For any motorcycle to remain in a manufacturers range for a decade, it needs to be good. For that same model to dominate sales within its class, it needs to be special. That’s exactly what the Yamaha YZF-R125 is and explains why, for 10 years, it’s consistently been one of the best selling bikes in the highly competitive A1 licence, 125cc, class.
It’s easy to see why the YZF-R125 is a winner. When it comes to looks it’s got the competition beat. Its R1 inspired looks are only half of the story and the 125cc Yamaha reveals that its beauty is more than skin deep. Its dimensions are large for a bike in the 125 class, which gives the illusion of a bigger machine. It’s only the L plates and performance that give the game away.
Launched in 2008, it had the popular Honda CBR125R in its sights. For six years it did the job well, so in 2014 an update was given to keep it top of the class. Yamaha didn’t fiddle around too much, although there were a few cosmetic changes, a funky new LCD clock set fitted and ABS was also made available. A naked version, the MT-125, was also introduced at the same time.
Although principally designed to appeal to learners, the bike is much more than a stepping stone to a full motorcycle licence. Despite increased competition, particularly from the sporty Aprilia RS4 125 and KTM RC 125, the Yamaha YZF-R125 shows no signs of losing its grip on its dominance of the 125cc class.
What’s it like to ride?
For a small bike it feels pretty big. The seat height measures in at 825mm and sets the tone for the whole package. It’s easy to see why it’s a hit with taller riders who require a 125. It is a race replica, so the bars are on the low side. It hides its 142kg well. Unlike it’s bigger brothers, the R1 and the R6, the Deltabox frame isn’t made from alloy but steel. The long stroke motor is tuned for maximum torque and it’s got quite a punch for a 125 four stroke. The fuel injection is spot on and if ridden conservatively, it will return you 50mpg. The 14.7bhp single is good for 70mph, but find a road long enough and it will eventually nudge 80mph. The posh looking suspension is non-adjustable, although this isn’t an issue as it works well. The 41mm upside down forks are not just for show.
What to look for when buying a Yamaha YZF-R125?
We spoke to Vinny Styles, Sales Manager at Wheels Motorcycles in Peterborough to get his thoughts on the entry level to Yamaha’s R-series. He said: “There are not too many faults with this model. Your biggest issue is trying to find one that’s still standard. The first thing your average learner will do is junk the standard exhaust, although not all replacements are an upgrade. Poor maintenance is also something that affects not just this model, but 125s in general. The older the bikes get, the less inclined owners are to take them to a main dealer for servicing schedules. A competent home mechanic can handle keeping a YZF-R125 on the straight and narrow, although he can’t unfortunately stamp the service book. This will have an impact on a bike’s used value down the line. Bodywork is one area where the YZF-R125 does suffer as it’s quite fragile and prone to the odd crack. Bikes that have been owned by learners will also carry the odd war wound. Always HPI any potential purchase to double check it hasn’t had more than a ‘roll off the side stand’ moment.”
What goes wrong with them?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson from Grumpy 1260, a motorcycle workshop in Norfolk. He added: “Neglect is the biggest problem. Often avoidance to do one job will lead to another issue being created. The engine is solid, keep it topped up with oil and it won’t let you down. Some owners find the YZF-R125 over geared as it can struggle to pull sixth gear, especially if you’re a larger rider, but we tend to advise leaving the gearing stock. Corrosion can be a problem. Polishing the fairing is one thing, but many people fail to take it off now and again in order to wash the engine area. Swapping exhausts can often result in snapped studs and, at worst, needing to take the engine out to drill any remaining stud from the cylinder head.”