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What is the best 125cc motorbike to buy?

Top 10 used 125s

Top 10 used 125s

FORGET superbikes, adventure bikes or hyper nakeds; it’s 125cc machines that rule the British bike market.

Whether you’re still on an L-plate or just looking for a knockabout city commuter, 125s the obvious option. No surprise, then, that they make up the lion’s share of the bike market. There are some 290,000 bikes in the 51cc-125cc class on the road in the UK, making up 22.9% of all bikes and by far the largest category. Last year alone, some 52,900 were sold here, equivalent to more than one in three registrations.

But you don’t want a new one, do you? Why not let someone else swallow the depreciation? Grab the right used 125 and it will always be worth pretty much the same as you paid, and the market’s voracious appetite for them means it should be easy to sell.

But which should you choose? Read on to discover our picks.

Forget superbikes, adventure bikes or hyper nakeds; it’s 125cc machines that rule the British bike market.

Whether you’re still on an L-plate or just looking for a knockabout city commuter, 125s the obvious option. No surprise, then, that they make up the lion’s share of the bike market. There are some 290,000 bikes in the 51cc-125cc class on the road in the UK, making up 22.9% of all bikes and by far the largest category. Last year alone, some 52,900 were sold here, equivalent to more than one in three registrations.

But you don’t want a new one, do you? Why not let someone else swallow the depreciation? Grab the right used 125 and it will always be worth pretty much the same as you paid, and the market’s voracious appetite for them means it should be easy to sell.

But which should you choose? Read on to discover our picks.

However good your imagination, a 125cc cruiser is never going to fulfil those Route 66 daydreams and in terms of performance or handling it’s hard to make a case for them in the face of far more accomplished alternatives.

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But for some people only a cruiser will do, either thanks to their low seats or simply the chrome-clad style. If you’re one of them then the baby Marauder is the best option. Despite being discontinued back in 2011, there’ve been a constant couple of thousand on the road ever since, hinting at strong reliability. There are always dozens to choose from and since they didn’t change much from 1998 to 2011, prices reflect condition more than age. Look after yours and you’ll get most of your money back when you trade up.

Price range: £800-£2000

Engine: 124cc, 12bhp, air-cooled single

For many people a 125 is just a means to an end; you’ve got to ride one at some stage on your way to a full licence. But if you want to do it with some style then KTM’s 125 Duke is worth a look.

Chiming in on the fashion for powerful, superbike-based naked bikes, the Duke can claim family ties with the insane 1299 SuperDuke R. At a legal-limit 15bhp, it’s got less than a 10 th of the power, of course, but it’s still bags of fun with a premium appeal. A high-ish seat (810mm) means it’s not for shorties and prices are still pretty firm so don’t expect to bag a three-figure bargain unless you’re rummaging among the insurance write-offs.

The new 2017 version is better still, but as yet rare on the used market.

For race-rep fans, the Duke’s faired RC125 cousin – which shares most of its components – is perhaps the most desirable current 125cc sports bike, but prices are high.

Price range: £1500-£3500

Engine: 124cc, 15bhp, water-cooled single

The 70s-inspired, fun-bike styling predates the recent fad for scramblers by a decade but it’s a perfect match for the Kodachrome-filtered, beardy-hipster bandwagon that other firms are – ahem – scrambling to jump on.

Underneath it all there’s a decent bike, too. The fact that there’s been a constant 2000-2500 or so of them licenced and in use on British roads for the last decade shows that they last pretty well. Annual sales of new ones are around 250, so about the same number – some 10% of the ones on the road – are falling out of use per annum. That’s not bad for bikes in this class.

Not a good choice if you want to go fast, either in a straight line or round corners, they’re appealing nonetheless if you’re just bumbling about and looking cool.

Price range: £1000-£3000

Engine: 124cc, 12bhp, air-cooled single

For some the attraction of a 125 is the fact they’re small and light. But if you want one that feels much more like a full-fat motorcycle the XL125V Varadero is an obvious used choice.

There are still thousands of them out there (nearly 3000 still on the road in the UK at the last count), which bodes well for reliability. And with a V-twin engine they’re a little more grown up than the usual single-cylinder fare in this class.

