How does the Ninja 250 compare to the Honda CBR250?

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By Gary Jaehne

Date of Test: October 1, 2011

In the interest of full disclosure, I should preface this article by mentioning that I’ve seen over 150,000 miles of pavement pass under the wheels of Ninja 250s during the last 10 years, on both the old-generation (pre-2008) and the current-offering models. Those deep roots on Japan’s only (for many years) 250cc entry-level sportbike made Honda’s release of the CBR250R earlier this year an event of great interest.

Editor's note: You may also want to see Gary's First impressions of the 2008.

A real world sport riding shootout

There has been no shortage of 250 shootout comparison articles appearing in all the glossy print publications and online motorcycle forums since the CBR250R was first introduced early this year. I’ve read the majority of those comparison articles, finding some of them to be more accurate, comprehensive, and unbiased than others. One major publication’s shootout contained major errors regarding specifications (fuel tank capacity) for one of the bikes, resulting in bogus ratings of the bikes in the associated categories, and arguably in the overall ranking.

Despite all this coverage, I still felt that a void existed for a solid, down-to-Earth, ridden-to-the-bike’s-full-potential, Real World form of unbiased evaluation of these two motorcycles.

CBR250R test bike history

The bike was purchased new a few months ago by a recent MSF graduate as his first motorcycle. The odometer was showing about 3000 miles, with the bike being 100% untouched from showroom stock, when I picked it up for the one day test riding opportunity.

The only mods done to the bike once it was in my possession were optimizing lever position and tire pressures, and setting the one (and only) user adjustment for the suspension: rear shock preload. These steps were performed to ensure an opportunity for the best possible showing by the bike during the test ride.

During this one day testing experience, the CBR250R was not babied. The bike was ridden up to the most extreme level of its potential performance. The objective was to meet, and preferably exceed, the most demanding level of testing that had been done in all of the previous ride reports and shootouts in the magazines and internet forums.

The goal was to perform a true Real World test to ferret out the absolute performance potential of the bike (on the plus side), as well as to uncover potentially overlooked limitations and shortcomings (on the down side) under the most extreme demands the bike will ever see in actual use.

General observations



  • Mirrors: The mirrors are large in size, well-shaped, and positioned wide enough (on long stalks) to extend beyond the width of most riders' shoulders. The result is a very clear view of what’s going on behind.

Items of note

  • Clutch lever action: The amount of resistance on the lever pull of the clutch on the CBR is the lightest of any bike I can ever remember riding. A single pinky finger would be more than adequate to get the job done. The pull is so light that it’s hard to believe there’s enough pressure being applied to the clutch plates to keep things hooked up. The extremely light pull is very unusual for a motorcycle and takes a bit to get used to, but the engagement is smooth and positive and all seems to work fine.


  • Gas cap: It was a real shock the first time I stopped for a gas fill-up during the test ride to find that the gas cap came off right in my hand (no hinge)! I couldn’t believe that in this day and age that a new street bike would have an unattached gas cap that you needed to find a place to put while filling the tank at the pumps. It’s been at least 20 years since street bikes started coming with hinged gas caps. Was Honda out sick the day that message went out? Big fail here.
  • Fuel Tank Filler: Finding a metal cross-brace bridging across the top opening of the filler hole on the fuel tank, preventing insertion of even the small diameter unleaded fuel pump nozzle into the hole, was another surprise at the first gas stop. The biggest challenge created by this obstruction is trying to avoid back-splash of fuel spraying up onto the painted surface of the gas tank while filling. Not sure why this form of restrictor was used on the CBR, as most other bikes just have a smaller hole restrictor, to ensure unleaded only, but it’s a pain.
  • Sidestand: The placement of the loop tab to allow the rider to extend the sidestand into use is a total fail! The footrest assembly and shift lever mechanism sit directly above it, nearly totally blocking access. This item looks like a total afterthought that was squeezed by a junior engineer into whatever space was left after the rest of the bike was already on the drafting table.
  • Coolant reservoir cover: An item that had me initially scratching my head to figure out what it was is a black plastic piece (located just above the right foot peg assembly) that covers the coolant reservoir and filler cap. It’s an item that doesn’t have the usual Honda high quality engineering signature; it looks like another afterthought part that got tacked on after the bike’s initial production
  • Bodywork/Appearance: Viewing the two bikes from the side provides a good comparison tool for evaluating what works (from a styling cue) and what doesn’t. The CBR’s upper and side fairing panel combination lacks a natural horizontal flow with the chassis of the bike. It looks like someone decided they needed to slap a piece of bodywork on an already designed naked bike, rather than something that was crafted into the original designers CAD drawings.

