Massive model updates aren't unusual for high-dollar bikes like Ducati's Panigale V4 or the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob, but the wheels-up update Honda applied to the CB300F to make the 2019 CB300R was a big surprise. This entry level bike is majorly revised with a new frame, new style, and a much lower curb weight. And it's better in almost every way.

CB300R Headlight
LED lights are brighter, lighter, more efficient, run cooler, and last longer. Seriously, the guys that perfected ‘em won a Nobel Prize. And now you can get that world-changing technology in your $4,650 motorbike. For the first time in a long time, a bike comes with turn signals that I don’t immediately want to replace!Drew Ruiz

What's new for '19? Most obviously, the look! The outgoing 2018 CB300F had a bit of futuristic Transformers appearance, but this new CB is a beautifully modern interpretation of the classic cafe racer. The CB is modeled after last year's neo-classic CB1000R, with the same round LED headlight, chiseled tank shape, radiator shrouds, muffler style, and tapered café-racer tail. It's a sharp-looking bike that captures the past and the future in the same way Husqvarna's Vitpilen 701 does, and the fit and finish are really top notch.

CB300R Gas Cap
The build quality on the CB300R is impressive. One of my favorite updates? A hinged gas cap! The previous bike’s gas cap came off in your hand. The annoying bar in the tank opening remains, frustrating fill ups. Real-world mpg (based on my experience) is about 75, so expect to get roughly 200 miles out of the 2.7-gallon tank.Drew Ruiz

Other than the appearance, the most noticeable difference between the 2018 CB300F and the new CB300R is the riding position. A flatter, firmer seat sits 31.5 inches off the deck, 0.8 inches higher than before. At the same time the wider, tapered-aluminum handlebar feels like it’s both lower and closer to the seat. In back-to-back rides I preferred the new bike with its higher seat and added legroom, though the saddle started to feel boardlike after an hour.

The view from the saddle is different too, thanks to a new dash that has a bunch of added features like a temp gauge, adjustable shift light, and current/average MPG. There’s no gear-position indicator (a feature I think every bike should have), which is a shame because it would have been a useful reminder to stop trying to shift into a non-existent seventh gear while riding down the highway.

CB300R cockpit
The CB300R’s cockpit is neater than an OCD person’s office. Note the tapered-aluminum handlebar and the flashy fork caps. Slim and tidy, the CB300R’s new dash has a bunch of new features like an adjustable shift light, coolant-temp gauge, and current/average mpg. It’s also easier to view than this photo suggests.Drew Ruiz

One of the few recycled parts on the CB300R is the engine, which is the same 286cc single we first saw in the 2015 CBR300R. It's not the most powerful motor in the entry level class, but it's got good torque and a wonderfully smooth gearbox and clutch. Off-the-line acceleration is fast enough for city riding and the bike feels smooth and quick up to about 60 mph, but above that the motor gets winded. Top speed is about 90 mph, and cruising down the freeway at 70 mph puts about 8,000 rpm on the tachometer and sends some vibes through the seat and grips, hence the constant attempts to upshift.

CB300R color options
Hello handsome. Honda’s new wee bike weighs just 313 pounds with a full tank. The CB300R’s 35-pound weight loss came about thanks to big changes like a lighter frame and wheels, but more subtle touches like hollow axles and lighter radial tires also contributed to this impressive weight reduction.Drew Ruiz

That experience is familiar from the CB300F. What’s also familiar is the handling and ride quality. There’s a new stout-looking 41mm inverted fork in place of the old 37mm legs plus a linkageless lay-down shock out back, and while the parts are new they provide the same old ride quality. Which is to say it’s fantastic. The springs are on the softer side but well damped, so the bike doesn’t pitch excessively while accelerating or braking, doesn’t wallow while cornering quickly, and absorbs bumps very well without bouncing. We’ve always loved how balanced and nimble this platform feels, even when pushed hard by an experienced rider, and those characteristics are carried forward in the CB300R.

CB300R steering
From the city to the twisties, the CB300R feels right at home. Light handling and well-balanced suspension are a hallmark of the CBR/CB family. Steering is light and linear and the bike feels planted on the side of the tire. It might not look particularly sporty, but the CB300R is just as athletic as its full-faired CBR300R sibling.Drew Ruiz

Another thing we’ve always loved about the CBR/CB family is the brakes. In a class full of spongy levers and so-so stopping power, the little Honda always stopped with more precision and authority. And while the CB300R now has a big, four-piston, radial-mount caliper, the front brake has lost the feel and braking force we admired. It still works well enough, but a hard squeeze will bring the lever back to the grip. I blame it on the master cylinder, which was sized somewhat aggressively for the previous two-piston caliper but probably doesn’t move enough fluid for this bigger caliper. I’d be curious to see if a master cylinder with a larger piston diameter would bring some feel and braking force to the arrangement.

CB300R wheels
Lightweight wheels support new radial tires (the same Dunlops that come on the Ninja 400) and a 296mm hubless petal rotor that’s squeezed by a radial-mount 4-piston caliper. Brake bite, power, and feel aren’t as good as on the outgoing CB300F. There’s no arguing with the look of that front end, though. It’s rad in every way.Drew Ruiz

That one fly in this otherwise excellent ointment isn’t that big a deal, especially when there are so many other benefits and improvements mixed in. The LED lighting is brighter and looks great, the dash has more features, the bodywork is rad, and did I mention the bike lost a claimed 35 pounds? That’s not a typo—Honda says this new CB300R has a curb weight of just 313 pounds., which is nearly 10 percent less than the CB300F. Sure, it has a slightly smaller 2.7-gallon tank, but that only accounts for about four pounds. To slim the CB300R down Honda revised big items like the frame, wheels, and swingarm, but they even went so far as to utilize hollow axles to reduce unsprung weight. Nice work guys! That ultralight curb weight is going to make the bike handle better, accelerate harder, and generally be easier to manage whether you’re riding or just moving the bike around in the garage. In fact, it’s good for just about everything except riding in a cross wind.

CB300R frame
So many new parts! A contoured swingarm replaces the old rectangular piece and the frame uses thinner and lighter tubing that’s reinforced in high-stress areas, like where the shock bolts up. This chassis is shared with the CB125R that’s available in Asian markets.Drew Ruiz

If you’re expecting all these improvements to come with a major price spike, you can relax. Yes, the CB300R’s $4,649 price ($4,949 with ABS, which now features an IMU to add pitch-induced intervention in addition to skid-activated brake pulsing) is a few hundred more than the outgoing bike’s, but boy are you getting a lot of goodies for that additional $300. If this bike interests you and is in your budget, go give it a closer look at your local dealership. Because with an update this massive, there’s a lot to look at.

CB300R matte gray metallic
Get the CB is the “matte gray metallic” color shown here or the “chromosphere red” that I rode. Any way you slice it, the CB300R is a good-looking little bike, and without a person or anything for perspective, you might mistake it for the CB1000R. The two bikes look like they rolled out of the same mold.Drew Ruiz

TECH SPEC

PRICE $4,649 ($4,949 w/ ABS)
ENGINE 286cc liquid-cooled single
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE six-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER N/A (but about 27 hp)
CLAIMED TORQUE N/A (but about 18 lb.-ft.)
FRAME Tubular-steel twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 41mm fork; 5.1-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload; 4.2-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin 4-piston caliper, 296mm disc with optional ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin 1-piston caliper, 220mm disc with optional ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 24.7°/3.7 in.
WHEELBASE 53.3 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.5 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 2.7 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 313 lbs. (wet), 317 w/ ABS
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT powersports.honda.com