Oh yeah! Small bikes–big fun–don’t let anyone tell you different. I just finished testing a mid-size sport bike that I really enjoyed, but, wow, the fun factor truly expanded when I threw a leg over the single-cylinder 2016 Honda CBR300R ABS.Nothing beats a bike such as the Honda CBR300R that you can manhandle. While there’s a lot to be said for the power of mid-size and liter bikes, a motorcycle that’s over 100 pounds lighter is that much easier to have your way with. Add in a relatively sport-bike-friendly under-31-inch seat height and confidence grows exponentially.
While one might be tempted to think the Honda CBR300R is just for beginners, girls, or seasoned riders who are backing it down, it’s quite a bit more than that. The fact is, the CBR 300 is a great commuter bike, it’s a blast in the canyons, and it easily works as a no-stress around-town or errand bike. Let’s see why this diminutive bike works so well.All motor configurations have their advantages, but the power off-idle from a single cylinder is potent. Click the over-square 286cc liquid-cooled engine into gear, let out the novice-friendly forgiving clutch, and pull away smartly. The torque is satisfying and you’ll immediately enjoy how light and maneuverable the CBR300R is as you move down the boulevard clicking up a few cogs.You’ll pass through the first few gears quickly before settling into fourth (of six gears) for casual riding down the boulevard. Getting on the freeway, you’ll need to rev the Honda to near the 10,500 rpm redline in each gear to get up to speed quickly on the on-ramp. Once up to the speed limit, you’ll search for a seventh gear a few times before you settle in and get used to the busy sound from the little engine. The mirrors are smooth, even with the engine running at high revs, though I always have a bit of a view of my shoulders.
The little thumper is more than willing to work hard for you, but when you’re flogging it at 7500 rpm and above, it’s noisy. While The CBR300R’s engine has no problem handling freeway speeds, the compact 54.3-inch wheelbase, narrow IRC Road Winner tires (110 up front; 140 in the rear), and non-adjustable (except rear spring preload) budget suspension, don’t deliver as planted of a ride as a more substantial motorcycle. Still, I never feel insecure on the CBR300R, and with the windscreen pushing most of the windblast over my helmet, there isn’t much incentive to slow down.On the congested commute to work, however, it is another story. Traffic may be terrible, but the 300R shines; its narrow physique and nimble handling allow it to sneak through the slow moving lanes of traffic (lane-splitting is legal in California, thankfully).The torquey motor has gobs of engine braking, so it’s easy to finesse your speed without touching the brakes. It rather feels like cheating to slide through so easily, and that is just one reason why I arrive at work with a smile on my face.Acceleration is not exactly fast on the Honda CBR300R. Revving high and slipping the clutch to slingshot forward makes the most of the bike’s power, but you’ll quickly know the limits and ride accordingly. That fast-closing gap that you can shoot through on your mid-size bike, without worry, requires a downshift and full twist of throttle on the 300R.Of course, this kind of riding works well in the canyons. I can push the Honda CBR300R hard in twisty conditions with a huge amount of confidence, riding faster than on a mid-size bike on the tightest roads. The 25.3-inch rake and compact chassis allow the bike to turn in easily and transition through S-curves with exuberance.The bike’s small size and meager weight (claimed 357 pounds at the curb) allow me to aggressively accelerate and brake, credibly keeping up with larger displacement engines. Yes, I will lose touch when the road opens up, but in the tight stuff, I’m competitive.This wouldn’t be possible without good brakes and, though the CBR only has a single 296mm disc up front and nothing fancy like radial mounting, that is more than adequate. There’s no grabby bite at the front lever, just a secure, linear feel. The rear 220mm disc does a fine job at slower speeds. ABS is available for an additional $500, but I never felt it kick in on the test bike, and I rode it hard.Suspension on the 300R is adequate for its intended audience, and on smooth tarmac it works quite well. On bumpy roads, you’ll find yourself backing off as the damping reaches its limits. Expansion joints at freeway speeds are not friendly to the CBR300RErgonomics are sporty but comfortable with a mostly upright seating position. For those with shorter inseams, a Honda Genuine Accessory seat reduces the saddle height to under 29.5-inches.Although the thrifty engine is claimed to get 71 mpg, you might be surprised how quickly you run through the 3.4-gallon tank; miles fly by when you’ve got a smile plastered across your face.Do not underestimate the fun that can be had on a small displacement machine. Looking like a pint-sized firecracker–especially in Candy Orange/Matte Black Matte–the 2016 Honda CBR300R ABS is forgiving enough for a novice, but capable enough for an experienced rider. Two thumbs up.Photography by Don Williams