Ninja 250 comparison

  • Mirrors: The mirrors are decently positioned on the Ninja, and aesthetically have a much more modern and sportier look than the CBR. This visual appeal comes at a price, however. The artsy trapezoidal shape of the glass area reduces the overall window for visibility of what’s going on behind.
  • Bodywork/Appearance: The artfully sculpted flow and shapes of all the bodywork and panels on the Ninja 250J have gotten nothing but rave reviews from all who have commented on seeing the bike for the first time over the last three years. The very tasteful appearance gives the impression that an outside designer, of Italian descent, was used on this bike, versus an internal Kawasaki team member.

Engine & performance


The thinking process on Honda’s part regarding the decision to use a single cylinder engine design in their 250cc sportbike is an area that many (including myself) have wondered about since the bike’s initial disclosure to the public. The answer to the question of whether this decision would end up being a hit or a miss in real world use can only be found by riding the bike. The 200+ miles of test riding on the CBR provided the needed data to formulate some solid opinions on Honda’s success or failure on that front.


Torque and low speeds: There’s no question that the added grunt (such as it can be with only 250cc to work with) of the single-slug CBR serves a useful purpose when the riding is being done in stoplight-to-stoplight traffic around town, or in slow speed point-n-shoot riding out on the backroads.

Getting the jump on cage traffic off stoplights, after splitting lanes up to the front, is an area where the CBR really shines! Just dump the soft resistance clutch lever and off you go, with a great lurch forward for the first 50 feet into the intersection. This quick and responsive initial pull is a valuable attribute for someone doing a lot of city commuting, especially in a city like San Francisco with a lot of hills.

Amazing as it seems, despite the moderate overall power output of the engine, the front wheel can actually be coaxed to get some air between the tire and the ground, at least if done with the help of a little creative throttle and clutch work. A day riding the CBR250R leaves the impression of piloting a mini hooligan machine with bodywork.


Overall power & low rev limit: The weapon normally used for getting maximum performance out of a 250cc sportbike is a lot of tap dancing on the shift lever, while working the engine in the upper rpm range (10,000–14,000 on the Ninja). Unfortunately, with the inherent rpm limitations of the conventional single piston thumper engine that was elected for use in the CBR, that secret weapon has been neutered.

The engine has decent initial pull, which gives the false impression of more things to come. Sadly, that promise fizzles out, with power dropping off sharply at a relatively low RPM, requiring another shift.

Short shifting would normally be the approach to capitalize on a thumper’s performance. With the CBR250R having a mild peak of 16 ft/lbs of torque to work with, and over 350 pounds of weight to pull (minus rider), that method fails to deliver in most riding conditions. One gear ends up being too high - and not having enough pull to get the job done - with the next gear down resulting in the engine quickly bumping into the 10,500 rpm limit.

Trying to fully work the little motor for spirited riding can end up being an exercise in frustration. Eventually just accepting the limitations of the bike’s acceleration and pulling power, and otherwise just enjoying the ride, becomes the recipe.

Overall power & mph numbers: There were a few different shootout tests in the media where the two bikes were actually tested on a dyno, side-by-side, to get quantifiable numbers. Averaging out the findings, selecting only from the most reputable and unbiased media sources, gives these numbers:

  • CBR250R: 24 HP (at the rear wheel)
  • Ninja 250R: 28 HP (at the rear wheel)

The seat-of-the-pants feelings I’d gotten during the first 100 miles of riding the CBR closely mirrored those numbers, with the Ninja 250R's parallel twin being up a solid 10-15% on peak power over Honda's single-jug design.

