2023 Yamaha R125 review on road and track!

2023 R125 Visordown Review

The 2023 Yamaha R125 gets a styling revamp and more for 2023, we flew to Barcelona for a road and track test

IF you’re looking for a CBT-compatible sports bike from a brand you know, the Yamaha R125 is likely going to be near the top of your list of bikes to check out.

Well styled, well equipped and backed up with a level of heritage that few other 125cc sports bikes can match. In this particular category, the Yamaha R125 is a heavy-hitter in the lightweight class. To check the bike out for ourselves, we flew out to Barcelona in Spain, for a road and track test of this CBT-friendly race replica.

2023 Yamaha R125 UK price and PCP example

The base price for the new bike is £5,302 with both the Icon Blue and Tech Black models being available at that price. For those looking for something a little more eye-catching, you could opt for the 60th Anniversary model, priced at £5,502, small change for such an uber-cool pocket rocket.

A £2,000 deposit on the little Yamaha will see you paying 36 monthly payments of just £44 with a mileage limit of 4,000 per year. 

What’s new with the 2023 Yamaha R125

It really was only a matter of time before Yamaha tweaked the styling of the R125, which in the face of stiff competition from the KTM RC125 and Aprilia RS125 had begun to look a little outdated. The good news is that the 2023 update to the R125 has brought the bike bang up to date, with it now sharing a front end with its bigger sibling the highly entertaining Yamaha R7. The changes don’t stop there though, as Yamaha has also graced the new sports bike with an upgrade in tech, thanks to a new TFT and Bluetooth connectivity. The switchgear is also tweaked for 2023 and there is even pre-installed wiring for a quickshifter. For a full rundown of all the new stuff on the 2023 Yamaha R125 can be found here, to find out how it rides, read on.

2023 Yamaha R125 road and track review

First up, it’s worth mentioning that any launch on 125cc machinery is always a perilous affair. Sticking a bunch of journos on lightweight bikes with not much power usually… no, always deteriorates into a flat-out dangerous riding competition. The 2023 Yamaha R125 launch was really no different. It reminds you of the simple side of motorcycling - you have no riding modes to tweak, no lean-sensitive this or IMU-controlled that to save you. Just you, the bike and around 15bhp of learner-legal fury, bouncing off the rev limiter for around 100 miles. And while my original point about a dangerous riding competition did inevitably come true, between the questionable overtakes, late lunges and Marquez-style block passes, we did actually get some time to think about how the bike was to ride.

2023 Yamaha R125 engine

Yamaha has left the 125cc engine of the bike basically as it was. You still get the same 11kw (14.7bhp) peak power and 11.5Nm (8.4lb-ft) of torque as before. You also still get the trick Variable Valve Actuation (VVA) which optimises the valve timing to maximise torque and power. On the press ride of the 2023 R125, I did see that the VVA light on the new TFT dash was illuminated most of the time, meaning the engine is working fairly hard to keep you where you need to be. The engine is also backed up by an assisted and slipper clutch, something that should help out with hamfisted downshifts in bad weather. The new model is also tantalisingly close to being the only 125cc bike with a quickshifter as standard. Fear not though, the optional item isn’t much pocket money and at least the pre-wiring is done so it should be plug-and-play.

2023 Yamaha R125 handling, suspension and brakes

When it comes to its chassis, the R125 has always been a strong contender and something that gained it a bit of a reputation for best handling 125 of the bunch. Yamaha is obviously keen to not rock the boat on that front, as the new bike remains pretty much as it was before. KYB supply suspension, with chunky 41mm non-adjustable forks, and a rear shock adjustable for pre-load only. The frame is still a Deltabox design, and the swingarm is the same cast item as before. Riders will get a new feel to the cockpit though, in the form of a sexy R1-inspired top clamp. It’s a sweet-looking thing and even forged in such a way that it almost looks like a CNC machine item, almost.

2023 Yamaha R125 review

Our first experience with the new R125 was around 60 miles of road riding to reach our lunchtime track venue, the tight and twisty Vendrell go-kart circuit. Normally on a launch like this, the obligatory 10 or 15 miles of motorway riding to get you out and into the mountains is a bit of a chore, but on a 125cc sportsbike like the R125, it basically just becomes a race. From the second we dropped onto the motorway, the inaugural 2023 Yamaha R125 Sipstream GP had begun, and it was quite possibly the most fun I’ve had on a 125cc motorcycle. If you could get the slightest helping hand from the bike in front, you’d take it! And if you were the lucky sod at the back of the group, picking up a very handy three or four-bike slipstream, you were basically quids in. 

By the time we reached the twisty roads to the west of Barcelona, we were giggling hard and revelling in the simple pleasures of trying to hustle a lightweight sportsbike as fast as it would go. After a short break to catch our breath (and relive the questionable overtakes and ‘ohhh that could have been nasty’ moments, we hit some proper roads, seemingly designed by the hillside for you such a motorcycle. It may weigh just 144kg dry, making it a GP featherweight in some ways, you do only have 14.7bhp to play with, and 14.7bhp means you really have to think about every think. Gear selection, line through the corner, and body position; this is where you can make the difference on a bike, and also where you’ll be punished for any errors. You’ve only got 8.1lb-ft of torque from the Yamaha 125cc engine, so you are going to become best friends with the gear lever, and it’s a good thing because the shift on the little Yamaha is very slick and very precise. We didn’t have quickshifters on the bikes we rode on the road, although the track sessions in the afternoon were on bikes with the optional assistance on the upshifts only. Overall, on the road and track the gearbox was great, with the quickshifter smoothing out the upshifts nicely around the tight and twisty go-kart track. Backing up the gearbox is a slip-assist clutch, which has been around on the R125 since its last update. I never really needed it on the road, although on the track it came in very handy. Most of the slower corners on the circuit were second or third geat corners, and you had to try pretty hard to get the bike out of shape when downshifting through the ‘box. If anything, the chirps from the rear on corner entry were probably more down to the fact we were riding on an extremely shiny and well-polished go-kart track and had less to do with the bike’s chassis, tyres, or suspension.

And while we are on the subject of suspension, I was impressed with the poise and feel of the KYB kit fitted to the bike. On the road, it was surprisingly supple over bumps and potholes, and it kind of had me thinking it might be a bit wallowy on the track. While a tad more pre-load in the front would have been nice for the circuit, overall the balance was great. And at the end of the day; how many R125 owners are going to actually ride on a track with their shiny new pocket money purchase!?

Overall, the R125 is a cracker of a bike. The updated styling looks brilliant and brings the learner legal machine in line with the R7 and R1. It’s good value, great fun to ride, surprisingly  comfortable and can genuinely do the things you see in the press and marketing pictures. Add to that the connectivity and TFT for 2023, and it’s a lightweight sports bike that deserves to be on any teenage motorcycle rider’s wishlist.