Righto, so probably once a day someone creates a thread either here or in the Newbie forum asking if they should get a 250r to start on. Tons of bullshit gets thrown around, a lot of the same information get's bounced around, and the same arguments for and against the 250's come up. It happens EVERY DAY. I figured I'd give a bit of personal insight into this.
1) Statistically you're going to drop your motorcycle.
Motorcycles are not bicycles and they are also not dirt bikes. Just because you're pretty slick on your Huffy or have been riding dirt bikes since you were 12 weeks old doesn't translate to a road themed motorcycle. Probably 50+% of people starting out riding WILL drop their bike. While this may be a silly parking lot maneuver, making a u-turn, etc, it can be more serious. The point being; if you start with an expensive motorcycle you already are liable to mess it up being a new rider (and even MORE likely if it's a powerful motorcycle). Imagine dropping $9k+ on a motorcycle (to which is going to depreciate damn near immediately) and dropping it causing $3k worth of damage. If/when you go to sell it you're going to be out a lot of coin. Now imagine dropping $3,000-$3,500 on a LIKE NEW or even $4k for a new 250. You can literally drop the thing and sell it with scratched up fairings (or drop around $500 to have them fixed) and still sell it for little to no depreciation. You literally can "master" riding a motorcycle; CORRECTLY, and then buy your dream bike and be out little to no money. It's like being able to have a drivers ed. bike for 6 months to a year (for free) and once you're comfortable then you can step up.
2) Don't waste your money on expensive upgrades:
People get caught in the notion that everything is upgradeable. The 250 is an economy bike. It wasn't built to be a precision based race bike. They DO make great track bikes and you can make a dedicated track 250 for pretty cheap. The trap people fall into is they start throwing parts at the 250 to get it to perform like a super sport bike. If you're canyon carving or taking it to the track, then go for it. If you're riding it to and fro school or work, then spending $800+ on an Ohlins rear shock, dropping THOUSANDS on engine work (very easy to do), mounting up a steering damper, etc. is silly. If you're using the bike to gain experience, then do that. All that extra crap isn't going to make you a better rider and if you plan on upgrading you will never recoup that money.
3) It's NOT a super sport.
I don't get why this concept is so hard. Every day someone complains that their gas gauge isn't perfectly accurate, or that the bike should have come with better tires, or that it's stupid that they have carburetors. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say you should all be THANKFUL that Kawasaki builds the damned 250's and for the price that they do. To cram in all that the 250 has going for it, and for the price tag it goes for, what can you expect? It's not going to have all the bells and whistles nor be as precise as a $9,000+ super sport bike or even a $7,000+ sport bike. Pissing and moaning about it drives me crazy. You're the people that will get something for free and then complain about it to the person giving it away because it's not exactly what you'd prefer. If I need reliable transportation and buy a $12k econo box, I'm not going to write to the manufacturer and complain that the car should have ABS, at least 200 horsepower, leather seats, etc. Same with the 250. I enjoy the bike, have really pushed it to it's limits and gotten my moneys worth.
The '08+ 250r's have a 0-60mph time of 5.75 seconds. The bike pulls pretty well to that point and doesn't start losing steam until 85 or so MPH. So what? So let's examine a couple of other cars that run in this bracket:
1. 03-08 Nissan 350z 0-60 in 5.8 seconds.
2. 99-08 Honda S2000 0-60 in 5.7 seconds.
3. 99-06 Audi TT 0-60 in 5.9 seconds.
4. 2004 and 2008 VW R32 in 5.9 seconds.
5. Mazdaspeed 3 0-60 in 5.9 seconds.
6. Subaru Impreza WRX in 5.9 seconds.
7. Mazda RX-8 0-60 in 5.9 seconds.
8. 93-95 Mazda RX-7 in 5.5 seconds.
9. late 90's Porsche Boxster 0-60 in 5.9 seconds.
