Keeping It Simple
A single-cylinder motor, cool styling and a great price—there’s a reason the K.I.S principle works for Honda’s CB300R.
Honda has a long history of building simple and effective motorcycles. Bikes like the Cub—the motorcycle on which Honda build its reputation, and the legendary XR are examples of Honda keeping it simple and producing excellent products as a result.
The CB300R is no different. When you strip back the LED lighting, the funky style and Showa suspension, the CB300R is just a single-cylinder engine wrapped in a tubular steel chassis. Its aim is to provide cheap, easy transportation. Like the Honda Cub all those years ago.
One of the biggest issues we as motorcycle riders face in the present day is—there’re not enough of us coming through. With less new riders, the industry as a whole suffers, so Honda is making a concerted effort to getting more butts on seats by offering five street bikes between 250-500cc to entice new riders on board. Since 2011, Honda’s sold over 50,000 sub-500cc bikes, with 43-56 percent of those going to new riders.
Photography by Drew Ruiz
However, those machines were part of the old world in terms of Honda design. For 2019, the CB300R range falls under the oddly named Neo-Sports Café genre as Honda further distances itself from the sports naked market.
Honda has not totally reinvented the wheel with the CB300R but has gone over it with a fine-tooth comb compared to the 2017 version. The engine is the same as the CBR300R in the 285cc, single-cylinder, fuel injected four-stroke, although changes to shock mounting have enabled a straighter intake path to be used and seen initial acceleration up four percent, and acceleration from 31 mph up a claimed six percent.
The biggest mechanical differences between the 2017 CB300F and this 300R come in the chassis. It’s again the same tubular steel design as before but careful attention has been paid to weight saving measures like thinner tube thicknesses and lighter wheels and axles. There’s a new swingarm design, 41mm inverted Showa forks and a repositioned shock with the pivot plate separated from the main frame.
Braking is now the domain of a radially mounted four-piston Nissin caliper clamping down on a 296mm floating disc up front and a single-piston caliper biting a 220mm disc out the back. Interestingly, the ABS-equipped 300R gets an IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) that works by detecting the pitch (under braking) of the chassis and helps modulate the ABS to stop the rear wheel coming off the ground. And no, you can’t turn it off.
All up, Honda claims the CB300R is a whopping 37 pounds lighter for the ABS version and 35 pounds lighter than the non-ABS 300R, which, when manufacturers get all excited about a 10-pound weight saving, is a hugely impressive figure.
The immediate thing riders will notice, however, is not the extra acceleration or the suspension or the weight, but its the looks. The Neo-Sports Café concept came to life in the CB100R (which we still haven’t got yet, Honda says it’ll be here in the next couple of months), and dramatically changes the styling of Honda’s standard street bike range. The rider sits taller on the 300R compared to the outgoing 300F, the handlebar has less of a pronounced bend and the tank is totally redesigned for that minimalist look.
LED lighting abounds with the 300R, all of which helps save a bit of weight here and there. Honda even claims the 300R has the thinnest taillight ever fitted to a production Honda.
The ride itself has changed from being somewhat sporty to a more sedate experience. This bike is now firmly a commuter, a bike that works for city dwellers and riders with less experience. I can’t comment on the claim of increased acceleration because I rode the 300F and 300R back-to-back and they felt very, very similar—although the 300R does have nicer initial throttle response. There’s ample torque for such a little engine and the 300R had no problems cruising along at 65 mph in traffic with enough grunt to overtake cars with only one downshift.
It’s a very unintimidating engine and one new riders will love, although in total, not a big difference compared to the 2017 edition.
Where the big difference lies is in the lack of weight and the better suspension and brakes. The 300R feels so much slimmer and lighter than the 300F, and with those inverted Showa forks and repositioned shock, the ride is much firmer and taught. The result is the 300R doesn’t wallow back and forth in corners, especially when you grab a handful of front brake when leaned over. It’s about as light as I would want a bike of this size to be, because any lighter and you’ll begin to lose stability under braking and over bumps.
The Nissin caliper that graces the 300R have less initial bite than before, but its power is more progressive and will be nicer to use for inexperienced riders. The master-cylinder is the same, and it’s surprising how much stopping power there is on offer from one caliper and one disc.
One area I’m not sure about is the seat padding. The 300F’s got a much plusher seat and after riding it for a half an hour and then switching back to the 300R, you notice just how much firmer the pew is on the 300R. That may make the 300R a hard argument for longer rides but as far as commuting goes, it’ll serve you just fine.
The CB300R will serve anyone that wants to get into riding well, and may yet prove an excellent machine for people living in build-up urban areas. Honda’s Keep It Simple method has worked for years, and with a few careful mods and new clothes, the CB300R looks set to follow in this path. CN
||2019 Honda CB300R
||$4649/ $4949 ABS
||Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, single
|Bore x stroke:
||76 x 63mm
||41mm Inverted fork
||Pro-Link shock, preload adjustable
|Front wheel travel:
|Rear wheel travel:
||296mm floating disc, radially mounted Nissin 4-piston caliper, ABS optional
||220mm disc, single-piston caliper, ABS optional
||317 (curb, claimed).
||Chromosphere Red; Matte Gray Metallic