Today’s small-displacement motorcycles pack an impressive punch for their size and price. Some small bikes are good fun, but what if I told you that you could have had even more fun 31 years ago? This motorcycle offered on Craigslist is the Honda CBR250RR, a pocket rocket that shrieks like a vintage Formula 1 car.
This CBR250RR — designated MC22 internally — from 1990 is a product of wild times in Japan. The economy was still booming, motorcycle racing was hot and the roadgoing sportbikes were even hotter. Japan’s so-called Bubble Era produced some unbelievable cars, but the country’s motorcycles weren’t left out of the madness.
While many riders lusted after flagship sportbikes, licensing restrictions and taxes made small-displacement bikes far more attainable. So what did the manufacturers do? They took highly sought-after designs then scaled them down to the 250cc-class. But there was one additional problem: Japan limited power of the 250cc class to 45-horsepower.
That didn’t stop Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki or Yamaha, as they simply piled on the cylinders and shot rev limits sky high. How high? Suzuki’s GSX-R250 redlined at 17,000-RPM and Kawasaki’s ZXR250 called it quits at 18,000. The Honda CBR250RR — sometimes affectionally called the Babyblade — topped them all with its 19,000-RPM redline. Formula 1 cars of this era didn’t even hit these numbers.
In case you were wondering, Honda’s 250cc four-cylinder has an adorably tiny bore of 48.5mm and a stroke of 33.8mm, and the engine produced just 17.7 lb-ft of torque. Despite its age, that performance is right up there with modern small bikes. It’s crazy to think something this old is still so competent.
Modern motorcycles of this displacement class generally make do with one cylinder or two. Those modern small bikes also don’t sound like this:
That amazing engine is fed through four cute carburetors and is housed in a twin-spar aluminum frame. Honda topped it off with racetrack-replica plastics reminiscent of the big sportbikes. But unlike those models, you can run up through the gears and still be within the speed limit.
These brilliant machines were never officially imported to the States. That means you either have to pay a premium for one already here or import one yourself. From what I see, low-mileage examples aren’t too expensive in Japan. There are some additional hassles that come with importing one yourself, but you may be able to get one here for less than the $12,000 the seller is asking. Then again, it could be tough to find another with just 2,500 miles. These seem to be pretty rare in this country with any miles.
This one is also completely stock save for a tank pad, and it looks absolutely stunning. It looks as if it can break 200 miles-per-hour, though it’ll get nowhere close.
These bikes are a neat piece of motorcycling history, and so far the prices have yet to reach as high as their redlines. They also make me wonder what a modern four-cylinder 250cc sportbike would be like.