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Discussion: Archives > 250cc is enough - and 70mpg is great!
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I started looking into fuel efficient, practical commuting motorcycles/scooters three years ago.  The first model I tested was a used Yamaha XT225, which is a 'dual-sport', (i.e. you can ride it on the street, but it is also designed for off-road riding.)  Interestingly, it was being sold by a woman who had just purchased a Kawasaki Ninja 250 to replace the XT225.  So I started researching the Ninja 250.

  After test driving a Ninja 250, I found out that it actually provides more of an upright seating position than a typical "super sport" (even though it is styled like a "super sport").  After some research, the Ninja 250 was at the top of my list of fuel efficient motorcycles, although I was still attracted to the off-road possibilities that a 'dual sport' offered over the Ninja.  (Online the Ninja 250 FAQ is a great resource, and not just for the Ninja, especially the "New Rider" section http://faq.ninja250.org/wiki/New_Riders )

  I also tested a standard-style motorcycle with a 250cc engine - the Honda Nighthawk.  But I found that it's lack of rear suspension travel resulted in a bumpier ride than I was willing to live with.

  I then looked at a Kawasaki Super Sherpa 250 'dual sport', which was very similar to the Yamaha XT-225, and I accidentally ended up being the highest E-Bay bidder on a 2001 Super Sherpa.

 I have now been riding the Super Sherpa for over two years, and have been very happy with it.  I have purchased all of the safety gear (jacket, pants, gloves, and of course helmet), and usually wear them all.  I keep records of my gas mileage every time I fill my tank, and my mileage has ranged from a low of 72 mpg to a high of 83 mpg per tank.

  My commute runs about 24 miles round trip every day, but I only use the motorcycle in good weather - which means almost every day for the last month here in New Jersey.  I rarely ride it in the winter.  Depending on traffic situations, I will take the motorcycle on the highway (heavily travelled 295 in south Jersey) for one or two exits (3 to 6 miles).  That's all that is comfortbable with a small dual-sport motorcycle.  If I had purchased the Ninja 250 it would be much smoother on the highway due to it's twin-cylinder engine (as opposed to my single cylinder) and lower stance (less wind buffetting than a dual sport).

  All in all, for great mileage and practicality, a 250cc motorcycle seems to be the best choice, unless you want to regularly carry passengers (the rider/passenger is usually around 350 pounds for these motorcycles).  Some people see 250cc as a 'starter' bike, but if your commute is less than 20 miles each way, a 250cc will be more than capable and will give you unbeatable mileage.

  The Super Sherpa is no longer sold in the U.S. (you can still get them in Canada), the Ninja 250 (about $3500 new) has been substantially updated for 2008, and the Yamaha XT225  has been updgraded to a 250cc engine (now known as the XT250 - about $4400 new).  Honda has also introduced a 230cc dual sport, the CRF230L (about $4500 new).

 

2 of 18

James, you are so right. In a world were bigger is better, there is an often overlooked satisfaction to doing more with less. A 250cc scooter (18hp at rear tire) gets me through traffic fast, leaves sportscars in the dust at traffic lights, burns a gallon of gas every 60 - 70 miles, is highway capable and does all this in a light, quiet, hassle free package. You really don't need a 1,000+ cc engine to get around!

And a large bike between a man's legs is a sign of insecurity / overcompensation anyways :)

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My neighbor's son just got a 250 Ninja a couple of weeks ago.  I got a chance to ride it, and I was impressed!  It looked and rode pretty much like a standard-sized bike!  I even thought about getting one.  For the amount of traveling I do I'd rather have something with a bigger windshield and saddle bags (like cruisers) but 70 MPG is nice!  Most bikes from 500 cc to 800-900 cc get more than 50 MPG. 
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Jason -  It sounds like your scooter is perfect for you, and yes, unless you're going cross-country touring, there's no reason to go above 250-500cc.  I looked at a few scooters, and loved the amount of storage that scooters offer.  But I was also looking for something to occasionally take off-road, and thus a scooter wouldn't work for me. 

