Yamaha TDR 125 vs Cagiva 125 Super City vs Aprilia 125 Pagaso
IF YOU CAN'T HAVE A BALL on these bikes, you're dead. If you've never pulled
a stoppie before, here's where you find out. And if you're not that kind of
chap, 'absolutely dreadful behaviour.... shouldn't be allowed... gives
motorcycling a bad name... rhubarb... rhubarb...' I suggest you complain to
Mssrs Cagiva, Yamaha and Aprilia first. Cos there ain't no way these bikes were
meant for anything less.
These are the new mini-motards. Eighth-litre strokers with a devil-child
attitude borne from an unholy marriage of motocrossers and road race scratchers.
Lucifer lightweights with big fun extras: extra flash (for posing); extra brakes
(for stoppies) and extra wring-ding for street-cross crazies keen to impress
young ladies. For flush learners (they're not cheap) wanting a beastie, but
surprisingly practical alternative to racer-reps, they're the biz. And for
irresponsible adults, they're more lascivious fun than Luncheon Vouchers at
Lindi St Clair's.
The basic ingredients are simple: MX-derived chassis, single-cylinder motors,
well-wicked styling and the hottest, grab-biest and stickiest brakes, tyres and
wheels you can imagine. The inspiration comes from super motard races like the
annual Guidon d'Or (Golden Handlebar) at Circuit Carole, near Paris which pits
the world's best road racers (Rainey, Lawson, Kocinski, Mamola etc) against top
off-roaders and MX-ers around a half dirt, half tarmac track on what are,
essentially, 500cc motocrossers with, yes, you've guessed, smaller, wider
wheels, road race tyres and beefed-up brakes. Mad as un peche.
Cagiva was the first to enter the fray when it unleashed the 125 Super City
at the NEC Bike Show the year before last. It looked so hot then in its lime
green and black paint, agape onlookers contracted melanomas. Its 150-section
Pirelli MP7 rear tyre, huge Brembo full-floater front disc, upside-down front
forks and claimed 30bhp scared small children and seduced the hooligan psyche
out of bigger ones. Aprilia's more trail-orientated 125 Pegaso followed at the
end of last year and was rumoured to be even faster. And now, as if to confirm
the creation of a fully-fledged new class, Yamaha has become the first of the
big four Japanese manufacturers to build its own mini-motard. Enter the TDR.
All three of these bikes have dual personalities. Each can be had in either
learner-restricted 12bhp spec or, with Yamaha now too deciding to import its
derestricted version of the TDR, as a full 30-horse screamer fit to terrorise
any neighbourhood. Both the Aprilia and Cagiva, as tested, were full-power. But
with the 28bhp version of the TDR not available until May, we were left with a
be-learnered version of the Yamaha. That said, it still impressed massively. And
wheelied too... just.
WRINGING 30 HORSES or so from a piddly 125 is a take-no-prisoners,
no-compromise affair. Its all or nothing, on pipe or off— and it doesn't half
make itself felt. With the tight, pokey Super City, playing-out time is strictly
between nine and half past, between which this little buzz bomb is the noisiest
brat in town: screaming and flying and with your left foot tapping faster than
Lionel Blair. And, two rpm below nine, dying.
This isn't so much Super City as serious power band city. 'Peaky' isn't the
half of it and God only knows what it'd be like without its supposedly
midrange-boosting exhaust powervalve. And life with the Cagiva, bumbling around
with about 10bhp up to 9000rpm (well, it feels like it), sounding like a tin of
marbles before suddenly screeching forward to the the rev-limiter at ten-five,
is sometimes fraught, sometimes annoying but usually crazily addictive.
Getting a decent launch means frantic clutch-slipping, not just in first but
in second too. The gearbox has seven ultraclose ratio speeds but feels like it
either needs nine or, on mushy downshifts, preferably as few as possible. The
clutch is snatchy and, with the abuse asked of it by the engine's peakiness, you
could do with a ready spare. Yet all of it is delivered in such a crisp, tight,
parp-parp way that, for most of the time, you forgive its singlemindedness. And
then you wring it some more.
All this considered, we expected the Cagiva to be the quickest too. But we
wuz wrong. After the crisp but still slightly tight, fresh-out-of-the-crate
Super City, the more secondhand Pegaso came over as sloppy. The gearchange
rattled, the throttle was light and loose and its revs flew up and down as
freely as leaves on an autumn wind. All of which managed to disguise how fast
(for a 125) the thing was actually going.
Ninety-eight mph fast. And that, from a 125, from an unfaired, sit-up-and-beg
125 (even if, at the time, I was more tightly tucked-in than a hospital bed) is
fantastically impressive. Like the Aprilia Sport-Pro is to the Cagiva Mito, the
Pegaso's mill is chalk to the Super City's gorgonzola. Where everything is
focussed, crisp and black or white-exact on the Cagiva — it's either on or it's
not on — the Aprilia is looser all-round; greyer, mushier and, because of it,
more flexible, more day-to-day usable, and it seemed quite happy to run fluidly
right through into the red.
Until it seized, that is. Yes, oops, hur-rumph. It sounded ominous, it could
have been extremely nasty (outside lane of the M6, 80mph, traffic, around
8000rpm and it locked absolutely solid) but BIKE has been assured it was a total
one-off attributable to an earlier crash. On examination, Aprilia UK found a
previously unnoticed hairline crack in the cases which let air be sucked through
at sustained high speed so leaning off the mixture and causing the seizure.
Still shat me pants though.
