There’s a war brewing, although we haven’t seen any effects in North America—yet. In overseas markets, there’s a new face-off between Honda and Kawasaki, in the high-spec 250 sportbike segment, with the Honda CBR250RR having upgrades announced this week.
The CBR250RR was the machine that kickstarted this segment back to life, after the OEMs let it stagnate for years. Once upon a time, the high-performance 250 market was red-hot overseas, as laws restricted some countries’ riders to sub-400 cc motorcycles, especially in the Japanese domestic market. In the late 1980s, two-stroke and four-stroke 250s might not have been cool or popular in North America, but they were Big In Japan. And now, that market’s spreading to the rest of Asia.
Kawasaki’s been teasing the ZX-25R as its own competition to the CBR, so Honda’s firing right back with some updates to the quarter-litre rocket. It’s unveiling the updated version of the bike online this week, as a replacement for the original planned Tokyo Motorcycle Show launch.
The updated bike will have a wide range of high-spec bits, including ride-by-wire throttle and electronic engine management with three riding modes, an optional up-down quickshifter, and updates to the engine, bringing it all the way to 40 hp output.
However, its parallel twin engine only revs to 12,000 rpm, and the ZX-25R makes an alleged 46 hp, revving to 17,000 rpm. That’s a big difference in this bracket, so unless Honda’s got better pricing, it’s going to struggle against the quarter-litre Kawi.
Not that it’s our problem. Or at least, not yet; there’s been no announcement of plans to bring these bikes to Canada. Perhaps emissions testing is the issue, or it could be that the Big Four just don’t think enough Canadians would be interested in a small-capacity sportbike (far more likely). If you’re interested, then you need to talk to your dealer. Eventually, this COVID-19 crisis will end, and we’ll be getting new bikes sooner or later. It would be cool if some of those bikes were interesting machines like this.