With motorcycle licensing categories becoming stricter for new riders some six years ago, the learner bike class has become increasingly competitive, with manufacturers producing new entry-level machines. With a 25-year break in the sports 125cc market for Kawasaki, they’re now back in 2019 with the superb looking, A1 compliant, Ninja 125. Zoe Turner went to Spain to try it out for Insidebikes.
Kawasaki says that its extensive research revealed that potential owners value the design and styling as the primary factor when choosing a bike, so their new, learner legal, Ninja 125 (as well as the similar but unfaired Z125) have genuine big bike looks.
Undeniably part of the Ninja family and echoing the bright KRT livery first seen on the 2018 ZX-10R, this baby Ninja could easily be mistaken for holding a larger capacity engine. Immediately noticeable is the bright green tubular trellis frame which, although slim and compact, still runs 17″ wheels and has generous proportions. In turn, this will help the new rider become familiar with riding a full-size motorcycle in later years.
Kitted up on a crisp winter morning, we departed downtown Malaga at rush hour and headed off for a day testing the new Kawasaki. Zipping between the traffic and familiarising myself with the bike, the Ninja immediately felt so light and nimble at just 148kg. Its ergonomics have been designed to fit in with the rest of Kawasaki’s sportsbike family, but despite sporting race replica styled clip-on handlebars, the riding position is not as aggressive as its bigger siblings, resulting in no discomfort in the wrists after a long ride. That’s also a bonus for new riders, allowing them to adapt easily to their first sports bike. It’s comfortable to ride, with the slightly lower pegs ensuring that taller riders’ knees aren’t under their ears either.
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The Ninja’s 37mm telescopic forks and rear shock (which is adjustable for pre-load) made light work of the Spanish streets and the sometimes fractured mountain roads. The suspension soaks up bumps with ease but is still firm enough in the twisties. The brakes are also very capable, with 290mm front and 220mm rear petal brake discs, and the ABS worked as you would expect, especially when greeted with a dozen goats darting in every direction on the mountain road.
The engine is a liquid cooled four-stroke single, producing 14.7bhp and 11.7Nm torque in line with A1 licence regulations. As you’d imagine with these figures, the revs need to be kept up to get the best out of this Kawasaki Ninja. The dash has a clear display of what you’d expect to see, however, it is quite basic, showing only revs, speed, trip, clock, and fuel gauge – with no gear indicator.
The bike pulls well and will keep up with traffic with ease, but there’s not much steam left after 60mph, so you’ve really got to plan any overtakes. That said, it’s no different to other bikes in the class. Heading up onto the mountain roads we encountered only a handful of other vehicles, which was a great opportunity to see how well this 125cc went. There is no quickshifter, but the gearbox was smooth and you need to keep it pinned and at high revs on inclines. During some enthusiastic down gearing for a tight corner, the rear briefly locked as there’s no slipper clutch.
Compared to the competition, the Kawasaki Ninja 125 comes in at £4,399, which is more expensive than the Honda CBR125R and the Suzuki GSX-R125. However it is a similar price to the Yamaha YZF-R125, but the Yamaha has more trick bits for the money.
Overall, the Kawasaki DNA runs deep and the Ninja 125 is a fantastic and affordable little bike that’s perfect for a new rider to enter the sports bike world.
Author Zoe Turner is a big part of the UK’s motorcycling community and one of the country’s leading social media commentators. Her garage boasts not one, but two Kawasaki ZX-10Rs and a Kawasaki ZX-6R track bike. It’s safe to say that this two-wheeled fiend is Kawasaki through and through. You can join Zoe on her Kawasaki fuelled adventures on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zoe2104/