One thing that comes across on this board is the need for safety.  I have always said that there are two types of motorcycle riders:  Those who have been in an accident, and those who will be in an accident.  No matter how careful you are, something can (and probably will) happen that will cause an accident.  A motorcycle is inherently many times less safe than a car.  One needs to dress appropriately, but no amount of protection on a motorcycle will come close the safety of a steel safety cage and multiple airbags offered in a car. 

 

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You need to be careful when choosing a bike.  Size does matter.  Think about a large man on a little 125cc bike.  He doesn't belong on the rode because he becomes a danger to himself and others.  You should always choose your bike based upon what type of riding you want to do and your comfort level you have with the bike. Personally, I would look kind of silly on a 250cc bike.  I'm 6'2" and need a little more bike underneath me.

 

K

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The smaller CC bikes can BE great, again if they fit the ride.    My ex-room mate had an older Yam. RX350, great around town and short "trips".     For me the >350cc won't work, 28 mile each way and 26 of it on the highway.   I personally like my older BMW R60 and with the sidecar, year round riding is not only an option, but preferred.    I can't fall over in the snow, gravel or oil laden parking lot.    I am now as wide as a car and due to the idea that it is still a novelty to most, they notice me much faster.     Of course to most it conjures up memories of their "great uncle" who had one or some such memory, which is fine.    But now I can carry the dogs to the vet, buy a weeks groceries, and even ten bags of mulch for the garden area (you should see the looks when I get the mulch with my MC helmet in hand!).    The "wildest" errand to date was when I took the body of the frame (under 15 minutes) and put a bed on it to run up to Home Depot.    Picked up 14 bales of pine needles.    Now that was a hoot!!!

Edited 7/2/08   by  ARTHUR_VARQUAY
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myself I think bigger is better

living in so cal I ride a harley and have had occasion to use all the engine I have .

a 250 on the freeway is a danger to you or can be.. not enough power / speed a person should get as big as they are comfortable with but remember what you are on and it's capabilities

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8 of 18

I’m riding a 250cc Piaggio MP3 Scooter to work. It’s the three-wheeler with two wheels in front that tilt and lean like a regular bike. The MP3 is probably second only to a Vespa as the ultimate wuss ride. Still, I can accelerate faster than a BMW 535 on this thing. It has a top speed of about 80 mph. I take it on short 1-2 mile stretches of freeway when I need to, but mostly I ride below 55 mph in urban areas.

 

The MP3’s dual-wheel front end gives it some interesting advantages over conventional scooters:

 

1) More traction and stability in corners.

 

2) Almost twice the braking capacity of a two wheeler. About 75% of all braking on bikes is in the front wheels. When you double them up, the benefit is obvious.

 

3) The ability to stand on its own at a full stop. You do this with a simple switch control that locks the bike from tilting. I ride in bumper-to-bumper traffic through 14 stop lights on my commute and my feet never touch the ground.

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Kevin, I ride a 250cc Honda Helix scooter, unmodified except for a backrest by Utopia. I am 6'6, 200lbs. I have done many 200 mile trips, several 400 mile days, and circled Lake Erie (650 miles) in a day... twice. I have ridden with other scooters, cruisers, touring and sport bikes and kept up, earning respect from many who scoffed. I find the limiting factor to be between my ears, not under my butt. Size does matter but to me, skill and attitude matter more.

 

http://www.ironbuttrally.com/IBR/1995.cfm?DocID=3   Ed Otto rode a Helix in the 1995 Iron Butt Rally. He finished 22 out of 37 finishers / 54 starters. He is my hero!