In the quest to acquire my own form of quantifiable measurement of the power deficit of the CBR250R under actual riding conditions, I looked for a few opportunities to directly test the mph numbers against what I’d seen on the Ninja. Locating a few “special test ground” areas that were made available for the testing, I saw the following numbers:

Top Speed: Fighting to overcome the effects of wind resistance on the front area of the bike became the major limiting factor to the CBR's maximum obtainable top speed. In initial testing, the bike showed it was unable to reach the last 1000 of the total rpm range while trying to pull 6th gear. The outcome was a rather meek 84 mph (indicated).

In a second test, dropping down to 5th gear in the same section resulted in the engine having enough power to finally pull the tachometer up to near redline. The outcome was a couple more mph, topping out around 88 (indicated).

For comparison, the Ninja 250 has shown to be reach an indicated 100 mph under similar conditions.

Uphill climbing speed: One of the special test areas includes a very steep uphill climb on a long straight that immediately follows a fairly wide-open corner. The steep climb really taxes the capabilities of little 250cc bikes. The best pull that the CBR could achieve in that section resulted in a 66 mph peak, with the bike in 4th gear.

Again for comparison, by really screaming the Ninja up into the 12,000 and above range, an additional 10+ mph is achievable, for a 77 mph peak (approximate, as indicated). This delta between the speeds while pulling the steep hill showed that the small lower rpm torque advantage (about one ft/lb) of the CBR fails to offset its nearly 20% shortcoming in peak horsepower.

Ninja 250 comparison

The combination of these two quantifiable tests, and the overall impressions of the engine’s performance during the CBR test ride, clearly illustrated that I wouldn’t want to take to the grid on a racetrack and try to do battle in the “Production” classes against a sea of Ninja 250s. In mildly modified form, it would definitely be a “David-and-Goliath” massacre!


  • Every form of riding except stop-n-go city riding: Ninja 250R
  • Exclusively used for around town, stop-n-go city riding or commuting: CBR250R

Fuel system


The Honda being equipped with EFI (fuel injection) was a big banner waving point by Honda and the media during the bike’s initial introduction. I was anxious to find out, from firsthand riding experience, if the EFI on a mild-mannered, 250cc entry level street bike would produce the anticipated level of gain over carburetors that many had anticipated.

Pro: There’s no question that the instant start-up and quick ready-to-ride nature of fuel delivery that the EFI provides is superior to the carburetors on the Ninja. One other area I expect a gain will be seen is in maintaining a more ideal fuel-air ratio when major changes in elevation are encountered during a ride. The limited one day of testing, with less than 2,000' from sea level to peak, didn’t provide a chance to prove or disprove that theory.

Side note: The one area where the EFI felt a little lacking was in the usable range of incremental throttle changes. The limited overall power output of the 250cc single motor was likely a factor in the all-or-nothing throttle position that I often found to be needed while riding the backroads. The throttle ended up spending a lot of time being up against the mechanical stop just to maintain the desired pace.

Overall: The EFI in use on the CBR250R platform works well, and is a win for the Honda. A win despite the EFI not quite living up to the 'gotta have it' expectations for enhanced performance that many had anticipated.

Ninja 250 comparison

The carburetors on the Ninja 250 do a decent job, with two flaws: An extended warm-up time, and a noticeable hiccup at just-off-idle throttle position in the 4000-5000 rpm range (with stock jetting).

Winner: CBR250R

Fuel economy and range


It’s impossible to know whether the single cylinder engine design or the fuel injection is the major factor in the fuel economy difference between the two bikes. Perhaps the improvement boils down to being a combination of the two.

The final outcome is about a 10-15% advantage in fuel economy for the CBR, across all forms of riding.

  • Pure commute riding by original owner: 66 mpg
  • Shared moderate to spirited riding during my testing on backroads: 55 mpg
  • Consistent spirited riding (full-throttle often used): 48 mpg

The fuel tank on the CBR holds more than a gallon less go juice than the Ninja (rated at 4.8 gallons), with a specification of 3.4 gallons total capacity. The CBR's smaller fuel tank capacity, offset against its increased gas mileage, results in the maximum number of miles between gas stops on the two bikes being close.

Ninja 250 comparison

The Ninja 250J gets around 42 mpg when I'm pushing it, and in the low 50s when riding more average. Around 170-180 miles would likely be the mark for fill ups during spirited backroad riding on the Ninja, with 200-210 miles being the point where the bike would begin sipping on fumes when ridden in a more conservative throttle manner.


