I will start by saying that I do not own a CBR300R, but I seriously considered purchasing one when I started looking for a bike in earnest last fall. It was down to the CBR300R, the CBR500R, the Kawasaki Vulcan S (a 650 cruiser), with the Ninja 300 being given a bit of consideration as well.
I eventually settled on a 2014 CBR500R, which I bought at the end of September.
On various motorcycling forums (including my forum, CBR500riders.com), I’ve seen discussions started by prospective riders who've settled on a Honda but are trying to decide between these two bikes. So I’ve come here to offer my two cents.
Given the demographic to which these bikes are marketed - new and returning riders - perhaps the most important question to be addressed is, which bike is better suited to the less experienced rider - or the rider with no experience at all?
For someone who is well and truly new to motorcycling - who’s rushing to the dealership the day after getting his or her endorsement - and whose confidence in the saddle is still maybe a little shaky, I would recommend the 300. With sixty fewer pounds and probably fifteen fewer horses under the cowling, it’s more conducive to inspiring confidence and coaxing its rider to explore not only the bike’s limits, but also his or her limits as a rider. This advice would go double for new riders who are smaller in stature; sixty fewer pounds to muscle around (or to pick up in the event of a drop) will make a real difference.
For the returning rider - that is, someone who has real riding experience but who hasn’t ridden for a long period of time - I might recommend the 500. The power difference between it and the 300 is real and meaningful, but for someone who’s ridden larger machines, it won’t be overwhelming in the least. Additionally, though the 500 is sixty pounds heavier, it’s still not a heavy
bike. Remember: the Harley 883, a bike often recommended to newer, less experienced riders (though not necessarily rank beginners), weighs 150 pounds more than the 500! As motorcycles go, the 500 is a fairly light machine (though still slightly heavier than the CBR600RR - go figure).
For those for whom experience isn’t a question, there are other criteria to consider:
Cost: If the price of your new bike is your primary concern, the 300 will run you almost two grand less than the 500.
Fuel economy: Honda claims 71mpg for the 300, but their website doesn’t list a figure for the 500. Obviously given its smaller motor and lighter weight, expect the 300 to turn in better numbers. Many 500 owners, though, report 70+mpg. With either bike, you’re going to get outstanding mileage, often to the point where you can almost eliminate fuel from your household budget. These machines are wonderful insurance against high fuel prices, which we’re bound to see again someday soon. Right now I’m spending about fifteen bucks a month to fuel my 500 (granted it's winter, and even here in Florida, that means less time spent riding).
Around-town riding: For those who will be riding primarily in the city, or any other environment with stop-and-go traffic and fewer opportunities to really open the bike up, the 300 is probably a better choice. It’s lighter, nimbler, and easier to muscle around through traffic in places where filtering is allowed. Riders in countries with perennial traffic congestion and without the extensive freeway systems available to those of us in the U.S., Canada, or Europe often never upgrade from 250/300-class machines. There’s simply no need for any extra power.
Highway riding: Here’s where I’ll recommend the 500. Because it’s larger, heavier, more powerful, and has larger tires, it’s going to feel more planted and stable on the highway. The 300 is a perfectly capable highway machine, make no mistake. But it, and its rider, are going to have to work a little harder to keep up. Passing will be more of a chore and you’re going to get blown around a bit more.
Handling: Some of us like to take our bikes to the track or spend a lot of time on winding back roads. Here’s where the weight advantage of the 300 will shine. These 250/300-class machines are, if you’ll pardon the cliche, eminently flickable. On courses and roads where raw horsepower is less of a consideration, these machines are unbeatable in terms of sheer fun.
Passengers: If you’re going to be carrying a passenger regularly or for extended periods, the 500 might be your better bet. A passenger’s weight will greatly affect the performance of either bike, but less so on the more powerful 500.
One other thing to consider: there's a natural tendency among motorcyclists to want more power. I'm already at the point where I wouldn't mind having a CBR650F! We tend to outgrow our machines as we become more proficient and more confident in the saddle. And if you know you're the type who will want to move up in size and power, you're going to outgrow the 300 faster than you will the 500. That's something to keep in mind.
Anyway, I hope I’ve managed to provide some meaningful advice to any prospective buyers lurking on this forum (or on the 500 forum where I’ve also posted
this) and who are trying to decide which bike to buy. If this is you, all I can say is if you’ve got it narrowed down to one of these two Hondas, you’ve already made one good decision. Provided you make an educated choice based on your needs as a rider, with either of these bikes you’re going to wind up with a fun, reliable, good-looking machine that you’ll enjoy for years with no regrets.
Ride safe, everyone.