Skip to main content

Throttle Jockey: Rise, Fall and Rise of the 300

What size is best for a motorcycle? Trick question! It depends on many factors, including the rider, what kind of riding the bike will be used for and other factors such as licensing tiers, insurance costs and the price of the bike itself. It can be complicated.

However, one interesting trend gathering steam right now is the rise in popularity of bikes in the 300cc range. What’s so special about these smaller bikes? Plenty as it turns out. First, a bit of history.

Before about 1970, any bike 650cc or larger was considered a big machine meant only for manly men with no thoughts of self-preservation. Down below the 650s were the bread-and-butter bikes: 125s, 250s and such marketed to the less-insane, less speed-obsessed proletariat ridership – same as today.

In the 1960s, the nascent Japanese bike makers, led mostly by Honda, started turning out bikes in the 300cc range in order to compete with popular 250s from established brands. Bigger is better, right? In this case, yes, it was. Early efforts still tended to be a bit spindly and suspect at first, but when the Honda CB77 305 Super Hawk hit the scene in 1961, things began to change in a hurry.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

As the 305 Super Hawk matured, its true nature as a speed machine was revealed. Using a steel tube frame instead of a pressed metal structure like previous small Hondas, and with engine internals that could turn to 9,000 rpm derived from Honda’s winning racing machines, the sleek, sharp-handling little ‘Hawks gave bikes twice their size absolute fits. Plus, it featured electric starting and excellent reliability, which were no small miracles of the era. Best of all, it could top 100mph (105mph, actually), a tremendous feat for a 300 in a time when many 650s could only barely crack “The Ton.” For many riders, the plucky 305 Super Hawk ticked every box.

I’ve ridden a few CB77 Super Hawks and suffice to say they are small in size (relative to my 6-1 frame) but huge in performance and fun. I can only imagine the long faces at the British and American bike makers when they caught wind of the CB77’s potential.

As you might imagine, Honda sold a gazillion of the things and expanded the “305” line to include multiple models that included everything from more street bikes to dirt bikes to the odd-duck Dream series of scooter/motorcycles. After the CB750 debuted in 1969, the Super Hawk’s lifespan was short and it faded away in 1971 along with many other 300-level machines as the displacement wars got under way in earnest. Today, CB77 Super Hawks are among the most collectible of the mass-produced Hondas. Be prepared to pay a lot for a clean one.

But suddenly, “300” seems to be the magic number again for many riders looking for something bigger and better than a scooter and smaller than a 600cc sports machine. Four 300cc bikes stand out: Kawasaki’s Ninja 300, Honda’s CBR300R, Yamaha’s YZF-R3 and KTM’s RC390.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The bikes range in displacement from 286cc (the Honda) to 375cc (KTM) and everywhere in between, so it’s not like there are hard and fast rules on what a “300” is, letting manufacturers play around with the form factor a bit. Your DMV and insurer may care, but in the U.S. and many other countries, 400cc is usually the cutoff for the lower licensing tier so it’s not a big deal.

What matters most is the amazing value and performance of each of these bikes. Each features big-sportbike style and tech (and for the most part, size as well), real-world comfort and performance that belies their displacement. Gas is delivered via fuel injection to the Yamaha and Kawasaki twin-cylinder engines while the Honda and KTM make do with single-cylinder power plants. You can also get ABS brakes on most of them as well and each bike costs right around $5,000 brand new (add maybe $500 – $1,000 for the higher-spec KTM).

So what do you get for that kind of cash? Well, the days of 300cc bikes sneaking up on modern (and frightfully fast) 600cc machines are behind us for the most part, but in the hands of a skilled rider on a twisting road, the light weight and enhanced ability of a 300 to flick and turn quickly can combine to show those bigger bikes some taillights – at least until the pavement straightens out.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Also, while a 250 might struggle with modern freeway traffic speeds, this new breed of 300s has no such issue. Sure, the engine will be spinning, but there is a much larger margin of comfort when passing or just blowing down the road. Tour on a 300? Absolutely.

