Versus

Versus: KTM Duke 125 vs Yamaha YZF-R125

The choice between two of the hottest 125s is more than one of faired vs naked

THEY are two of the most desirable 125s available. One is £350 cheaper and comes with ABS as standard. Does that make it the better buy?

Reasons to buy KTM Duke 125

Reasons to buy Yamaha YZF-R125

  • KTM doesn't do conservative styling. If you're looking for an attitude, the Duke is the one.
  • You won’t find a better-looking 125. But that’s obvious. You’ve got eyes.
  • It's tiny and extremely chuck-able. Its stiff steel trellis frame is overqualified - it's the same as the 43hp Duke 390's.
  • It doesn’t just look like a proper sports bike. It stops and handles like one too.
  • It's right on the power limit for A1 licence holders, at 15hp.
  • It's also right on the power limit for A1 licence holders, at 15hp.
  • Its brakes are excellent and from 2014 it comes with superb Bosch ABS as standard.
  • If you’ve a mind to, you can tune them for more power (after gaining the appropriate licence, naturally). There’s a Malossi 182cc big-bore kit.
  • It's £350 cheaper than the R125, enough to buy a decent helmet.
  • Googling 'R125 build quality' doesn't turn up too much to worry about. Now try the same for 'Duke 125'.
  • It's got a decent steering lock, useful for passing your test.
  • It's got a fairing.
  • Its slightly lower seat height is also potentially more novice-friendly.

Price: £3,999 plus OTR
Capacity: 124.7cc
Power: 15hp
Dry weight: 127kg
Seat height: 800mm

Price: £4,349 OTR
Capacity: 124.7cc
Power: 15hp
Wet weight: 138kg
Seat height: 818mm

Our choice: YZF-R125

The KTM handles and goes just as well, it looks just as good, it's cheaper and, unlike the R125, comes with ABS. But it doesn't win this comparison.

It has more reasons in its favour but the R125 has a bigger one: the promise of reliability. It is not hard to find internet forum threads of Duke 125 owners listing faults. Complaints include bad fuelling, flaky paint and minor but persistent electrical problems.

A few years ago we might have said buy the KTM, have a laugh, do your test and sell it. But now riders turning 17 are limited to a 125s for two years. What they choose has to last and ideally hold some value.

For the sake of £350, the Yamaha has it for peace of mind. Just remember though, if you lock the front, Mr Bosch isn't there to help.