Honda CB125M and CB125X concept machines

Honda's Italian R&D skunk works gets it bang-on again

Honda CB125M and CB125X Concepts

REMEMBER WHEN 125s were cool? I’m talking about Cagiva Mito cool – a full-beans two-stroke motor, gelded to just 12bhp for learner scrotes, but capable of nearer 30 horses when derestricted. You can add in the Kawasaki KMX125, the water cooled power-valved Yamaha DT and RD125s, hell, even the Honda CB125T twin, with its slick little OHC parallel twin engine, or an original 1976 air-cooled RD125DX with its pre-1982, legal-in-the-UK 17bhp lump. All little bags of fun, with enough power for a laugh, and chassis which could, just about, keep up.

Okay, the death of the two-stroke and the homogenisation of learner laws across the EU spelt the end for interesting 125s, with potential 100mph performance. Eighth-litre fans just get 15bhp four stroke singles now, with a maximum power-to-weight ratio too, whether we like it or not.

But, as ever, the Italians didn’t get the memo. And at the EICMA show in Milan last week, Honda’s Italian R&D centre dedicated its annual jamboree to a bracing pair of slick 125s – which hark back to bikes like the the near-mythical Honda MBX125 of the 1980s. There were two bikes on show – dubbed the CB125M (above, red) and CB125X (below, white). Under the slick exteriors is the latest CB125R motor, frame and swingarm, which we enjoyed, damply, at the launch in Lisbon earlier this year. But the design ninjas at the Honda R&D centre have gone as far as they could with this basic foundation, to build the CB125M mini-supermoto and the CB125X micro-Dakar rep.

Serious specs or build data are hard to come by. Indeed, so little was made of the display at the show that we suspect it was all a bit last minute dot come. I know, it’s a mad thing to think of our Italian cousins. Anyway – doing the MCN-style looking-closely-at-a-picture-and-making-it-up-from-that tells us that the CB125X has some pretty long-travel front forks, wire-spoked rims with race wets (of course), while the CB125M runs slicks and cast rims. Weirdly, the supermoto doesn’t get a front mudguard, while the ADV bike does, and the front brakes are on opposite sides, for sum reezun. SC Project exhausts are present and correct, because of course they are, and we imagine they sound super-sweeeeet.

Most of the work is in the body-work, of course. The X is all sharp lines and KTM-alike angles, while the M has more than a hint of Ducati Hypermotard about it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course.

So – good work from Rome-based design team leader, Valerio Aiello. But it’s all moot without real bikes which we can hoon about on. And we know we’re dreaming here, but surely – surely – it’s time for a firm to build a 125 with more than 15bhp, so there’s a de-restricted future for some of these little gems again. A CB125M, with a 25bhp CRF125-ish engine bolted in there? Now that would definitely be nearly Cagiva Mito-cool…