When the Honda CBR250R hit the market in 2011, there was much ballyhoo about the practicality of the whole affair. While it might not have been as proper a sportbike as the Kawasaki Ninja 250, it had the right looks, and Honda’s single-cylinder engine (designed with frugality in mind) was surely the way of the future.
The journos were right. Honda’s two-fiddy pushed Kawasaki to finally improve its Baby Ninja, and ultimately, spawned a boom in the small-cc streetbike category (see also: KTM 390, Yamaha R3, etc.). But it wasn’t exactly revolutionary when it hit the scene in 2011. Honda had done this all before, as far back as the 1980s, with the CBX250.
Like the CBR250, the CBX rode in on the coattails of high-performance models. The CBR250 had nothing in common with the CBR600 or CBR1000, except for some styling. Same for the CBX250; it had nothing in common with other, faster machines in the CBX lineup. However, it did share some technology with other Honda models; its air-cooled single-cylinder engine was basically the same thing that Honda used in its 250 dual sport lineup at that time.
However, there were some key changes. Honda’s XL line had a counterbalancer, and a single overhead cam. The CBX got rid of the counterbalancer (perhaps the engineers figured they’d make more power that way?), and had a double overhead cam setup. Still, the engine used Honda’s RFVC top end design, same as the XLs, with four-valve head. There was no kickstarter, though—electric boot only for this bad boy. Supposedly, the thumper made 31 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, and 14.7 pound-feet of torque at 9,000 rpm. Obviously, this engine was geared for more top-end power than the XL line. Remember, there was no counterbalancer, and the DOHC setup probably helped.
With all that revving, you’d think this might be a pretty buzzy bike at speed. Obviously you couldn’t expect the smooth ride of a well-tuned twin or four-cylinder, but Honda at least had the sense to rubber-mount the engine, which cut down on vibration. The six-speed gearbox would have helped, too.
All in all, it was a relatively sensible engine, with decent performance and sensible repackaging of previous designs. In the 1980s, Honda was known for innovation, but it wasn’t above a bit of parts bin engineering, especially for machines like this. It kept the bike’s cost down, and also let Honda use proven tech. Although, in this case, that might not have been such a great idea for the long term. The RFVC (Radial Four Valve Combustion) design was known for cracking heads, particularly around the exhaust valves. This is a well-known issue with old XLs from the 1980s, and it could be partly why you don’t see as many of these old CBX250s on the market, too.
As for the rest of the bike’s design, it’s a classic ’80s naked bike, when sport riders were transitioning to full fairings. Look at a Yamaha RZ350 or a Kawasaki GPZ305, and you’ll see the same basic layout: A long, flowy, tank. A cockpit fairing. Sporty, tucked-back handlebars. This bike might not have been the brutish Kawasaki GPZ900 from Top Gun, but when you got aboard, you could pretend.
Looking at it now, it’s obviously dated, owing just as much to the cafe racers of the 1970s as it does the transitional superbikes of the 1980s. There’s a set of dual shocks in back, and those Comstar wheels are obviously budget-friendly and made for skinny tires (with weird 16-inch front and 18-inch rear, too). There’s a single 240 mm disc up front, with two-piston caliper, but riders weren’t overly enthused with its stopping power. Like most budget bikes of that era, there’s a drum brake in back.
Taking a step back, though, it’s still a good-looking bike, with trim bodywork. Some of the uglier bits, like the indicators, are easy enough to clean up, although most riders would just leave them on now, to add to the retro appeal.
The CBX hit the market sometime around ’84 in Japan, and was sold around the world, but never seemed to gain much success on salesroom floors. Having said that, it’s not a model without some significance, at least in Canada. Here in the Frozen North, it’s the machine that Jordan Szoke started his legendary roadracing career on.
Back in 1994, Szoke earned his roadracing licence at 15 (!!), racing a CBX250 in the 125GP class at Shannonville. He was kicking butts all over the track, and by ’95, he was good enough to go pro. Now, 25 years later, he’s earned 14 Pro Superbike titles, including four undefeated seasons, along with a lot of other hardware, and it all started with a CBX, sort of.
But, that’s the kind of bike the CBX was—never intended to be a machine you stayed with forever, but a great starter bike. It’s the same formula that worked again for the CBR250 starting in 2011.
So, what about this bike, an ’87 model that looks in good nick?
There’s a problem: It’s located in the Toronto area, in Ontario, Canada. Not a big deal if you live in the GTA, definitely a problem if you live further away. Especially if you live in the US; the border is closed (thanks, COVID-19!).
However, shipping trucks are still crossing the border all the time, and if you did want a weirdo bike like this, you could definitely figure all the paperwork out. Pricing is a bit high, at $2,200; you could buy a CBR250 for the same money, and it would have EFI and maybe even ABS.
But the CBX is getting pretty rare now (“Only sold in Canada for two years,” says the ad, and I’m not sure it ever made it to the US). If you want one, contact the seller through Kijiji, and see if you can work something out.