Honda CB300F – The Beginner of Beginners

Honda CB300F

Exit the 125 and the 250; the new kids in town all go for the 300s now. There are good things and not such good things about it. Here is the tale of my week in the saddle of the Honda CB300F. 

If you haven’t followed the motorcycle industry very closely as of late, you probably don’t even know about the wave of 125 and 250 motorcycles manufacturers put on the market a few years back to appeal to a younger, greener audience. I bet you blinked and missed out completely, because that’s about how long the trend lasted. Today, if you are a first-time buyer, you will be looking at a 300cc to ease your mind about having so much power tucked between your legs. I say first-time buyer and I really mean it. Here’s why.

When you’re an experienced rider like I am — or so I like to believe — there’s a certain fascination towards these smaller bikes. I learned to ride on 500 and 750cc-motorcycles, back in the day, those were the norm. I was pretty excited to get the CB300F, especially since I had noticed the CB lineup at the Montreal Motorcycle Show, back in February. The CB300F, 500F and 1000F are part of Honda’s “naked” family. They get you the flexibility of a sportier motorcycle, but with the comfort of a tourer. A sort of “best of both worlds”. And they look absolutely fantastic, if you ask me. The silhouette is sexy, Honda didn’t get too funky with the look of the fairing — like they can sometimes do — and the proportions of the bike are well balanced.  It looks as good in person as it does in the pictures, so I picked up the 300F, the smaller engine I’ve ever sat on, and drove off with a sparkle in my eye.

Honda CB300F

Some colleagues had warned me about the vibrations at high speeds. I can’t tell if it’s because I’ve been used to riding an old 1993 that felt a little rough around the edges, or because I got too optimistic, but I was ready to prove them wrong. Until I actually hit the highway. And that’s when you meet with the sad, sad limitations of the 0.286-liter, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine. Remember kids, you need to respect the speed limits, I’m a professional. According to some sources, the actual top speed of the 300F hovers around 165 km/h. However, without a full fairing to help relieve some of the wind pressure, and considering that at 120 km/h, in sixth gear, you are already flirting with the 7,000rpm line, you probably wouldn’t have much fun going a lot faster.

So after comparing the handling of the model on the road and in the city, I came to the conclusion that the CB300F is a great motorcycle to own if: you’re a beginner, thriving to upgrade once you get more comfortable; your plan is to drive around town, with only occasional trips out of the city, or if you know the type of rider you are and would like to keep your driver’s license. Because in an urban setting, the CB300F handles like a charm. It’s light (348 lb) and small and nimble, and at low speeds, quite an amazing little machine. But should your daily commute include a stretch on the highway, you might quickly get fed up with how numb certain parts of your body might get from the vibration. Parts you didn’t even know could get numb.  And that’s despite the motorcycle having a counterbalance shaft, supposed to subdue the vibrations…

So we get it: highway speeds aren’t the CB300F’s forte. However taken outside of a high speed context, the CB300F has a clean record. It offers a great riding position; the back is straight enough, and the hands, positioned high enough to be comfortable, without putting pressure on the lower back, or having you shift on your seat during the whole ride. The clutch doesn’t feel heavy either, which can be a problem if you’re going to be squeezing it all the time. Even after an hour or so stuck in traffic, the riding position didn’t take a toll on me.  No hand cramping, no arm shaking, no leg stretching. I was as cool as a cucumber.

The other good news is that you could choose to hit the road and ride for about 300 kilometers before having to stop to fuel up. And even then you probably wouldn’t feel the need to stretch out. Good for you, little 300F! For a little over $4,500, you get a good, efficient little motorcycle, cheap in both insurance and plates, and perfect to navigate in the city or in the suburbs. If I had to pick, I’d probably opt for the bigger sister, the 500cc model, though the number can be daunting for someone who’s never owned a motorcycle. The only concern I have is that, were you to purchase the 300, you might start yawning after a while and we wouldn’t want you to get bored with one of the most exciting on-road activity there is, now would we? But if you take the step into motorcycle ownership aware of that this won’t be the most exciting ride out there, then be my guest; you will enjoy yourself.

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Sabrina is a woman who loves cars, but hates writing her own biography.

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