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Long Term CBF 250 Review

By Ren Withnell

Review Date February 2015

I purchased my CBF 250 second hand, the vendor made it perfectly clear it had been a "Cat D" insurance write off. In simple parlance it had been crashed and aesthetically damaged beyond economic repair but not bent enough to make it dangerous. Someone had restored it to a serviceable status. On my test ride the tickover was set high and I knew something was amiss. Other than that the bike was a delight to ride so I purchased it thinking I'd be able to sort out the tickover.

Honda's CBF 250 next to a parked car
It's not a bad looking machine overall.

Well the tappets were tighter than cramp so I sorted them out but that didn't sort the tickover. I cleaned the carb but that didn't sort the tickover. I changed the pilot jet but that didn't sort the tickover. As of this day the bike will tickover when completely warmed up. That said it will still often stall if I don't give it a blip before letting it idle and occasionally stall just because. Something is still not right. Should you worry if you're thinking of buying one? The forums suggest it is a common problem but then I have a friend with a CBF 250 and his starts and idles on the choke till warm then ticks over as sweet as a modern 4 cylinder fuel injected machine. If you're thinking of buying check the tickover.

Inside the cylinder head and tappets on the CBF 250
Bucket and shim tappets, never done these before. I have now!
The carburettor in pieces on my window sill
Stripping the carb is easy enough. Didn't find the problem though.

Then there's the front disc. It was fine when I got it but after a while the front brake came on and off with each revolution. This is most noticeable at slow speeds and is a sure sign of a warped disc. I purchased a used disc from a breakers and fitted it and all was well once again. For a while. Then the same problem came back. I have since fitted an expensive new EBC disc and I am getting the same problem. I suspect the front wheel is warped where the disc is bolted on although the rim is only very slightly out of true. Damn.

These 2 recurring problems spoil what is otherwise a most excellent motorcycle. I have ridden large motorcycles and I still use a 125 as everyday transport. The 250 sits right in the sweet spot between the 2. Larger bikes have stable, solid and confidence inspiring handling whereas small bikes can be twitchy and track over road imperfections. Large bikes however are cumbersome to move around, heavy and if they start to fall there's no hope of pulling them back up. Small bikes can be spun around with confidence, easy to park, easy to keep upright and if you do drop them they're easy to pick up. 

At 151 kilos the CBF 250 is not so light as to be twitchy and not so heavy as to be cumbersome. Out on the road it feels as steady and balanced as a large machine then on a car park or driveway it's no more work than a 125. For once when it comes to handling and ease of use it gets the BEST of both worlds and none of the worst bits. When riding the narrow tank makes it feel small but the seating/riding position is easily comparable in comfort to a big bike. 

250 Honda at the Point Of Ayre, Isle of Man
Took the 250 to The Isle Of Man. Didn't win any races though.

There's no fancy adjustable forks and the shock at the rear has no rising rate linkage and only preload adjustment. And yet this is one of the best handling motorcycles I've ever had the pleasure of riding. It is light and nimble, easy to turn and throw around a bend. It takes in bumps and lumps with aplomb, feeding feel and sensation back through the bars and the pegs without jarring or surprise. I often hear riders of yore extolling the merits of the old Honda CB250 single's handling and yet no-one gives credit to it's grandchild, the CBF 250. I think this is a sad oversight, this ride deserves some credit.

The motor is a peach too (subject to working tickover and correctly set tappets). No, no it is never going shred tarmac, provide 3rd gear wheelies and see more than 100mph. However it is a torquey little beast. At legal speeds it will pull you up any hill, put a grin on your face and with some work keep you close behind mates on large bikes. Around the countryside there's grunt coming out of the corners then in the town it's quite happy to grind along with the traffic. After 60mph it all slows down quite a bit. It will hold 70 on the motorway even with some headwind but the engine sounds strained and the fuel consumption plummets. 