While the adventure bike looks are from an earlier generation, they still put you on a class of bike that’s more popular than any other. Prices are still firm, too – up to £5000 for some of so you’ll get most of your money back when you sell.

Price range: £500-£5000

Engine: 124cc, 15bhp, liquid-cooled V-twin

At the other end of the spectrum from the oh-so-sensible Varadero 125 comes Honda’s MSX125, which has sparked a revival of the mini-bike scene that used to be dominated by Honda Monkeys and Gorillas.

The MSX’s popularity stems largely from the fact it doesn’t only appeal to learners. Even seasoned riders have been grabbing them as a fun second bike. They’re small, so take up little garage space, and cheap enough to verge on impulse purchase territory – you’ll find new, facelifted ones for £3k and used ones for a fraction of that. Buy it on the never-never and it could cost little more than your mobile phone contract each month.

Having said that, they’re still newish and popular, so don’t expect to grab one for a few hundred quid. Prices are still solid at the moment, but if the bubble bursts and they drop out of fashion there’s room for significant depreciation.

Price range: £2000-£3000

Engine: 125cc, 11.4bhp, air-cooled single

If this list was based purely on popularity, the YBR125 would be in the first place by a mile. It’s quite simply the single most common 125-class bike on the road today, with around 14,000 of the things currently licenced and in use in the UK.

That’s largely thanks to riding schools, many of which have fleets of the things, all being abused to death by a series of learners.

Many of those bikes will never live to see a second keeper on their registration documents, and if you’re shopping for one it’s worth making a particularly close inspection for damage.

On the road, the YBR isn’t one for poseurs. It’s short on style, speed and equipment, but few machines are as effective as simple workhorses.

Price range: £800-£2000

Engine: 124cc, 10bhp, air-cooled single

If you’re shopping for the Yamaha YBR125, you might as well look at CBF125s as well. Honda’s rival in the ever-hot battle to grab the wallets of training schools is similarly basic and reliable and just as cheap to buy. As bare-bones transport it makes a vast amount of sense.

Compared to the Yam, the CBF is a fraction more powerful and a little more stylish, but in this bit of the market the greatest value lies in reliability and low price, which it’s got in spades.

Scour the net and you’ll find used CBFs for three-figure prices, making them effectively throw-away bikes. But unlike similarly-inexpensive Chinese machines, you probably won’t have to throw the Honda away.

For a more retro experience, there are still plenty of examples of the CBF’s predecessor, the CG125 on the market. Thousands of us learned to ride on them, and the fact some are still around 10, 20 or even 30 years later is testament to a legendary design.

Price range: £600-£2000

Engine: 124cc, 11bhp, air-cooled single

We couldn’t have this list without including something with a bit of real off-road ability and the WR125 checks that box nicely. It’s also by far the most popular and common road-legal off-roader, whether in knobbly-tyred WR125R or supermoto-spec WR125X spec (as shown).

While it would be lovely to include a proper, two-stroke 125 here – maybe a DT125 – it’s hard to make a case for them on practicality grounds. If you don’t mind the regular rebuilds, go for it, though. Instead the WR will scratch the off-road itch nicely.

Faster than most of the bikes here, with a full 15bhp from a water-cooled engine, the WR is light and lithe, albeit with a tall 920mm seat (930mm for the R version).

Price range: £1500-£3500

Engine: 125cc, 15bhp, water-cooled single

Honda’s CBR125R might not be the most exotic or exciting of the 125cc sports bikes but as a used buy it makes a whole heap of sense.

It would have been easy to write the praises of an Aprilia RS125, or perhaps a Cagiva Mito, but back in the real world where spares availability, reliability and usability all actually count for something, they were thrown out. Instead the Honda represents a safe pair of hands.

And to be fair, the CBR125R pulls off the mini-Fireblade styling pretty well, regardless which generation you pick. It’s also got a good blend of performance and economy.

With nearly 8000 on the road in the UK, there’s no shortage to choose from and all indications are that they’re as long-lasting as you’d expect from a Honda. Prices are also firm, so buy used and the depreciation hit shouldn’t be too bad when the time comes to sell.

Price range: £1000-£3000

Engine: 124cc, 13bhp, water-cooled single

When Yamaha launched the R125 back in late 2007 it was the first 125cc sports bike in years to grab headlines and target the market that, a decade or so earlier, had been dominated by sporty two-strokes.

