THIS TIME WE'VE got: a new suit of slippery bodywork, an
engine that bristles with Kevin Schwantz hand-me-downs and a frame that could
have won a 125 grand prix half a decade ago.
We've also got a TNT 16 wheeler three inches ahead. It's
doing 68, but we still can't get past. Yes we can, no we can't, yesss...we
Such is life for hapless learners. No matter how exotic the
bikes their days will always be slow (or illegal), restricted by law to 12
measly bhp. They can either go slow by shelling out a handful of notes for a
"needs attention" MZ until the test is passed, or go slow on something like
this: electric start, RGV250 styling, £3000 price tag and all.
Previous to the latest generation of 125 fliers, consensus
was that learners who bought new had more cash than sense. Now, with Aprilia
Futuras and Cagiva Mitos proving that modern non-restricted 125s can be as much
fun as bikes of eight times their capacity, the latter option passing the test
then de-restricting the bike makes more sense with each passing penalty point
and insurance premium. Suzuki's restricted RG125F Gamma is potentially
the equal of the GSX-R750.
Its engine is (probably) a firebrand 125ccs of
liquid-cooled, crankcase reed-valve induction GP technology, or one detuned
quarter of Schwantz' V-four. Except we don't get the full 32bhp at
11,250rpm, we get 12 at 7500. As such, its
lightweight, low friction SBC cylinder plating and redundant AETC II three
position exhaust valve are but expensive decoration. A de-restricted RG125 of
1985 vintage, which the F finally replaces, will blow those grand prix gizmos
away. Moreover, Heron Suzuki has yet to homologate the parts test graduates need
to unleash those 20 extra bhp, so, officially, the RG125F is slow until further
Thankfully for UK riders, Suzuki has striven to increase
torque and improve engine response right across the rev range. Below 4000rpm
there's nothing; then there's some thing; then, at 8000, there's nearly
enough a plucky little power band which extends itself usefully to 10,000 in
all six gears.
What that means on the road is momentum riding: brake-free
with much stirring of a typically quick but less than slick RGV-style gearbox.
But crouch and an indicated 80mph will come. Open the filler cap, climb inside
and 85 could be possible.
The extremely aerodynamic RG certainly has more 12bhp than
most. Sixty five mph was the bottom line on the windswept flats of
Cambridgeshire, and superb carburation (an impressive oval-bored Mikuni,
developed to speed and smooth intake flow at low revs) works hard at all revs to
maximise what power's available. An effective balancer shaft keeps tingles at
bay and the mirrors clear so, if you possess a suitably wiry right
physique, you can scream through a tank (95 miles average) without troubling the
Learners will learn, that's for sure.
They'll learn to time clutchless upshifts so the closely spaced early
ratios drop the revs bang on
- 8000rpm - meting out handfulls of throttle and snatching the gear just before
power dies. Once speed is up, progress depends on the terrain and where
the day's winds rate on the
Beaufort Scale. When the going's good the RG is easy
bowling along, hauling in 90 per cent of traffic.
Grabbing top, though, is always a gamble: it might, and usually does, add
precious speed. It night lose plenty too, especially against the bow wave of a
TNT 16 wheeler.
Although its frame geometry is more
novice friendly than the
RGV250's, the RG nevertheless has one
rapid chassis and learners will
also learn about the need for smooth weight
distribution. They'll learn low to stop safely on a sixpence
the four-pot Tokicos and floating
disc are dynamite then drop a
bike onto the side of its front tyre.
After that, they're hooked, something
which can't be guaranteed of the learner who's gone
for the cheap
and cheerful crap option. Forget it, though, if
you're over five-eight because it's very cramped. Dropped elbows rest on raised
thighs, neck hurts first.
You have to leap uncomplaining into its "Grand Prix Spirit",
treat every car as Capirossi, and stay there. If you can, the RG is both agility
and hilarity personified. On wet and greasy roads it made a monkey of our
ZXR400; going to work (flat on the tank) you laugh at yourself for acting so
strangely amongst grey faced commuters, then at them because you're having such
a rave up. And they're not.
The pressed steel frame is ultra-stiff,
ditto the gull-armed swing-arm and 39mm upside-down forks. Front and rear
suspension rates, critical on a bike weighing just 125kg, are non-adjustable.
Its softly sprung and damped set-up suited me, soaking up bumps which could
easily put the RG into orbit were it wrong. The bars are quite wide every
control upon them is light and precise which makes the light steering
ultra-sensitive. At times, over catseyes or in sidewinds, the RG, always light
on its Dunlop K375s, gets a bit frisky but is damn nearly RGV-brilliant.
Equipment's adequate: the headlight is equal to the RG's
speed, the brake lever is four way adjustable (and the rear pedal is nice and
gentle). Pillions are a definite non starter, the flip-up side stand hides
awkwardly beneath the footpeg/gearshift linkage and the tank runs dry without
Still, this bike isn't about niceties, it's designed to give biking virgins a
taste of the thrills they can expect if they stay away from Mk 3 Cortinas long
enough to pass their tests. Judged by that criterium alone, it's a total
success, the mostest restricted 125 yet.