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Honda NSR 150 RR


Maybe it's the heady waft of two-stroke at a stand-still, or the fact that the liquid-cooled 149cc single sounds just like the on-board camera on Valentino's NSR500 when I'm watching the racing. Either way, every time I ride Honda's NSR150SP, I feel like I'm Mick Doohan. A quick glance in a shop-front window as I ride past only serves to further the feeling, as the eye-catching Repsol livery, including NSR logos, completes the picture. Lightweight The bike weighs in less than a 130kg factory 500 V-four as well, at a claimed 122.4kg (dry). In fact it weighs only one kilo more than the same marque's XR400 dirtbike! The weight (or lack of it) is part of what makes this bike an absolute hoot to ride, prompting me to take the long way home every time I won the race to the key cabinet. How is it that a 150 aimed at the learner market can have more experienced riders clamouring for the key? Because it's fun to ride, even if you are only heading down the shops for milk and bread. Flicking the pocket rocket from side to side requires little effort. You have to rev it hard to keep things moving, and with a claimed 39.5ps at 10,500rpm, the NSR accelerates surprisingly well. The two-stroke cacophony of sound accompanying such antics had me imagining I was leading the pack at the Island. Micky D, eat your heart out! With the CBR250RR no longer available, Honda needed a new learner-legal sportsbike to fill the void, and the NSR150SP is the one. Stickers adorning the bike, printed with what originally appeared to me to be hieroglyphics, turned out to be written in Thai - which is where the bike is produced. The subsequently low production costs are part of the reason the NSR150SP sticker price is $5990 (plus ORC). Frugal Freddy For less than six grand you get a lot of bike - the finish of the Repsol replica paintwork is top-notch, and the full instrumentation, including fuel and temp gauges, is easy to read (especially the centrally-mounted race-style tacho). The Honda Pro-Arm single-sided swingarm keeps the race replica theme alive, and whilst looking the business, also allows easy removal of the rear wheel if need be. The six-speed gearbox is light and smooth, with sixth gear a genuine overdrive, allowing cruising at 100kmh to happen at a vibe-free 6500rpm - accelerating will require a down shift unless you are travelling downhill however. The sixth gear helped the NSR achieve a rather frugal fuel consumption of 21.4km/lt on the open road. Town riding saw the figures drop to 17.5km/lt, which is still impressive, and allows a range of around 180km from the 10.5lt fuel tank. On the subject of fuel, for those worrying about mixing two-stroke, there's no need - to either worry or mix. The separate oil reservoir, mounted under the seat, does the mixing for you. Just top up the reservoir every two or so fuel-stops. AMCN's testbike used less than half the reservoir after 400km. And if you do plan on travelling a few kms the flat pillion pad allows a day pack to be ocky-strapped on, with the grabrail, pillion-peg brackets and alloy ockystrap knobs providing sturdy attachment points. While the bike lacks an electric start, the 150cc engine's compression is hardly enough to offer the kickstarter much resistance, and I found the bike started first or second kick hot or cold. The fairing-mounted choke is easy to use, and once the bike was running it idled quietly and reliably, with very little exhaust smoke. Weighty Issue There are concessions to cost evident on the bike, such as zero suspension adjustment, cheap-looking rubber-wrapped footpegs and mirrors which are there for show and not much else, but you have to bear in mind that this is Honda's entry-level bike, and you get what you pay for. Having said that, the suspension proved more than capable. While it sagged a way through the travel with all 90kg-plus of me aboard, the NSR handled bumpy roads well and kept the tiny bike remarkably stable. Maybe that 90 kilos helped a bit there... The IRC tyres are good, and in keeping with the rest of the bike, are relatively tiny - the front a 90/80-17 NF46, the rear a 120/80-17 NR57. While they aren't super-sticky race tyres, they provided plenty of grip and feedback, and suited the bike well. They were also sure-footed under brakes, an important feature of any tyre, and particularly an entry-level machine likely to be ridden predominantly by new licence holders. Learner Legal The front brake has reasonably good feel at lower speeds, but the single disc and hydraulic dual-piston caliper lacked outright power. The rear brake was adequate. On one downhill stretch, I gave myself a bit of a fright when my approach speed was above ideal (acting out the Mick fantasy) and applying the brakes didn't initially do much to recover the situation. A fair bit of lever pressure got me there though. How appropriate this bike is for a learner rider is worth asking. The two-stroke engine does require a somewhat enthusiastic throttle action to move off from standstill or accelerate in traffic - nothing much happens below 7000rpm, from where it pulls smoothly through to 10,500rpm before the power tails off. This trait requires some forward thinking to make sure you are in the correct gear before attempting a lane change or overtaking move, as if the revs are too low it's possible to be left in no-man's land, desperately downchanging and fanning the (light and progressive) clutch. For a complete novice to two-wheeled transport this may take some getting used to, and they would probably be better suited to Honda's own VTR250 (tested Vol 50 No 25) or something similar - if the budget allows. For the rider who has maybe come from a dirtbike background or is after something sporty however, the NSR could well and truly fit the bill. Gone are the days where holding a learner's licence - and therefore subject to motorcycle capacity and/or power-to-weight restrictions - condemned a learner rider to bland, soul-less machines. Motorcycle manufacturers were quick to realise a market existed for entry-level bikes that offered personality and even performance (relatively speaking). Honda's NSR150SP is one such bike, and is really in a price and specification class of its own, as the sporty two-stroke alternatives are more expensive and higher spec'd. The NSR makes available to entry-level riders an economical, good-looking and inexpensive form of transport which also happens to be more fun than bursting bubble-wrap. The SP is a good thing, no doubt about it, especially for under $6000. Now, I'm off to get some Mick Doohan replica leathers...