A 15bhp single meant its performance couldn’t match those near-30bhp strokers from years gone by, but it made up for in in style – it arguably looked better than the R1 or R6 of the era.

Now, nearly a decade on, and it’s not changed much but remains as popular as ever. It’s even spawned the naked MT125 (which is also worth a look on the second hand market if you prefer that style).

It’s also reliable – witnessed by the fact there are more than 8000 of them in regular use on UK roads – and holds its value amazingly well, thanks in part to the fact it’s barely changed since launch. Early ones still command £2000 at 9 years old, and four year old ones are under £3000. So that’s potentially half-a-decade’s use for less than a grand in depreciation.

Price range: £2000-£4000

Engine: 124cc, 15bhp, water-cooled single

VIDEO — Small price, big deal | Top 10 BEST 125cc Motorcycles of 2022

When did the choice of quality motorcycles in the broad 125cc class become so good? From sports to nakeds to minis to even ADV bikes. but which is best?

By Phil West
Sun, 17 Apr 2022

Aprilia RS125 GP Replica

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking all 125 geared bikes are the same – after all, by law, to adhere to the A1 learner classification they can be no bigger than 125cc and produce maximum power of 11kw (14.75bhp) – with a maximum power-to-weight ratio of 0.1kw per kg.

In reality, though, there’s arguably no more diverse category in motorcycling with myriad of mainstream-household name brands jostling for market share with numerous more specialist companies usually offering impressive bang for your buck.

Moreover, 125cc can mean all manner of machinery, from high spec, high price sports bikes to bargain economy commuters; from cruisers, stylish nakeds and trail bikes; and from mini monkey bikes to even full-size adventures, the 125cc category has it all.

But which are best – and what’s right for you? To help you decide here’s our current pick of the Top 10 best 125cc geared motorcycles – in price ascending order…

10. Lexmoto LXR SE 125 (from £2999)

We’re perfectly familiar with Lexmoto’s bargain-priced, Chinese built, UK imported wares by now with its £1000 Echo 50cc scoot being a perennial UK best seller. However, much like its mobile phones, China’s motorcycles are beginning to gain some credibility here too and Lexmoto’s latest offering — the LXR — is probably its best yet.

As ever, it’s brilliant value swooping in under £2500 in a sector where there are plenty of equivalent bikes costing nearly double that. Don’t assume it’s budget ‘rubbish’ though because the LXR is smartly styled, has inverted forks, twin disc brakes and an alloy swing arm – more than enough, in fact, to impress the crowd outside McDonalds.

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Sure, its air-cooled engine is a little ‘old school’, it only produces 12bhp and it can’t keep up with the latest from, say, Yamaha, nor are its reliability, durability and residuals likely to be as good.

But in the context of the 125cc class where you’re only likely to keep it for a year and at an age when money is extremely tight, it’s more than worth a look.

9. Suzuki GSX-R125 (from £4,449)

Suzuki’s venerable pint-size sportsbike carries a lot of weight for the sporty Suzooks since the demise of the GSX-R600, providing an entry-level point in the Gixxer’s two-strong line-up of it and the 1000cc version.

Nevertheless, the Suzuki GSX-R125 arguably does a better job of imitating its bigger brother than its obvious Kawasaki and Yamaha rivals, while a blue and silver finish in a nod to both its 60th Anniversary celebrations and the firm’s surprise 2020 MotoGP title-winning GSX-RR up the premium feel.

It’s not the best value in its class — unusual given Suzuki’s aggressive pricing strategies elsewhere — but the GSX-R125 is an eager urban runaround with its 15hp making good use of a 134kg that tips the scales at 8kg lighter than the Yamaha R125.

Last refreshed in 2018, given Suzuki’s glacial approach to updates, it’s a shame the GSX-R125 is starting to feel its age, particularly on the road where it feels brisk but not as eager to pleasure or as refined, but it feels more comparable to rivals in terms of quality and you can’t go wrong with Suzuki’s reputation for reliable engineering.

8. Honda MSX125 (from £3649)

The Honda’s MSX125, as introduced in 2014 is both the littlest and loudest — at least in terms of attitude — offering in the 125 arena.