It has proven to be a comfortable beast. I expected the narrow seat and slightly head down riding position would make for a numb bum and sore shoulders. However on a 260 mile day and 1.300 mile week across Scotland I barely suffered any discomfort. Single cylinder engines can produce a lot of vibration and while the Honda is not as smooth as a 4 cylinder motor I've never found the vibes to be a problem. I often do 40 mile motorway runs with no ill effect either. 

CBF loaded up with panniers and top box, ready to ride to Scotland
Touring bike sir? I recommend the Honda.

Build quality is up to Honda's usual standards. Everything works as it should, the gears are fine, the clutch is light and the headlamp is straight off the CB 600 Hornet so works a treat. The tank holds 16 litres which means 200 miles is easily achieved and there's still plenty in reserve. I'm finding fuel economy to be between 75 and 90mpg, depending on how I ride. Typical commuting and running around gives me about 83mpg.

The CBF's downfall is that it came at a time when 250s here in the UK were very much out of vogue. Mine's a 2006 model, they started in 2004 and ended in 2008. It is only recently that Kawasaki's 250 then 300 Ninja has caused enough stir to re-ignite interest in this market segment. Both Honda and Kawasaki are about to or have released twin cylinder and single cylinder 250/300's Suzuki has the Inazuma workhorse with an optional sporty fairing and Yamaha has unleashed the R3. The CBF 250 never sold much in the UK, as such there's very few aftermarket spares. I'd suggest if Honda fitted it with Fuel Injection and modernised the look a little it would make a great addition to the range again.

I've put 13,000 miles on my 250 now. Apart from the tickover that drives me nuts and the warping disc(s) I think it is marvellous! I love the way it handles and I revel in the determination from the small motor. I can scream it around the twisties then relax and chug through the quaint villages. It will take me to work without bother then carry myself and my adult son to see Grandma with ease. And all the while it doesn't drink too much of the fuel budget. And the problems I've had? They're not the bike's fault, they're due to my inability to fix the tickover and the bike having had a hard life.

Ren's girlfriend looks inside the top box of his motorcycle
Oiii! You! Get out of there.

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Reader's Comments

Sean said :-
Do yourself a favour Ren and buy a used front wheel to sort out the warping problem, I bet there as cheap as chips.
Looks like a right nice little bike, get your RTW trip organised !
I suspect the 250 to 500 market will be the big growth area this year.
Regards Sean
UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Sean.

If I do set off on a big trip it will be on a 125 or less. The 250 serves it's function as 2-up transport, a plaything and a work hack when the 125 is in need of repair. It's a smashing bike but the fuel runs at 80-odd mpg which is OK but nothing compared to the 125's 140 mpg. That's a big saving over many miles.

I am not spending any money on a new front wheel until I can get the blooming blinking accursed tickover sorted! I'm beginning to suspect because the valves were tight when I bought it that there's a oh-so-tiny leak on one of the valves in which case I'll have to remove the head and lap the valves. If that sorts it THEN I'll buy it a shiny new front wheel.

Good to hear from you :-)
UTC
John said :-
It's awful when an otherwise great bike has issues like that. I still feel like I'd love a 250 to replace our Vstrom (which really isn't needed anymore). It's just that I'm unconvinced there are any really rock solid and common 250s in the UK market. I've had the YBR250 and a Hyosung Gt250 in the past. The Yamaha handled really well. The Hyosung had a brilliant engine and was really comfortable. Both were terribly unreliable. The one thing I don't want is unreliable. That's why, like you, I pretty much just ride around on our 125. It never seems to let us down.