  • Economy: CBR250R
  • Range: Ninja 250R


Being entry level priced machines, the suspension on both bikes is pretty basic. Old-school technology damping rod forks are up front, and spring preload adjustment on the rear shock is the only suspension adjustment.


Overall: The damping performance of the suspension is an area that fell a bit short of my expectations. The compression damping is OK, albeit a bit on the harsh side when encountering sharp-edged bumps. This aspect of the suspension’s behavior was not unexpected, however, as this is a signature of the damping rod forks used on all lower-cost bikes.

The suspension should be more than adequate for those riders who primarily use the bike for basic transportation and commuting purposes. For heavier riders, or those who plan on taking the CBR off the city streets or major highways for recreational riding on less smooth backroads, the suspension story is not as rosy.

Shock: To achieve the desired rider sag, with my 170 pounds on board, required increasing the shock preload setting by two steps (from #2 to #4 position). The rebound on the rear shock is a little fast, but is acceptable for most riding conditions that the bike will likely see.

Forks: The springs are very soft; definitely far softer than the Ninja. The only fit for the stock springs would likely be a sub-120 pound, conservative, commute-only rider. I used a strap placed on the forks, and reset before each stint of riding, to tell how much suspension travel was being used. It was quickly pushed up to a location marking near full (130mm) travel. Adding 10-20mm of additional fork oil might be a temporary cheap fix to the tendency to use up all the travel (ie... soft bottom out).

The rebound side was where the CBR really failed to perform. There’s a serious lack of rebound damping! The forks bounce up and down multiple times in a cyclic pogo-stick fashion, in response to a single rapid depression. This behavior results in the bike wiggling and wobbling when trying to recover after hitting dips or bumps in a corner, before settling again. The workaround was to consciously use a light trailing of the front brake to keep the front end settled when recognizing the onset of a road condition that would create such behavior.

A usually nasty kicker dip/bump on a road I frequent really exposed the real world impact of the suspension shortcomings on the CBR. The bike wiggled, bucked and wobbled so violently in response to this road hazard that the behavior could be considered a safety risk for some riders.

The excessively soft springs and bouncy rebound behavior on the CBR250R forks were totally reminiscent of the front suspension performance that I’d experienced on the early Ninja 250Fs for so many years. Fortunately, the newer Ninja 250J forks got a serious shot of improvement in both areas. Looks like Honda is one generation behind in the front suspension category at this point.

Ninja 250 comparison

The Ninja definitely has the upper hand in the suspension category. The stock fork springs are adequate for most all forms of riding, even for slightly heavier (190 lbs or less) riders. The compression damping is not that much different than the CBR, but the rebound is much more refined and keeps the bike a lot more under control on less than ideal road surfaces.

Winner: Ninja 250R



The frame design and overall chassis of the CBR was well thought out in terms of providing a decent level of rigidity for aggressive cornering. The bike tracks quite true and straight, even at speed. The deliberate “bump the bars” test, used as a method of testing the tendency of a bike to fall into head shake, had it passing with flying colors.

The rake/trail numbers are solid, providing a good compromise between decent turn-in and straight line stability. The overly soft fork springs is the only flaw in the armor in that area, appearing primarily when encountering bumpy pavement.

The bike showed good prowess in carrying front trail braking deep into turns without any tendency to stand up. Some occasional mild chatter, due to the (soft) front suspension being compressed down close to its limits, was one additional area of note.

Ninja 250 comparison

The Ninja’s geometry and chassis design also allow for pushing the bike to a pretty high level of cornering speeds and forces without upsetting things. The new-gen bike deserves a lot of credit as being a huge improvement over the flexy-framed, hinged-in-the-middle behavior that the old-gen Ninjas exhibited.

Better-performing forks and shock give an added edge, and the win in overall handling, to the Ninja.

Winner: Ninja 250



The Honda, as with most modern sportbikes, uses a 6-speed gearbox. The shifts were smooth and fairly uneventful on both upshifts and downshifts during the entire test ride. The transmission didn’t, however, behave in a manner that would prompt a comment of “buttery smooth”, but it did the job just fine.

