Now that my beloved V Star 250 has been returned to the Yamaha mother ship, I find myself reflecting on the time spent with the baby cruiser and the fun we had. Not least of which, I might add, was competing in a “slow race” (photo above), where, believe it or not, the Wee Star excelled. To try to keep all of the “reflecting” in perspective I spent part of a day with Honda’s similarly-priced CBR250R to compare the baby Star’s accolades and delinquencies.
Comparing the two bikes was more than just one brand to another. This was sportbike vs. cruiser, single vs. twin, air-cooled vs. liquid, and cutting edge vs. slow ‘n steady. As I predicted the V Star was not the most fun I’ve ever had on a motorcycle, but for all of its faults it did teach me some things about motorcycling.
First and foremost I have to admit I did miss horsepower. I found myself checking my mirrors at stoplights to see what cars were behind me. Anyone with a reasonably fast car and an eager look on their face made me fear not being able to accelerate fast enough to stay out of the way. The 250 Star’s high speed (in)ability also trained me to steer clear of freeways; it only took 2 trips of about 10 miles of multi-lane 75+ mph traffic for me to exit quickly, tail ‘twixt legs.
Around town, though, the bike really came into its element. Bopping down surface streets at 40-50mph is right in the Wee Star’s wheelhouse. It chugs along happily, nimble enough to dodge potholes but thoroughly stable and predictable. The brakes are small but plenty strong considering the size of the bike, and with a ridiculously low seat height (27 in.) there is very little the 330-lb Wee Star can do to surprise you.
Where the V Star suffices to accomplish a task though, the littlest CBR aims to please. The riding position suits me, for one thing, with a little bit of weight on your wrists and feet, and your torso perched above the bike. This contrasts with the Wee Star, which puts your entire body weight on your tailbone and entrusts the lasting health of your spine to low-cost, low-travel shocks.
The CBR also handles better, has stronger brakes, seamless fueling, a useful dash, and gearing that is short enough for a beginner but tall enough for the interstate. It has the same (or at least similar) meager horsepower and isn’t really any ‘cooler’ to ride or to look at, but somehow it is monumentally different. It actually makes me want to go out and ride.
As a motorcycle, the V Star 250 is thoroughly acceptable. It could even be considered ideal for a new or returning rider who likes the cruiser style. Why doesn’t it work for me, then? I wonder if I find it boring it because it’s a cruiser or because it’s actually uninspiring? Perhaps bikes like this just don’t scale well? Only one way to find out. Now, to steal Neric’s Harley Switchback when he’s not looking…