Top 10s

Top 10 Learner 125cc motorcycles

Teen dream or basic machine: whether you want pose or practical there’s a 125 out there to suit

If you’re 17 or over and have done compulsory basic training you can ride a 125 on a provisional licence with L-plates.

Unlike most classes of bike you can still choose a four-stroke or a two-stroke. Two-strokes tend to be faster, lighter, less economical, more prone to needing maintenance, but simpler and easier to work on. Four-strokes are more durable and economical, but generally heavier, less powerful and slower. Four-strokes are generally harder and consequently more expensive to de-restrict.

While it’s always tempting to buy the fastest, flashest 125 you can afford, there’s a lot of sense in opting for something cheaper, more durable and crash-resistant so you can save your dosh for that bigger bike after you’ve passed your test.

Here is a countdown of the perfect Top 10 learner legal 125s.

10. Suzuki Van Van 125

10. Suzuki Van Van 125

10. Suzuki Van Van 125

Engine 124cc, 2 valve, injected, single Power 12bhp Torque 7ftlb Weight 120kg Top speed 65mph

Copying the sand bikes of the ’70s the little Van Van has real California cool. Even in Macclesfield on a wet Monday. It’s a great blend of perfectly credible retro chic in a durable low cost package. It’s also a superb choice for shorties or anyone looking to build their confidence up on a non-threatening, life-affirming, touchy-feely toy bike. A low seat height and minimal overall weight make it very easy to manage. Worried about the U-turn on your test? Concerned about the slalom element? You’ll breeze it on a Van Van. And stand out (like a beach bum) while you’re doing it. This is a FUN bike!

Click here to read Suzuki Van Van owner reviews.

09. Kawasaki Eliminator

09. Kawasaki Eliminator

09. Kawasaki Eliminator

Engine 124cc, 2 valve, carb’d, single Power 12bhp Torque 7ftlb Weight 135kg Top speed 65mph

If you’re limited to going slowly, or if you prefer to travel that way, a cruiser (it’s all in the name) can make a lot of sense. They’re easy to ride, have low seats and aren’t pretending to be something they’re not (except cruisers). All the Japanese big four have offered some sort at one time or another and finding a nice example’s more important than exactly which model you go for.Single cylinder bikes tend to be lighter, simpler and with a more torquey power delivery than the twins. Avoid anything tatty as it slashes resale value and these chrome-laden contraptions are difficult to get looking ‘as new’ again.

Click here to read Kawasaki Eliminator owner reviews.

08. Hyosung GT125R

08. Hyosung GT125R

08. Hyosung GT125R

Engine 125cc, 8 valve, carb’d, V-twin Power 15bhp Torque 7ftlb Weight 150kg Top speed 70mph

Want a 125 which looks like a larger capacity machine? Amazingly this is the best choice from Korean conglomerate Hyosung. It has real presence and would pass for a 600cc bike. Even the V-twin engine looks much bigger than a 125. Initial depreciation is huge so don’t buy new unless you get a whopping discount. Quality isn’t as good as the Japanese offerings, but the manufacturer is also an established concern unlikely to disappear overnight. Avoid anything tatty or running badly – few mechanics know these machines well.

Click here to read Hyosung GT125R owner reviews.

07. Italjet Dragster 125

07. Italjet Dragster 125

07. Italjet Dragster 125

Engine 124cc, 2-stroke, carb’d single Power 15bhp Torque 10ftlb Weight 107kg Top speed 70mph

OK it’s a scooter, but funkier than the loosest street dance crew. There’s also a good range of tuning parts available. Check out ItaljetDragster.com and go for something like a 172cc kit, 26mm carb, decent exhaust, hopped-up variator, Delta clutch and you’ll be beating fancy cars from the lights. Yes, the tuning’s illegal until you get your full licence, so don’t crash or your insurance will be void. The front ball joints are expensive to replace so be wary of any with significant play in them. A sweet scoot but made from old biscuit tins sprayed up to look like to real metal. Still good though.

06. Honda Varadero 125

06. Honda Varadero 125

06. Honda Varadero 125

Engine 124cc, 4 valve, injected, v-twin Power 15bhp Torque 7ftlb Weight 152kg Top speed 70mph

The big boy’s 125. The Honda Varadero 125 is tall and would pass for a much larger capacity machine - it’s a quality bit of kit. The twin-cylinder engine punts out 15bhp so it’s right on the legal limit. It’s nifty in the city and about the best 125 around if you want to do longer journeys in decent comfort. Handling is super-stable and inspires more than enough confidence for you to start dragging (low) footpegs on roundabouts. Too heavy and with too posh a body to take off-road, so look elsewhere if you want a genuine dual purpose bike. Got a minor cosmetic update in 2007.

