The Honda CBR125 was Britain's
top-selling motorcycle in 2005 – and it's easy to see why. It's styled like its
CBR600RR and CBR1000RR stablemates, from its crisp-edged full fairing and dual
"cat's eyes" headlights to the stepped seat and split tail light.
It's aimed at the "sixteener" market, most of whom are astonishingly
knowledgable about top sports bikes and MotoGP racing machines – which is why
it's also available, like the bike in our pictures, in the Repsol colours of
double World champion Dani Pedrosa who is, let me remind you, little more than a
As far as image is concerned, Honda has pushed all the right buttons on this
oneI would have given my eyeteeth for a fully-faired sports bike when I was
sixteen.. I would have given my eye teeth for a fully faired sports bike when I
But what of the bike behind the hype; what's under the razor-sharp Baby 'Blade
clothes? Well, a fairly low-tech, 124.7cc single with a carburettor rather than
fuel-injection, one camshaft and only two valves, that's what.
Honda claims 9.7kW at 10 000rpm with 10Nm available at 8000rpm.
The trouble is, most of it is concentrated at the top of the rev range. The bike
pulls away nicely with about 3500rpm on the clock but once you make the huge
jump to second you need a lot of revs just to stay ahead of the traffic.
The CBR also doesn't like pulling up steep hills or into a sgtrong winds – both
of which are in plentiful supply in here Cape Town. A couple of times I found
myself going up Eastern Boulevard into the South-Easter with the engine buzzing
at 8000 in third at around 70km/h; the bike simply wouldn't pull fourth under
those conditionsIt keeps the plot under control even when going faster downhill
than the bike's top speed on the flat..
For what it's worth, I coaxed the little 'Blade up to 109km/h at 10 500rpm in
cool, still air on the flat; I could probably have got a little more by revving
it out in fifth before popping it into top gear but mechanical sympathy
The little single begins to vibrate at the peak torque; the shakes continue
through to peak revs, encouraging the rider to change up soon after 10. Probably
The clutch feels like it came off a motocross bike, light but firm, with plenty
of feedback and a solid hook-up at the end of its travel. It's easy to learn and
lends itself to fuss-free take offs even in relatively inexperienced hands.
The six-speed gearebox is notchy at low revs but agreeably slick when all the
shafts are spinning properly; lever travel is positive and commendably short -
I'd have some scathing things to say if it weren't, on a single making less than
I soon dispensed with the clutch when changing up except when going from first
to second (the big gap made it very jerky) and got better results than with it.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the absence of driveline lash.
The non-adjustable front suspension (31mm conventional forks) is firm without
being harsh, controlling the front wheel even on bad roads and delivering light,
accurate steering at any speed the bike is capable of.
The rear wheel is monitored by a straight monoshock set-up without any linkages
that seemed, as so often on small Oriental machines, a little underdamped for
South African conditions (big rider, bad roads). Nevertheless, it keeps the plot
under control even when going faster downhill than the bike's top speed on the
The brakes are also a little basic, with floating callipers at both ends; the
front brake, however, works very well although it demands a firm squeeze to get
the most out of it.
The back brake is very good indeed; strong but not grabby, with plenty of
feedback, well suited to an inexperienced 16-year-old hoof.
The seating position is not as radical as it looks; the rider sits fairly
upright although his/her hands are a little close to the hip point, thanks to
the bike's dinky 1294mm wheelebase.
Impressive mid-corner speeds
Despite the under-par rear suspension you can throw the CBR around on tight
corners; at 115kg dry it lends itself to seriously late braking and it has
enough Ground Clearance for impressive mid-corner speeds.
It certainly earns its family credentials in terms of rideability.
Am I describing a hooligan tool? Ultimately, no. The CBR125 lacks the power to
get really naughty unless you rev the nuts off it and even then any of the 125cc
two-stroke race replicas will make it look like a moped.
What it has going for it is its looks, Honda build quality and durability,
grown-up features such as electric start and a complete instrument panel with
analogue dials for speed, revs, fuel level and coolant temperature – and at R22
But only a schoolboy would enjoy commuting on a bike this intense, that's this
much hard work to ride. The CBR is pointed with typical Honda accuracy right at
its target market, which is why it's the UK's biggest seller.
Source Motoring .co.za 2005