KTM has just introduced an updated version of its funky Duke 125, but if you’re in the market for a geared 125cc bike that you can ride on a provisional licence, there are plenty of other options out there. Here are 10 of the best:
Yamaha YS125 – £2799
The YS125 is new for 2017, although in reality it is simply an update of the legendary YBR125.
That’s no bad thing as the venerable YBR has probably put more new riders through their tests than any other. It’s a simple air-cooled four-stroke that does exactly what it says on the tin. It’ll get you from A to B with a minimum of fuss and a minimum of costs.
In transforming from YBR to YS, Yamaha has given the old stager a restyle and updated the engine to meet the new Euro4 emissions regulations. Fuel economy is also said to be improved and should be around the 70mpg mark while the light weight and upright riding position means that this easy going roadster is a doodle to ride around town.
Rieju RS3 – £3799
Looking for a new race replica styled 125 but don’t want to spend in excess of £4000?
If that’s the case, Spanish company Rieju may well have the bike for you. The RS3 uses the same Italian made engine as the best selling Yamaha YZF-R125, but uses an old fashioned carburettor rather than fuel injection. That makes it more tuneable and goes some way to accounting for the fact that this is the fastest 125 on the market, with a top speed of around 80mph.
While the chassis and finish isn’t quite up to the standards of the more premium brands, it’s a smart enough set of wheels and well worth a look.
Aprilia RS4 – £4699
Two decades ago, Italian companies Aprilia and Cagiva ruled the learner legal sportsbike market with legendary two-strokes like the RS125 and Mito. Those bikes were the stuff of legend, with tales of 33bhp and 100mph top speeds when derestricted. In true Italian style, they looked a million dollars, even if they did prove to have extremely fragile engines.
Fast forward to today and the latest licencing and emissions laws have made those stinky strokers a thing of the past. Cagiva is no more, just a dormant marque of the MV Agusta company, while Aprilia play to the latest rules with this, the RS4.
This mini superbike still rules in the looks department, aping the style of the 1000cc, 200bhp, RSV4 but under the fairings lies a clean running four-stroke that makes the maximum 11kW allowed under A1 licence rules. Handling is a sharp as the styling though and, if you don’t fancy a faired version, a naked Tuono version has been released for 2017, putting the same mechanical package in a streetfighter styled design. It’s still super expensive though, at £4599.
KTM RC125 – £4299
If you like the Duke 125 but fancy something sportier, the RC125 is the bike for you.
Like most of their competitors, KTM’s faired and unfaired models are essentially the same bikes – simply adding fairings and low clip on handlebars to the racier versions.
The RC125 shares its chassis with the RC390, giving it a bigger bike feel when compared to rivals. With its exposed trellis frame and wider tyres, the RC feels more substantial than its competitors – it’s also the best handling bike in the class too.
Like all learner legal bikes, the RC125 is restricted to 11kW (14.75bhp) but the twin cam Austrian engine feels stronger than most at the bottom end, further adding to its reputation as the most ‘grown up’ of the A1 licence bikes on the market.
Yamaha MT-125 – £4299
Yamaha’s mini-supersport style YZF-R125 has consistently been one of the best selling bikes in the British market since it’s introduction in 2008, but in many ways its naked cousin, the MT-125, is a far better town bike.
It’s essentially the YZF-R125 without a fairing, but the raised bars also give it a more comfortable riding position that provides a more commanding view in city traffic. It’s also the most obvious alternative to the Duke 125 although at £4299, it’s not the cheapest option out there.
Suzuki GSX-R125 – price TBC
They’re not in showrooms yet, but Suzuki’s GSX-R125 (and the unfaired GSX-S125) are already creating quite a stir after being unveiled at last year’s winter shows.
The new bikes mark Suzuki’s first serious entry into the 125 class (setting aside the retro VanVan) and feature an all-new chassis and engine.
Like Honda and Yamaha, Suzuki are giving their 125 a flagship moniker and looks to match. The new bikes will be in showrooms in a few months time and could well go straight to the top of the British sales charts.
Lexmoto Viper – £2249
Lexmoto was Britain’s biggest selling 125cc brand in 2016 and has a huge range of geared bikes, ranging from £1149 to £2249.
Those new bikes at the top end of the price range really take Lexmoto to a new level, moving them from budget rebadged Chinese bikes to modern 125s that should be much closer to the likes of the Honda CBF125 and Yamaha YBR125 in terms of performance and quality.
The 2017 Viper is a funky looking roadster that comes complete with a Euro4 compliant, fuel injected air cooled engine with a five speed gearbox. Build quality looks good and the styling youthful, although that adventure bike style ‘beak’ is sure to polarise opinion. Spec is high too, not just through the likes of the good spec upside down forks, but also the novelty of a built in sound system. At £2249, it’s a good £500 cheaper than the new (and rather more basic) Yamaha YS125.
AJS Cadwell – £1898
AJS is an old British brand from way back in the day.
Despite its chequered history, the company holds the honour of being the first ever premier class motorcycle Grand Prix champions (now MotoGP) when Leslie Graham won the 500cc title on an AJS.
These days AJS makes small capacity bikes in China, but the latest range pay tribute to the company’s rich racing heritage.
Named after the quaint old circuit in Lincolnshire, the Cadwell is a retro style café racer that’s got a really authentic Brit bike look. According to the company blurb, the Cadwell ‘captures the spirit of motorcycles from the 50s and 60s’ and although performance from the basic package is nothing to write home about, if you want a classically styled 125, the AJS might be right up your street.
Mash Black 7 – £2299
Mash is a French brand that specialises in building trendy small bikes that cash in on the current ‘Bike Shed’ trend.
Like the AJS, the bikes are manufactured in China and feature old school air-cooled engines that add to the authentic look and feel. The £2299 Black 7 is new for this year but looks like it’s just ridden straight out of the 1960s.
It’s a style that’s very now and there are plenty of neat touches that defy the lowly price tag, such as the fat alloy handlebars, piggy back shock absorbers and LED rear light.
Honda MSX125 – £3293
Honda has a seemingly never ending range of 125s to fit all manner of tastes and bank balances.
From the workhorse CB125F to the sporting CBR125R, the Big H has the product to more than match its competitors but has one special ace up its sleeve – the MSX125.
Known in America as the Grom, this fun sized bike has a massive cult following. It’s small in stature, around three quarter sized, but big on fun. In fact, few motorcycles of any capacity deliver as many smiles as the MSX.
With its 12” wheels, the agile little Grom handles like a roller skate. It’s a piece of cake to ride and looks as cool as they come, especially in the bright red and yellow colour schemes. There’s a massive scene in customising these and a real club culture with them. If you want fun on a 125, it’s well worth considering the MSX125.
Wanna ride a 125? If you’re 17 or older, you’ll be able to ride a 125cc motorcycle or scooter on a provisional licence, provided its power doesn’t exceed 11kW.
Before hitting the road, you’ll need to pass your compulsory basic training, or CBT as it is commonly known, which is a one day orientation carried out by training schools up and down the country. Following that, you can ride on your own for up to two years (after which you’ll need to retake the CBT), provided you display L plates front and rear, don’t carry a passenger and don’t go on motorways.
If you want to get around those restrictions, you’ll have to take your bike test. Passing this on a 125 means that you’ll have an A1 licence though, meaning you can still only ride bikes of up to 125cc.