IT ONLY takes a drop of rain on a twisting circuit to make my bum clench. I’m not the most confident on track at the best of times, and add a layer of rain and a questionable pair of tyres and I become as stiff as a three-week-old sock. Kartring-Oberberg and Aprilia’s new SX125 provided that perfect storm, and it was with trepidation that I swung my leg over the 880mm seat this afternoon.
I’d been riding the SX’s off-road brother earlier that day – the RX – and had become fond of its perky power and agile handling. I was looking forward to trying the SX – basically the same bike, with smaller rims and fewer teeth on the rear sprocket – as it not only had a 25mm lower seat, but also road tyres (who the hell launches a knobbly-sporting off-road bike on wet German roads?)
The skies had been battleship grey all morning, with the occasional splatter of rain, but it wasn’t until we arrived at the track that the heavens really opened. The rain wasn’t heavy, but it lasted for hours – enough to cover the track in what felt like a fine layer of slime. Coupled with the snaking lines of overbanding crisscrossing the asphalt, the circuit was an ice-rink – and we were the dancers. As if to give further credence to my fears, another journalist crashed almost as soon as I hit the track. The front had washed out on the polished overbanding, and sent him into a spinning lowside.
But needs must and I was as game as the next guy as I wound my way around the convoluted course. The 136kg (wet), steel-perimeter-framed SX felt balanced and comfortable – unlike the 56kg redhead lump sat on top – and made light work of the tight turns. It was forgiving when I fucked up and so eager to please when I got it right, proving smooth and vibration free. The 17" wheels front and rear certainly contributed to that nippy handling, although the CST tyres would have let the bike down in the dry, and in the wet were as slippery as a snake in a soap dish. They made for good skids and burnouts, mind.
The suspension felt softer than the RX, despite both sharing a 41mm upside down fork and a progressive link monoshock. I put this down to the far heavier braking (from larger discs) and accelerating on track and the fact that I could put my feet flat on the ground, which made bouncing the bike up and down at a standstill far easier.
The brakes were good too, when I wasn’t slamming down the gears to slow down. A 300mm stainless steel disc with a floating calliper up front is complemented by a similar, albeit slightly smaller set up at the rear. Rear-wheel lift mitigation was reassuring, if not a tad superfluous, although that said, it’s hard to tell whether it was working, or I just wasn’t riding hard enough for my rear to lift…
Another quirk on this little 125 is its Bosch ABS. Whereas other bikes in this category feature linked brakes, Aprilia has splashed out, treating riders to non-switchable ABS on the front wheel. It didn’t kick in at all on track, which was quite surprising given my heavy, wet braking – I can think of half a dozen bikes who’s ABS would have been going nuts today. But then I’m glad it didn’t – the safety net is there for nervous riders, but isn’t intrusive at all.
This ABS is the same as on Aprilia’s Tuono and RS125 models. In fact, a lot of this bike has been borrowed from the racey machines, including the 124cc powertrain. Well, actually that Derbi-derived lump harks from the 2010 GPR125 and is built by Zongshen, a Piaggio Group partner in China.
But with revised gearing and a different mapping, this engine suits the SX125 spot on. Making just 15hp, it’s never going to win any prizes for its power, nor its cutting edge tech. But I’m a firm believer that you can have as much fun on a 125 as you can a litre machine, and the SX is living proof of this. You’ll hit the limiter in every gear, as you rev the shit out of it to reach that sweet power spot, and it doesn’t seem to run out of puff even at the top end of sixth. Admittedly, the ‘puff’ isn’t all that, but the power is pokey and smoothly delivered – providing you’re in the right gear that is. Torque isn’t highlighted here and for a reason (it makes 10.9Nm at 8,250rpm) – spec sheet figures don’t reflect the bike’s true nature. 15hp and 10.9Nm may not sound like a lot, but is plenty to get your pulse racing on the little supermoto.
Aprilia set out with the mission to transport us back to our hedonist teenage biking years with the RX and SX models, and it’s a success. Admittedly, my teenage years aren’t all that long ago, and some may question whether I’ve yet grown out of the bad habits, but the thought is still there.
At £3,399 the SX is a cheap and cheerful way into motorcycling, and a bike that’s guaranteed to get new riders hooked. It doesn’t quite scream Aprilia quality, but is a damn sight better than some of the other mini supermoto models on offer in the UK.
After a dozen more laps of the little track I rounded the last hairpin as the rider in front of me lowsided. His bike spilled coolant on to the track, and the mental red flag went out. Session over and into the pits, but not before the obligatory burnout or three. I had gone full yobbo, and wasn’t looking back.