I am not talking about F1 or any other exotic racing formula, this was the offering in entry level Japanese sports bikes IN THE LATE 80s!!
I came upon this after trying to emasculate myself by owning a Nissan EXA for 8 months prior. At which point my testosterone must have said ‘no more!’ and forced me to start riding motorbikes.
It wasn’t that simple, I had always had an interest in them for some reason. In the late 90s before I had ever ridden one, I became a devout fan of the 500cc moto championship. 5 times world champion Mick Doohan was and always will be a legend in my eyes. I must have been an aspirational viewer though as it was not until a couple of years later that I bought my ’89 FZR 250. These bikes really were a phenomenon, they must have been massively complex to create a 250cc 4 cylinder engine putting out 45hp and spinning to 17,000 rpm. By comparison, the learner ‘sports’ bikes these days only put out 39ish hp from a 1 cylinder engine for the Ninja 250R and similar CB250R. The modern bikes aren’t without their charm, but I think the young guys today have been a bit ripped off.
I got into riding bikes when we had a Swedish flatmate move into our place who was mad on them. He bought a Honda NX650 enduro shortly after moving in and was good enough to teach me how to ride it. It was a bit of a tractor of a bike but a good place to start since it had so much torque and wouldn’t be the end of the world if I had to drop it. The licensing regime for motorcycles was a bit funny in Queensland at the time. You could get a Learners Permit after just answering 5 simple questions in addition to your car license, then you could ride on the road under the proviso that someone with a full license had to be behind you and you couldn’t have a bike greater than 250cc. But get this, even if you were caught, it was just a $30 fine and no record on your license. Crazy by modern standards. There were always stories about guys who would buy a two stroke 250cc bike (RGV, TZR etc) putting out 65hp with a lethal power curve, and promptly crash them. I bought my FZR only a couple of weeks after my first lesson and continued to ‘teach myself’ for a few months until I thought I could pass the official test. So silly was the system, after failing my first attempt, I simply got on the bike and rode home. oh dear. i got there eventually you will be pleased to know and have had a full license and bikes up to 175hp since. I’ll also say, if you are reading this and have always been interested in getting your bike license but never got round to it, do it! Just keep your wits about you on the road and always assume that people in cars will do the most stupid thing possible, they often will, but it isn’t worth staying away from bikes because of it. Motorbikes are great.
Anyway, back to my FZR. I actually wanted a Honda CBR 250 since these had a more race derived frame and swingarm and gear driven timing gear which sounded a bit racier than the FZR, plus the styling was a bit better. But the FZR was a bloody good bike. I got lean angles on that and went harder into corners than I have on a lot of much more spec bikes since. Plus it sounded like an F1 car when wound out above 10,000rpm and would occasionally give a backfire on the overrun or changing gears. Not a crappy out of tune backfire, but a high strung naturally aspirated backfire like you might get from a Ferrari or something. It was a cool bike.
The FZR got sold after a year and a half and I was vehicle-less again on account of money and just finishing my university studies. It was to be a year and a half before I bought something else at which point I spent more on a moto, a 1998 ZX7R, than I had ever spent on vehicle before.
Below is a great link to a contemporary comparo review of the FZR, CBR and GSXR 250s. Great 80s video production values too!