A subtle firmness in getting the mechanism to change between gears was noted. It’s likely that the fairly low mileage on the bike that I was testing had an impact on that aspect of the shifting performance. I suspect things will loosen up noticeably with time and use.

6th gear seemed a bit more like an overdrive on the Honda than on the Ninja. The combination of the motor’s range of power output and the amount of horsepower consumed in working to overcome the bike’s wind resistance at freeway speeds made 5th gear a better choice in many situations. In top speed testing this definitely proved to be the case.

Ninja 250 comparison

The Ninja’s transmission performs at a similarly acceptable level to the Honda. From a comparison perspective, I’d say there’s very little difference in the shifting behavior of the two bikes.

Winner: Tie



The only noticeable difference in the brakes between the two bikes appears in the rotor design. The rotors on the CBR are conventional round discs at both ends, compared to semi-wave design items used on the Ninja.

The single disc front brake is quite adequate for getting the job done. The pads and rotor have decent bite and good feel. They enable getting the CBR slowed quite effectively, this being done while using two fingers (or less). Despite the spirited level of riding, during the 200+ miles of backroad testing no noticeable fade or other shortcoming in the braking performance was ever noted.

Ninja 250 comparison

It required getting back on the Ninja, the day after the CBR250R test ride, to finally recognize any notable difference between the braking performance of the two bikes. Up to 90% of maximum threshold braking level, the CBR and Ninja are comparable. It’s at that final, most extreme, hardest possible late braking level where the slight edge in maximum bite and slowing potential tips the scales in favor of the Ninja’s brake components.

Winner: Ninja 250R

Sound & exhaust


The muffler on the Honda is real monster (big)! To say that its appearance is not exactly a complementary element to the overall looks of the CBR is a big understatement. The good news is that despite the massive oversize and somewhat ugly appearance of the muffler, some degree of the “thumper” heritage of the engine still comes through in the sound of the bike; at least when getting on the gas hard.

It was almost comical to be on this tiny little entry level 250cc motorcycle, yet be barking with enough authority to draw attention to the bike from fellow riders hanging out at the local sportbike watering hole when heading out for a ride.

Ninja 250 comparison

The Ninja’s muffler isn’t exactly a work of art, but its much smaller size and uniform round shape manages to do the job of meeting the stiffening government regulations without becoming an eyesore. The exhaust is whisper quiet. Not a bad thing when trying to run in stealth mode, but definitely not a sound that will earn any respect.

Winner: Ninja 250R

Weight & feel

Wet weight:

  • CBR250R: 359 lbs (with 3.4 gallons of fuel)
  • Ninja 250: 374 lbs (with 4.8 gallons of fuel)


The comparison of small differences in numbers off a spec sheet often done by magazines rarely translates over into actual on-bike riding impressions. This proved to be the case in riding, and evaluating the feel of, these two bikes.

If one adds the weight of the extra gallon+ of fuel in the Ninja to the wet-weight numbers, the CBR should tip the scales lighter by only about ten pounds. This is definitely not enough to significantly impact either bike’s handling, from my riding impressions.

The narrow tires and lighter weight of the CBR (and the Ninja) compared to bigger-bore sportbikes results in a very flickable machine. The tighter and twistier the road, the more at home the bike feels. On more open sections of road, where the corners widen out and the allowable speed is higher, the CBR feels a bit nervous and out-gunned.

Ninja 250 comparison

The Ninja is just as happy as the CBR when carving up tighter roads at lower speeds. Where the Ninja excels, however, is when things open up. The chassis feels more planted and secure under those conditions.


  • Overall weight: CBR250R
  • Overall feel: Ninja 250R



Honda elected to go ½” wider on the rear wheel of the CBR: 4.0” vs 3.5" for the Ninja. This results in a one size larger 140/70-17 rear tire being mounted, versus the Ninja's 130/70-17. The only real advantage that I can see in the 140 size tire selection is an increase in available options for aftermarket rubber. The low HP output of either bike does just fine with a 130 sized tire, so getting grip to the ground is not an area where a bigger rear tire offers any value-add.

The CBR uses the same sized tire up front as the Ninja, a 110/70/17. The IRC “Road Winner” is the OEM tire of choice used on the Honda. It’s a bias-ply tire. I started out with fairly low performance expectations for these OEM tires that had already logged 3000 commute miles. To my (pleasant) surprise, in actual use the tires ended up performing quite decently. 200+ spirited miles on the backroads did leave signs that they’d been worked hard and put away wet, however.