Click here to read Honda Varadero 125 owner reviews.

05. Honda CBR125R

05. Honda CBR125R

05. Honda CBR125R

Engine 125cc, 2 valve, injected, single Power 13bhp Torque 8ftlb Weight 127kg Top speed 70mph

A good compromise. Honda’s four stroke single CBR is a good blend of posey and practical and as a result topped the sales charts for many years. There are plenty on the used market and no shortage of used spares should you lob it up the road. It’s physically small but stops, goes and handles perfectly well. It hasn’t quite got the build quality of the bigger CBRs but it’s miles ahead of the Chinese cheapies. No reliability gremlins although the shock and exhaust can rust while weak lock stops may bend in an accident. Overshadowed by the more contemporary Yamaha YZF-R125.

Click here to read Honda CBR125 owner reviews.

04. Yamaha YZF-R125

04. Yamaha YZF-R125

04. Yamaha YZF-R125

Engine 124cc, 4 valve, injected, single Power 15bhp Torque 9ftlb Weight 127kg Top speed 70mph

Genuine big bike, supersports looks with a durable, economical four-stroke engine. This makes the YZF unique in the class. Yamaha wanted a piece of the Honda CBR125R sales pie and the YZF has made Honda’s recipe look half as appetising. It’s right on the 15bhp limit, but the four-valve head means it needs a few more revs than two-valve alternatives like the CBR to get moving and it can’t quite match the zingy excitement of the two-strokes. But it has the presence of the flashiest without the fragility and running costs of the Italian strokers. And that makes it a surefire winner in our book.

Click here to read Yamaha YZF-R125 owner reviews.

03. Honda CG125

03. Honda CG125

03. Honda CG125

Engine 124cc, 2v, carb’d single Power 11bhp Torque 7ftlb Weight 114kg Top Speed 60mph

The sensible choice. Forget Chinese cheapies and get an old CG if you’re looking for cheap transport. It’s accident, abuse and age-resistant in a way few machines can match, plus you can run one for pence. Launched in 1985 with a few updates since but true to the brief for reliable, basic transport. The air-cooled four-stroke single is extremely dependable and ultra-low maintenance, insurance is cheap and as for fuel consumption – if you had a drink the night before and breathed the fumes into an empty tank, it would get you to college or work (and very probably back again too).

Click here to read Honda CG125 owner reviews.

02. Aprilia RS125

02. Aprilia RS125

02. Aprilia RS125

Engine 125cc, 2-stroke, carb’d, single Power 15bhp Torque 10ftlb Weight 126kg Top speed 70mph

The foremost flash choice for almost 20 years now. Race track looks with handling and brakes to match. Two-stroke, single-cylinder engine can be de-restricted to make between 25 and 33bhp, depending on the model, which would make it illegal, even for 33bhp licence holders, due to its excellent (i.e. too good) power-to-weight ratio. Expensive to run so make sure you’ve got dosh for servicing, insurance and maybe an engine rebuild before you buy. Bikes from 2006 onwards have similar styling to Aprilia’s latest RSV and are the pick of the bunch. Cagiva’s Mito and, more recently, Derbi’s GPR Racing offer similar big bucks, high octane experiences.

Click here to read Aprilia RS125 owner reviews.

01. Yamaha DT125R

01. Yamaha DT125R

01. Yamaha DT125R

Engine 124cc, 2-stroke, carb’d, single Power 14bhp Torque 9ftlb Weight 116kg Top speed 70mph

The best choice of 125 – if your legs are long enough. DT is 20-years-old and still looks fresh. The two-stroke engine’s hard as nails (unlike some of the more fragile European offerings) and it’s a doddle to rebuild. Easily de-restricted to become a 75mph missile (when you’ve passed your test, naturally) and responds magnificently to tuning too. Very capable on the road and in the dirt. No real weak areas and residual values are rock solid. Supermoto ‘X’ model is slightly heavier, more expensive, marginally cooler, but less capable off-road. Get the regular DT125R.

Click here to read Yamaha DT125 owner reviews.

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