Everyone knows that learner motorcycles have to meet several requirements. There’s an engine capacity cap of 125cc and a maximum power output of 11kw (14.75bhp), and typically the bikes themselves take the form of scooters, nakeds, race replicas and simple old-fashioned roadsters.
So if you’re restricted to L plates, or an A1 licence, your choice of bike is somewhat limited. But if you do want something a little bit different there are a few alternatives out there that will have your fellow road users doing a double take, like these…
Honda make a seemingly never ending range of 125s. There are the best selling scooters (the PCX125 and Forza), the basic CB125F, the funky Super Cub, the sporty CBR125R and the premium CB125R naked.
But alongside that comprehensive range of learner legal bikes lies a real cult hero. The MSX125, better known by its American name of ‘Grom’, is a three-quarters sized mini-streetfighter that’s about as much fun as you can possibly get on a motorcycle.
The MSX is an absolute hoot with its roller skate agility and out there styling. There’s a massive Grom scene and a whole sub culture of MSX modification going on for those who like to stand out even more. A few years back, Honda also reintroduced the Monkey name on a new 125 that shares the MSX platform, giving a dash of retro cool in the style of the famous Z series bikes of the 1960s.
You possibly haven’t heard of Mutt Motorcycles, but that’s ok.
The Birmingham company have been building custom bikes for over 15 years now, but it’s only recently that they made the transition from bike modifiers to proper bike manufacturers.
The bikes start out life as cheap Chinese built commuters, powered by tried and trusted Suzuki based engines, and are finished at Mutt’s Birmingham workshops, where they are given a custom ‘Bike Shed’ look before hitting the road.
The Hilts comes in grey or green colour options and looks like the kind of sled Steve McQueen would have raced through the desert in the 1970s. The hand stitched seat is super cool and the 18” wheels come complete with big knobbly tyres that look ultra authentic.
If you want a trendy 125 that looks like you’ve built it yourself (albeit to a very high standard) then the Hilts should definitely be on your shortlist.
Suzuki RV125 VanVan
Possibly even more authentic is the Suzuki VanVan, a modern interpretation of the 1970s ‘recreational vehicle’ that was as cool back then as it remains today.
Designed to be the perfect accompaniment on a camping holiday, the VanVan has big balloon tyres capable to tackling light off-road terrain, such as fire tracks and beaches. It was reintroduced in 2003 and given fuel injection in 2007.
It’s a bit soft and squidgey to ride, and even though it’s not the fastest or sharpest handling 125 on the market, it’s still lots of fun – in a laid back way. For A2 licence holders, there’s also a 200cc version, with (a little) more power on tap.
Like the idea of a scooter but want the added security of an extra wheel up front?
Years before the Yamaha NIKEN came the Tricity, a three-wheeled 125cc scooter with two wheels up front and one behind. The concept itself wasn’t completely new (Piaggio’s MP3 had been around since 2006) but the execution was much more simple (and lighter) than those which had gone before it.
The result is a scooter that largely rides like a conventional two-wheeler but which has much more front end grip. That makes it very reassuring to ride, especially on slippery road surfaces likes cobblestone and in the rain.
The Tricity is as narrow and practical as any other scooter on the market. It feels a little heavier and less powerful than some of the sportier 125s out there, but as an urban commuter it has more than enough pep.
Zero S 11kw
Breaking the 125 mould is this electric offering from American manufacturers Zero Motorcycles.
They make 11kw, A1 legal versions of their S and DS models – the DS being the dual sport adventure bike and the S being the sporty naked.
Despite complying as a learner bike thanks to its 11kw of continuous power, the Zero makes peak power of 44bhp and has a staggering 106Nm of torque – that’s more than a 1200cc Triumph Bonneville T120 twin.
As a result, the Zero is very lively for a learner bike, even though the fully automatic twist and go transmission means that there are no gears to worry about.
With no petrol to worry about and no moving parts in the engine to service, running costs are claimed to be super low too. And the range, almost 180 miles between recharges in the city, is more than enough for most commuters too.