Pocket Rockets | Classic two-stroke 125 race replica sportsbikes you still want

From a time when the win on Sunday, sell on Monday mantra was still very much alive and kicking - these are the best 125cc race replica sports bikes from the golden era

Gilera GFR125

FOR most 125cc buyers the bike itself is a means to an end – a mere stepping stone towards something bigger, faster and more desirable. But there’s a subset of 125cc sports bikes that are beautiful and desirable in their own right, regardless of capacity or performance.

We’re being subjective here but this top 10 largely reflects the fact that the later 80s and early 90s were a high water point for 125cc sports bikes. Two strokes still reigned supreme and there were enough wealthy teenagers out there to support a competitive marketplace, with manufacturers vying to make the most radical, lightest and fastest bikes in a segment where every last mph really did count.

If you’re looking for a practical choice, turn elsewhere. Most of these have the usual two-stroke issues of regular engine rebuilds, often compounded by limited parts supplies. But they represent the closest relatives of the 125cc GP bikes that the world’s best riders cut their teeth on.

As usual, if you think we’ve missed something, let us know in the comments.

Here we go...

10. Honda NSR125

While widely available and with typical Honda quality, meaning they’ll last rather better than some of the bikes on this list, the NSR120 – whether in 88-94 J20 form or 95-2002 JC22 ‘Foxeye’ guise – is just a little bland to be ranked higher. Most are restricted, and while there’s endless debate over their potential when the blockages are removed, even then they’re more likely to be around the 25bhp mark than the 30bhp-plus promised by some of their less-reliable competitors.

9. Gilera CX125

You'll either love the CX125 or absolutely despise it. The culmination of a line of ever-wackier Gilera two-strokes (for an alternative, seek out a Gilera KK125, with belly-mounted fuel tank and weird telephone dial wheels) the CX was a concept bike made into showroom form. Single-sided telescopic fork, single-sided swingarm, 28bhp race-bred engine and super aerodynamic styling meant it’s still one of the most head-turning bikes you’ll ever see. Or stomach turning, in some peoples’ eyes.

8. Derbi GPR125

Much newer than most of the machines on this list, the GPR125 in two-stroke form continued until 2009, but even so, finding a used one isn’t easy which suggests they’ve suffered a hard life since then. The fact their engines were reputed to be good for 33bhp could explain why so few have survived. The modern four-stroke version is much easier to find, but can’t hold a match to the two-stroke in performance terms.

7. Yamaha TZR125

Now we are talking! If you were a teenager back in the 80s, a TZR was the bike your rich mate was most likely to have. With 26bhp and race-rep looks it seemed to offer everything that a young man could desire. Look a little closer and the drum rear brake seems a bit out of place, though. These days they’ve reached the stage where people are seriously restoring them, so beautiful examples can be found.

6. Suzuki RG125

The 1980s RG125s were good, the post-92 model was the one that really hit the spot in terms of looks and performance. A claimed 33bhp combined with a 125kg weight to make for a bike that was truly exciting, particularly if you were only 17. Most were afflicted with Suzuki’s awful 90s paint schemes, though, with far too much fluorescent pink and splatter gun graphics. Best paired with Fieldsheer Acid Worm leathers…

5. Honda NSR125

Another 80s throwback, the NS125R is a 25bhp single that appeared in 1987, just in that era when larger sports bikes were being revolutionised by the likes of the GSX-R750. In performance and handling terms it would get its arse kicked by many of the later bikes on this list, but there’s a good reason it’s included here; you could get one with the works-replica Rothmans paint scheme. Mic drop.

4. Cagiva Mito

We're talking about the 1994-on Mito Ev here, although the bug-eyed original is worth a look too. Styled under the watch of Massimo Tamburini at the same time as the Ducati 916 (OK, it’s identical – but is that a bad thing?) the Mito is arguably the most classically beautiful 125 stroker out there. Chuck in a beam frame so rigid that Cagiva later toyed with slapping a Husqvarna 500cc single into it and you’ve got a recipe for some serious fun. The last-of-the-line SP525 threw out the wonderful Ducati-alike styling in favour of a fish-faced attempt to recapture the style of the Cagiva 594 GP bike. Squint and it looks a bit like a Desmosedici RR, but the original is probably the better bet.

3. Aprilia RS125

The RS125 and the subsequent, restyled RS125s were among the last and greatest of the two-stroke 125s. Styling that really was similar to the GP bikes of the era, along with frames developed from the machines ridden by people like Valentino Rossi (whatever happened to him?) mean these have impeccable credentials. There was even a Rossi-rep, if you can find one. Later, more angularly-styled bikes continued right until 2012. The best are around the £2k mark now, but as long as you stay on top of the regular rebuilds and maintenance they should only go up in value.

2. Gilera GFR125

We've already seen that Gilera was never afraid to do something a bit radical with its two-stroke 125s, but with the GFR it created a race-rep that was truly a thing of beauty. OK, so some of the stickers and colours are, ahem, ‘of their time’ is perhaps the kindest description, but the bike itself was a beauty. The single-sided swingarm marks it out from its Chrono, SP02 and SP01 predecessors, although they’re worth hunting out too. Reliability? Parts supplies? Forget it. But still a drool-worthy bike.

1. Aprilia AF1 Futura

The later Aprilia RS125 was without doubt the much better bike, and if you’re of the right age it’s probably more appealing as well thanks to its Rossi connections. But if you’re a few years older the AF1 Futura marks an acme that two-stroke 125s never reached again. Those star-shaped, five-spoke wheels. That single-sided swingarm. The brutal, ruler-straight beam frame. That 30bhp engine. These were toys that only the richest of rich kids got to enjoy. Now they’re hard to find and even tougher to keep running.

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