Review of "Honda CB250RSA"

published 24/02/2005 | tel1
Member since : 22/02/2005
Reviews : 13
Members who trust : 7
About me :
Pro Reliability, Economy, Cheap Spares, High Fun Factor
Cons Noisy engine, Weak Clutch, High Chain / Sprocket Wear
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"Quarter Million Miles on an RS ? I Kid You Not!"



I first became aquainted with the RS when I was made redundant in 1986 (not unusual in Thatcher's Britain) and took to despatch riding in order to make ends meet.

The RS, however, was not my first despatch bike - this was preceded, briefly, by a 250 Superdream, which was dirt cheap (40 quid from memory) but proved to have the weight of a 750 and the power of a 125. I soon gave that bike the 'elbow' and looked for a cheap-to-run bike in the classic mould - I was, after all, an ageing 'greebo' at that time. A low mileage but clattery RS came along and I snapped it up for £130.

The RS proved to be a revelation after the 'Dream' - easy to handle and, at around 70mpg, cheap to run. The clatter from the top-end, however, had to be heard to be believed and my first job was to check the cam and its drive-chain. The camchain was O.K. but there seemed to be a lot of play in the cam bearings. These were shown to a mate of mine who was a Honda mechanic - 'What's the problem', said he, 'they're all like that, you'll just have to get use to the noise'. So, RS ownership requires a certain degree of deafness!

Having had my first lesson in RS ownership, I set off to cover the first of my 30 thousand miles-a- year stints. The RS proved to be unbelievably reliable in all areas, except the drive-chain department. The standard RS set-up does not include a proper shock absorber and, consequently, the chain tended to knacker out pretty quickly - the partial solution was the fitting of an RS Deluxe rear wheel incorporating a cush drive hub. The lumpy single-cylinder engine, however, ensured that chain and sprocket life was relatively short, even though I fitted a Scottoiler.

Continuing with the transmission theme, it should be said that the clutches are also weak, the plates often needing a change before 20,000 miles although the fitting of a few proprietary 'stiff' springs increased plate life. High mileage RSs also tend to lose their first gear.

The front disc brake is just about adequate but many riders fitted a Goodrich hose which took some of the sponginess out of the system. At the back, the usual long brake pedal offered too much force to the rear drum brake, which could lock up and spit you off the bike.

The standard suspension set-up is hopeless and it was usual to replace the joke shocks with Dial-a-Rides or Marzhoccis. I always fitted 38mm spacers on top of the fork springs and tuned the forks with a decent suspension oil. Some people also fitted Micron fork braces, which were only necessary if you had a modified front brake or attempted to race a standard RS on the track (madness!!). Incidentally, in the 1980s modified RSs were raced in single cylinder events - I know I competed against them on a 250 Ducati. They were a bit quicker than the Duke but often expired in clouds of smoke when the cast pistons broke up.

The engines themselves were faultless units on the road unless you let them run out of oil - not difficult to do as they hold little liquor and burn oil from new. The camchains really need to be changed at around 35,000 miles but, if you can stand the noise, they'll cover 3 times this mileage. It is not unknown for the piston and bore to last 150,000 miles but if you fit replacements at this mileage then the extra oomph will knock the tired old big-end out before 25,000 miles are covered. Again, it's a question of how sensitive your hearing is. I've done 20,000 miles with a knocking big-end before I (not the bike)eventally cried enough. I cannot say at what mileage a knocking conrod will depart the crankpin - probably never!

RS electrics are pretty feeble but adequate for most purposes, the main problems being the usual bad earths and connections. At around 50,000 miles an RS will often suddenly stop and this can usually be traced to a duff ignition source coil in the alternator. Unfortunately, rewound examples only last some 25-30,000 miles. High mileage RSs will also blow their CDI units but usually only stop after a period of misfiring.

I found the standard kickstart fitted to the RSA to be too short to be effective and too weak for daily use. Remembering my experience in the 60s with the Enfield Continental GT (I changed the short sporty kickstart for one from a commuter version) I replaced the RS kickstart with the longer and stronger item from a Super Dream.

Single cylinder engines leak oil, don't they? Well, er, yes but in the case of the RS only from certain places. The rocker shaft ends are a favourite place and to avoid a lengthy service job it was normal practice to block the ends from the exterior with silicone sealant (ah, what would we do without it). Another bodge was to replace the complex gearbox mainshaft seal, when worn, with an ordinary seal which would often weep slightly. To fit the standard seal involved splitting the crankcases. Oil leaks elsewhere (cylinder base, cam-box joint etc) are usually a result of bad rebuilds.

Some more notes on engines: The crankcases are thin and weak and the front mounts often crack, either through vibration or someone attempting to drive seized bolts out with a hammer.
The RS is fitted with a comedy oil filter consisting of a coarse mesh which will only stop something above the size of a 12mm bolt from doing a tour of the engine. Do not bother checking this, for, if there is anything in it, the engine has totally self-destructed anyway.

General Handling: Now there's a nice topic of conversation. This lightweight motorcycle handles beautifully, even if it does sometimes get totally airbourne over bumps. When I say lightweight and handles well, I do not mean in the modern sense of quick steering but in the classic mode of a bike you can throw about easily but will hold its line through corners. On minor roads this bike was a match, if ridden well, for any stroker or superbike.

Could the RS be made to handle better by mods beyond those I have already set out above? Strangely enough, yes - if you do as I did and fit the engine into a VT250 frame! I acquired the VT to run alongside the RSs I had and found it much more refined than the RS in terms of handling, braking, suspension, comfort and electrics. The engine, however, was a revver, loathe to pull below 7,000rpm (safe to 16,800) and, when the crank inevitably rattled itself to death at a mere 25,000 miles, I replaced the engine with an RS lump. This gave the quick-steering VT better grunt out of corners but the RS engine, being lighter, failed to give the bike enough weight to stick to the road as before. However, this is all another story for another day.

Getting back to the RSA, this was a very cheap bike to run in its day as no-one had respect for the machines and they were cast onto rubbish tips when they stopped (what - repair an RS?) and from whence they were rescued and stripped for spares by people like me. Free spares! Yes those were the days!

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Comments on this review

  • tashat published 29/07/2005
    For £130 I doubt you can complain too much... Never really wanted a fastbike (nickname in my family) - seems to dangerous! xx
  • tekin21 published 25/03/2005
    Wouldn't be brave enough to get on one of these!! Jane x
  • Sweary published 18/03/2005
    I have a sneaky suspicion Mr Sweary owned one of these until an unfortunate incident which involved headbutting a tractor at 60mph. As you can imagine, the tractor came out on top - even though he aimed for it's tyre - and he decided to move to four wheels after that. Can't say I blame him as it was a classic "sorry I didn't see you mate" encounter... Cheers Sweary.
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Product Information : Honda CB250RSA

Manufacturer's product description

Road Bike

Product Details

Long Name: CB250RSA

Bike Type: Road Bike

Type: Motorbike

Manufacturer: Honda

Stroke: 4


Listed on Ciao since: 30/11/2003