Yamaha’s YBR125 was one of the world’s unsung motorcycles.
Like its main rival, the Honda CB125F, the YBR proved itself as a cornerstone of motorcycle training schools up and down the country, as well as being a commuter bike of choice for cost conscious riders looking for a strong and reliable motorbike to get around town on.
Launched in 2005, the YBR125 used a simple recipe – namely mixing together tried and tested technology, a low price and the reassurance of having the support of a major manufacturer’s dealer network.
The YBR remained a part of Yamaha’s range until 2017, by which time over 50,000 units had been sold in the UK alone, but with ever tightening emissions laws looming, the YBR125 was axed and replaced by this, the YS125.
At first glance, there’s not much to differentiate the two machines. The basic frame and suspension are more or less the same, but take a closer look and it’s clearer to see the changes that combine to justify the new name.
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The styling has been given a revamp, giving it a more contemporary look than the YBR125 while still keeping things simple. The fuel tank is new, up from 13 to 14 litres in capacity, as are the air ducts – which give a nod to the style of Yamaha’s more premium MT models. The YBR’s old fashioned round headlamp has also gone, with a more modern sculpted item and minimalist handlebar mounted cowling taking its place. Likewise, the black upswept exhaust looks better than the old item, while other bits and pieces like the indicators and lights just have a greater air of modernity to them.
Climb aboard and the YS125 provides a nice neutral riding position. The saddle sits 15mm higher than on the bike it replaces, at 795mm, but the narrow waistline ensures that even shorter riders won’t be intimidated by the YS125. Being a low powered learner bike, it’s unlikely too many YS125s will be used for carrying pillions, however for those who do want to carry passengers, there is the benefit of a pair of generously proportioned grab rails.
Also new is the dashboard, which swaps the classic two binnacle design with a far more up to date arrangement that’s dominated by a large white dialled analogue rev counter that’s supported by an easy to read LCD speedo, fuel gauge and gear indicator.
Starting the YS is a doddle thanks to the electric starter. Thumb the button and the basic air-cooled single cylinder engine whispers inoffensively into life. With a light clutch and gearbox, the YS125 pulls away with all the ease that suggests Yamaha’s place as the riding school’s machine of choice is likely to continue for a while yet.
The main difference between the YS and the YBR that went before it is the engine. Yamaha needed to update the outgoing motor in order to make it comply with the latest round of emissions regulations. It remains a simple to build and maintain air-cooled unit, with just two valves and a single overhead camshaft layout. The cylinder and head are new, creating a longer stroke engine. The result is a cleaner running engine that uses less fuel. With that extra litre in the fuel tank, a carefully ridden YS125 should be good for over 100mpg and 300 miles between refills.
On the open road, the YS125 is lively enough off the mark even if dual carriageways are not its natural environment. With just 10.5bhp at its disposal, the going gets tough as the needle heads towards 60mph, but it is fast enough to get by with and a doodle to ride around town, it’s natural environment.
In the city, the skinny 18” wheels and light weight make for a bike that’s easy going and agile. Acceleration is prompt enough from the lights and the suspension absorbs the worst of the bumps. The linked brakes (known as Unified Braking System in Yamaha speak) works well in the absence of a full ABS system.
For those looking for a bit more practicality, Yamaha has a small range of accessories for the YS125. These include a small windscreen to improve comfort on the open roads, a rear rack and a 30 litre top box, which is perfect for storing a full faced helmet when you park up. Adding some bling, the YS can be customised with some fancy LED indicators front and rear.
Bikes like the YS125 operate in a different space to more premium machines like the KTM Duke 125, Honda CB125R and Yamaha’s own MT-125. These models are A1 compliant bikes packed with the same kind of styling and technology from the bigger bikes while, at the end of the day, the YS has been designed as a workhorse for new riders and those simply looking for an inexpensive runaround. To that end, it builds upon the YBR’s legacy and adds a touch more class. It is cheap to buy, cheap to run and cheap to insure. The reason that this (and also Honda’s CB125F) are so popular is that they bring all that, plus the knowledge that it is supported by a leading brand and their dealer network.
Sure, a number the new generation Chinese brands are also offering similar bikes for less money but, at the time of writing, the YS125 costs less than £3000 and can be had for £39 a month on a PCP deal. For some, that lower purchase price will steer them towards a Lexmoto or Sinnis, but for others, there’s a real reassurance from going with a Japanese brand.
The YS125 and its ilk are not the glamour motorcycles of the world, but the sales figures don’t lie. You can ride them after taking the CBT and for many they are the perfect form of transport. Cheaper than taking the bus, and way more convenient to boot!
|ENGINE TYPE||Air-cooled, four-stroke, single cylinder, two valves|
|BORE X STROKE||52.4×57.9mm|
|MAXIMUM POWER||7.8kW (10.5bhp) @7500rpm|
|MAXIMUM TORQUE||10.8Nm @ 6000rpm|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Telescopic forks|
|FUEL TANK||14 litres|