First Ride

Yamaha Yamaha YZF-R125 (2019) review

Does variable valve timing gives Yamaha’s learner bike the edge? Our man Al went to the press launch to find out.

£ 4499
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Another session delivers more of the same, then we’re back onto an R3 to ride back to the hotel. Next morning is our stint on the R125 on the roads, and we’re set to get a much better impression of how the new engine goes.

And ‘really good’ is the answer. Compared with some sub-15bhp 125s I’ve ridden of late, the little Yam is genuinely lively, with a proper midrange and perfectly-formed mini power curve. You don’t really notice the switchover point of the VVA variable valve timing, but Yamaha has helpfully given us a light on the dash so we know when we’re using the high-speed cam. Vital stuff when you’re 17.

We’re not using that much at the moment though – schlepping out of Valencia at rush hour, it’s more a case of frenzied clutch slipping and fast upchanges on full throttle, than holding peak revs for long. The motor picks up cleanly, and you can easily keep ahead of normal city traffic and get away sharp from the lights.

We’re onto a bigger road now though, a dual-carriageway heading south down the coast. The 125s naturally fall away a bit from the traffic flow as speeds get above 80kph, and you definitely need to plan your overtakes, but get tucked in, measure your gearchanges accurately, and you’re not left far behind. Obviously, being a bunch of simple men-children, all the Brit journos were slipstreaming like (shit) Moto3 riders along the Autovia, desperate for every last kph on the dash. I saw 144kph (90mph) on one downhill, tail-wind-assisted section, and 145kph (91mph) was the record for the tinier journos clad in race leathers. Away from the hills and tailwind, 130kph  is more like the top-speed, but that’s still an indicated 81mph, and decent stuff from a learner bike.

So – those R125 engine designers can take heart – they’ve done a really good job on the engine, and it’s definitely the fastest 125 four-stroke I’ve ridden. Add in the slick new fairing and tasty chassis updates, and the new R125 really does look to be the current king of the learner-bike hill.


All-new unit has a long-stroke layout, SOHC, rocker-arm valve gear, and a cunning variable valve actuation, with separate high- and low-speed cam profiles, and a solenoid-operated pin that locks the respective profiles’ rockers together for high-speed operation.

The motor also gets new 1mm larger valve seats, a wider throttle body (up to 30mm from 28mm), a bigger airbox (5.5 litres from 2.9) and a new oval intake port shape.

The combustion chamber is smaller and more compact, there’s a new thermostat design, and forged piston with a specially treated con rod.

Fuel efficiency is also up, by a claimed five per cent, and you get a new slipper/assist clutch design.


Steel Deltabox beam style unit, with new wider swingarm pivot points.


New design has optimised rigidity and is longer, for better weight distribution.


New 41mm USD Kayaba front fork


New front brake hose layout, pads and ABS unit. Wider 140 section rear tyre


Smart monochrome LCD has bar tacho, customisable greeting message when switched on (so your mates can make your bike call you the C-word), gear indicator and shift light.


New LED headlights, stacked aero tail unit, and all-new fairing, plus a race-style top yoke and front brake lever protector. Built by Yamaha’s MBK subsidiary in France.

Yamaha YZF-R125 (2019) specs




 4v single, SOHC, liquid cooled, 125cc, variable valve timing

Bore x stroke


Compression ratio


Max power (claimed)


Max Torque (claimed)



 six speed gearbox, wet slipper assist clutch, chain drive


 steel Deltabox beam type

Front suspension

 41mm USD fork

Rear suspension

 Aluminium swingarm, monoshock


 292mm disc, four-piston radial mount caliper (front), 220mm disc, single-piston caliper (rear), ABS.


 Cast aluminium/Michelin Pilot Street, 100/80 17 front, 140/70 17 rear





Kerb weight (fully fueled)


Fuel capacity

 11 litres

Rider Aids


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