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I'm taking the Team Oregon course in 2 weeks, and have been reading, studying, talking, researching! about all kinds of motorcycles and safety information. I'm interested in either the ninja 250 or the 650r, both of which are said to be great starter bikes (the 650 beginner-intermediate). I'm fairly proficient on a dirtbike, but have limited experience even with that (a year). Here's my question....I have no desire to ride around town. We have fantastic backroads here, and I want to do the 2-300 mile/day trips on these quieter less-traveled roads. How would the 250 be for that distance? I'm 5'6, 125#. Have great experienced rider/friends who are willing to go slow and teach.
thanks for any info
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Hi Karen - my sense is that the Ninja 250 will be fine for your use.   I don't have much experience (only took one for a 15 minute test ride), but I'm 5' 9" and weigh 200 lbs and the 250 didn't seem to lack power with just me on board.  I probably wouldn't be taking a passenger on a Ninja 250, but if you can keep yourself and your passenger total weight under 300 pounds, the 250 will work fine.

It sounds like you'll be going on mostly winding backroads, probably 50-60mph?  If so, the 250 will actually be more agile in the twisties than the larger 650r.  However, if you're planning to do a lot of highway touring (70+ mph), the 650r would be the better bike.

One note about the 250, if you're buying one new you may find the break-in period to be annoying.  Basically, you're not supposed to take it over 40 mph for the first 500 miles.

 The Ninja 250 FAQ is a good place to find more information but, as you might suspect, they are very biased toward the 250.  http://faq.ninja250.org/wiki/New_Riders

 

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I had a ninja 250 for my first bike, it was great for learning to ride, and it really got 65 to 70 mpg.  The performance was good, but at my size (5'8" - 200 pounds) it was to small for me to use for freeway speeds 70 mph & up.  Given your size (125 pounds) the bike should be all you need.  For me , riding the 250 in town or on rural  roads / backroads was great.  I would recomend the 250 ninja for anyone less than 200 pounds (especially for new riders).  It is cheap to purchace, looks cool (like a bigger sportbike),  has comfortable seating position,  and great mpg.

I also like the ninja 650R (though I have never driven one); you will get much better performance with it.  On the downside: 1) lower mpg (around 50 mpg),  2) your insurance will cost more $$  (probably double?),  3) at 5'6" tallyou may have trouble putting your feet on the ground (maybe not?). 

When I replaced my ninja 250,  I considered the ninja 650R but purchased a Yamaha FZ6 (600cc). It was a hard decision but the FZ6 had a little more HP.

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Kawi did a very nice redesign on the 250 Ninja for 2008. Keep in mind that it is still carbereted so that is another maintenance watch item. The initial break in can't be mindnumbling excrutiating since the power peak is way north of the rev limits imposed by the break-in procedure but if you stay of the highway you'll be fine.
the 650r is good, so is the Suzuki SV650.

The best buy would be a used Ninja 250 and ride that to you hearts content. Depreciation on the 250 can be shockingingly good for the buyer.
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I just received my September issue of Cycle World in the mail, and it has a great article on "Beginner Bikes" - nine bikes from the 230cc Honda CRF230L to the Harley Davidson 883cc Sportster.  Their test shows the Honda getting an amazing 93 mpg, and HD about 55 mpg.

 If you're thinking of getting a new fuel sipper, you should pick up a copy of the magazine, or check out this link: 

 http://www.cycleworld.com/article.asp?section_id=3&article_id=810

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I've owned and ridden some large bikes (Shadow Spirit 1100cc and Honda Goldwing 1800cc) and am currently on a Yamaha 250cc Virago.

I ride 5 days a week to work (28 miles round trip) . . . rain or shine . . . and love the 65+mpg.

The smooth engine (V-twin) makes for a comfortable low vibration ride.

I'm 5'11" and 200lbs, which may be why I enjoy it so much.  I tend to avoid the 4 lanes and stick to 2 lane country traffic.  Slower and more aware of my surroundings.

The only other bike catching my eye right now is the V-Strom 650.  It'll hvae to get some pretty good gas mileage though . . . . . !
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I started tracking my mileage with every fill up (being the geek that I am, I put the data in http://www.mileagetracker.org/ ), and I have almost hit an 80MPG average for my 2001 Kawasaki Super Sherpa for the summer.  I have verified my odometer with a GPS, so the mileage and mpg are accurate.  I do few things to improve mileage:  shutting off the engine at long lights, and being easy on the throttle (although I do use wide open throttle at least once a trip.)

