When it comes to commuting, two wheelers rule the city streets. From 50cc scooters to 600cc sized trail bikes, the traffic-busting ability of bikes make cars, trains, diesel belching buses or sweating along on a push bike seem like a slow day in hell.
Honda’s handy little CG125 single has been around since the mid 1970s and remains one of the all time best selling machines for the Japanese company. It offers basic transport, with few luxuries, but its ancient pushrod four stroke motor has certainly stood the test of time. Reliability is the CG125s middle name.
Now mainly manufactured in developing economies like China, Malaysia, India,Brazil and Turkey, the CG125 seems a fairly expensive way to commute, when compared against the stylish – and well equipped – 125cc scooters from Asian and European factories, which retail at much the same price. You can buy the humble CG as a parallel import however, for substantially less than the official Honda UK cost, which makes a potential workhorse for the cash strapped commuter.
Low tech it may be, but the Honda CG125 is easily capable of returning over 100mpg at a steady 60mph all day. Welcome news in the land of the world’s most expensive unleaded petrol.
Remember Spam? We used to have it for tea once a week – a great fat lump of non specific meat product, fried senseless with chips and beans. God we had it rough in the war, I can tell you… But the point about Spam was that it filled a gap. It was never meant to be, and never pretended to be, anything else than basic, cheap food. Likewise, the Honda CG125, which has been trundling blokes to their factory jobs since 1975, never once aspired much beyond plodding reliably onwards.
This particular CG was loaned to me by DK Motorcycles in Newcastle Under Lyme, Staffordshire, who import them from Turkey, where Honda have one of their many subsidiary plants worldwide, churning out basic scooters/C90s/CG125s which are aimed at…well, blokes who trundle to factory jobs, I guess.
In fact the CG125, largely unchanged for a quarter of a century, probably makes ten times the profit for Honda worldwide than the CBR600 does. The humble single is made under licence by the 100,000 in China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Brazil… any country where a huge percentage of the population can’t afford a car.
At just £1699 on the road, it’s also about £500-£800 cheaper than many of the trendy urban scooter/commuter machines currently available in the UK too, making the Honda a serious choice for the commuter who puts hard cash way before groovy styling.
Another thing struck me whilst looking closely at the spartan CG125; how many teenage joyriders would want to be seen on one? That’s gotta be a security bonus if your journey ends in a car park on a dodgy industrial estate.
The 124cc four stroke single cylinder engine makes slightly less power than the typical 1990s 125cc bike, probably in the region of 9bhp, but is torquey enough to get you moving OK. It soon runs out of steam however and the crude four speed gearbox, which is set with neutral at the top, then 1st-4th straight down on the lever, takes some getting used to.
It’s a knack you need to learn, or you will find false neutrals, which can be unnerving in traffic. Ditto the brakes, which needed an immense pull on the lever compared to modern hydraulic discs. The CG125 of course makes do with drum brakes front and back, which are probably fine for dodging stray oxen on the plains of Mongolia, but less appealing amongst the cut and thrust of Staffordshire’s busy ring roads. There are few luxuries on the CG125. The saddle is OK, but a bit on the hard side for any longer trips. Although you could squeeze a pillion passenger on if you needed, I couldn’t recommend it – this is a physically small bike.
The switchgear consists of a simple left-right indicator, horn and lights, with a single speedo clock as your ‘dash’. There’s no electric start on this motorised mule of course, just a kickstart lever which was easy to operate. The mirrors were OK, but a bit wobbly as the CG125 has a much higher level of vibration than a modern four stroke single. It’s also up to the owner to fit an unfeasibly large topbox, if he or she wants to carry anything.
Riding it was an almost surreal experience; I felt like I was back in 1981, waiting for Thatcher to throw me on the dole then send the SPG round to duff up my ethnic neighbours. I think at one point I saw Billy Bragg trying to thumb a lift to Stoke Job Centre…
For all its crude charm however, I could not live with the CG125 as the 21st century dawns. For sure, its 100mpg fuel consumption, bullet proof reliability and stoic 60mph-all-day performance stack up fine as a basic commuting motorcycle – it does the job, full stop.
Yet the reason 1.8 million of these things are churned out in China, Vietnam, Brazil etc. every year is that those countries need transport, at a rock bottom price, whilst we overfed, bone idle Europeans, usually want some two wheeled kicks at the weekend. Even when commuting, a little style, speed and late braking can make the journey a pleasure, rather than a chore. If you shop around carefully, £1700 buys a very decent used commuter bike or scooter, which is going to be a barrel load of fun compared to the outdated Honda.
There is still a place for the CG125 Honda, but it belongs parked outside the Museum of Spam.
Get Honda motorbike insurance for the honda cg 125.
Engine……….Single cylinder, 4 stroke, air cooled, cc 124
Claimed power (bhp)……….110bhp @ 6,500rpm
Front brake……….TLS drum
Fuel capacity……….12 litres
Buying Info ……….£1699