Yamaha YZF-R125 (2008 - 2013) review

If ever there was a bike on which to act out youthful fantasies of MotoGP stardom, this is it.
The best 125 learner machine out there, bar none.
It's only a 125!

There are at least 1,843 good reasons why Yamaha have taken the trouble to develop the YZF-R125. That’s the number of CBR125Rs that Honda sold in the UK last year. Add to that all the CBRs flogged in Europe and in the two previous years, and it adds up to a convincing reason to build a serious challenger.

And the YZF-R125 is exactly that. At a glance this four-stroke single looks amazingly like its big brother the R6, and even like Valentino Rossi’s YZR-M1. If ever there was a bike on which to act out youthful fantasies of MotoGP stardom, this is it.

The R125’s size keeps the illusion going. Dry weight is 126.5kg but its 1355mm wheelbase means it’s only 25mm shorter than the R6. Unlike most 125s the Yam is aimed at a typical European rider weighing 11 stones. It’s very much a European product: designed, developed and produced in Italy.

That design is all new, centred on a liquid-cooled, SOHC four-valve motor that kicks out a learner-legal max of 15bhp at 9000rpm. Chassis design is based on a typical R-series Deltabox frame layout, made from steel rather than aluminium. The swingarm is aluminium, working a monoshock adjustable only for preload. Up front are non-adjustable 33mm forks.

After I’d thrown a leg over its fairly high seat on the launch in Valencia, the R125 felt reasonably roomy even for my 6ft 4in. The white-faced analogue tacho and digital speedo enhanced the big-bike feel but the narrow fork-tops, skinny clip-ons, cable-operated clutch and non-adjustable levers confirmed that this was no superbike. So did pressing the starter button to send the engine into life with a dull, lawnmower-like wheeze. You expect it to roar, but it doesn’t.

Inevitably, straight-line performance was more Briggs & Stratton than YZR-M1, though that didn’t prevent the R125 from being fun. In town the racy looking Yam proved at home. Its riding position isn’t extreme with high clip-ons and low footrests making it comfortable.

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