Honda XR 125L



Make Model

Honda XR 125L


2009 -


Four stroke, single cylinder, OHC, 4 valve


124 cc / 7.6 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 56.5 X 49.5 mm
Cooling System Air cooled
Compression Ratio 9.5:1


22mm PD-type Carburettor piston-valve




Electric & kick

Max Power

11.1 hp / 8,3 kW @ 8 500 rpm

Max Torque

10 Nm / 7.3 lb-ft @ 7 000 rpm


5 Speed 
Final Drive Chain

Front Suspension

31mm Telescopic forks
Front Wheel Travel 160 mm / 6.3 in

Rear Suspension

Monoshock swingarm
Rear Wheel Travel 151 mm / 5.9 in

Front Brakes

Single 240mm disc 2 piston caliper

Rear Brakes

110 drum

Front Tyre


Rear Tyre

Dimensions Height 1126 mm / 44.3 in
Length 2100 mm / 82.7 in
Width     820 mm / 32.3 in
Wheelbase 1450 mm / 57.1 in
Seat Height 825 mm / 32.5 in

Dry Weight

129.0 kg / 284.4 lbs

Fuel Capacity

12 Litres / 3.1 US gal

This great starter bike offers a commanding riding position, cheap insurance and a level of fuel economy which is synonymous with most of the bikes Honda produces. It will literally go for miles on one tank, making it the ideal bike to get some experience on. It’s a 125 four-stroke engine so although it lacks power if you are only planning on city riding then you’ll find that this bike ticks all the right boxes. Admittedly this bike’s engine does have some limitations; it will struggle on the open road and especially if you have to tackle any steep climbs but stick towns and cities and this well made engine will see you right.

The electronic start is a nice touch, and although you can purchase add-ons for the XR125L, because the chassis is so streamlined these do tend to look a little strange. On its own, the bike looks classy and fuss-free, just what you want when you are only just beginning to get your riding legs. This bike is also good for taller riders, the higher riding position allowing enough room for long legs, something which can often be a problem on 125s.

Ultimately, this isn’t the type of bike an experienced rider is going to veer towards, unless you want something nippy for your commute but it’s the ideal bike to purchase if you are a learner. The price is competitive and with the low insurance and fuel economy you are ultimately investing in a very cost-effective bike.


I don't care if I look silly on them, I like small motorcycles - and when it comes to dirt-bikes, that goes double. Most small dual-purpose machines are easy to ride, solidly built and as friendly as puppies.

They have to be durable to survive the unsympathetic treatment meted out to them by teenage, rookie riders and they're easy to ride because they have basic, no-frills slide carbs and floating-calliper brakes that simply don't have the power to bite you.

Honda's XR125L is a case in point. It has an air-cooled 124cc pushrod single that's straight outta the 1960s with one intake valve, one exhaust valve and one Keihin 22mm slide carb.

It runs a combustion-friendly 9.5:1 compression ration and squeezes out a claimed 8.5kW at 8500rpm and 10.6Nm at 7000rpm - hardly the stuff with which mountains are moved.

But it starts first time, with or without the choke (just as well, because the choke lever is so well tucked away on the “wrong” side of the carburettor it took me two days to find it) and picks up smoothly and evenly from just off idle without any jerking - or any discernable power band, for that matter.

Even if you wring its neck all the time (and I challenge you to find a 16-year old that won't!) it just gets a little noisy and loses its impetus as the power drops off sharply beyond 9000rpm, almost forcing you to hook the next gear.

On the road, it has enough mid-range to cruise in top at 80km/h while carrying its own weight in payload and, in the dirt, first and second will take you just about anyplace you can walk, at 20-30km/h.

The clutch is one-finger light, taking up sharply, quite close to the grip, but always predictable when riding on the street. It became unpleasantly juddery after about an hour of heavy-duty off-roading in thick bush and deep sand, at which point the engine oil must have been hot enough to deep-fry a turkey, but soon recovered its equanimity after a few minutes' cruising.

The gearbox is generally crisp and slick, although distinctly notchy between first and second. The upside is that neutral is always easy to find - important for a new rider - and missed shifts are rare. I soon got used to changing between second and fifth - in both directions - without the clutch and didn't miss a shift throughout the week I had the test XR.

For the record, top speed was a true 102km/h with a needle's width more than 110 showing on the analogue speedometer, and fuel consumption averaged out at 4.4 litres/100km over a week of mixed commuting and messing about in the green belts near my home.

This user-friendly powertrain is housed in a tubular-steel frame with 31mm, long-travel forks and a rectangular-section, steel monoshock swing-arm.

Steel chassis may be vulnerable to corrosion at the slightest scratch (which can make them look old before their time) but are generally stiffer than alloy equivalents and able to shake off minor spills without structural damage.

With the exception of the steel fuel-tank, all the body components are colour-moulded plastic, which makes them virtually scratch-proof. They include a blobby little bikini fairing with a moped headlight that looks seriously out of place on an off-roader, neat little radiator shrouds (which help keep mud off the rider even though there's no radiator to shroud), a long, deeply padded, enduro-style seat and a very tidy tailpiece complete with a steel parcel rack.

Instrumentation is basic, with nothing more than an odometer and tripmeter set into the speedometer face and three warning lights - neutral, high beam and indicators - and not a liquid crystal in sight. Nevertheless, the instrument pod is robust, as is the switchgear, and the electrical controls have a crisp, positive action that adds greatly to the bike's overall air of quality.

The only area where the test XR125L's Chinese heritage shows (It's built by Sundiro Honda at Tianjin in Hainan province) is on the price-tag, a distinctly affordable R13 999.

The XR is not as compact as it looks and the ergonomics are quite relaxed, even for adults, with a reasonable reach to the handlebars and (just about) enough room around the footpegs for my size 10's, although it feels a bit cramped when standing up.

The plush suspension makes this lightweight (125kg with a full tank) bundu-basher remarkably comfortable off-road, soaking up bumps and jumps with equanimity. Handling on the road is generally predictable. The bike is stable up to its top speed and turns accurately into corners, within the limits of the rather plasticky dual-purpose tyres, while ground clearance is (need I say it?) practically unlimited.

The sliding-calliper front disc brake can be made to use up most of the forks' 180mm of travel with just two fingers (which just makes the bike more nimble in traffic) but has enough feel to be used off-road without pushing the front wheel out from under the bike.

(That big tumble in the sand was my fault, Cyril, not the bike's; I tied to turn too sharply while braking.) The rear drum brake lacks the power to get you into trouble (you really have to stomp on it to get the back to break away, even on loose gravel) and may suffer from fade if abused, but is generally adequate for hill-starts and steadying the bike on

By Dave Abrahams