Small displacement, big fun: Honda CBR300R ride review

Honda CBR300R Ride Review Honda CBR300R track

Little Big Red proves a quick learner

What Is It?

Honda upgraded its entry level sport bike last year when it stroked the CBR250R from 249 to 286 ccs and switched the styling from the VFR to the CBR500, 600 and 1000R models. The result is a very sporty looking entry level sport bike, the CBR300R. 

Honda CBR300R track 2

What’s It Like To Ride?

Power is a little peaky, as with so many Honda engines. In city traffic you always feel like you should be shifting either up or down. With such small displacement you don’t get a very broad torque band. Competitors in the class all have more torque and hp. Below 3000 rpm the one-cylinder even sounds like it’s lugging a little. It’s not, of course, Honda’s PGM-F1 fuel injection system wouldn’t allow that. But you definitely have to keep the revs up above three grand to get any return on your one-cylinder investment.

Above 3000 rpm the engine revs happily into five-figures fairly smoothly. Flopped over the gas tank with your faceshield tucked behind the little windscreen, you can cruise comfortably at 80 mph. Estimates put top speed at over 100 mph. 

Honda CBR300R side view

While it may lag around a bit at low revs in city traffic, once the CBR300R gets on a mountain road it really comes to life. On the open, twisting two-lane of Angeles Crest Highway it felt more at home between 7000 and even over 10,000 rpm. It was very smooth at those revs.

The front shocks and the tires were a little stiffer than you’d set it up for if this particular road – Hwy. 2 to Newcomb’s Ranch – was a race track. In curves the bumps would ever-so-slightly knock the handlebars off line, but it was barely noticeable. 

As with other smaller-displacement sport bikes, after only a short while we forgot how small the engine was and started enjoying the handling, much the same way early sports cars were still fun with their relatively small-displacement powerplants.

Published figures for engine output go as high as 30 hp and 20 lb-ft of torque from the single cylinder (like most motorcycle manufacturers, Honda doesn’t release power and torque figures). Competitors all have more displacement, more power, more torque and more cylinders – and might feel a little less vibraty at low revs. You can decide for yourself if the twins are smoother. We think they are but only at lower revs and ultimately not by any huge, deal-killing amount.

You can get the CBR300R with or without ABS, too. Since we didn’t have a spec sheet we weren’t sure if ours had it or not, so on a rainy night we took it out and clomped on the binders. Nope, no ABS on our test bike. But that front brake really grabbed hold in wet or dry. Since the price difference is a reasonable $500 and the weight penalty only seven pounds, we’d say the added safety of ABS is well-worth it.

Honda CBR300R street view

Do I Want It?

The littlest Honda sport bike has all the looks of its bigger brothers, all the way up to the CBR1000R. No one needs to know this is just a one-piston thumper. That’ll be a big draw. At only 357 pounds this would be a good bike to take your DMV licensing test on (a Vespa would be the best but this one would be good, too). You could also take your Motorcycle Safety Foundation classes and your first track classes on this. It’s a little harder to get in trouble with only 30 hp vs130. With a price of just $4399 this motorcycle is very affordable. You can even get the slightly less-adorned CB300F without fairing for a miraculously low $3999.

If you’re going to pick which brand to be loyal to, Honda is a good choice. You can get everything from motorcycles and cars to outboard motors and lawn mowers. Ride (and boat, mow and drive) Red, brutha.

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