Get Off On The Right Foot | MC COMPARO

Honda CBR250R vs. Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs. Suzuki GW250

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing


Suzuki is looking to get a piece of the small-bike pie with its new GW250, a quasi-naked standard with spacious ergos, a docile engine, and a number of beginner-friendly features not found on the competition. We appreciate the GW's newbie-friendly parallel twin. It's low-tech and light on power—it cranks out just 21.2 hp at 8,200 rpm—but it's smooth and steady. All three of these motorcycles have counterbalancers, but the GW's works the best, so that the grips, footpegs, and other contact points remain relatively calm at all engine speeds. That's a good thing because the Suzuki is geared low and you'll frequently find the tach needle hovering near redline. You can take the GW on the freeway and keep up with traffic, but there's almost nothing left in reserve.

Around town, the Suzuki is a peach. Its smooth motor and comfy ergos are great for bopping around the city, and when you avoid the freeway, fuel economy jumps from the high 40s to the low 60s. The riding position is a little more upright than the Honda's and overall quite comfortable. The seat is the softest and so is the suspension, soaking up bumps at the expense of some stability in the corners.

The dash is the most comprehensive here, with helpful features like a gear-position indicator, maintenance reminder, and large turn signal lights. An adjustable front brake lever lets you tailor the reach so it's easier to keep the brake covered, and the clutch pull is light with progressive engagement.

The Suzuki's styling is polarizing. The little GW clearly inherited its looks from the B-King, and while it's not ugly for the same reasons as the 'King, the fact that it's reminiscent is unfortunate. And there's no hiding the fact that the GW is slow. The bike's wet weight doesn't help. At 405 pounds, it's the heaviest bike here: 22 pounds heftier than the Ninja and a whopping 49 pounds porkier than the lithe Honda.

Suzuki might not have put a huge amount of effort into engineering the GW250, but it still ended up with a competent little bike. It's the least expensive option at $3,999 and also the most comfortable. In the end, this is a good, if not mind-blowing, effort. Mostly, we're just glad to see another manufacturer joining the fray.

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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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