Ninja 250 comparison

The Ninja 250J comes with the same IRC tires standard.

Winner: Tie - Upgrading to better rubber after the stock tires are done is the best approach on both bikes.



The gauge layout on the Honda is really well thought out. The speedometer is a digital design, using large, easy to read numbers that are located dead center on the console. The analog tachometer is positioned directly above the speedo readout, making a tight little area where all the key information is concentrated on the console. Nice!

The CBR includes a time-of-day clock. That’s a nice touch that’s generally reserved for higher dollar machines. A fuel gauge is also included in the user readout. The information is displayed as a very small grey LCD bar graph, which takes more than a quick glance to read. Due to the small fuel tank capacity, the accuracy of the information proved marginal at best. With only one bar still showing, the bike only took about 2 gallons (of the 3.4 total capacity) to fill.

Ninja 250 comparison

The separate analog speedometer and tachometer spread the information out and require a little more effort for data gathering by the rider. The fuel gauge is analog and much larger than the CBR's, but its accuracy is truly a joke and doesn’t warrant bringing any extra points to the bike’s rating. The fact that its presence forced the removal of the analog engine temperature gauge that the old-gen Ninja used to provide loses more points in the instrumentation category.

Winner: CBR250R



The most glaring difference in the CBR’s ergonomics (to the Ninja 250) became obvious after traveling less than block into the very first ride. It was the reach and position of the handlebars. The bars are located further forward and are rotated a bit more outward. At just under six feet tall, the reach felt right on the verge of being a bit too high and extended for optimum bike control positioning. Over the course of the 200+ miles of riding the backroads, the slightly extended reach did become more familiar and ultimately did not impair even the most spirited forms of riding on the bike.

A riding friend who's a few inches taller than I am gave me a taller rider’s perspective on the CBR. He had complained about having a difficult time molding into an ideal position with the tank contour/seat/bar orientation on the new-gen Ninja. He felt that the CBR's slightly longer reach to the bars, combined with the slightly greater span between the seat and foot pegs (pegs a bit lower on the CBR?) and the sculpted shape of the fuel tank provided a better fit for bigger riders.

Most other attributes of the CBR felt quite familiar (to the Ninja 250) once out on the road. The windscreen is a bit smaller on the Honda, and as a result did seem to provide a little less wind protection while out on the highway.

Ninja 250 comparison

The higher footrest positioning and tighter overall spacing between seat, bars and pegs makes the Ninja a better fit (ergonomically) for riders under the 6 foot, and sub-200 pound, levels. Minus the tighter cockpit fitment for larger riders, the overall layout of the controls on the Ninja provide a riding environment that easily allows for 200 mile plus days of riding, without creating a need for a chiropractic visit.


  • Riders over 6’, or 200 lbs: CBR250R
  • Other riders: Tie



Likely in response to minimizing costs for this entry level bike, some usability items were left off the spec list. The combination of an absence of a center stand (as provided on the old-gen Ninja, but also gone on the current model) and lack of welded bosses on the swingarm (for spools to support a typical aftermarket rear stand) will make rear wheel and chain maintenance much more of a challenge for many riders.

The previously mentioned time-of-day clock is a convenient feature the CBR possesses and the Ninja lacks.

Ninja 250 comparison

The feature list starts and ends pretty quickly for the Ninja and the CBR, due to their low-end price point. With a plus one/minus one hit list in both cases, the features list is a draw.

Winner: Tie



Despite the Japanese roots of the Honda and Kawasaki namesakes, both bikes share a birthplace of Thailand. This shared manufacturing point-of-origin may be the reason for the very similar levels of quality seen in the two bikes, a level I’d consider “decent – but not flawless”.

The lack of the use of thread locking agent on some of the critical hardware (ie... foot peg brackets) on the CBR came as a surprise during the time spent with the bike. A bit atypical if one looks at the CBR as being a Honda (as per the name/logo on the gas tank) and considers their long-standing reputation for quality.

The quality of the welds on the main frame are far better than what I’d found on the Korean Hyosung 250 last year, but still a bit below the standard of what’s typically seen on the more mainstream Honda products manufactured in Japan.

