The Spanish Rieju manufacturer might be a new name to us here in Blighty but the company has some serious, deep-rooted history. They've been making two-wheelers non-stop since 1947 and were formed just before the Spanish civil war in 1934 where, like Sochiro Honda, they started by making bicycle parts.
I became aware of them last year when we had an MX50Pro on test. My twelve year old son did his best to break this manic, derestricted two stroke 'crosser but it proved to be unburstable. Great fun, too.
Because my eldest lad has now taken to the road it's given me the opportunity to ride lots of different learner models as we hunt for a likely candidate and, guess what, that Rieju name crops up again.
The Rieju RS3 125LC looks drop-dead gorgeous through the impressionable eyes of a seventeen year-old. Through slightly more jaundiced eyes (mine) it look pretty good, too. A beautifully fabricated alloy swingarm, upside down forks, radial front caliper and lightweight alloy wheels aren't the sort of spec' that you'd expect on a learner bike. In terms of specification the Rieju knocks the opposition into a cocked Arai.
But never mind all the bling. What really matters is the engine.
It is exactly the same Minarelli four-stroke lump found in Yamaha's top-selling YZF125. Rieju have had an engine supply deal with the Italian firm since 1964 so it's understandable why they would also want access to this bullet-proof little DOHC, liquid-cooled motor.
There's a fundamental difference with the pricier Yamaha, though. While the YZF is fuelled by injectors and a complicated ECU, the Rieju uses a carb'. Rieju claim this frees up a horsepower or two but, looking at this parentally, it makes the RS3 a much easier (and cheaper) bike to derestrict when the L-plates eventually get binned and 15bhp just isn't enough.
In its restricted 15bhp form the Rieju will sit at an indicated 70mph all day. The engine is eager to rev and even sounds nice in a sort of growly, induction noisy kind of way. It was noticeably faster in all applications than the Honda CBR125 we've got on test at the moment.
Steering is pretty sharp but stable at flat-out speeds which, let's face it, is where any 125 is going to spend 99% of its life. The riding position is more like a 250 (without the weight) so there's plenty of space for the bigger boned and much more chance that the opposite sex will be convinced this is a bigger bike than a mere 125. And how important is that last fact? Very.
I think the RS3 LC looks even better than Aprilia's now defunct two-stroke RS125. We looked at buying a used RS125 but practicality put me off. I mean, two-strokes and seventeen year-olds aren't a good mix , are they? Hail seizure and all that. Mindful of the distinct possibility of endless 2am recovery trips we decided that a four-stroke is definitely the way forward for an easy life.
So far, the Rieju is up there at the top of the shopping list. We've got a few more bikes to try but the combination of knock-out spec, stunning styling and a bullet-proof, tunable Yamaha/Minarelli engine are going to take some beating.
The price is pretty keen, too. The RS3 LC retails for £3.399 OTR against £4,249 for the Yamaha.
Visit www.riejumoto.co.uk for more information