So, how much money have I saved vs. driving?  If I hadn't ridden the motorcycle, I would have used my car (2003 Pontiac Vibe, 5-speed), which gets 30 mpg around town with judicious driving.  So, for 755 miles, the car would have used 25.16 gallons, vs. the motorcycle's 9.53 gallons, for a savings of 15.63 gallons.  At an average of $4.00/gallon, I would have saved $62.52.  If I still had my Isuzu Trooper, which did 15 mpg around town, I would have used about 50 gallons over the 755 miles, and the motorcycle would have saved 40 gallons, or about $160.

  Either way, it's not a huge savings, but I suppose that's not the complete reason for riding - nothing can get my day going as well as enjoying the great outdoors with the wind in my face.

Here are the details of my summer riding:

DATE    \   Miles since last fill up      \ Gallons used \  MPG

6/3/08   \  114 miles since last fill up.  \     1.53   \  74.5       
6/19/08  \  125 miles since last fill up.  \     1.63   \  76.7       
6/26/08  \  114 miles since last fill up.  \     1.37   \  83.2       
7/3/08   \  102 miles since last fill up.  \     1.30   \  78.5       
7/29/08  \  106 miles since last fill up.  \     1.37   \  77.4       
8/6/08   \   89 miles since last fill up.  \     1.00   \  89.0       
8/21/08  \  105 miles since last fill up.  \     1.33   \  78.9       

Records  Totals/Averages   79.7 MPG

 

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My October issue of Rider magazine also did a fuel mileage test of 9 motorcycles, 4 in the 250cc range, 5 in the 500 - 750 range. Rated both on mileage plus riding comfort, handling, etc. Then followed up with a review of the top three 250cc dual sports (Honda, Kaw and Yam). Good info all around, gas mileage is a good factor, but if you can't stand to sit on the thing very long, what good does that do you? I rode a 2003 Kaw Vulcan classic (800cc) for a year and a half (38K miles), then traded in on a Honda Shadow Spirit 750 (18K miles in last nine months). I commute around 75-80 mile round trip, 60 of which is on I95 in the Northern VA/Wash DC area. The 55-60 mpg I get is about 10 better than the Vulcan and tons better than my Dodge 1500 with a 360 V8. I ride the HOV lanes, so I need the extra throttle response that a 250 at 70mph won't give. But that being said, I think anything over the 750-800 range is more toy than tool. I hope with all the added attention the smaller bikes are getting these days, some of the third-party accessory companies will start cranking out add-ons for them. It's hard right now to find much for anything under 1100cc for customizing.
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  I'll have to take pick up a copy of the October Rider magazine.  It sounds like some interesting reviews. 

  I totally agree when you say "anything over the 750-800 range is more toy than tool".  I've had a both a Yamaha 650 and 750 and both had more than enough power, even at highway speeds.  I've test ridden a friends 1100cc bike, and although I'm sure it can pull harder than my 750 did,  there is no possible reason for anyone to need that kind of power.  

My little 250 cc dual sport is really out of breath at highway speeds.   For my 24 mile round-trip daily commute it really works well, but won't see me I-295 very often.

I just did another fill up, and it bumped my average for the season to 80.1 mpg:

6/3/08   \  114 miles since last fill up.  \     1.53   \  74.5       
6/19/08  \  125 miles since last fill up.  \     1.63   \  76.7       
6/26/08  \  114 miles since last fill up.  \     1.37   \  83.2       
7/3/08   \  102 miles since last fill up.  \     1.30   \  78.5       
7/29/08  \  106 miles since last fill up.  \     1.37   \  77.4       
8/6/08   \   89 miles since last fill up.  \     1.00   \  89.0       
8/21/08  \  105 miles since last fill up.  \     1.33   \  78.9
8/28/08  \  101 miles sinse last fill up.  \     1.22   \  82.8

Totals/Averages  11.76 gallons \ 80.1 mpg