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Bike Review - Posted 11th April 2016
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Honda Benly CD250U-J - Owner Review

Mark Holyoake turns to a lightweight Honda commuter from the nineties to beat the creaking knee blues. The CD range of twins goes back to the sixties, but is this one porridge or perfection?

Age and limbs are not a good combination. When one's knees become painful (as they probably will for all) it can colour your motorcycling enjoyment in a bad not good way.

Recent struggles have left me finding even BMW's baby boxer a bit of a struggle to manhandle in the garage; and the mighty CZ and MZ tiddlers, whilst not blessed with weight, had that funny lever on the side that's used for starting. OK, so they haven't the compression of a Goldie, but they don't do a lot for compression on the knee joints.

This led me to look for some porridge. Not British grey porridge but a blue dish from the East and an oddity from Honda's back catalogue.

Honda Benly CD250U-J - Owner Review

The 'beast' that now sits in the garage is that almost Benly; the CD250U-J. Complete with no kick starter thingy; a mass of around 320 lbs; a low seat height and a whopping 21 horses (around 8500rpm) and max torque 2.0kgm (at around 7000rpm) allegedly.

This 'beast' (registered in 1991) was sold, I gather, around the late 80's and early 90's and was never wildly popular. Well it may have been with despatch riders and some folk; but not mainstream. The 125 learner laws put paid to these being novice fare and the sports superbike bug was biting back then - think CBR600 etc etc. So this was a bit odd back then, and probably wasn't 'cheap' at around 1800.00 in Sept 1988.

This one has aged well, or has been 'seen to', and starts and runs like a 'sewing machine'. No exhaust to frighten horses, no sir.

Honda Benly CD250U-J - Owner Review

The CD moniker from Honda goes back to the mid sixties and bolides like the CD125/175 'tourers'. There may have been a CD250 from 1968 with a staggering 27hp but that disappeared in the early 1970's. Probably the best known CD (before those initials might be diesel related in the car world) was the CD175 that soldiered on for 10 years or so with very little change. That was hi-tech, with points driven by the cam, enclosed chain and fork gaiters.

In 1977 that bowed out and was replaced by a CD185T; much the same with commuter style but looking less 60'ish. That was followed by a 6V CD200 that in turn was replaced by a 12V CDI CD200TB (around 1981) and then a host of others isuch as the '80's custom style' CM200. The years rolled by and Honda produced a plethora of bikes with similar architecture; the CM250; CMX 250 and CB Two Fifty and names such as Rebel, Nighthawk happened. (Rebel 1985-1987; 1996-2003 and Nightawk/Two Fifty 1991-2002).

The CD250U-J appeared in the middle of 1988-1990s and was mainly sold in UK and Australia and I gather 'home use' back in Japan and other far east counties; Vietnam, Thailand etc. It was a working bike, for city dwellers - well that's probably the Honda design brief.

It differs from the 200 predecessor having twin 26mm CV Carbs rather than a single carb; CDI and not points (although CNB200TB was so equipped); a square bore and stroke 53mm x 53mm so a staggering 233cc. A 360 degree twin with a 2 into 2 exhaust system, with balance pipe and five rather than the four speeds of its immediate predecessor.

Honda Benly CD250U-J - Owner Review
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Handling is sure footed and really not too bad. This one has replacement rear shocks so not quite as FVQ (fade very quickly) as may have been when new. Wire wheels rather than the Comstar style, which adds an air of CB500T (along with the tank shape etc). No fork shrouds, just gaiters - which even then were "old man" fodder.

Starting, oh joy. Strains ones thumb only, and if choke is needed it's on the lefthand handle bar, so no scrabbling under the tank for tickler or choke mechanism. Warms quickly and sounds like any other Honda twin.

There is some 'brisk' acceleration and seemingly no flat spots to trouble your progress. In truth best performance and acceleration are in the 50-60mph range, but it will handle a 70-75mph (so quite respectable) cruise with a top speed of 80mph. So no rocket ship but good for byways and smaller main roads. Countryside pottering is a joy, and fun. In some comfort too.

Honda Benly CD250U-J - Owner Review

The fuel consumption is typically in the 70-80mpg range. So not as fuel efficient as a CG125 and it can dip a little (an unimpressive 58-60mpg) if all the power is used and ones right wrist strains the twin throttle cables.

An upright riding position and the typical 'largish' CD seat is comfy, although wind blast for hours could be tiresome. the handle bars on this a slightly taller than original, but has heated grips to fend off the chill from the upright posture.

The steering seems light both on the move and easy to manhandle. It seems quite stable around a faster cruising speed and reacts in a not unexpected way. Maybe it's like the MASH that FW tested a while back. Nothing to crow about but pleasant and does what it's supposed to.

This age of CD differs from the 175/185/200 versions in having a single disc brake up front, keeping the rear drum. The brakes do what they are supposed to and make for safe retardation. Switchgear and ignition seem 'std Honda' - probably like that on things the XBR/GB 500 - so maybe chunky for a 250 but solid and reassuring.

A cost cutting measure is no rev counter (mind you, something not to go wrong!), with some markings in the speedo for speeds in the gears. No oil warning window or light; just a good old fashioned dipstick. The oil seems easy to change and no real filter inside, just a wire mesh screen to clean now and again. A lovely light and easy to use gearbox with slick changes. An easy machine to ride..

Styling back in the day was away from the looming race replicas and with a little less chrome-work than earlier versions and a useful rack/cum/grab rail.

Honda Benly CD250U-J - Owner Review

When this was new'it had a 20+ year pedigree (engine-wise) and does what I guess commuters wanted - reliability and ease to cut through city traffic. One failing with this bike, and it's not really the bike's fault, was that it wasn't long lived so some spares are scarce. But some bits from the earlier and later models might keep the wheels turning a while longer.

I know there have been some hardy souls who toured on these (and some on the earlier CD200TB) - so in a role as back-lane bimbler and lite tourer this may have a life away from the urban dwellers duties it was designed for, as it ages gracefully. Not a common sight on the roads. Pleasant really, that might sum it up.

Maybe like the MASH (and the later CB Two Fifty) it's never going to win an army of fans, but as undemanding transport with (hopefully) Honda's legendary reliability it will save my knees from a little discomfort and be a good companion - and keep me on two wheels a while longer. Classic? Who cares?

So another in a series of odd bikes, that seem to find me! Blue rather than grey porridge. Well porridge is nice, sometimes with blueberries....and this seems to be.

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