Popular 125s ride the recession

STYLE and performance: The big-selling Yamaha YZF-R12.

STYLE and performance: The big-selling Yamaha YZF-R12. - Credit: supplied

Big sports bike sales may have stalled but the 125cc sector remains buoyant. It seems it is not just learners visiting the showrooms either as buyers look to smaller bikes as viable everyday transport.

HIGH specification and value: Honda's CBF125.

HIGH specification and value: Honda's CBF125. - Credit: Paul Harmer

With road tax a miserly £16 a year, cheap insurance ratings and economy of more 100mpg, a four-stroke 125 makes a lot of sense. Add in minimal wear-and-tear costs and a strong second-hand residual value and it becomes clear why the strong sales figures continue to stack up.

The Japanese factories have a long history in this market and Honda particularly offers a wide choice of models in the UK. Its little 125cc air-cooled two-valve single is a byword for reliability and toughness and it’s at the heart of the stylish CB125 road bike.

At just £2,600 it offers outstanding value for a well-equipped bike. Capable of achieving more than 120mpg the CB comes in a slim, unthreatening package with an easy sit-up-and-beg riding position with a dash of modern styling and a neat half fairing.

The little Honda CB is a huge seller on the global market and a market leader in the Asian market. It’s easy to see why – a fuel-injected, electric-start bike easily capable of carrying two people in comfort from the world’s largest bike manufacturer is always going to attract buyers at this price.

For the young buyer looking for something a little sportier Honda offers the CBR125R which comes with a full fairing, sports exhaust and racetrack inspired-colour schme.

But Honda faces a real challenge from one of the big sellers in the UK – the Yamaha YZF125R.

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At around £4,300 it is substantially more expensive than its rivals but appeals to a different set of buyers. This is a standalone model with an engine built purely for this model.

Unlike most of its rivals the little Yamaha produces the full learner legal quota of 15bhp and the liquid-cooled four-valve engine, red-lined at a heady 10,000 rpm, could probably produce considerably more. But rather than just run a restrictor the factory has engineered the YZF to produce a healthy dose of mid-range power, not something readily associated with this class of bike.

The rest of the bike would do credit to a mid-range sports bike with its six-speed gearbox, handsome twin-beam frame and low-slung midship exhaust system. Further close examination will find Brembo brakes and wide Michelin tyres and a neat instrument cluster with a large white-faced rev counter. Suspension is more substantial than rival bikes and a little extra weight adds stability.

The riding position is pretty serious too, with rear-set footrests dropping you forward onto a set of clip-on handlebars behind a full fairing with the rider supported by a cutaway seat and raised pillion pad. Styling is taken straight from the big brothers of the Yamaha family the R6 and R1. It shares their colour schemes as well, the little YZF looking particularly striking in the blue and white design.

The YZF-R is really a sporting lightweight motorcycle that just happens to be a 125 and probably explains why despite a premium price thousands have been sold into the UK market.

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