Because they haven’t always been gutless wonders.
Cagiva Mito (1991-2004)
The Mito went through a number of changes and is remembered for three things. Number one, it was one of the first 100mph 125s. OK, so that was the full-power model, but everyone converted theirs to full power. Two, it was originally styled exactly like the Ducati 916. I mean, down to the final detail, except for the exhaust note. You pressed the button and instead of a basso profundo and a dose of clutch rattle came a ring-ring-ding and a plume of blue smoke. Three, it had a seven-speed gearbox. Nobody else has ever done that on a road bike. It needs meticulous servicing, top-quality synthetic oil, and regular piston and ring changes. It doesn’t usually get them.What you’ll pay now £600-£1800.But should you? Toughie. I’d say yes were it not for the Aprilia RS125.
Aprilia RS125 (1992-2005)
Where the Mito is a 916 replica the Aprilia is a real 125 race replica. You have to go all the way back to Honda's CB92 to find a 125 that is so equally at home on road and track. It also remained a two-stroke all the way to 2012, which is some going. Forget the 12bhp learner version – we’re talking the full-power 28bhp model here. Stunning styling, fabulous components, and the certainty that it is something special. Like the Mito, the Aprilia needs superlative maintenance: never buy without advice.What you’ll pay now £700-£2250, but never buy at the cheap end.But should you? Unequivocally yes. The last of an era.
Kawasaki KDX125 (1990-94)
Another special two-stroke that was also available in full-power mode with a power valve (which was a lot harder to de-restrict than the RD125LC). This is actually a serious dirt tool, rather than just a trail bike like the milder KMX125. It does nearly 90mph, has USD forks and real quality rear suspension, and no way to tell how hard the engine is revving except for a red light that comes on when you hit danger territory. Naturally, the idea is to keep the red light glowing all the time. Full-power ones are really rare, sadly, so the best you can hope for is probably a tuned-up 12bhp model. Be aware that this was one of the most stolen 125s of all time, so beware of ringers.What you’ll pay now £700-£1400.But should you? If you want a road bike you might be better off with a KMX.
Honda CB92 (1959-64)
The bike that signalled Honda’s potential − only we ignored it. It did 75mph, was brilliantly engineered, looked fantastic, redlined at 10,500rpm, had an electric starter, a twin leading-shoe front brake and an overhead camshaft. You could get a racing kit for it, too: hot cam, even louder exhaust, a rev counter and more. This was like an RC30 (only smaller). What you’ll pay now £5000-£15,000.But should you? Even if it’s just to look at, yes.
Suzuki GT125 (1974-80)
A white-hot little piston-ported two-stroke twin, the GT redlined at 10,000rpm, screamed to over 80mph, and produced absolutely zero power below 7000rpm. There was only one way to ride it, and that was flat out. The suspension was truly awful, and the engine lasted about as long as an ice cream in a microwave, but it was hysterical fun. What you’ll pay now £600-£1500.But should you? It’s a sports two-stroke: of course you should.
Yamaha RD125LC (1981-86)
When learners were banned from riding 250s and stuck on 12bhp 125s, Yamaha launched this water-cooled stroker. Styled like a sharper 350LC, it was an instant hit. Why did everyone buy it? Because Yamaha also offered it as a full-power 21bhp model, and every learner immediately attacked the carb and exhaust and up-jetted to Full Monty spec. What you’ll pay now £800-£2000.But should you? Yes. Buy now as prices are starting to soar.
Honda CB125T (1978-82)
Honda decided they needed a sporty 125 twin again, and had to compete with two-strokes like the GT125. They came up with this sleek-looking rocket. Believe it or not, the engine is basically a CD125/200 Benly, tuned to the max. It produced 17bhp and was capable of 85mph on a good day. It handled well too. But the 12bhp learner-legal CB125T Super Dream is a slug and best avoided.What you’ll pay no £550-£1500.But should you? Yes. It’s a jewel.