In the latest test I had the pleasure of testing the Honda XR250 Tornado once again supplied by Honda Wing George. I had a special interest in testing this bike as I have a particular love for trail bikes and even with my high expectations the bike did not disappoint.
And where better to test it than on the trails!
The first impression as you get on the bike is the seat height. It's considerably higher than even the XL700V TransAlp, but the seat is very comfortable and the suspension plush. Riding off through traffic you find that this bike excels as a commuter around town. The motor is punchy and the bike quick and sure footed. The high seat gives you an excellent view over traffic and the overall package inspires confidence.
I hit the first gravel up Montagu Pass the first thing I noticed was the excellent suspension. The Tornado features a telescopic 245mm front fork and the 242mm pro-link rear suspension unit that makes this XR a pleasure to ride even in the roughest terrain. I am quite a bit heavier than the average person but even with the added weight the suspension performed very well indeed. In fact, in the whole ride the bike never bottomed out once. Even over speed humps it felt like you're just gliding along.
This is a seriously good looking bike. Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in my opinion this is the best looking bike of the three bikes competing in this market in South Africa (the others being the Yamaha TTR250 and the Kawasaki KLX250). Yes, I might be a wee bit biased.
But don't let the modern styling fool you, this is still a XR like the indestructible XR's of old. The built quality is, as you can expect from Honda, top notch. The Tornado boasts among others a robust semi-double cradle type steel frame and the 21" and 18" wheels sport aluminum rims. At the heart of the Tornado is a low maintenance, high torque four stroke Single Overhead Cam 249cc air-cooled engine that's already proved it's reliability after years of being on the market.
On the trails this bike really comes into it's own. It's confidence inspiring and such a hoot to ride! I positively fell in love with this bike. I had the opportunity to test it on gravel, sand, mud, uphills and whatever I threw at it, the bike soaked it up with a smile. It seems like it's just good at everything that might come it's way on a trail ride.
The view from the cockpit:
The XR sports a modern digital instrument cluster with all the necessary information and then some. And that's exactly the kind of scenery you'd like to see over the handle bars!
So in my opinion it's a great trail bike, but how does it fare in what it was designed to do?
The Tornado is not a MX bike. It was designed for pavement hopping and short distance commuting and as a commuter it excels. It's comfortable and more than punchy enough to handle town or city traffic. It might frustrate on the highways though. Pulling away in 1st I was surprised. It felt stronger than I expected. At 40km/h you hit second and it still pulls strongly through the rev range to 60km/h. 3rd takes you to 80km/h where you hook 4th and still it accelerates briskly to top out at 100km/h. It's all fun till here. 5th gear however felt sluggish. It will take you to 115km/h but there's no oomph left after that. With my weight 6th gear was all but useless. I did try a high speed run on a short tar downhill where the bike topped out at an indicated 132km/h in 6th.
This really is the only complaint I had in what is a truly wonderful package. And it's not a big problem. If this was my bike (and I might very well own one in future) I would re-sprocket it down to maybe a top speed of 120km/h when it runs out of revs in 6th. This will give you even more punchy performance in the lower gears while improving the ability to keep the speed in the higher gears, not to mention making the higher gears (especially 6th) usable.
In South Africa we have the Yamaha TTR250 and Kawasaki KLX250 competing with this bike and although the three offerings have slightly different strong points and focuses, the Tornado, being the cheapest of the three, offer a very good package indeed. The frugal fuel consumption and comfort makes it a perfect bike for commuting during the week and playing on the trails over the weekends.
Use it for what it was designed for and it would not disappoint you. In my opinion Honda has a winner here.