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"Fast Bikes", January 1, 2013

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FINALLY, MANUFACTURERS ARE BEGINNING TO TAKE SMALLER BIKES SERIOUSLY – JUST IN TIME FOR THE NEW LICENCING LAWS TO COME INTO FORCE...

BENJAMIN 'BJ' KUBAS CRONIN

JOHNY GAWLER

When it comes to beginner and newbie machinery, especially sportsbikes, we’ve not come to expect much. It’s been more a case of sucking it up for a year or two and finding some positives out of the experience. That’s hard, because 20 years ago this tackle cost roughly the same, but had double the power and far superior chassis. Two entire decades ago.

So you’ll forgive us if we’ve struggled to get excited about most of them, it just seems to us that most manufacturers were doing the bare minimum. We reason this by the fact that a lot of these bikes are based on old technology, and that the suspension gracing them is almost beyond basic. Sure, some look pretty, like Yamaha’s YZF-R125 or Aprilia’s Biaggi rep’ 125. But couple the dreary pulse-rate of four-stroke 125/250 engines to their budget bits, and you can understand why we think people are being massively short-changed.

It was fine a few years ago, back when they were cheap as chips. Honda’s waif-like CBR125 may have looked ridiculous, and had about as much get-up-and-go as a wet fart, but at that outlay it was utterly brilliant. Look how the Chinese copied it! But now, skirting big boy prices, we really need them to step up to the mark. Honda look to have done that just in time for the 46bhp limit to be enforced, with its new CBR500. But can its 250 banish the yawn-inducing memories of its baby brother? Or will the new laws make it redundant?

Kawasaki, meanwhile, has been sitting pretty with its Ninja 250. It’s another bike based on 20-year-old technology, just not the good sort. But as Kawasaki is so adept at refreshing bikes, it was passable. Behold, though, the new Ninja 300, a far more thorough update. Word is it’s good, but then with these new laws and a raft of new bikes threatening its sales, it’s going to need to be...

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