Honda NSR250 – The Ultimate 2 Stroke Classic Motorcycle

While the first Honda NSR250 was introduced in 1985 it can be traced further back to the MVX250 in 1983.

It took all the best bits from the MVX and then went further in its quest to become the leading design for a two-cylinder, 2-stroke motorcycle. 

There were five distinct generations of the Honda NSR250 and it remained in production until 1999.

Let’s take a look at one of, dare I say it, the greatest 2-stroke race reps that ever existed.

Table of Contents

Honda NSR250 Review (First Gen MC11)

It was 1985 and the first NSR250R was released alongside a NSR250 F version which was a naked unfaired version. 

The design was straight from the RS250R that was winning races in the GP; it was the design that Freddie Spencer went on to win both the 250 and 500 World GP titles. 

The most important feature that carried over from the MVX250 was an early power-valve system, Honda’s ATAC (Automatically-controlled, Torque Amplification Chamber.)

Styling

The NSR250R was styled directly from the RS250 with optional sponsor decal packages available, every bit of the machine oozed race rep and it was a good looking GP style machine.

The Honda NSR250 is considered by many to be the finest 2 stroke race replica motorcycle ever to be produced
Honda NSR250 1997 photo taken by Rikita is kindly licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Engine, Power, Performance

45 horsepower is produced from the 90 degree V-twin engine that housed some of the most up to date tech possible at the time. 

The heart of which was Honda’s ATAC system. Nikasil coating was used on the cylinders to reduce friction and increase wear resistance. 

Power really kicked in at 8,000rpm and continues to pull right past 10,500rpm. The only real issue was that the bike behaved like a track bike in it’s power delivery and therefore it wasn’t the most suited bike for the road. 

Unless of course the road was a sweeping, bendy, predominantly-empty mountain road. 

Chassis, Handling, Suspension, Brakes

An aluminium chassis and swingarm graced the NSR250 keeping everything as lightweight as possible. 

Throwing the bike over as far as you dared was more than possible and it was perfectly flickable from side to side behaving exactly as a race rep production machine should. 

Brakes were perfectly acceptable and provided the necessary stopping power. 

The suspension was set up as if it was a track bike so rough roads and dodgy terrain wouldn’t be a fun prospect unless jolting your back is your thing? 

Downsides

If you could find the perfect long sweeping road, you could definitely have some fun, the issue was riding to get to that point. It was awkward, stiff and yearning for more power to be unleashed, none of which is ideal for battling through traffic or stop/starts at traffic lights.

It wasn’t perfect but Honda were ready to keep pushing the NSR250 and that led to several generations of the model, getting better with each one. 

Let’s now take a look at how the NSR250 evolved over the years and the different generations. 

Honda NSR250 Variants

1985 – 1986 Honda NSR250R and F

The Honda NSR250R was the first NSR to be produced, it included an aluminium frame and swingarm which wasn’t heard of on road-going bikes of the time. 

Having been styled after the RS250 it was an instant hit with those who loved Japanese sports machines, especially with the 45 horsepower output from the showroom, riders could replicate their GP heroes.  

The naked F version was identical to the R with the exception of not sharing the same Astralight wheels or alloy swingarm. It was not as popular as the R and therefore today is extremely rare to find as less numbers were ultimately produced. 

1987 – 1999 R, SE, SP

The R remained the base model during these years, the SE the Super Edition and the SP the full on race replica with all the bells and whistles. 

MC16

The MC16 was released in 1987 and it was a completely new machine with Honda undertaking a huge overhaul of the original NSR250R.

The NSR was winning races and the MC16 was almost an exact replica of the factory racers. It was super lightweight and fast, with fantastic handling and exceptional acceleration. 

Originally released in Fighting Red, by 1987 it was available in racing colors Blue and White.

The engine was tilted forward 20 degrees which improved the balance and lowered the centre of gravity. It was also solidly mounted into the frame as per the GP bikes. 

The frame was new, lighter and stiffer. The styling was increasingly aggressive and the RC Valve system replaced the ATAC from the original design. 

MC18 1+2

In 1988 the NSR250 was once again completely redesigned by Honda, sharing none of the previous design elements from the MC16. 

The wheels, bodywork, ignition and exhaust system were all overhauled and every component was revised for the new machine.

The MC18 featured the world’s first computer controlled carb system on a street bike. Essentially it meant that the motorcycle could be tuned into a much higher state compared to previous models. 

It was limited by law to 45 horsepower. However, it was the easiest model to de-limit with 63 horsepower more than accessible. 

