softer foam modification would make the affair a pleasant one. Same goes for the pillion seat too.
6) Fuel Efficiency
It has simply surpassed my expectations. I remember Dr. Arnob (pointing finger at my ZMA) telling me that the CBR will give better mileage than this. Though I trusted Doc's words, there was still a slight doubt as to how a bigger engine with nearly 50% more horsepower give better figures than an engine lesser on capacity and power. True to Doc's words- not only does the CBR give way better figures than the ZMA at high speeds, it surpasses the count during commuting too. As per my calculation till date, the worst I have got is 34.xx per litre to the best of 42.xx kpl. On an average it varies between 35-38 kpl. A reason to rejoice really. Another reason why am in love with this engine.
7) After sales-service experience
Initial experience was a bitter one i.e the cone set, plus harder gear shift issues were not resolved. But a mail to Honda headquarters plus to the Head of Vihaan Honda (Thane) ensured a pleasant experience thereon. Complaints were attended to and resolved to great effect, the conesets were replaced under warranty at 6200 kms. The mechanic/technician Mr. Abdul at Vihaan Honda is courteous in nature and very attentive to the issues. As of now am pleased with the servicing part and hope it stays that way.
8) Nagging bits
The biggest irritant has been the coneset. Am still not able to figure out what setting it needs to settle in place. It keeps getting loose and needs frequent tightening- even at present, there is a slight play which gives a tramlining feel while going over uneven roads.
Second comes the chain- off late it tends to loose its slackness within 500 kms of running. I'm very particular in cleaning and greasing and have always used Motul (Chain Cleaner + Grease) for upkeep and I don't see a chain going bad as early as 13,000 kms. Hopefully the service centre solves this issue as well.
Third is the windblast- its acceptable till 120 kph, as the numbers go higher you have no option but to duck slightly (not crouch) to escape the howling wind. Thats's not the riding position you'd like to be in, but then how many times would you be riding at such speeds. An aftermarket touring screen should take care of this issue, provided its reasonably priced, at present the prices are outright daylight robbery.
9) Expenses incurred
Only regular servicing charges and 2 punctures. No extra spends till date.
To conclude my experience till date- I'd say that the CBR is a very versatile motorcycle. From regular commutes to relentless highway touring- it'll do nearly everything that you throw at it. The engine is a delight and feels like it'll probably outlive you and even your next generation. Handling can be bettered by a stiffer setup at the rear and with better rubber. I used to throw the ZMA into corners even with an equally soft front- but with better tyres at the rear. Fork tensioners if available at a cheaper cost should take care of the front.
The CBR might not score 10 out of 10 at everything, but it'll certainly check a lot more points than other motorcycles in competition.