Watching riders on MotoGP grid pushing their bikes to the very limit has us bikers dreaming. Dreaming of own/ riding a sports bike and trying it out just to get a sense of how it really feels like.
The visual appeal of a sports bike with its aggressive riding posture, fairings for aerodynamics, lends even a small capacity machine a big bike feel and turns heads from small kid to adults alike, wherever.
Here are some of our favourite sports bikes currently available on the market.
Honda CBR 250R:
- Refined and reliable engine/powertrain
- Comfortable ride quality
- Sport touring capabilities
- Low top end performance
- Soft suspension setup
- Dated design and thin equipment list
The Honda CBR 250R is one of the first small capacity sports bike and frankly, the most recognizable sports bike here. It has been around with no mechanical changes for a long time but still continues to be popular amongst bikers.
One of the obvious reasons for that is the silky smooth engine with proven reliability on the CBR250R that puts out a max power of 26.5 PS and a max torque of 22.9 Nm. Mated with a 6 speed gearbox, the bike capable enough to comfortably cruise at triple digit speeds. And as expected, the build quality as well as the fit and finish levels of the CBR 250R is top notch. So is the ride quality with minimal vibrations and superb refinement level.
The CBR 250R’s steel twin spar diamond chassis is set on conventional telescopic front forks and a rear monoshock. The chassis offers good amount of stability but, the suspension setup is set towards the softer side and the bike feels nervous under handbraking or while leaning over on corners. The power delivery from the engine is linear and offers good midrange but doesn’t have much grunt at higher rpms. So if you are looking for something to carve the corners, the CBR 250R might feel a little out of its depth.
But in essence, the CBR 250R is oriented more towards sports touring and comes more into its own while on long rides on the highways. The tall windscreen along with the full fairings give a lot of wind protection. Combine that with a tank capacity of 13 liters, it makes for a perfect sports touring motorcycle. Further, a relatively relaxed riding position reduces fatigue. Even on city traffic, the riding posture is a boon, putting the least amount of pressure on your wrists and shoulders. Also with a relatively short ride height of 785 mm, it is accessible to riders of various stature.
However, since the bike is without major updates for a long time, the competition has moved on. The design of the bike feels familiar but dated. The CBR 250R also lacks a lot in terms of features and equipment. The bike’s dual disc setup comes equipped with a dual channel ABS system, so it has you covered on the safety front but that’s about that. It misses out on most modern features like upside down forks, a fully digital dash, a slipper clutch to name a few, which other bikes in this list have.
While the CBR 250R may not confirm to modern standards, it is still a good buy in terms of comfort and versatility in riding dynamics for a perfect sports tourer. The reliable and smooth engine, comfortable riding characteristics and Honda’s proven quality puts the CBR 250R among the best sports bikes you can buy for money.
Suzuki Gixxer SF 250:
- Smooth engine and powertrain
- Confidence inspiring handling
- Lack of good wind protection
- Braking performance below par
- Lack of modern features
Suzuki have upped their game lately with the introduction of the larger displacement Gixxer. The Gixxer SF 150 was already an impressive bike and the prospect of a more powerful and capable bike from Suzuki is enticing. And the Gixxer 250 SF lives upto the excitement.
Powering the bike is a unique 249 cc , Oil Cooled engine producing a max power of 26.5 PS and a peak 22.6 Nm of torque. Suzuki have pioneered what they call the SOCS (Suzuki Oil Cooling System) which as the name suggests, uses the engine oil itself to cool the engine. This is a cooling system which we haven’t seen before but the system works perfectly and manages engine heat proficiently in rush hour traffic as well as in the highways.
The engine on the Gixxer 250 SF is properly refined with vibrations creeping in only at higher rpms. Similarly, the gearbox is also smooth and precise. The engine makes good power though rev range. This eliminates frequent gear shifts and an easier ride in the urban traffic. The bike pulls strongly from lower speeds and makes overtakes on the highways a breeze. The fuel efficiency figures are also the best in class for the Gixxer 250 SF.
On the design aspect, the Gixxer 250 SF at first glance doesn’t look much different than it’s smaller sibling, the Gixxer 150 SF which might be an issue for some. The only differences are the bigger 110/70 front and 150/70 rear tyres and also are the 10 spoke diamond cut alloys.
