Honda makes things interesting and raises the displacement of its popular entry model to 300 with its new 2014 CBR 300.
by Mark DT
We’ve written a lot about what I like to term “beginner bike wars”. First off I love entry level motorcycles. Why? Because beginner motorcycles bring in new riders by allowing novices to see themselves on a new motorcycle by nature of their less intimidating size, weight, and power. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t still handle, look cool, and make any rider smile. Honda and Kawasaki have been trading serious blows with each other now in this market segment for just under a decade and the clear winner is the consumer. Things have never been better for entry level riders looking to buy a new motorcycle.
Just the other day I had a non-riding buddy visiting us, and he completely ignored my big 1050cc Triumph in the garage. Instead he couldn’t keep his eyes off my wife’s Ninja 250. “I could see myself riding that”, is something he said over and over again. When I asked him why he said, “It doesn’t intimidate me by its size and weight.” The new rider views what makes a perfect motorcycle much differently than established riders, and some manufacturers are doing better than others in attracting and maintaining their market share.
For a long time Kawasaki reigned as King in this category. Their Ninja 250 was for years the only low displacement sport bike on the market. With no real competition to speak of, Kawasaki basically left their entry bike unchanged for a very long time. Then a few years ago Honda got serious about the entry level motorcycle market again. First they brought out the CBR 125, a bike of many firsts. It looked great, was easy to live with, and it was fuel injected. The first shot across the bow occurred and it didn’t take long for team green to respond.
In 2008 Kawasaki launched an all new Ninja 250. The bike in North America didn’t get fuel injection, or ABS, but it looked great, had a fabulous 2 cylinder motor and was quickly knighted best beginner machine by almost all motorcycle journalists. We bought my wife the last black one available locally that spring, and the bike often was mistaken for the larger Ninja 650r.
Honda struck back with its cutting edge CBR 250. It came with 250cc single that was fuel injected and had available ABS. Kawasaki then returned to the market by upgrading its still relatively new to market Ninja 250r with a more powerful, Ninja 300. It added power and displacement on the Honda model, and matched its fuel injection and available ABS. Honda then went all out for capturing the new and advancing rider by offering 3 new 500cc models.
Well it is the fall, and now is the time when manufacturers start releasing their new model year machines to be shown at bike shows all winter. Honda has announced that it is introducing for 2014 a new 300cc entry level sport bike, the CBR 300. No details on the motorcycle yet, but a visual look at the teaser pictures on the internet show ABS, and a change in the headlights from the outgoing 250 model. We will publish more as details become available. Kudo’s to Honda for continuing to invest and improve product for entry level riders everywhere. Now Kawasaki, what’s your next move?