Wrist: Ari Henning
MSRP (2011): $3999
Mods: Vortex sprockets, RK chain, Pirelli tire, WERA hardware
The goal with my CBR250R long-termer was to see if it could compete with the Ninja 250R at the racetrack, and I’m happy to say that there are finally trophies to prove that it can. It’s crazy to think how far this bike has come: From crashing out and coming in last (twice!) at that first race in Las Vegas in April to an all-podium outing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA, in September.
Success finally came at a WERA race meet in the form of a first and two seconds. Granted, 250 class king Brian Bartlow, wasn’t there that weekend, but I bested up-and-coming fast kid, Vision Hayes, who himself has finished ahead of Bartlow on equal machinery.
Jett Tuning’s custom PCV bundles many features into one affordable unit: fuel and ignition
On a 250 at Fontana you don’t roll off for Turn 1, so the front straight effectively extends all the way to Turn 3, a length of nearly three quarters of a mile. In light of that fact, I installed a smaller 37-tooth Vortex aluminum rear sprocket and matching steel front sprocket (www.vortexracing.com; $70.95, $28.95) for a higher top speed. The gearing helped, but the Ninjas still gapped me. Horsepower always prevails on the straights.
Frequent front-end slides in the infield during practice encouraged me to seek the advice of Corey Neuer at CT Racing, who levered on a front Diablo Supercorsa race tire (www.coreytaylorracing.com; $186) to replace the Diable Rosso II I had been riding on. The added traction and more predictable slide behavior let me cut a half second off my lap times, and in the races I ran hard enough to slide the rear Rosso. When you’re smearing the rear on a 27-horsepower bike, you know you’re carrying some corner speed!
One of the biggest improvements made during this project came from the engine work performed by John Ethell at Jett Tuning (www.twobros.com). Ethell used my bike to develop a Stage 1 engine setup, which he can apply to your bike for about $1500. Supply your own exhaust and Ethell will take care of the rest (including a custom Power Commander V) and leave you with a 4-5 bhp increase in peak output and significantly stronger midrange.
O-ring chains are durable but have more drag than unsealed chains. We installed an RK moto
Suspension mods were also a critical part of the development process. Race Tech’s (www.racetech.com) Gold Valve Emulators have been the best solution for tuning damper-rod forks for decades, and we slid a pair into the CBR’s fork along with stiffer springs and heavier-weight oil. Once the setup was properly tuned, the fork had more controlled movement that enabled me to do everything quicker and more forcefully. Out back, a shock from Cogent Dynamics with adjustable rebound damping helped the Honda’s rear tire follow the road better, while 12mm more ride height kept hard parts off the pavement and helped the Honda steer like a proper racebike.
Throughout this project we’ve tried to reduce weight wherever possible. Early on I installed a Shorai lithium-ion battery (see MC Tested, pg. 76), and recently yanked the emissions equipment, horn, and radiator fan. The CBR250R now weighs just 295 pounds ready to race—that’s a full 60 lbs. off the stock bike’s curb weight.
For the most part, the Honda has been trouble free. We wore out a set of cush-drive dampers early on, but the replacement set seems to be holding up fine. Beyond that, there’s the pesky electrical issue that shuts the bike off at the most inopportune times on the racetrack. We’re still trying to find the cause of that malfunction, and will make sure to report on it once we do.
The CBR250R is the littlest, “lowliest” long-termer I’ve had, but it’s been the most satisfying to “own” and it’s taught me a ton about corner speed. Transforming the Honda from showroom-fresh beginner’s bike into a refined racer has been a real pleasure. The inset may say “Sayonara!” but the CBR250R isn’t going anywhere. I purchased the bike from Honda so I can keep racing it next year.