The muscular side panels give the Gixxer 250 SF a strong road presence. In terms of functionality though, the windscreen is quite short to offer enough protection against the wind while at higher speeds.
The handling of the bike is also reminiscent of the smaller Gixxer 150 SF, it’s agile and precise and happily takes on the corners. The suspension setup with conventional telescopic front forks and rear monoshock is on the firmer side. This obviously helps with the handling without being a complete dealbreaker over slightly broken roads. What could do with a bit of improvement are the brakes. The dual disc setup, especially the front brake lack bite and stopping power you’d want to feel confident when riding the bike hard or make an emergency stop. You do get the helping of dual channel ABS but that’s about it for the braking.
The Suzuki Gixxer 250 SF gets a digital instrument that includes a gear position indicator. An all LED headlamp provides excellent illumination at night time and are accompanied by LED tail lamps and indicators. However, the bike misses a slip/assist clutch which would have rounded out the equipment list nicely. All in all, the Gixxer 250 is a really fun, well rounded and capable motorcycle while being one of the most affordable bike on this list.
Yamaha R15M/ R15 V4:
- VVA technology for bottom/top end power
- Lightweight package with best handling
- Awesome design
- Slipper clutch, traction control, quickshifter
- Committed ergonomics and stiff suspension
- A little underpowered
The Yamaha R15 series created headlines with the technology it brought to the mass market when it was first introduced. Yamaha continues to do so today with the R15M which is now the 4th generation of the R15s. And while not much has changed from the 3rd generation, the R15M has pushed the boundaries further.
The R15M is a handsome motorcycle with its design inspired by the by the bigger R1 or the R7. The bodywork and front fairing provide good aerodynamics and wind protection as expected. The headlamp unit is different from the previous model, with a single bi-functional LED unit and thin DRLs. Yamaha say this is to help with creating a more aerodynamic front. In short, the R15M looks purposeful with its design.
Talking about the performance aspect, the R15M has the lowest displacement and consequently, the lowest power and torque figures for any bike in this list. It might not be the fastest bike over here but it has got a few tricks of its own to give an exciting ride.
First off, a revised 155 cc liquid cooled four valve engine produces a maximum 18.4 PS of power at 10000 rpm and 14.2 Nm of torque at 7500 rpm. The engine applies what Yamaha call the VVA (Variable Valves Actuation) technology with two intake valve cams.
What this clever system does is at lower rpms, the valvetrain allows for bike to make good low end torque, for easy city traffic navigation. Now after 7,400 rpm, the it changes the intake cam allowing longer intake duration. This helps the bike to generate maximum power at higher rpms for optimum performance.
Furthermore, the R15M has gets a quickshifter that allows the rider to make fast upshifts. Also, a slip and assist clutch enables the rider to downshift rapidly without locking the rear. The bike also gets a traction control system and in combination to the quick shifter and the slipper clutch enables the rider to push the bike to its limits.
The bike now gets a set of USD forks upfront with 37 mm inner tubes, improving the front end feel while cornering and braking hugely. The rear shock is the same but a new lightweight aluminum swingarm improves the agility and high speed stability of the bike. And with a Kerb weight of only 142kg the bike is Quick in changing directions. The braking of the motorcycle however, could certainly have been better. The brakes have good initial bite but lack the feel and stopping power provide more confidence to the rider.
As a package though, the Yamaha R15M performs really well and handles fantastic. It looks fantastic just like its big getting brother the R7. Be it for a beginner or an experienced rider, the bike is capable of inflicting a big smile and is an absolute value for money.
KTM RC 200:
- Engine performance much more friendlier
- Great handling Chassis and suspension setup
- Powerful brakes
- Bodywork and fairing provide good wind protection
- Front end design
- No traction control, quickshifter or a TFT dash
- Refinement levels not the best
The KTM RC 200 for the year 2022 has been thoroughly updated on its outgoing model and rightly so. The RC 200 had always been a serious and committed, no nonsense sports bike on a budget and as with all things progressive, upgrades were necessary. And while the updates are subtle for the 2022 model, the overall package has improved significantly.
