Review: One week with a Honda CBF125

To CBF or not to CBF? That is the question.

WITH the CBF125 and CBR125R sat side-by-side in the Honda (UK) Institute, it didn't take me long to know which one I wanted for the week.

The CBR makes 2hp more and has better components, a larger more sporty rear tyre, and it also looks better. It was a complete no brainer.

Unfortunately, great minds think alike and Visordown Editor Steve was on the same track. I know my place, and so off I went on the CBF.

My worse fears were confirmed when we hit a section of the M25. Steve, maintaining consistent motorway speeds astride his 13hp steed, looked at me smugly as I jousted in between lorries at 65mph; every so often pulling out into the middle lane for an ambitious overtake, only to be overcome by air resistance.

However, after leaving the motorway and spending some time on twisty roads, I started to grow more and more fond of the little CBF. Its 11hp air-cooled engine may be less powerful on paper, but in practice it actually feels more torquey than the CBR. When power is at this much of a premium, speed mostly comes down to gearing and aerodynamics, and a little drag race confirmed that both bikes are almost identical in speed up to roughly 40mph, when the revvy CBR begins to slowly pull away.

And after swapping bikes for an hour, I began to appreciate the F even more. It may not be the most desirable looking motorcycle but it's really easy to get along with. For starters, the steering lock angle is endless making U-turns easy as pie, the gearbox is much smoother than the R, it has a comfortable seat and riding position, and at £2,600 it's almost £1,000 cheaper than the CBR.

You're unlikely to get very far trying to persuade a 17-year-old to opt for the CBF over the R on the basis of its practical nature alone, but with its significantly lower price in mind and the comparable performance it offers, it's more than worth a second thought. And that's before you even get into running costs; the F returned 99mpg to the R's 91mpg on our test route, it's also in insurance group four, two lower than the CBR.

The main difference between the two bikes comes down to handling though, as opposed to outright speed. The front and rear suspension on the CBF is far too soft leading to a bouncy and unsettled ride. So if dreams of knee-down and high-speed cornering without ending up in a hedge are you're thing, best to go with the CBR. 

Motorcycle licensing rules are currently as tough as ever restricting anyone from the age of 17-19 to a 125cc class bike. It's unfair, untrusting, and older certainly doesn't mean more skilled. But if a week on the CBF taught me anything, it's that little power doesn't equate to little fun. 

Model tested: Honda CBF125

Price: £2,600 OTR

Power: 11hp

Fuel economy on test: 99.6mpg

Tank capacity: 13L

Seat height: 792mm

Colours: red, white, black

Availability: Now