Ninja 250 comparison

The nearly 40,000 miles of extreme-level riding on a new-gen Ninja 250 provides a solid history on which to rate the overall durability and quality of that bike. The motor’s been rock solid bulletproof, and shows no signs of slowing down. No other items have failed, broken or rattled off prematurely over that same span of hard use, giving the Ninja 250 a pretty solid rating in the quality category, especially for an entry-level priced motorcycle.

I suspect the Honda will provide similar reliability in extended real world use. Unfortunately, being a first-year model, that proof will need to be forthcoming as the years, and miles, of use by their owners pass.

Winner: TBD


MSRP (2012):

  • Ninja 250R: $4,199
  • CBR250R: TBA - Likely $4,199 (non-ABS model)

For 2011, the MSRP for the Ninja 250 dropped slightly from the previous year, to $3,999. This was likely driven by Kawasaki's recognition that the soon-to-be-released Honda CBR250R was going to be a serious direct competitor (from Japan) and would be coming in at a price level targeted at encouraging entry-level bike buyers to "Go Red".

For 2011, the MSRP of the CBR250R came in at $3,999. Unfortunately, searching the web failed to come up with Honda's official MSRP for 2012, but all indications point to a likelihood of that number creeping up to at least the announced price point of the Kawasaki: $4,199. This increase is likely a natural response to the changes in the currency exchange rates with the US dollar.

Winner: Tie?



Honda’s recent 250cc entry-level sportbike is a very good first effort (as one would expect from the big “H”). The bike does everything reasonably well, and some things very well. There’s no question that Honda has created another very viable option for the decision making process being done by those looking to purchase a low-cost, fun-riding, 250cc sportbike.

For bikers who live in the city, and do 90% of their riding from stoplight to stoplight in urban traffic, the CBR250R is a very solid choice and should be considered the winner in that performance category.

The slightly expanded ergonomics of the Honda provides a package that will be a better overall fit for taller/larger riders who are interested in a small displacement machine. For those riders, the CBR250R is again well worth considering as a good choice.

For experienced riders who want to stay loyal to the Team Red banner (Honda), the CBR250R can provide enough performance to keep pace with many other riders on larger displacement machines, right up to the point of very spirited riding on the backroads. The limitations for outright performance by the 250cc single cylinder engine design in this application is the one aspect that needs to be recognized, and accepted, by those who choose the CBR over the Ninja.

Below is a quick checklist of the categories where the Honda got the nod in this evaluation, for those reviewing their priorities in a new 250cc sportbike:

  • Ergonomics (for larger/taller riders)
  • Instrumentation (gauges)
  • Fuel mileage (mpg)
  • Fuel delivery (injection)
  • Weight (very slight)
  • Engine: Low-end, stoplight-to-stoplight power (torque)

Ninja 250R

The Ninja 250 packs a lot of performance in a tiny package. The bike’s refinement of design, attention to detail, and peak engine performance provide a great package! It’s a package that can serve the needs of everyone from a first-time newbie looking for a great starter bike to a very experienced pilot looking for some small cc thrills on the backroads - or even the racetrack. The proven reliability is also an area that’s hard to ignore when making a bike buying decision. The proven resilience of its resale value over time is another facet where the Ninja shines.

Below is a quick checklist of the categories where the Ninja got the nod in this evaluation, for those reviewing their priorities in a new 250cc sportbike:

  • Retention of resale value (demand)
  • Overall appearance (mistaken for 600cc machine)
  • Fit & finish (polished package)
  • Fuel range (very slight)
  • Brakes (max stopping power)
  • Suspension (all)
  • Handling (chassis/suspension)
  • Engine (peak power, acceleration, top speed, excitement, track-readiness)

So, who wins out in the Japanese manufacturer 250 wars? The real winners are us as a buying public, thanks to Honda finally recognizing the huge sales numbers that Kawasaki's best-selling streetbike has enjoyed for so many years.

Honda deserves a big thumbs-up for finally stepping up to the plate and bringing a direct Ninja 250 competitor back to the USA motorcycle market. More choices breed better competition, the end result being improved performance and quality of the products, and a tighter lid on the asking prices to us consumers.