It had another new frame with a detachable subframe. 

This was a bike quite capable of winning races straight out of the crate. The SP version followed and the only change made was magnesium wheels and race-rep paint scheme and sponsors decals. 

In 1989 the MC18 was overhauled for a second generation. Several cosmetic changes were made including a sleeker windshield that was more aerodynamic and a more sculpted seat. 

The most sophisticated advancement was the 3D PGM installed, this ignition unit included an ignition map which meant an increase in reliability and road-going performance.

The PGM unit controlled the carb management, ignition timing and the RC Valve operation. 

By the end of 1989 an SP version was released with a dry clutch and it was based on the Ajinomoto Terra racing team’s design. It had a fully multi-way adjustable clutch.

The motorcycle was capable of unleashing 70 horsepower. 

NSR250R MC21

The MC21 was released for 1999 and it is one of the favourite NSR250’s that existed. A ground-breaking 2-stroke with new features that riders lapped up. 

The 3D PGM was now on its third generation and was even more technically capable and increased the performance of the motorcycle to its maximum capabilities. It featured a true 3D ignition and a different map for each cylinder. 

The NSR250R MC21 became Japan’s number one best selling 2-stroke motorcycle. 

In keeping with a race motorcycle for the road it was fashioned after the factory racer used by Luca Cadalora.

Only 2,500 of the SP versions were released in the Cabin Racing colors of red, white, silver and gold. 

1991 saw a release of the first SE version (Super Edition) and this basically bridged the gap between the R and SP version. It was a slightly lower spec SP model with standard Enkei alloy wheels. 

1992 saw 1500 new SP models released in Rothmans livery and in 1993 there was a limited run of 900 Commemorative Edition SP models. 

Honda NSR250 MC28

The MC28 was the final edition of the Honda NSR250 and the key update released in 1993 was the addition of the Pro-Arm rear swingarm, first tried tested and seen on the RC30.

By the time the PGM-IV was introduced the motorcycle was a weapon for any road conditions. 

In 1994 1500 SPs were released in Rothmans colors, followed by a further 1500 in HRC livery in 1995. 

By 1996 the R model was discontinued and a run of 1000 SP models in Repsol colors were produced to celebrate Mick Doohan winning the GP title. 

Honda NSR250 Specs (NSR250 MC11)

Engine and Transmission

Engine – 90 degree V-Twin, Liquid-Cooled, 2-Stroke, Crankcase Reed Valve Induction

Bore x Stroke – 56 x 50.6mm

Capacity – 249cc

Carb – 28mm Keihin

Clutch – Wet, multi-plate with coil springs

Max Power – 45 horsepower at 8,500rpm

Max Torque – 36.3Nm at 8,500rpm

Ignition – CDI

Chassis and Dimensions

Castor – 27 degrees

Trail – 100mm

Front Suspension – Telescopic oil fitted damper

Rear Suspension – Pro-Link with external coil and damper unit with stepped spring preload adjustment only

Front Brakes – Twin non-floating discs with twin-piston sliding caliper

Rear Brakes – Single non-floating disc with single-piston sliding caliper

Length – 2005mm

Width – 720mm

Height – 1125mm

Wheelbase – 1375mm

Ground Clearance – 135mm

Dry Weight – 144kg

Seat Height – 780mm

Fuel Tank – 19litres

Honda NSR 250 top speed

The top speed of the NSR250 was documented as 130mph.

How much is a Honda NSR250 Worth?

In the UK £5,500-£8,000 will get you a good condition NSR250R.

There is one example on Autotrader that is selling for £6,950. It is a 1998 R model and has recently undergone a full restoration. 

In the US $8,000-$10,000 will pick up a NSR250, such as this one on 2040-motos for $8,499. 

A 1994 NSR250 SP in pristine condition is also on the market for £7,980. 

If you are looking for something that extra special there is a NSR250 SP Rothmans on Moto2Import for $25,000. Only 1,500 units were ever produced and there are perhaps only a few hundred of these bikes left in good condition. 

There is another of the same model on ebay with a buy it now price $16,750. 

NSR250’s will continue to hold their value and appreciate as time goes on. Especially the limited runs of SP editions from the various generations.

2-strokes are a thing of the past thanks to emission regs but that doesn’t stop people craving them and holding on to that nostalgic, 2-stroke oil smell and epic racing experiences they provided. 

Verdict

Regardless of which variation you look at, the Honda NSR250 was exceptional and for many it remains the ultimate 2-stroke machine. 

Honda NSR250 - The Ultimate 2 Stroke Classic Motorcycle

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