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.