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Honda CBR 125 R 2011
Honda CBR 125 R 2011
You’re seventeen, you’re into bikes, you need wheels, you feel the need – the need for speed.
Well I’m sorry to have to tell you that as far as speed is concerned you’re pretty much out of luck. The vehicle licensing laws of the good ol’ GB NI mean that until you pass your Category A Standard Motorcycle Test (click here for more details), you’re going to be restricted to 125cc and a maximum power output of 14.6bhp, which isn’t exactly going to lay black lines on the tarmac. But as you’re still going to be restricted to 33bhp for another two years after you pass your test, a lot of us hang on to our 125’s until the door opens to unlimited motorcycling – assuming you can afford the insurance!
So if speed and outright performance isn’t an option that’s for sale, then you might as well go for style and cool looks.
click for a larger imageFor what seems like an eternity, and probably is, the Honda CG125 has been the mainstay of the Bike Training Schools, and while it’s acquired a reputation of being able to handle just about anything a novice rider can throw at it and still come back for more, there aren’t too many people out there who’d describe it as a cool good looker that’s oozing street cred! If that was your bag and you still wanted the Honda badge on the tank, then the obvious solution was the 2-stroke NSR125, at least up until the end of 2003 it was.
However, growing environmental concerns, the implementation of the Euro 1 regulations and not least that fact that just about everyone knew how to de-restrict them, meant that its days were numbered. Just like MotoGP, the 2-stroke was dead and it was time for a 4-stroke replacement. Enter the CBR125R for 2004.
Using the same styling cues as its larger CBR600 and 1000 brothers, the diminutive 125R provides all the looks of a sportsbike but at a much reduced rate of acceleration. You could say it’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing – and you wouldn’t be far wrong.
However, it’s not all show and no-go, and although the CBR125R is never going to get you surfing on a wave of adrenaline, it does have a reasonable performance for its size, and anyone getting on to two wheels for the first time or moving up from the twist-n-go fraternity, isn’t going to be intimidated by either the size or the power delivery of the CBR125R. Although the suspension seems a little on the soft side when you first get onto the seat, it does a very good job of keeping the tyres in contact with the road surface and telling you what they’re doing, without pummelling your backside into submission or diving you over the bars when you get nifty with the brakes.
click for a larger imageThere’s no suspension adjustment anywhere, front or rear, and I’ll be the first to admit that I weigh a little more than the average 17-year old. In spite of this, the ride was good and there was plenty of travel and damping left to soak up the worst that Berkshire’s roads could throw at it. And don’t be fooled by those tyres that look as though they’ve been borrowed from a racing bicycle.
They have a surprising good level of grip available for you to use, and they aren’t going to cost a fortune to replace when you finally wear them down to the canvas. However, they do have a tendency to tramline over road irregularities and surface joints, which is probably down to their narrow section. The brakes, while not in the same league as bigger sportsbikes, are more than good enough for the weight and performance of the bike.
They don’t grab and are smooth and progressive, although you’ll need to use both front and rear to get the best stopping distances.
With only 13bhp to propel you along the tarmac, the single-cylinder engine needs to be revved good and hard if you want to make any sort of reasonable progress. Things seem to improve a bit once you get past 7,000 rpm, but with peak power only 3,000 rpm later there’s not a big rev range for you to play with. On the plus side, the balancer shaft does a good job of damping the vibes, so your fingers and feet won’t go numb and the mirrors give a good clear view at all speeds.
click for a larger imageOn the practical side, there’s a reasonable pillion seat with low(ish) pegs and a good big rear grabrail, so two-up travel shouldn’t be a problem, although it’s not going to do much for the already limited performance. Unlock the pillion seat and there’s a small cubbyhole below for the toolkit and handbook, with room for a disc lock or small U-lock. Four bungee points are also provided.
The fairing and the lowish screen give some wind and weather protection, although as it didn’t rain for the week in August when I had the bike (most unusual), I can’t guarantee that the plastic will help to keep you dry. However, it did get dark at the end of each day and I was able to check that the twin-bulb headlamp setup gives a good spread of light on dipped beam and good penetration on main beam.
The cockpit and dials are old-school analogue with the large speedo and rev-counter flanked by smaller gauges for fuel and coolant temperature, all with easy to read markings. There’s a total miles odometer, but no trip, and lights for main beam, neutral and turn indicators. The knob for the choke is mounted on the top yoke and easy to get at, although it wasn’t needed at all during the test, even on the first start of the day.
The engine stalled if it was used, but the slow-running was too slow if it wasn’t. This meant a little twiddling of the throttle grip for the first couple of minutes until the engine warmed up, but could probably be fixed with a little bit of adjustment.
click for a larger imageWhen I picked up the CBR125R from Honda for this test, I’d spent the previous week hooning around riding sedately on the latest model Fireblade. With over an order of magnitude less power available from the 125, there was a need for a significant and rapid change in riding styles. Forward planning became oh so important, and what had previously been a simple two-second overtaking manoeuvre, now assumed the importance of the D-Day Invasion or Operation Desert Storm!
I started to look for White Vans doing 70mph, because they could give me that all important slipstream and allow me to sit at the legal limit even when the motorway ascended a 1 in 300 gradient!
But at the end of the day, whatever I thought of the bike, the CBR125R is not targetted at jaded old journalists who are used to riding super-hyper-mega- sportsbikes. This is a bike that Honda want to sell to the 17-20 year olds, so to find out if Honda have got it right, we really need their input on the matter. Now it so happens that I have a 20-year old student daughter with a full bike licence at home from University, so who better for a second opinion.
One quick trip around the block and Dad – can I have one? is probably the kind of thing that Honda wants to hear, although with only a student loan for support she’s not likely to be in the frame for a purchase just yet.
With a price tag the same as a 125cc scooter, over Ј1,000 cheaper than the majority of the opposition and with a lower insurance rating, the CBR125R is very competively priced in the market place. Add to that the Honda reputation for engineering and build quality, and they might just have a winner here. Only time will tell.
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