Get Off On The Right Foot | MC COMPARO

Honda CBR250R vs. Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs. Suzuki GW250

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

SO, WHICH ONE?

Bottom line, each of these is a reasonable choice. Based on personal preferences for styling and performance appeal, we can accept an argument for buying any one of them. In many ways, the GW is the "safe" choice—least expensive, most benign in terms of performance, softly saddled, and gently suspended. It's a modern iteration of the bike that MSF instructors must fantasize about.

At the other end of the range is the Ninja, which has character and performance to spare within this class. It's the obvious choice for anyone who wants to pursue the performance avenue of the sport. Sure, it requires a greater initial investment, but the Kawasaki is more entertaining and will likely keep its owner's attention the longest. (At least one of our old timers says he'd be happy to own one.) The toughest part of having the Ninja 300 might be keeping your more experienced sportbike friends off of it.

And that leaves the Honda. We find it easy to recommend the CBR as the best all-around entry-level bike with the caveat that its performance might not be quite enough for heavier riders or suburban dwellers who need to keep up with 80-mph traffic. But for everyone else and in every other riding environment, it positively shines, balancing ease of use and performance in ways that will quickly make you forget it's intended to be an entry-level machine. And that, as much as anything, makes us happy to see a renewed emphasis on really good machines in an absolutely critical category.

If comfort is a priority, the Suzuki is your bike: The GW has the softest seat, squishiest suspension, smoothest engine, and the most upright riding position. The Ninja is the sportbike of the bunch, with a hard seat and the longest reach to the lowest bars. It’s also short on legroom. The Honda splits the difference with a moderately upright riding position, adequate legroom, and an acceptable saddle.

The Ninja is on another level. The Kawasaki comes up “on the cams” at 7,500 rpm and positively dominates from there on up to its 13,000-rpm redline. The 300’s extra 47cc offer a huge advantage in the low- and top-end, but the Honda matches the Ninja’s output in the midrange, if only momentarily. That ledge in the CBR’s curves at 5,000 rpm isn’t perceptible from the saddle, yet the drop-off in power toward redline feels greater than it is. The GW’s engine won’t win any competitions, but it spins the smoothest. Long-stroke engine geometry means the GW actually outperforms the CBR in certain places, but an overweight chassis masks any power advantage the Suzuki may have.

Tech SPEC

HONDA CBR250R KAWASAKI NINJA 300 SUZUKI GW250
Price $4599 $4799 $3999
Engine type l-c single l-c parallel twin l-c parallel twin
Valve train DOHC, 4v DOHC, 8v SOHC, 4v
Displacement 249cc 296cc 248cc
Bore x stroke 76.0 x 55.0mm 62.0 x 49.0mm 53.5 x 55.2mm
Compression 10.7:1 10.6:1 11.5:1
Fuel system EFI EFI EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate Wet, multi-plate slipper Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed
Frame Tubular-steel twin-spar Tubular-steel double-cradle Tubular-steel semi-double cradle
Front suspension Showa 37mm fork KYB 37mm fork KYB 37mm fork
Rear suspension Showa shock adjustable for spring preload KYB shock adjustable for spring preload KYB shock adjustable for spring preload
Front brake Nissin two-piston caliper, 296mm disc Tokico two-piston caliper, 290mm disc Nissin two-piston caliper, 290mm disc
Rear brake Nissin one-piston caliper, 220mm disc Tokico two-piston caliper, 220mm disc Nissin one-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Front tire 110/70R-17 IRC Road Winner 110/70R-17 IRC Road Winner 110/80R-17 IRC Road Winner
Rear tire 140/70R-17 IRC Road Winner  140/70R-17 IRC Road Winner 140/70R-17 IRC Road Winner
Rake/trail 25.0º/3.7 in. 27.0º/3.7 in. 26.0º/4.1 in.
Seat height 30.5 in. 30.9 in. 30.7 in.
Wheelbase 53.9 in.  55.3 in.  56.3 in.
Fuel capacity 3.4 gal.  4.5 gal. 3.5 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty) 356/336 lb. 383/356 lb. 405/384 lb.
Measured horsepower 23.8 bhp @ 8500 rpm 35.7 bhp @ 10,900 rpm 21.2 bhp @ 8200 rpm
Measured torque 15.9 lb.-ft. @ 7000 rpm 18.1 lb.-ft. @ 9900 rpm 14.8 lb.-ft. @ 6600 rpm
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.) 76/59/65 mpg   56/46/50 mpg 64/48/53 mpg 
Colors Black, Red, Blue/Orange/White/Red (Repsol)   Lime Green/Ebony, Pearl Stardust White, Ebony Pearl Nebular Black
Available Now Now  Now
Warranty 12 mo., unlimited mi. 12 mo., unlimited mi. 12 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact powersports.honda.com kawasaki.com suzukicycles.com

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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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