Get Off On The Right Foot | MC COMPARO

Honda CBR250R vs. Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs. Suzuki GW250

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

Marc Cook, Editor in Chief

Age: 50 | Height: 5’9” | Weight: 195 lb. | Inseam: 32 in.

No comparison. The scrappy Ninja 300 is my first recommendation for new riders who show an interest in the sport (as opposed to people just looking for two-wheel transportation; for them, it’s a scooter). I believe that it’s crucial for a bike to have “interest durability,” to still feel like a fun and slightly challenging ride after the first year’s financing is complete. By my reckoning, the GW is too boring and the Honda just a bit too performance limited to have legs. Despite its pint size—and don’t the best things come in pints?—the Ninja offers kick-ass performance and daily thrills. And because of all that, it shortens the distance to middleweight sporty bikes without asking too much of new riders.

Zack Courts, Associate Editor

Age: 30 | Height: 6’2” | Weight: 185 lb. | Inseam: 34 in.

Everyone is in love with Kawasaki’s Ninja 300, but I’m not sold. Yes, it’s the most powerful of this group, but I don’t like the high pegs or the wooden brakes, and the insect styling hasn’t grown on me. Honda’s CBR is more mature in every way, from paint choices (though I dig the flashy Repsol livery) and styling, to the mellow single-cylinder engine.

Suzuki’s new GW doesn’t stack up to either, unfortunately. It’s too heavy to be a friendly beginner bike, and the motor can’t cope with the extra weight, which is a shame because the GW’s mill is really pleasant. The dash is tidy and the headlight is edgy, but those fenders and exhaust pipes are just awful. Overall it looks like it’s straight off the streets of Taipei, and it isn’t cheap enough to excuse that.

Jessica Prokup, Guest Tester

Age: 38 | Height: 5’5” | Weight: 115 lb. | Inseam: 31 in.

A few miles into riding the Ninja 300, I was confident it would be at the top of my list. It’s sexy, sporty, and practical at the same time. I like the styling, and the motor has the most punch. I was briefly tempted by the easygoing—if overdressed—GW250, but its underwhelming power and short gearing took the fun out of riding it.

Then I fired up the CBR250R, and it sounded and felt the most like a motorcycle should. I love the character of the motor, and while it can’t touch the Ninja in terms of performance, the bike is more nimble and easier to manage. If I had to choose one for my first bike, I think my mother would vote for the thoroughbred Ninja and my bohemian friends would cheer for the son of the B-King, but I would pick the little CBR.

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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?
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.
" 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)" 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.
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.
""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."


" 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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