10. VW GTI 0-60 in 6.5 seconds.
11. Ford Mustang GT 0-60 in 5.6 seconds.
12. Mitsubishi Eclipse GT 0-60 in 5.9 seconds.
Those are all VERY respectable cars and their straight line performance is in the top 5% of all vehicles on the road. I've read people arguing about this saying that's not a good comparison because all of the above listed cars are way faster than 250r's. That's totally true. But ALL your city riding and up to freeway speeds they are comparable. That's a fact. Sure 0-100 any one of those cars will destroy a 250, but that's not useful when trying to get around in 45mph traffic now is it? The 250 will accelerate similarly. All the "The 250 is too slow and can't get you out of trouble" hoopla is just a load of crap. Let me know of anyone with an Audi TT that's complained and upgraded because they felt the car to be too much of a liability due to it's poor acceleration
. Where the acceleration starts to lack is way beyond the legal limits you're ALLOWED to ride anyways.
The straight line performance is very respectable, but the problem is the bike is compared to 100+ horsepower super sport bikes. Sure the 250r looks like a piece of crap when measured to that scale. Then again it's akin to comparing a Toyota Corolla to a Maclaren F1. You really can't compare the two and would be foolish to do so. Every time someone on a super sport gets pulled over for doing 90+ mph and they say, "they were only passing another car" I want to laugh in their face.
This partly comes from the acceleration point and it gets on my nerves seeing thread... After thread... After thread... After thread of people asking if the 250's are safe on the freeway. The most common beefs I hear is, "It doesn't have the power to get you out of trouble".
Let's think about that. So perchance if you're cruising at 70mph and you're faced with a sudden problem on the freeway, where does the trouble come from? How often is being able to accelerate because someone's going to rear end you at 120mph coming up?! TROUBLE 99.999% of the time requires braking or side to side maneuvering. I've never heard of someone killed on the highway because they couldn't accelerate out of a problem. Fact is that 78% of motorcycle fatalities involve collisions from the front (hitting things like light poles or other vehicles) whereas only 5% involved collisions from behind! Most of the rear-end fatalities occur places like intersections when struck from behind. Also, how many people have you heard of that have been killed while riding their 250's on the freeway? I haven't heard of any. How many people have been doing 120+ mph on their Gixxer, and had a tank slapper, or ran into a car, etc. and been killed? It's in the hundreds if not thousands
. I'm not saying that the 250 lowers your risk of having an accident on the freeway, nor am I saying no one has ever been killed on a 250 in a freeway accident, but I'm saying it's lack of acceleration won't contribute TO having an accident. I've heard of a bunch of people being side swiped, hitting things in front of them, etc. but never a lack of acceleration (and I wholeheartedly wait for someone to tell me a boo-hoo story of a friend of a friend that was rear ended on the freeway and killed because they didn't have a powerful enough bike).
Then again acceleration-wise you have a high 14 second quarter mile bike with the 250. It's POWERBAND is around 30mph - 80mph. Most of even the 600cc super sport bikes don't have a ton of power in this range and don't start kicking in until 60+ mph. Sure you'll have more acceleration on a super sport bike in this range over a 250, but not anything that would've been the determiner between an accident and not. On most 600cc supersports you don't start getting into your power until 40+ MPH in first gear. And then it's throw you back power and before you know it you're at 120mph.
As for stability on the highways I've noticed a trend: New riders that aren't accustomed to riding a motorcycle let alone a sport bike take them on the freeway. When they feel wind and notice everything around them rushing by at 70+mph they tense up. This winds up seeing you fighting the bike, causes strain on your wrists, causes gripping of the tank (which for the guys doesn't feel that great). The next thing you know people are upgrading their grips, getting tall wind screens, and/or looking to upgrade their bike because it's GOT to be the bike and not the rider
. The bike felt unstable on the highway so you think you need a steering damper? Try again...
Consider the aerodynamics, suspension geometry, wheel size, weight, etc. of a 250r. It's all very similar (and the weight between a new 250 and a modern 600cc super sport differ by only about 20-30 lbs). What does this mean? This means that stability on the freeway is going to be damn near identical between them. You're not going to get blown across 4 lanes when a semi drives by just as you're not going to get thrown into a tank slapper at a moments notice. If there's a vibration upgrading isn't the answer, you might have too full of tires, loose head bearings, unbalanced wheels, etc. If you neglect the same things on any bike you're going to run into the same problems. Basically for freeway riding the biggest difference between the sport and super sports is what happens at 70mph when you twist the throttle
. I still primarily use my 250r for
freeway commuting by the way.