Get Off On The Right Foot | MC COMPARO

Honda CBR250R vs. Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs. Suzuki GW250

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

Elsewhere in this issue, we've compiled the accounts of numerous riders' first taste of two-wheeled locomotion (see "Mini Memories") and the profound effect it had on their lives. The common thread is that they started on something small and simple, a bike that offered all the excitement, enjoyment, and freedom they desired without undue complications or challenges. That initial exposure can be decisive—more often than not it sets the hook deeply and sparks a lasting passion for the sport. Starting out on the wrong bike can have the opposite effect. Things today aren't nearly as simple as they were in the days of the ubiquitous minibike, and it can be challenging for beginners to make a sound decision when it comes to that first bike. Taking the recommendation of a vest-wearing squid or getting upsold at the dealership can leave a new rider with a first bike that's inappropriate and intimidating. Neophytes face a steep enough learning curve without having an overpowered or overweight bike to contend with. A fire-breathing sportbike or full-size bagger might be the ultimate goal, but that's not the best place to start for someone who's just laid hands on a learner's permit.

Motorcycling has the potential to be a lifelong adventure, so it's important to get off on the right foot. Thank goodness for bikes like these, then. Interminably user friendly and affordable to buy, insure, and own, Honda's CBR250R, Kawasaki's Ninja 300, and Suzuki's GW250 are just the thing for new riders, anyone looking for economical transportation, or those who just like to stretch throttle cables and wring their fun from small bikes.

What we have here is a very credible lineup of cheap, efficient, fun, and easy-to-ride motorcycles. They're all fuel-injected for no-fuss starts and crisp fueling, they emulate the style of premium models, offer comprehensive instruments, and the Honda and Kawasaki can even be had with the added safety of ABS. They're built to a price point, of course, but these 7/8-scale machines are quality items, no longer relegated to second-class status in terms of fit, finish, or features.

The Honda and Kawasaki are familiar machines. The single-cylinder CBR250R was new in 2011, and the only changes over the years have involved increasingly appealing paint schemes, culminating in 2013 with the Repsol-edition bike shown here. Kawasaki's Ninja 300 was new for '13 and represents a substantial rework of the evergreen Ninja 250R, offering bold new styling, fuel injection, and a 37cc displacement increase via 7.8mm more stroke. The Suzuki GW250 is the new player in the entry-level field. Modeled after the B-King street brawler, the GW gets power from a four-valve, SOHC, parallel-twin engine and is the upright standard to the CBR and Ninja's more sporting layouts.

With the addition of the GW and a slew of 500s from Honda, it's clear that the segment is growing. For a long time, it was dominated by two choices—Kawasaki's Ninja 250R and Honda's Rebel 250. Now there's a raw economic need for low-buck bikes. While the pulse on the supersport and open-class market is barely perceptible, emerging markets like Brazil and India are exhibiting an insatiable appetite for affordable small-displacement motorcycles. Manufacturers know it, and they are responding accordingly. The American market has only seen a few of the many little motorcycles out there, but they're coming—exciting bikes like KTM's 390 Duke, Honda's new CBR300R, and Triumph's "Street Single" should all show up here in the near future.

For the moment, these bikes represent ground zero for beginners who want to buy new. If your budget demands a used ride or you just don't want to be the one to put that first scratch on a bike, check out the options listed along the bottom of the following pages. Whatever your expected trajectory in the vast and exciting world of motorcycling, we hope our message is clear: Start here.

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the5uperu5er
@touristguy87

The only way to grow the market is to entice new riders. New riders include women and men of all ages with no experience riding.

These bikes are inexpensive, stylish, highway capable and easy to ride/maintain. The barrier to entry is learning a new skill and managing the risks involved with this exciting sport... I would tend to agree with the author of the article when they state that these are "great first-bikes for beginning riders".

As a new rider at the age of 38, with no previous experience and a little money to spend, I've found the CBR250R to be exactly as advertised. I have developed a passion for riding and the hook is set for life.

Why are you so critical of a safe and simple way to share the love for motorcycling that you so obviously have as well? Are you afraid that your exclusive club of daredevil men might be infiltrated by level-headed people of all ages?
touristguy87
I'm not an experienced motorcycle opinion-writer but maybe you will respect my opinion anyway...the CBR250 and Ninja 300 are decent bikes to learn to ride on, and they may even make decent first bikes for some people, in some situations. But I would never say that they are "great first-bikes for beginning riders". They are not cheap and they have no real power, and that lack of power alone would make me very reluctant to recommend one to someone especially a noob. They just don't have enough power, in my opinion, to be anything more than beach-bikes. A bike that can barely get out of its own way shouldn't be ridden in traffic on public roads, noob or no noob. So I might say ok learn to ride on one, but I would be very reluctant to recommend actually buying one. A bike like an FZ6R gives you plenty of power and makes a lot more sense as a learner-bike and as a first bike to own. But to me, the 600RR and even the 1KRR are not much different in that regard. It depends on the bike, the instruction & the rider.
touristguy87
" But the only bikes I could possibly recommend for her are all cruisers; no standards or torture-rack sportbikes (much less dual-sports) have a low enough seat for her (e.g., 28 inches)" ...so the average motorcycle (sportbike & standard) seat-height is about 32 inches. The distance from the seat to the bars, the height of the bars above-ground and the height of the pegs above ground may vary, but that seat-height is pretty standard. So...modify the bike to lower the seat-height and you're all set. She's got shorter legs so she won't need the pegs lowered, and lowering the seat will raise the handlebars in proportion. She might want a pull-back bar, so put one on the bike. The aftermarket industry is what, billions? Tens of billions? And with all the aftermarket parts out there you can't solve this problem? I'm thinking that you're too dumb to ride anyway.
touristguy87
What you are doing is downselling all new riders with this overzealous "Safety-Nazi knows best" attitude. 1st one should not mix "learning to ride" with "buying one's first bike". 2nd the passion for riding comes from different aspects of riding for different people. Do you really expect everyone to develop a lifelong passion for riding by learning how to ride on a Ninja 300 or even worse a CBR250? Is that "the best way" to engender a passion for riding? If you believe that then you're missing the point that a critical aspect of "passion" is the desire to actually do something. Riding a CBR250 is quite different from riding a real sportbike. The rider in question may feel no passion at all for learning how to ride a CBR250, have you even considered that?

So in your opinion they may be talked into a bike that is "inappropriate" for them. You clearly don't respect their judgement: they're just a noob. But you expect them to respect your opinion. You haven't thought through your opinion very well.
touristguy87
""Things today aren't nearly as simple as they were in the days of the ubiquitous minibike"

True, but there's nothing really wrong with that.

"and it can be challenging for beginners to make a sound decision when it comes to that first bike."

-again-

" Taking the recommendation of a vest-wearing squid or getting upsold at the dealership can leave a new rider with a first bike that's inappropriate and intimidating."

True that *can* happen. It also could *not* happen.

" Neophytes face a steep enough learning curve without having an overpowered or overweight bike to contend with."

That depends on how they learn to ride, as well as their own individual talent for learning.

" A sportbike or bagger might be the ultimate goal, but that's not the best place to start for someone who's just laid hands on a learner's permit."

Really? What is "the best place"?
How are we to determine this?  
Why should we care about that?
What if we just want "a good place" that's convenient?
You worry like an old hen.
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