Small Honda’s are good bikes. Period. If you take a look at their History, right from the SuperCub to many of the new small capacity bikes they make now, they are brilliant (Please bring the Rebel to India). The bikes that made me love Honda’s in my college days was the brand new CBR250R. That bike to many was the answer to Yamaha’s R15. The R15 was quick around the turns, but the moment you showed the Honda a long sweeper or straight road, it was bye-bye, Mr. Yamaha. The Honda had the power advantage and the R15 had the agility and lesser weight. But why am reminiscing about the old days when we have a new Honda on our hands. The CB300R is finally here. Let’s dive into it.
Design is key
While some might disagree with me on this I really think that having a bike with good looks and decent road presence matters. To explain my point, the KTM Duke 390 offers explosive power and riding performance and is rightfully the segment benchmark. But when it comes to its looks, the barrage of Dukes that clutter the roads today have taken away its novelty factor of being a crazy orange hooligan, many have one now. The Honda on the other hand with it’s silver and ruby red paint finish looks fresh. The bike in every aspect looks like a baby CB1000R. The Neo Cafe racer looks start with the retro headlights and end up at the saddle/cafe racer combined seat. The big easy to read instrument cluster is nice and simple to read. Information is easily accessible and the toggle controls on the handlebars are also simple. The materials used on the bike feel good and the quality is the best in its class. Something we had expected.
There are a few niggles but let’s talk about them later. The design, the plastics, fit and finish are highly appealing. On multiple occasions I found people congratulating me on the road to have made a bold choice with the bike. They said, many CB300Rs are not seen on the road and the bikes a real gem to witness. Two of those were bikers on an Interceptor and a Continental GT. Yes, the Honda is rarer on the roads than the original retro-inspired bikes, REs 650 Twins. Honda has not been pushing and marketing the CB300R as a mass market product and for once I think it is a good thing. It is only the enthusiasts and the experienced riders that are flocking to pick these bikes up.
Overall, the compact dimensions, packed with such a good design is really something that is shaping this bike up to be a really cool package. Now let’s talk about its ergonomics and ride.
City sleekers choice
After riding this bike for over 300 kilometers in 2 days, I have to say one thing, surprisingly very comfortable. I was expecting the bike to be a little firmer than needed which would result in acute butt ache but that was not the case. The seat is wide and while you can’t keep adjusting yourself as many riders do, wide seat and soft seat make up for a pleasantly good ride. Potholes are dealt with a firm fashion, the 17-inch wheels and monoshock (whose cylinder comes from a CBR1000RR aka Fireblade) make sure that the chassis is not upset at all. The LED headlights range is impressive too for riding in the night. You do not feel strained or tired of riding this bike. The seating position, the pegs and handlebar setup is all too accurate for someone who wants a trouble-free ride.
Before I tell you about its performance and ride, let me tell you something that has bothered me a little, the niggles. Well, a couple of small things that are here and can be solved are – the pillion seat is not useful at all and it feels rather small and unsafe. The under seat grab handles are off no use. If you ride alone like me it’s more luggage space at the rear. The positioning of the horn and the turn indicator switches have been swapped and it takes some time to get used to. Lastly, the high beam angle of the LED headlight very high. It illuminates the cabin of a high riding SUV and the faces of the angered family rather than the road. These small things can be easily rectified in a model year change.
I almost made it a daily
I have always thought a small cc, fuel-efficient long-termer is the only thing I need for my daily commute from home to office or meetings around the city. But this changed with the Honda CB300R. The engine on this Neo Sports is so refined. None of that burst of raw power that you get in the KTM. Here you are cruising at 30 in 3rd and roll on the accelerator the 286cc engine churning 28bhp and 30 Nm of torque pulls effortlessly. None of that urgency that the much more powerful KTM displays but sometimes the linear delivery of power from a refined engine singing all the way to 8000rpm is enough to put a smile on ones face.
The gearbox is smooth. Finding a gear in the six-speed setup is easy and the clutch too has a good amount of weight and feel to it. The higher gears in the busy Honda’s engine do like to be used at a higher speed. Cruising can be a little hectic. But then this is a bike where you can exploit the full power all the time. The urge to charge from one set of traffic lights to the other is very high. You get a lot of feedback from the Michelin Sports that also provide decent grip on bad roads.
Also Read: Detailed Specs for the CB300R
These characteristics make the bike really good and fun to ride in the city. On the highways and the hills, this is a mile-muncher. The handling is good and the bike loves long straights. All of this has made me love it even more. This bike really slots in between the Duke 390 and the BMW G310R which is a selling point for me. Better refinement, better comfort and arguably better road presence and looks.
My verdict? Go buy it. This bike price-wise (Rs 2,40,000, Ex-showroom) is a little high compared to what’s on offer for a little bit more with the Duke 390. But do you really want a heated, high performance, more uncomfortable ride everyday? If you are looking at all-out performance – yes the Duke makes sense. But other than that, the CB300R should be your choice. The BMW is not at all as refined or has the build quality of the Honda. And if you will argue about the Royal Enfield 650 twins for the price, that’s a whole other kind of customer we are talking about. Also yes the Dominar is way cheaper to own and if you are on that tight budget I will only recommend that but just for everything else, the CB300R is absolutely brilliant.