The potent and extremely fun engine with a max power of 25 PS and max torque of 19.2 Nm remains the same mechanically. What’s changed is the engine mapping and an airbox which is now 40% bigger. This helps the bike breathe better and the RC 200 now makes a bit more, usable torque in the midrange and the result is a friendlier bike now. But the engine still produces most of its power at the top of the rev-range. You really have to rev the bike high to extract the maximum and this makes riding the bike extremely engaging and addictive.
The styling has changed a lot on the front end and also the fairing design which adopt are more function over form. KTM claim that the changes have made the bike more aerodynamically efficient. The bigger windscreen and new look might be off putting to many, but it works perfectly while at higher speeds or during track riding. The single LED headlmap unit, the DRLs and the side indicators have been integrated neatly and overall, the bike now, looks even more focused. Give it some time and the design starts growing on you.
“Unsprung mass” is what KTM have chosen to focus on the most for this iteration of the RC’s. The wheels, the final drive sprocket, and the brake disc are all lighter than before and reduce more than 3 kgs of rotating unsprung mass. Even the axle bolts are hollow and lighter. This has made the bike to be even more agile and reactive. A new bolt on subframe and chassis changes have made it 1.5 kgs lighter and stiffer than before. Also the suspension setup has been optimized to provide a more balanced ride and overall a better feeling of the bike.
On the ergonomics front, the RC 200 has clip-ons handlebars set 15 mm higher than before for a more relaxed riding position. But the bars can also be lowered upto 10 mm for a more committed, track focused riding posture. This gives the best of both worlds and allows the riders to set the positions as per their need. Other changes include a new radiator with more surface area for better cooling performance. Also, a new LCD dash (not TFT) has been included that is easier to read and shows more information including a gear position indicator.
The four piston radially mounted brakes with a 320 mm disc at front and a single piston unit with 230 mm rear brake give good feel and strong braking power to quickly bring the bike to a halt. Also, the suspension setup with revised damping at the rear and a big piston 43 mm USD forks at the front offer a more balanced ride quality and handling capability. The seats are also of different quality and gives a lot more support to the rider.
We would definitely be investing on some better tyres if we were to get one though. The stock tyres just aren’t on par with what the bike, mechanically is capable and you will find yourself being limited by the tires pretty soon. All these changes have made what was a hugely fun bike more versatile and while the older RC 200 was already so committed and capable, the upgrades have made it even more friendlier. Thus, the new RC 200 can double up as your daily companion as well as your perfect track/ride machine.
TVS Apache RR 310 BS6:
- Grippy Michelin Road 5 tyres
- Chassis and Suspension setup
- Ride by wire feature with riding modes
- TFT dash, slipper clutch
- Viby engine/ gearbox refinement issues
- Braking performance
TVS Apache 310 RR is the brainchild of the partnership between TVS and BMW and has been co-developed along with the small capacity BMW’s. The first of its kind (a fully faired sports bike) for TVS, the 310RR has got a lot to prove. And the bike makes a case for itself by a whole host of features and equipment.
The 310 RR creates quite the first impression with its design. The wind tunnel tested bodywork/fairings look as good as they are, purposeful. A beautiful trellis frame finished in red and a high rake and mass forward stance shows the aggressive intent of the bike. A set of twin headlamps with DRLs at the front end, combined with the fangs like LED tailmap enhance the overall persona of the 310 RR.
What about the heart of it all then! Here, a 312 cc 4-valve liquid cooled engine produces a healthy 34 PS max power and 27 Nm of max torque. The power delivery is fairly linear and the engine pulls cleanly, all the way to a redline of 10600 rpm. While the engine is a little viby but is definitely an improvement on the BSIV version. The BS6 version has a gearbox that’s more refined and it also comes assisted with a slipper clutch.
A radical approach, TVS and BMW have taken on the 310 RR is to tilt the engine cylinder backwards. Now this allows the swingarm mounts to be positioned further ahead, allowing a longer swingarm without increasing wheelbase. This long swingarm, short wheelbase combo helps to increase the agility of the bike and also remain stable at higher speeds.