Thanks for the review. I'll get round to writing one of my old 250s eventually. Who knows, I may even swop the DL for one again.
UTC
Henrik said :-
Strange to hear YBR250 called "unreliable", after all the YBR125 is known as a die-hard traveler, I vaguely seems to remember two of them on a world-tour a while back, without much more trouble than a awfull lot of tires being weared out :-) look forward to hear how the Keeway will compare over time, fine I guess, anyway many small japan-bikes are from china these days, or thailand, like my honda innova. Finish on my Innova, and a new YBR i just saw in a shop, is below old japanese standards, obviously, and Keeway seems to be on par in any way, so who cares anylonger, its a choice between china, or china :-)
UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
John - My CBF has never actually let me down but the tickover and the brake issue are frustrating. It would be unfair to say all CBF 250's are the same because they're not, I think mine has endured a difficult life before it reached me.

Henrik - You're kind of right in the sense that many of the Jap bikes are made in China, India and other such places and the build quality is not quite the same as a bona-fide Japanese machine. I suspect though that Honda, Yamaha and whoever are letting the build quality slip in the interest of cheaper prices to compete with the "All Chinese" machines. Lets face it a youth can find £1500 a lot easier than he can find £3000.

PS I got your email Henrik - great pics!
UTC
Henrik said :-
Thanks, traveling pic's are essential to me, Panasonic FZ200 in a towel, if possible, bonus-gallery, a car-graveyard found in the forest, Ryd, Sweden,..
www.flickr.com/photos/123771123@N05/sets/72157645109542558/ ...
UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Those cars are spooky! Why are those cars there in the middle of a forest?
UTC
Henrik said :-
Link with info, Spooky indeed, stepping back in time, yet post-epocalyptical

Some cars was from crashes, one had to ask: "was this hes last drive"
www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Europe/Sweden/Kronobergs_Laen/Ryd-177830/TravelGui ...
UTC
Donovan said :-
Thanks, really enjoyed your write up. In South Africa the cbf sold well, badged as a cbx 250. I ride one myself and use if mainly for commuting, great little bike. Easy to maintain and light on petrol. Sadly Honda doesn't sell them anymore due to emmision laws. I own a cbr 250 as well but still prefer riding my little cbx.
UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Donovan. I'm told the CBF 250 is also popular in South America where it's sold as the CBX 250. Dagnammit! Here in the UK we're too obsessed with power and performance rather than sensible and fun. It didn't sell well here. Perhaps I need to ride it to South Africa so I can get some spares.
UTC
Donovan said :-
A cross Africa trip sounds great. We had a husband and wife couple that did a Cape to Cairo trip on a set of chinese 125's. Think they were branded as Motomia. Yeah most of the bikers here are also obsessed by the latest and most powerful machine. Can't see the point of getting into debt for a motorcycle. Really liked the write up of the cbx cat d restoration. Thinking of doing something simular. Spotted an a cbx needing tlc for 200 pounds on gumtree here.
UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Donovan. I think 125's are the future when it comes to travel, that or a push bike. Fuel is costly and big flashy motorcycles tend to attract the wrong kind of attention, especially in poorer countries.

There are some cheap CBF (CBX) 250's come up here from time to time and I'm always tempted for spares etc, but I don't have enough space to store another bike here at all.
UTC
AdamH said :-
Hi Ren - Thanks for sharing your insights in such a useful blog!

I'm looking at replacing my 2008 Honda Innova at the moment with a 250cc and I was interested to read both your Inazuma test ride review and this long term review of the CBF250 as these are the two machines I'm most interested in (actually the faired version of the Inazuma is what has my eye).

I do about 12,000 a year on the Innova - mostly commuting 50 miles a day - and while I really enjoy it, the servicing costs are getting out of control. The output shaft broke late last year and I had a valve crack in March which in turn required a new cylinder and crankshaft.

I've recently got back after a brilliant 1900 mile 10-day tour through France and Spain and the crankshaft is damaged again so I want to move on to something else as soon as it is repaired (hopefully under warranty from the repair in March!).

I can't afford the Inazuma except on HP but I'm attracted to the idea of a newer machine with a warranty whereas the CBF I could just about manage if I got a decent sale price on the Innova (I'm near London so it'll make an ideal knowledge bike) and topped it up a bit. My worry is that even a late model CBF250 is now 7 years old, their mileages are all creeping up and as you mention spares are not abundant.

