2011 Honda CBR250R | Doin' Time

WRIST: Ari Henning
MSRP (2011): $3999
MILES: 2383
MPG: 55
MODS: Pirelli tires, Race Tech and Cogent Dynamics suspension, Spiegler brake line

The last time I checked in, I had outfitted the "Babyblade" for Production 250 racing. With a set of Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires ($145.95 front, $179.95 rear; www.parts-unlimited.com) in place of the stock IRC Road Winners, the CBR was ready to head to the track, so I signed up for a trackday at Buttonwillow Raceway with Keigwins@TheTrack (www.keigwin.com). The frm ran the same layout the AFM was scheduled to use a few weeks later and even held mock race starts at the end of the day so we could get the feel for barreling into Turn 1. It was good practice, and the first track time I'd had on the Honda.

I started the day fairly underwhelmed—the CBR250R doesn’t deliver thrills in terms of acceleration, but man does it own the corners! Once I got up to speed, however, the fork was bottoming on the brakes and the footpegs and belly pan dragged at full lean. Honda’s emphasis on making the CBR a great street-bike showed through.

Back at the shop, I removed the fork legs and sent them to Race Tech (www.racetech.com) to have Gold Valve Emulators ($159.99) and heavier 0.85 kg/mm springs ($115) installed for more damping and support; the stock springs are a spaghetti-like 0.49 kg/mm. I also changed out the fexible rubber front brake hose for a stainless line from Spiegler ($59.95; www.spieglerusa.com) since the lever was coming back to the grip. As far as I could tell, I was dialed for the AFM (American Federation of Motorcyclists) season-opener. Unfortunately, the races were cancelled due to seriously crappy weather.

My next chance to race was at a WERA double-header at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Easter weekend. I learned early in practice that the new fork springs were way too firm; the fork was stuck at the top of the stroke, making the normally flickable CBR reluctant to turn and causing severe chatter when leaned over. On my vintage Honda CB350 racer, I usually just ride through chatter, but applying that technique here put me on the ground in practice. The left R&G; slider did its job and I made the races a few hours later, but my finishes were wretched. The schedule was to be repeated on Sunday, but we weren’t going to find and install new springs by morning so I decided to pack up and head home.

A phone call to Race Tech to discuss the handling issues revealed that a mistake had been made when determining the spring rate, so their techs sent me the correct set of 0.75 kg/mm coils. At the same time I received word that Rick Tannenbaum of Cogent Dyanimcs (www.motocd.com) was interested in developing a shock for the CBR. I gave him a call, and shortly thereafter sent him the stock shock along with some measurements and photos for clearance purposes. Rick produced a prototype with slightly more compression damping, adjustable rebound damping and, most importantly, 12mm more ride height to increase ground clearance and balance the chassis. Cogent now offers that shock, sprung for your weight, for $625.

My next attempt was at Thunderhill Raceway with the AFM, and the bike felt much better in practice, with the quick-flick abilities restored and no chatter. The Honda's torque helped me nail every start, and I led the 250 Challenge race for the first lap before ropping back to sixth as I was out-motored on T-Hill's long straights. Catching a Ninja's draft on the front straight pulled me from 88 to over 100 mph, highlighting the Honda's power deficit. In the infield the Honda ruled—turning in faster and carrying more corner speed than my immediate competition—but they scooted by me in the power parts. See the back-and-forth action for yourself in the "On Two Wheels" episode we produced for the Motor Trend YouTube channel.

The Honda’s only real impediment is one we were already aware of: A lack of power. But we’re not giving up just yet. Production rules allow for minor engine work, and John Ethell, former factory Honda Superbike tech, has volunteered to massage the engine. The bike is in good hands, and I’m excited!

I was running without an air flter for maximum power, but after my trip to the gravel trap I decided to install a washable K&N; flter ($59.00; www.knfilters.com).
The Cogent shock uses a standard 2.25 inch diameter spring instead of the smaller original. This unit is fully tunable and rebuildable, unlike the original.