Yamaha UK Ambassador event winner: Yamaha MT-125 review

Robert Barker, our winner for Yamaha's ambassador event competition, gives his thoughts on the new MT-125

WHEN the MT125 was announced I was pleasantly surprised, I never imagined that there would be any room in Yamaha’s range for another premium 125.

The MT range has really come into its own since the launch of the MT-09, with a bike available for everyone, regardless of experience level. You could easily learn to ride on an MT-125 and then move on through the range as your skills develop. The 125 is consistent with the MT style; it’s dark, serious, and mean.

I much prefer the naked style of the MT-125 to its faired brother, the R125. Whilst the R is by no means uncomfortable for a sports bike, the MT feels like it's capable of longer journeys. An accessory pack is available for the MT which offers a more comfortable seat and a top box which fits onto the pillion seat. It definitely ruins the sleek lines of the bike, and it means you can't take a pillion with the rack installed, but if you do need an extra bit of practicality every so often then the option is there.

The MT has also been given a lower seat height than the R125 in order to improve accessibility for shorter riders. My only issue with the ergonomics was that my knees would occasionally meet the back of the side mounted air intake vents, although this is only likely to be a problem if you’re a 6ft 6" giant like myself.

The bike was designed and developed in Europe, and is produced in Europe, unlike the vast majority of Yamaha’s line-up. The concept was thought up in Amsterdam, the design was finalised by a European company, the research and development took place in Italy and the bike is manufactured at the Yamaha factory in Saint Quentin, France. The MT draws heavily from the R125 parts bin, with the vast majority of components being identical. The engine, suspension, gearing, clocks, wheels, tyres and frame all remain the same. The distinguishing differences between the two are obviously the vastly different styling and the change in bars.

The MT’s fuel tank has also been made 4cm shorter to accommodate a more upright riding position. However, despite the less sporty position over the R, it remains quite aggressive allowing you to push the bike into corners whilst out on twisty roads.

Around corners the bike is both stable and confidence-inspiring, and the brakes are more than sufficient to bring the bike to a rapid halt. Despite the high level of similarity between the two under the skin, the aesthetics and ergonomics are so vastly different that if I didn’t know better I would have said Yamaha had retuned the engine slightly. To me it feels like the MT-125 has more low down torque and doesn’t need to be revved as hard as the R125, but Yamaha has stressed that both the engine and gear ratios are identical.

The clocks on the little MT take their inspiration from smartphones, with three digital screens each displaying different information. The digital tach is central, with other information on the side screens. You can also cycle through information such as your average speed and current fuel efficiency with the press of a button, which is a nice touch. However, similarly to the R125 the white LED which indicates you are on the rev limiter is difficult to see in bright sunlight.

The bike is aimed heavily towards urban riding and as such the route taken on the Barcelona launch ride was more city-orientated than the R125s had been. The mirrors give a good view of traffic, and the handlebars, whilst wide, are narrow enough to not impede swift filtering. Going from traffic light to traffic light was made bearable due to the comfortable riding position, and because it’s a 125 there's no danger of the engine ever producing uncomfortable excess heat in heavy traffic. With a claimed figure of 112mpg, it makes sense as an efficient commuter too.

Yamaha is collaborating heavily with the French helmet company Shark, the most prominent example of this being the distinctive Shark Raw helmet that has been used for all MT marketing material. Both the helmet and the bike are a fashion statement, and Yamaha have done well to make the MT stand out from the crowd in terms of aesthetics, far more so than competitors such as KTM have done with the Duke 125. Having said that, I am not keen on Yamaha’s “Masters of Torque” videos, and I am glad to say that the weekend was mercifully free of anime.

To sum it up nicely; as an all-purpose bike, the MT is superior to the R, and given the choice between the two I’d have the former. I prefer the riding position of the MT, it's more comfortable around town, it has smart styling, and it feels a little more grown up than the R125. You could keep the MT-125 as a commuter long after you’ve moved onto something bigger, whereas the R could potentially feel a little redundant once you have a more powerful sports bike sitting in the garage.

Model tested: 2014 Yamaha MT-125

Price: TBC (under £4,000)

Power: 15hp

Wet weight: 138kg

Seat height: 810mm

Availability: August