Out of interest, if you were buying today with 12,000 miles to cover a year which of the two would you buy?

Hopefully attached is my Innova on top of the world! (well a good way up the Pyrenees at any rate!)

Honda Innova at the top of the Roncevaux Pass in the Pyrenees, June 2015
UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Cheers AdamH!

Firstly I am very surprised that you've had so much trouble with the Innova. I wouldn't have expected so many problems with a Honda, these motors have a good reputation. Before you splash the cash consider buying another motor?

I suspect though that perhaps you're ready to move on and have a change. Which one would I choose? Oh golly gee...I dunno! Another reader was asking the exact same question and after much deliberation he plumped for the 'Zuma. See the link below to read his report, it is most informative.

As I said to Rory - The Honda is a great bike and at 25,000 miles mine has been reliable but it has been an absolute BITCH with the tickover and this is a common issue with the CBF 250. It always gets me to where I am going but it is annoying. It is like the little girl with the little curl, when it's good it's very very good but when it's bad it's horrid. The first thing to check is that it all ticks over happily and should only require a short blast of choke.

The Honda and the Suzuki both handle well but the Honda is lighter. If you're a big chap the 'Zuma might be more roomy, it's a larger bike.

General spares on the Honda are available but anything like an aftermarket exhaust pipe is nigh-on impossible to come by in the UK. They are much more popular in Portugal and Brasil...apparently. The Suzuki is proving fairly popular so bits for that are likely to come along.

In my OPINION...hmmm...12,000 miles per year for work...I'd spend the extra and get the 'Zuma for no other reason than it is newer. That said I've not seen any high mileage 'Zumas yet. It's your choice and it's a tough one.

I would love to read about your Pyrenees trip. I don't suppose you'd write it up and let me publish it? You can contact me on renwithnell@hotmail.com
www.bikesandtravels.com/biker.aspx?ride=755 ...
UTC
Henrik said :-
A second-hand Zuma, 2013 or 2014, with very low milage absolutely makes sense, by private trade these can be very cheap now from someone who needs the money quick. Digging a little on the net MIGHT reveal some reports on 2013-models with relatively high milage by now. Workshop manuals can be found on the internet as far as I remember, service can be done one self with a minimum of struggle. Even though my endgoal is not a Zuma I would consider it in case I needed a reliable and economical solution for next years long-distance touring, and not had the finances or time to ready with anything else before spring 2016.
UTC
said :-
Hi Ren - thanks for the reply!

I'm genuinely sad to be looking at moving on the Innova - I've done 21K happy miles on it but to be honest I've lost my trust in it. The local garage that has fixed it twice now have said both times they've no idea why the parts have failed so I've now spent £800+ on repairs in the last 9 months plus the expensive train tickets in the meantime! All the other maintenance I've done myself and it's been great to cut my teeth on with servicing as well as learning to ride more generally.

As it's my sole transport though I've got to the point where I want something that'll still do the miles cheaply but with a bit more power for times when 60mph (conditions permitting) isn't enough, requires slightly less intensive servicing and (hopefully) won't incur huge engine repairs that are way beyond my spanner skills!

I think for peace of mind the 'zuma probably has it too - especially with Suzuki offering 0% on it right now. Unless a mint condition CBF250 shows up very soon I'll be ordering a new black one by the end of the month! I certainly wouldn't want a madam to have to deal with :)

I'll email you about the tour report!

Henrik - I'd consider newish 2nd hand but the 'F' model is what I want and it's too new. I really like the idea of a screen and some fairing to keep the worst of the weather off on a cold winter's morning - the difference the big Puig made to my Innova even at potter-along speeds was huge and I wouldn't be without one again!






UTC
Rob said :-
Just downsized to a CBF250. After a few rides, I can't see why I didn't do it sooner! Enough power to cope with a short run along the motorway and up Welsh hills, but light enough to manoeuvre around town. It's brought back the fun.
17/03/2017 18:25:25 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Yip! You're spot on Rob. 250 is more than enough to have fun and small enough not to be a constant battle against weight and massive power.