Quickly developing a cult following, from which it is known as the Grom, it’s a modern day ‘monkey bike’ inspired by Honda’s mini-wheeled marvels which proved so iconic in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.

The MSX 125 is a proper, 10bhp, air-cooled 125 that rides on dinky 12-inch wheels and has all-round three-quarter scale proportions making you look like an adult on a BMX… which may or may not be a good thing for you.

Still, being a Honda, it’s thoroughly developed, has brilliant ergonomics even for taller riders, is hilariously easy to ride (especially around town) and has become something of a cult sensation in its own right. Sure, we wouldn’t fancy negotiating a dual carriageway or bypass on one and its practicality is limited, but it’s also far classier and more fun than you might expect – especially for smaller or inexperienced riders.

Plus it’s also cooler than an ice cube on the Polar ice cap and if you fancy a more retro version, Honda also introduced the retro-styled ‘Monkey’ version in 2018 for just £300 extra. 125s simply don’t get any cuter…

7. Aprilia RX 125 (from £3850)

We love it’s powerful, honed flagship machines, so why wouldn’t we love that formula distilled into a smaller, more affordable but still very desirable package?

While you may have expected us to plump for the admittedly eye-catching RS 125 (spoiler alert, scroll down…), it is the oft-overlooked RX/SX duo we highlight here. Introduced in 2018, the RX125 is a trail-style 125 and the SX is its supermoto-style brother, both being based around the same advanced liquid-cooled, DOHC, fuel-injected four-valve single as used in its more famous sibling, the sporty RS.

Here the engine is held in a minimal, twin beam steel frame bracing decent cycle parts front and rear including 41mm inverted forks and monoshock rear with the RX having 21/18in wire wheels and semi-knobbly tyres and the SX 17in versions with more street-orientated rubber.

There’s sharp, stylish bodywork, plenty of quality, they are both are easy to ride, as fast as any other four-stroke 125 and, chiming in just under £3500, not even that expensive. What’s not to like?

6. KTM Duke 125 (from £4499)

Austrian off-road experts KTM are the original kings when it comes to supermoto style conversions of MX or enduro style machines – after all it pretty much invented the breed when it came up with the first 620 Duke in 1995.

Since then the Duke family, now in 1290, 890, 790, 690, 390, 200 and, here, 125cc form has become the backbone of their range while at the same time constantly evolving to stay ahead of the pack.

The 125 was first introduced in 2012, characterised by its punchy, modern, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC four-valve four-stroke engine which, combined with a lightweight tubular steel trellis chassis, decent quality inverted WP forks and shock and sharp brakes and geometry became one of the most entertaining and nimble handling bikes in the class.

And, with aggressive and garish styling it had the looks to match. This latest version is better yet by way of a new LED headlight and swish TFT dash and remains the benchmark naked 125.

5. Honda CB 125 R (from £4399)

Proof you don’t have to be the fastest, best equipped or even most expensive to be a brilliant 125. Honda’s offering in the fashionable, sporty, naked 125 class against bikes like the KTM Duke and Yamaha MT-125 was introduced in 2018 replacing its long-lived and popular, faired sports CBR125R – which in itself hinted at the faith Honda had in it.

It was well placed, too because although the CB does no one thing better than any rival, it does excel at being a brilliant blend of performance, style, quality, novice-friendly riding and value. The liquid-cooled single is derived from that of the CBR and, although only two-valve and SOHC and 1.7bhp down on some as a result, compensates for that by being tractable, flexible and, in the real world, just as fast as all others.

The chassis, too, is roomy, comfortable with typical Honda brilliant ergonomics and with more than a few classy touches such as inverted forks, radial front caliper and classy LCD dash.

Styling is intended to fit in with Honda’s new ‘Neo Café’ style roadsters such as the CB650R and CB1000R, which it does successfully, seeming much more substantial than a 125 as a result, and the whole plot chimes in for just over £4K which, for a proper, quality Honda and with rival Yamahas significantly more, is surely some kind of steal.

4. Yamaha MT-125 (from £4700)

Updated for 2020, Yamaha’s take on the stylish, naked, performance 125 roadster pretty much ticks all the boxes you could want of a bike of this type so, although quite pricey, it simply demands to be included here.

