Get Off On The Right Foot | MC COMPARO

Honda CBR250R vs. Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs. Suzuki GW250

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing


At first glance, Kawasaki's littlest Ninja is hard to distinguish from its ZX-6R sibling. The 300's sporting intentions are evident in its angular bodywork, and the theme carries over to the ergonomics, which find riders reaching forward to low clip-on bars and hooking their heels on high-set, grippy footpegs. The fuel-injected, 296cc parallel twin fires up without any of the fuss of its predecessor, and the old off-idle lag is gone. In its place is smooth, steady power that builds rapidly beyond 7,500 rpm. You don't have to wring the Ninja's neck to make forward progress, but when you do, it rewards with an exciting top-end rush. The Ninja is the only bike here able to attain triple-digit speeds. Our testbike put down 35.7 hp at 10,900 rpm, more than 10 hp up on the Honda and Suzuki and 2.5 hp stronger than the last Ninja 300 we tested. Out on the road, those extra ponies pay big dividends. The Ninja cruises at 70 mph without breaking a sweat, and unlike the 250s, the 300 still has ample power on tap for passing.

That strong motor and a full-size, 4.5-gallon tank should make the Ninja the most suitable for longer trips, but a lack of legroom, a hard seat, a shock that seems to be calibrated for heavy riders, and a buzz in the grips encourage you to exit the highway and seek out a twisty route to your destination. This is a sportbike, after all. Just in miniature.

Swapping gears is quick thanks to a short-throw shifter and crisp gearbox, but all our testers found the clutch hard to master due to an inconsistent engagement zone, likely due to the slip-assist clutch mechanism. On the other side of the bike, the front brake lacks bite and the lever has a wooden feel. The suspension, too, misses the mark. The taut shock transfers too much weight onto the undersprung fork, resulting in a rough, imbalanced ride on bumpy surfaces. The Ninja is still a thrill in the twisties and would surely be a real treat with the right springs and more aggressive brake pads.

With a 13,000-rpm redline, sporty looks, and the most power, the Ninja 300 is the clear choice for aspiring sport riders. Its $4,799 price tag is a bit higher than those of the 250s, but that extra cash nets you a lot more performance.

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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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