Glad you're enjoying the CBF
17/03/2017 22:41:47 UTC
Rob said :-
Thanks Ren, Now all I've got to do is wait for the rain to stop and persuade the better half to go on the pillion. Should be easier for her to get on than the Transalp.
19/03/2017 21:54:43 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I don't know where you live Rob but I think you're going to have to wait for the rain to abate. The forecast ain't so good.

One note regarding pillions. I hope your good lady has small feet! The space between the rider and pillion pegs is small. It's easily sorted, just ask her to move her feet back a little.
20/03/2017 07:23:59 UTC
John Halfpenny said :-
I have a 2004 CBF250 and had the same idling problem - valve clearance adjusted , carb cleaned, new exhaust air injection reed valve etc. etc. didn't fix the problem. I'd always thought that the choke lever action felt a bit 'wooly', so I dismantled it and found that the choke cable was virtually seized with rust & crud. The result was that the choke valve connected to the cable at the carb. end wasn't shutting consistently when the choke was closed after a cold start, so when the engine was warm it just woudn't run right. A new cable (~£20) fixed this - starts on choke fine and idles perfectly when choke off. Approx. 10 minutes to fit. Otherwise a great all-round machine.
24/04/2017 14:26:03 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You lucky lucky boy John Halfpenny. I did consider a choke problem myself and completely bypassed the choke cable, making it manually operated. Regrettably with wasn't my issue unlike yourself.

Glad you've given the bike the once over though. It ought to serve you well now that it's all be done. Cheers.
24/04/2017 14:29:58 UTC
Andy said :-
Sorry if this insults your intelligence but have you considered these points-

Is your brake calliper seized up causing the brake discs to warp?

Do you have an air leak between the carb and the cylinder causing an erratic tick over?

I'm sure you've already looked for these problems but I thought I'd mention them.

By the way I've just purchased a Honda CB250 (Two fifty/nighthawk). It's tatty but I love it! I prefer riding it to my CBR650, it's funky and just the right size!

Regards,

Andy.
19/08/2017 20:58:02 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You're quite right to Ask Andy

I had stripped and cleaned and copper-slipped the brakes into oblivion and save for the gentle "shhhhhhhh" of the pads gently rubbing the disc there was no seizure. I suspect the wheel was out of true.

I did finally fix the tickover. It was worn valve seats. I lapped them with much gusto and rebuilt the head and all was well. Check out the link below.

The CB250 Nighthawk - that's the Benly and CMX250 engined model. Oh my...what a great engine in a fab bike! Good economy and I ran my Benly engine up to about 70,000 miles. I can't comment on the CBF650 as I've never ridden one.

Cheers
bikesandtravels.com/biker.aspx?ride=822 ...
20/08/2017 07:59:56 UTC
Ehsan Murad said :-
Dear Ren,

Is the CBX250 a good bike for long distance touring on Asian roads?with some travelling on gravel roads? I am worried about the reliability.
I bought a KLR650 for that purpose but the thing is too heavy.Dropped it a couple of times , getting it upright totally drained me. Also I tried changing the rear tyre by myself but gave up. I weigh in only at 62kg.
Also have you ever had a puncture? Was repairing easy?
I am considering the CBX250 (almost brand new at half price) or a CB160 for the trip

Thanks in advnce

21/08/2017 18:06:38 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Ehsan Murad. The motor is a good motor - so long as it has been well looked after in particular the shims being checked and adjusted. As for riding it off road, well it was never designed for off road but light gravel roads should be OK. I never took mine off road so I can't be sure there.

The tyres are tubeless. As such they are as easy and as hard to repair as any other tubeless tyres.

We don't have the CB160 in this country so I can't compare them.
21/08/2017 20:09:05 UTC
 

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