First introduced in 2014, Yamaha’s junior ‘Master of Torque’ (it’s the little brother to the MT-07, MT-09 and MT-10) is basically a naked version of the all-conquering R-125 sportster (see below), itself updated in 2019.

Like that bike it now benefits from the latest high tech ‘VVA’ 125cc engine producing both the maximum 14.7bhp allowed and a healthy dollop of midrange; has an improved, lighter six-speed gearchange; shortened more agile, Deltabox chassis complete with fatter, 140-section rear tyre; quality inverted KYB forks and rear shock and, most obviously of all, new styling including a revised, more comfortable and roomy riding position which gives more of a big bike feel than ever.

In fact, it’s so good we actually struggle to find anything to criticise except, that is, the price. Though good, the new MT-125 is also now the priciest of this type of bike – even more so than Aprilia’s RS125-based Tuono – although it probably is worth the premium.

3. Aprilia RS 125 GP Replica (from £5000)

Aprilia’s perennially popular 125 sports bike, a bike so sexy its posters have been draped on teenage bedroom walls since the early 1990s, was bound to feature here somewhere and this latest GP replica is a worthy successor.

Although no longer a screaming, smoky two-stroke (that finally changed in 2011), the RS, with its high tech, fully modern, liquid-cooled, four-valve, DOHC, fuel-injected four-stroke single still thrives on revs and also delivers as much power (14.7bhp) as any rival.

Add to that: inimitable Italian sports styling, a mouth-watering spec including inverted forks and radial brakes; impeccably sharp and nimble styling yet decent novice manners and you’ve got a sports 125 any self-respecting 17-year-old would sell their granny for.

Best of all, though, with the base version at £4499, this historically expensive ‘super 125’ now actually undercuts the latest from Yamaha. Scrub that, though, go for the ‘full monty’ GP replica version for £100 more. No other 125 has as much ‘drool factor’.

Best get them while they’re still here though as Aprilia is rumoured to be swinging the axe in favour of a Yamaha R3 and KTM RC390 rivalling 300cc+ successor. Can we just have both, pretty please?

2. Kawasaki Ninja 125 (from £4199)

Here we could have opted for the sportsbike-angled Kawasaki Ninja 125 or the sister Kawasaki Z125 naked — both are sweet handling and sporty machines, but the hooligan youth in us can’t help but be drawn to the lime green hues of the mini-ZX-10R.

The lightweight Ninja carves through the mountain roads with ease and predictability, with great mid-corner stability, even on the rough stuff. Better still, in dense traffic through urban treks, its lightness and flickability help it to navigate static cars with ease. With its punchy motor, head-turning looks and handling to match, Kawasaki have created a fun and easy to ride learner legal motorcycle.

Interestingly, it’s a sector Kawasaki hasn’t had much involvement with until recently but with that lurid and as recognisable livery, coupled to Kawasaki’s reputation for reliability, sporting dynamics and value, the Kawasaki Ninja 125 holds a lot of appeal for youngsters starting out or more experienced riders seeking a cool urban runaround.

1. Yamaha R125 (from £4900)

Yamaha’s sports R125 offering has been THE most desirable offering in the quarter-litre class ever since the launch of the original in 2008, looking every inch the R1 replica albeit without the extra inches.

That bike combined the prevailing king CBR125R’s novice manners with more full-sized style, spec and performance sufficiently to fulfil any 17-year-old’s ‘Rossi-replica’ fantasies while at the same time proving a solid, effective learner buy.

This third generation version, introduced in 2019, raises the bar yet again with sharpened-up ‘mini R1’ styling, a new engine complete with a form of variable vale timing that maintains the maximum-permitted 14.7bhp peak yet boosts useful midrange, plus a revised Deltabox chassis with a new aluminium swingarm bracing a fatter 140-section rear tyre which manages to be both nimble, predictable and planted all at the same time.

There’s also a smart new LCD dash, a variety of accessories including an Akrapovic can, an optional ‘Monster MotoGP replica’ paint scheme and more.

It even has a new name – R 125 replacing the previous YZF-R125. Aside from us crinkling our nose at the price stage (though it is on a par with its main Aprilia rival), the Yamaha R125 is pretty much a complete package.

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