No such worries for the Yamaha. With its easy, assured air of Japanese build
quality and just 12bhp to barely ripple its pond, the bland, strangled,
understressed TDR is about as likely to go pop as a morning after, half-empty
bottle of Coke. It might be an unfair comparison in this context, but even
making ocean-sized allowances for the power differential, the catalyzer-equipped
Yam (the first small bike in the UK so-equipped, incidentally) doesn't come over
as all it should be. Solid and trustworthy and learner-adequate it is, but
excitement is strictly restricted to low-speed torn foolery. It won't rev as
freely as the Aprilia yet fails to compensate with any noticeable mid range
drive. In short it's as if more power is channelled through the monstrous twin
beam headlight than through the drivechain and as such it's either 8000rpm and
frantic, with typical Yam clunky gearshifts, or it's a funky moped.
Everything else though about it is fantastic. If the engine's a little sad,
the chassis is superb. Its spec sheet may not bristle with as much alloy or high
tech goodies as the Cagiva, but what it has works, gels and inspires confidence
and, a little while later, lots of larking about.
What's most in the Yam's favour is its size and proportions. It's noticeably
larger than both the Aprilia and rather titchy Super City. The riding position
is spacious and comfy rather than small and slightly cramped like the two
Ital-jets. And the TDR comes over as a full-sized, 'proper' motorcycle (even if
it is powered by an elastic band) — no-one would ever guess it's just a 125 and,
if you're around six-foot or so, that's important.
What's more, despite its steel frame and cheapish tyres, brakes and
suspension (at least in comparison to the superbly-kitted Cagiva), the TDR
handles beautifully. The steering, balance and feedback from the slightly
squidgy brakes and suspension is such that, engine aside, this is probably the
easiest bike to get on with I've ever ridden. Seriously. You could ride this
thing in your sleep. And with that engine, you'll probably have to. And it's
that which makes it so much fun.
The Super C, on the other hand, is an entirely different prospect. This is
serious kit. Hard, racer-ey suspension, sharp steering, fierce brakes,
outrageously sticky tyres and ultra-light weight asks for experience. Snap the
Cagiva and it bites back; kick the gear lever too hard and the thing's so light
you'll almost kick yourself into a bus queue. But get it right; point it, squirt
it, scream it and slide it, and it's a microcosm of marvellousness. It's light,
it's skittish and it's a helluva lot of fun. But, like the engine, there's no
compromise: you're either living on the edge, having a blast or — b-burr-burr,
b-burr-burr — pottering unhappily, uneasily. And, pardon me, but that's no way
to pull the crumpet.
Which leaves the Aprilia somewhere between the two. Of these three the Pegaso
was always the trickiest to suss out. The fastest, most fluid engine in a
chassis that seemed unsure of what it was trying to be. The others? Easy. The
Cagiva's there to be flash and fast and pull birds; the TDR's the sensible,
soft, starter bike with big image and big fun. But the Pegaso, with its nasty
chrome wire wheels and street knobblies doesn't seem to know if it's a trail
bike or not.
And that's how it behaves. The front disc, like the Yam's, is strong but
squidgy, the suspension is slightly wallowy after the diamond Cagiva, and its
MT50s are simply destroyed by the leech-like MP7s of the Super C. Overall,
though lighter and more nimble than the TDR, the Pegaso is loose and ragged and
you find yourself being vaguer, working harder, using more of the road and
riding around touches of wallow, smatterings of weave and hints of flex where
the Super C was the rock steady crew. But the Peg's still impressively quick.
Ultimately, with these three it probably boils down to matters of taste and
value for your money. And with the Cagiva you get an awful lot: looks to die for
(even if my six-foot looked like Geoff Capes on a Blackpool donkey); top-notch
brakes, wheels, tyres and suspension and enough rave-generation stickers such as
'City Sports Concept' and 'Enjoying New Riding Experiences' to keep you in
chat-up lines outside McDonalds for a month of Sundays.
But being Italian, of course, what you also get is a headlight that
illuminates more of the inner fairing than the road (useful, though, if you want
to read Smash Hits while you're zapping along); floppy mirrors, an
awkwardly-placed choke lever and dim idiot lights which incorporate a bag-full
of false neutrals.
And though the Pegaso shares many of the Cagiva's Italianisms (its switchgear
is identical, for example, and just as easy to turn off the lights when hunting
for dip as it is on the Super C), neither it nor the disturbingly pricey TDR can
quite match the Super City's flair. If the Pegaso looks slightly old-fashioned
that's because, though new to the UK, it's been around in Italy for four years.
If the black TDR looks a little dazzled by the Super City it's because, one,
it's Japanese, and two, it's really the only practical learner-bike of the
three. The TDR has a phenomenal headlamp and the only fairing here that does
anything more than cover the wiring. It is solid and sturdy where the Italians
are delicate and pernickity and, though it might not quite match the Cagiva for
pose, it is delicious from its TDM-style fairing down to its hugger rear guard
(although I don't rate the turquoise and orange paint option).
And that, for me, is enough to rate the TDR joint-tops with the Cagiva. If I
was 17 I'd want a TDR, and if I was a 17-year-old's dad I'd want him to have one
too — though I still have trouble justifying its high price. But if I was 17,
under 5ftl0, already a half-decent rider and the type of git who breaks most of
his chrissie pressies before the Queen's speech without getting told off, it'd
be the Super City, no question.
Meantimes I'm 28, wondering why hardly anyone bought the old TDR250 before it
was deleted last year and thinking it's about time Cagiva got round to building
something bigger than a 125 for people other than Chandler and Mladin. Surely
it's not that difficult?
Source Bike Magazine 1993