2009 Most Important...Yamaha YZF-R125

The littlest, cutest Yam has reawakened youth to the idea of misspending it riding motorcycles, which has got to be a good thing. We should all know better, but just can’t help ourselves

Why’s it so important?

Okay, okay, it’s a tiddler and it wasn’t actually launched in 2009. But this year has seen a growth in sales of this bike in absolute parallel with the number of spotty would be ASBO recipients taking to two wheels instead of getting lashed on cheap cider and threatening little old ladies down the precinct. So thank Yamaha for that.

As kids, most of us here hankered after Yamaha RDs and DTs, dreaming of the day we could replace pedal power with the screaming resonance of pistons, thrashing up and down, belching out sweet-smelling two-stroke fumes, the blue haze a lingering airborne signature as we lived out our Wayne Rainey fantasies, complete with Marlboro paddock jacket billowing in the breeze. Of course nowadays we have to save the planet, so we’ve been left with strangulated four-strokes. Until the YZF-R125, the only other option was the fairly staid and somewhat wheezy Honda CBR125R, a bike that never quite lived up to teenage expectations in the same way the feisty Yamaha does.

There’s little wonder this bike has done so well. It’s a slimmed down R6 or R1, available as a pukka race replica in full Fiat Yamaha livery for the die-hard Rossi fan. It’s seriously stunning and it’s getting more seventeen-year-old backsides on bikes than we’ve seen in a long while. If the Yamaha YZF-R125 can play its part in ensuring a future generation of bikers over Vauxhall Corsa-driving halfwits with garish body kits and obscene stereo systems, then it will be a job well done.

The ride

Having been spoilt as a bike journalist for the last ten years, it would be easy to imagine that getting a go on this machine wouldn’t exactly excite me.

But you’d be wrong. Jumping on this bike in jeans and jacket and thrashing the pants off it round town takes me right back to my youth. Hell, even my riding gets worse as all I can think about is how fast I can make it go and whether or not I’m likely to pull Stephanie Miles from form 5B after she’s seen me outside the college gates leaning against my road rocket, coolly sucking on a Marlboro Light. As a thirty-five-year-old bloke with a mortgage and bills to pay, the Yamaha does things to me, takes me away to a special place, that place we all inhabited as a teenager, a world full of testosterone and devoid of responsibility.

It takes me a while to even remember that traffic laws still apply, that getting T-boned by the aforementioned Corsa driver is still a distinct possibility and that I’m not, as I certainly always thought as a youth, utterly invincible.

Pulling away on the little Yamaha requires a fair dose of revs to compete in the inner city traffic light GP, but once the elastic’s been wound up, the YZF-R really sings, lurching through a surprisingly slick gearbox as I desperately try to keep the revs above 6,000rpm. Once it’s there, it’s all about momentum. Slipstreaming becomes an all-important art – whether it’s another motorcycle or an elderly lady in a Nissan Micra makes no odds – forward motion must be maintained at all costs.

Unlike a few of its Fisher-Price competitors, there’s a real feeling of big bike quality to the Yamaha. Naturally, this is reflected in the price and at £3,699 for this plain blue version, you’re going to need to either deliver papers to half of the UK or have a pretty generous set of parents.

But you do get what you pay for. The suspension and brakes have a feel about them that lets you get on with carrying speed everywhere with confidence, in a way that even the least experienced rider can enjoy, all the while feeling like a MotoGP god, albeit one with serious acne and a penchant for alcopops and kebabs.

In the same way that the RD and DT induced the teenage trouser tent, twenty-five years on, the YZF-R125 is doing it all over again for Yamaha, bringing fresh blood to our wonderful world of motorcycling that until this year had fewer and fewer new members. And for that, we should be thankful.

This is the first proper Japanese 125 for ages, and it looks cracking. It goes like most other 125s, which isn’t so good, but if this spawns a new generation of tiddlers (bikes and riders) then this can only be a good thing.

Rating: 4/5

  • FOR: Quality build, four-stroke reliability and good with kids
  • AGAINST: Crap steering lock, not exactly fast and looks faster than it is

2009 Yamaha YZF-R125 Specs

Price: £3699
Top speed: 77mph
Engine: 124.66cc, 4 valves, liquid-cooled single
Bore and stroke: 52mm x 58.6mm
Compression ratio: 11.2:1
Power: 14bhp @ 9,000rpm
Torque: 9lb/ft @ 8,750rpm
Front suspension: Telescopic forks
Adjustment: None
Rear suspension: Monoshock
Adjustment: None
Front brakes: Twin-piston Brembo calipers, 292mm discs
Rear brake: Singe-piston Brembo caliper, 230mm disc
Wet weight: 138kg (304lbs)
Seat height: 818mm
Fuel capacity: 13.8 litres
Colour options: Red/Blue/Black