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Honda CB250RSA
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Kelyvn Church has owned a classic Honda CB for 27 years and explains what's so great about these 250 singles, and what you can expect to go wrong...

I have always had a soft spot for small capacity, four-stroke, single cylinder motorcycles. The little MOV Velocette, those Italian beauties - the Moto Morini Settebello and Tresette Sprint, the apprentice special Royal Enfield Continental GT and the Honda CB250RSA.

Yes, it's a single; don't be fooled by the twin exhausts... Honda CB250RSA in Helios red

The Honda was the workhorse of many dispatch riders in the 1980s, and most examples are long gone, having been thrashed into the ground, but good ones are occasionally seen. Many people view a Japanese classic as 'straight handle bars, no fairing and four cylinders' but for me the 250 RSA fits the bill.

...or the twin ports for the four valve head. Honda CB250RSA - from the other side

My dictionary describes 'classic' as 'first class, well proportioned' or even 'remarkably typical' and I guess all these could be applied to the little Honda. Amongst the plus points of ownership are electronic ignition, automatic camchain tensioning (which works), aluminium wheel rims and low weight. The RSA is small, slim and agile when compared to some of its four-stroke contemporaries, like the Honda Superdream or Suzuki GSX, which weigh 35 kilos more. Only the Kawasaki Z250 was near on weight but was six or seven bhp down on power. The RS' narrow, almost flat handlebars and rear set footrests, coupled with sculpted tank, makes for a surprisingly comfortable ride, and correct positioning for great fun on the Oxfordshire back roads. The valve decompressor, linked to the two exhaust valves, also makes life easier on old knees!

Looks better without the rack, if you ask me Honda CB250RSA - in Cosmo black and with a Hondastyle fairing and Motad exhaust

The only downsides that I have found are the transmission, lack of oil capacity and seizing disc pad retaining pins. The drive pin in the rubber bush rear hub shock absorber is not very good and was improved with a vane-type on later models, whilst the front sprocket is quite small, only 14 teeth. A 15 tooth sprocket can be obtained from Wemoto (01273 726678), and will improve matters. Fitting a good quality heavy duty rear chain and checking chain tension regularly is a must. MPS used to do a conversion kit which enabled a 530 chain instead of the 520 standard size to be fitted and this worked well. If the revs are kept above 3000rpm then the engine and transmission are smooth for a single.

The world was a squarer place in 1980...

The basic oil filter, a washable metal gauze, coupled with the small oil capacity means that regular oil changes are a must to prevent camshaft and head problems. I religiously change the oil every 1000 miles or less. The disc pad retaining pins, although stainless steel, can be very difficult to remove if left untouched for any length of time. I remove and grease mine as part of general servicing.

Brake pad retaining pins seize, cush drives wear.

I bought my first RSA (in Helios red) 27 years ago and it has served me well all this time, still returning 65mpg after 40,000 miles. One modification that I made almost immediately was to replace the original Yokahama tyres with Pirellis as they had a tendency to slide in the wet. Recently the wheels were rebuilt with powder coated hubs and stainless steel spokes by Brickwood Wheelbuilders (01722 712701). The rear shock absorbers have been replaced with Hagon Road shocks and this has improved the handling.

Note tiny rear-set gear linkage

My second one (in Cosmo black) had ten previous owners and needed a fair amount of rebuilding. The resulting bike is not a show model, just clean and tidy. The cracked panels and mudguards were filled, along with the dents in the tank and then painted by the local village garage, with excellent results. I decided to have parts like the footrest mounts and swinging arm black powder coated and Microblast (01753 620145) were good value for money.

The engine top end was stripped and cam chain and tensioner replaced. A 0.5mm rebore was also carried out by M&J Reboring & Piston Services (01189 9582662). A Motad silencer was fitted which gives off a nice bark, reminiscent of my Royal Enfield.

The world was an uglier place in 1980...
CB250RS stuff on eBay.co.uk

A Hondastyle handlebar fairing is fitted which keeps off a surprising amount of wind, useful in cold weather. Many small items were obtained from David Silver Spares (www.davidsilverspares.com) or that useful beast, the auto jumble.

Honda CB250RSA

You could purchase RSAs in three colours, and I am half way through building my third one (Nassau blue metallic) from the spare parts that seem to have built up over the years.

Do I think that the little Honda is classic? Well… whisper it… I think it is a Real Classic. Discuss!


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