On the chassis part, the steel trellis frame offers good blend of rigidity and stability for optimum feeling and handling confidence. And there’s more. The 310 RR comes equipped with grippy Michelin Road 5 tyres form the factory which are good on the dry and wet conditions. All these take the handling capabilities of the bike to a whole another level.
The Apache 310 RR gets a ride by wire technology which is a segment first. Along with that, it has a TFT display that changes visually according to the 4 different riding modes (Rain, Urban, Sport and Track). The riding modes have varying engine outputs, limiting the bike’s power and torque output at Rain and Urban mode while unleashing full power and torque output at Sport and Track mode. This is useful for newer riders to adjust and increase their skill level without feeling intimidated. It’s also a safety feature in adverse weather conditions, creating a smoother, tamer engine output as well as an optimized ABS response.
The Apache 310RR is a very good bike that is fast around corners/a track and an equally capable urban/highway ride. The clip-on handlebars and the footpegs are set so that that rider ergonomics isn’t too committed. Also, its suspension setup keeps the bike planted while leant over but also gives a comfortable ride quality. The TVS is the perfect allrounder sports bike that has all the features and advancements to make it go fast on a track but also is an equally usable bike in the city and open highways.
KTM RC 390:
- Engine performance
- Chassis, suspension and brakes
- Electronics package with cornering ABS and traction control
- Polarizing front end design
- Weak bottom end power
- Non adjustable front suspension
The KTM RC 390 has been the undisputed king of the small capacity sports bike however, the competition has been catching up. Now, in a similar fashion to the 2022 RC 200, the new RC 390 is an evolution rather than a revolution. Nevertheless, KTM have been quite smart with what they wanted to work on to improve the performance of the bike. Lets see what are the changes then, shall we?
While the familiar, powerhouse of a 373 cc engine produces 43 PS peak power, the torque has slightly increased. Thanks to a 40% larger airbox, peak torque is now upto 37 Nm. With revised engine mappings the increased torque is available across the revband and the bike is more rider friendly at lower speeds. The bottom end is still lacking but the mid range is now much punchier than the previous RC 390. Also, the power delivery has become smoother yet, more precise than before. The radiator has also gotten bigger so heating issues in traffic or while being ridden hard is also better managed by the bike.
What’s more impressive is the electronics package KTM have given to the RC 390. The inclusion of a ride by wire throttle along with a traction control system gives total control of the machine to the rider. A bi-directional quick shifter make gear changes lightening quick and an IMU based ABS system brings new level of sophistication to the safety feature. A new TFT screen that’s similar to the 390 Adventure also works very well for the bike. All these additions just take the new RC 390 to a whole new level.
Also massive are the changes made in the suspension components. Just like the new RC 200, the updated RC 390 gets a steel trellis frame thats 1.5 kgs lighter and with a new bolt-on subframe design. The new bionic design wheels are 3.4 kgs lighter and the brake discs that are designed to be mounted directly to the wheel save another kilo of weight. This is significant and what this does is allow the suspension to work more effectively. Further, it makes the bike feel much lighter and sharper while changing directions through the corners.
While the European market gets a fully adjustable suspension front and back, the Asian market gets an updated suspension settings with only the rear suspension getting rebound damping adjustment along with preload adjustment. The suspension setup is still on the firmer side and is a joy to go around corners but will impact the ride quality. The four piston radially mounted brakes with a 320 mm disc at front and a single piston unit with 230 mm rear brake give good feel and strong braking power to match the bike’s acceleration.
Design wise, the front end and fairings get newer design that’s more aerodynamic. The bike also looks awesome from the sides and the back. The front end design has a single LED headlamp with integrated DRLs plus indicators. Now the new design might not be to everyone’s liking but the new design kinds grows on you. Besides, KTM say the design is a lot more functional. The tall windscreen helps to get tucked in, protecting against windblasts at higher speeds.
The new RC 390 with these changes is technologically advanced in every aspect than before. Along with that, it seems like a more mature bike that’s versatile enough to be ridden daily than its previous version. But the bike retains its beastly nature to light up the weekend rides or the track if you fancy. Its safe to say that it remains the undisputed king of the small capacity sportbike category.