In the big city, 300s are a sharp tool for dissecting traffic. Slim and quick, you can get off the line quickly and if your state (California, so far) approves of lane splitting, these svelte machines are the best thing next to a bicycle for slicing through lines of idling cagers – plus, no pedaling!

Bottom line is that the 300cc motorcycle is back, and it’s back in a way that recalls its glory days of the 1960s: as a machine that’s great for a new rider but also great for a veteran looking for a low-cost, low-effort fun machine that looks great, goes like stink and brings back the fun of full-throttle riding, all without needing all that mortality-avoidance rationalization that comes with a big-bore bike.

HondaCBR300R2All photos courtesy of the respective manufactures: Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and KTM.

Bill Roberson
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Please reach out to The Manual editorial staff with any questions or comments about Bill’s work.
The best advent calendar Black Friday deals on Lego and more
A scene from the Lego Marvel Avengers 2023 Advent calendar featuring Iron Man and Captain America.

Black Friday deals are well underway, and early this year, which means it’s almost time to start counting down to Christmas. The countdown can be a pretty fun endeavor with one of the best Advent calendars for men, but Black Friday also offers some opportunities to get the whole family involved. Retailers like Amazon have discounted a lot of Advent calendars among the current crop of Black Friday deals. You’ll find Lego-themed Advent calendars discounted right now, as well as more traditionally-themed options.
Our Favorite Advent Calendar Black Friday Deal
Lego Marvel Avengers 2023 Advent Calendar — $27, was $45

Children and adults alike can find some fun in counting down the days to Christmas. With an Advent calendar, the process typically begins on December 1 and culminates with Christmas morning. One Advent calendar deal that stands out to us this Black Friday shopping season is the Lego Marvel Avengers Advent calendar. Behind each of the 24 doors of this Advent calendar is a gift to kick-start a new adventure. These include seven superhero mini figures featuring the like of Captain America, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Black Widow, and Iron Man, among others.

Read more
The 11 best Steven Spielberg movies, ranked
These timeless classics are by the master movie director himself
Steven Spielberg in the mouth of Jaws

There are certain people who are instantly tied to their profession when you hear their name. When you think about your favorite memories at the cinema, Steven Spielberg is as synonymous with success as Michael Jordan is with basketball. The visionary director of such classics as Jaws, Indiana Jones, and E.T., Spielberg is quite possibly the most popular and influential filmmaker since the dawn of contemporary American cinema.
Born in 1946, Spielberg was always fascinated by cinema and the magic it creates. From a very young age, he was creating short films and imagining grand set designs for his ideas. In 1969, he got his first real chance with a seven-year contract as a director, and he was the youngest director to be signed to a major Hollywood company. Due to his dedication and hard work, Spielberg rose to national acclaim just eight years later with the release of Jaws.
Being so popular and successful comes a long way, but it helps to have the assistance of so many other talents on your side. Spielberg has worked with many who made his film resume that much stronger, some of which include George Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Kathleen Kennedy, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, and most notably, composer John Williams.
Spielberg and Williams have worked together in 27 films over 40 years -- Spielberg stating that Williams has been "... {B}reathing life into every movie we have made." The two have always worked together to create movie magic for decades, sharing a vision and seeing it through to the sometimes bitter end. For Spielberg, one is not without the other, as Spielberg once said, "... if movies are like lightning, then the musical score for me is like thunder. It can shake things up for years." Due to this, I had to dedicate this to Williams as well.
So now, without further ado, let’s rank the top 10 Steven Spielberg movies and show you his directorial history.

11. The Color Purple (1985)

Read more
I’m tracking all the best PS5 Black Friday deals live
sony playstation 5 deal monoprice august 2023 ps5 with controller

Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and a host of retailers have already started their Black Friday sales. Flicking through, one thing is clear: There are a lot of PS5 Black Friday deals, on everything from the consoles themselves (in the form of bundle deals) to the latest games and must-have accessories like SSDs to expand your storage space. Join me live as I continue to sift through all the Black Friday PS5 deals on offer and pull out the offers you can't afford to miss.

Read more