The Honda CBR125R is a familiar model in a sea of washed up 125s. It first appeared way back in 2004 and has been with us ever since. The original model lasted six years without any major meddling. Very early bikes had carburettors, switching to fuel injection from 2007 (to meet Euro3 emissions regulations), when the fairing was also given a tweak. It’s easy to see why this bike is so popular. The CBR badge alone is worth bragging rights outside the local chippy. It’s not just teenagers who are attracted to the delights of the baby CBR, seasoned riders also appreciate its charms and practicality as an everyday commuter. Honda don’t build rubbish, which explains why these robust learner bikes last so well. The engine is a single cylinder four stroke unit and it’s as tough as old boots.
The first incarnation models might sparkle less than the current crop of hot 125s, but in a world of 13bhp bikes, it’s nothing to get too upset about. Those big bike looks and Honda badge on the tank were a winning formula then and it’s still the case now. When the first generation CBR125R came out it was something of an oddity, as sporty 125s had peppy two-stroke engines and not maintenance free four-bangers. It was ahead of its time though and a huge seller, regularly topping the UK sales figures. Later bikes like the Yamaha YZF-R125 and Aprilia RS4 125 pack more spec for more money, but if you are considering buying your first 125, you won’t go too far wrong with a Honda CBR125R, it’s the sensible sporty 125.
What’s it like to ride?
For a sporty bike it’s actually a comfy riding position. The bars are upright and pegs are fairly low. Taller riders might feel a bit cramped, it is only a 125 after all and even then it doesn’t use the full 11kW allocated to bikes that can be ridden on an A1 licence. On the move, it’s fairly nippy. The four stroke single cylinder engine will get you up to 60mph swiftly. From there though, it’s down to frantic gear changes and flat roads to climb towards 70mph. The chassis is more than capable of dealing with those 13 horses. It feels like a very skinny bike and hides its 136kgs well, making it simple to ride in heavy traffic. Brakes are adequate, as is the suspension. Most second hand bikes will have had their original tyres replaced, and these can make a difference to the riding experience. Good rubber is definitely a bonus. These are bikes that tend to be ridden in all conditions and cheap tyres rarely inspire confidence in wet weather, so go for the reputable brands if you can. Otherwise, despite its size, this is a typical Honda. It does everything very competently, without any major shortcomings. Eighty miles to the gallon is achievable, servicing is simple and 125s historically have low insurance ratings, so it’s very kind on your pocket.
Honda gave the CBR125R a serious makeover for 2011, but for the purposes of this guide, we’re focussing on the earlier examples.
What to look for when buying one.
We spoke to Vinny Styles, Sales Manager at Wheels Motorcycles, the official Honda dealership in Peterborough. He said: “Early bikes are often too shabby for us to entertain in a part exchange deal, but every so often a stunner appears. The life of a CBR125R is never typical. Some bikes have loads of miles on them and are well battered, while others arrive in tip top condition with ridiculously low mileages on them. Being a learner bike, some are bought on a whim then never used after those first few rides. These are one of the models assembled in Honda’s Thailand factory and the build quality is very good.”
What goes wrong with them?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson from the workshops of Grumpy 1260, he added: “We’ve seen good and bad ones of these over the years. Teenagers buy them but not all of them look after them that well. Come MoT time, many bikes will need major investment to pass the test. There’s nothing wrong with the CBR125R, it’s always down to abuse and neglect. Loud pipes are often no more than a standard exhaust that’s had its guts removed and basic maintenance jobs are often overlooked too. That means that worn chains can destroy the sprockets, while ‘pass their best’ pads then eat the discs. That said, older owners can be equally as bad! The older the bikes become the less people want to spend money on maintaining them. For many it’s only a bike that’s part of their journey to getting the next licence or as a cheap way to get to work. The good news is, with so many on the market, good ones aren’t ever too far away. Always buy the best you can.”
Insure your Honda bike through Carole Nash.