HONDA CB125R (2018 - 2020) Review
- Neo-retro looks
- Ride it with a CBT
- Honda build quality
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£170|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The Honda CB125R was introduced as Honda’s stylish, well-equipped, top-of-the-range A1 125cc class offering in 2018 and as such was a replacement for Honda’s previous, best-selling, fully-faired sports-styled CBR125R – which just goes to show how popular racy, 'naked' learner 125s have now become.
- Latest news: Honda unveil 2021 CB125R
- Related: this bike appears in our Best 125cc Motorbikes article
- Related: Honda 125 model history
Being an upright roadster it’s manageable and learner-friendly. And it also benefits from quality touches like beefy, 41mm, 'upside down' front forks, a four-piston, radially-mounted front brake caliper and also has a flashy digital LCD dash. Together, these all give the CB125R a layer of sophistication not really found elsewhere in this class.
Its liquid-cooled, single cylinder, four-stroke motor, although not the most powerful in the class, is a reasonable performer. Being a Honda the CB125R is well built, it is also comfortable and easy to ride, has a reputation for durability and reliability and benefits from a great dealer network. While on top of all that – and amazingly so considering that it’s a 'quality Honda' – the CB125R is also impressively affordable, although prices have risen since its launch.
The sum total of all this makes the CB125R one of the most attractive and popular of all A1 class learner machines. That said, it’s not without fault: the slightly underpowered original engine has led to a significant update for 2021 with an all-new, now 14.8bhp engine while, its seat height, at a fairly lofty 816mm, is taller than many rivals and may be off-putting for shorter novices.
A further occasional complaint is that, despite its impressive spec, the CB’s front brake lacks a bit of bite. But those are mere niggles. This is a great bike for a first time rider that no one will be disappointed with.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Honda has a deserved reputation for building learner-friendly machines that stand out for their great ergonomics, easy manageability, durability and versatility and the CB125R more than maintains that tradition.
Around town the great riding position is comfortable and confidence inspiring and helps to cut through traffic. The quality suspension front and rear gives a ride that’s plush and forgiving, ironing out all but the largest of road creases and bumps with minimal fuss.
While as well as being comfortable, the CB125R is also refreshingly nimble thanks to not only light and precise steering but also great balance, grippy Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300 rubber (including an impressively fat rear hoop) plus a claimed kerb weight of just 125.8kg – all allowing you to scythe through congestion with ease.
But the CB125R is not just an impressive, stylish and comfortable town bike or commuter. Away from the city centre, the little Honda is also perfectly competent when the going gets twisty, with plenty of ground clearance to inspire healthy lean angles and a mildly aggressive riding position.
Here, the quality suspension comes into its own, the ride is sufficiently firm, it’s both fun in the corners and impressively stable and the tractability of the engine means you don’t have to be constantly dancing on the gear lever.
Yes, it could do with slightly more power when the thrashing gets going – but that’s where the new 2021 version comes in – the brake, though acceptable, doesn’t quite live up to its looks, but there’s very little here for anyone to complain about.
EngineNext up: Reliability
At the heart of the CB125R lies a peppy, 125cc 2v SOHC liquid-cooled single cylinder engine producing a peak of 13.1bhp. Although that’s up to 1.7bhp down on its main rivals such as Yamaha’s recently updated MT-125, in reality it’s actually more than capable of first getting ahead and then staying ahead of the urban sprawl.
While satisfied owners have reported that in the real world the little CB (in truth, it’s not that little, it definitely has the presence and proportions of a full-sized bike) has more than enough power to keep with the flow of traffic and sit at the legal limit. All that said, however, the updated 2021 version of the CB125R has a new engine that makes up for that deficit so bear that in mind.
That’s mostly because its power delivery is so linear and predictable it really allows the CB125R to stretch its legs. The impressively strong low-to-mid range pulls comfortably all the way to the 11,000rpm redline - producing a characterful warble reminiscent of a low capacity trail bike as it does so. Interestingly, this distinctive exhaust note is audible at all times, too – thanks to a deliberately up-turned muffler, which Honda say they designed to help novice riders operating a motorcycle for the first time!
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Honda have a deserved reputation, too, for quality and reliability and the CB125R again scores on both counts. Almost everything about this stylish 125 indicates quality: its paint is glossy and deep; its metal finishes are generally good (but there is an exception to this that we’ll come back to) and all components, cycle parts and ancillaries such as switchgear, mirrors and more, are almost without exception top drawer.
What’s more, the owners' reviews for the CB125R are overwhelmingly positive so far and it scores a 4.4 out of 5 stars for reliability, so that legendary Honda build-quality is still worth the hype. The single-cylinder engine is well tried and tested, too, with no significant problems reported at all.
But it’s not perfect. When we first tested the CB125R on its press launch in Portugal, on a few occasions the transmission mysteriously refused to click from neutral into first gear. At the time we put it down to being a 'sticky', low mileage, pre-production machine and we haven’t heard of any owner complaints since so we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
As mentioned earlier, the front four-piston radial caliper also sometimes is vague, lacking that initial, confidence-inspiring bite that learners desperately need. Some owners have also mentioned this so it’s not a one-off.
There’s more, too: the positioning of the battery under the tank is another regular complaint and something that makes it difficult to set up a USB power socket. But the biggest complaint of all with the CB125R concerns the paint finish on the black exhaust, with more than one owner noting excessive corrosion within a year of ownership. Be sure to check this on any used bike and, as an owner, regular cleaning and protection with the likes of ACF-50 is recommended. Mechanically, however, nothing goes wrong.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
Honda’s stylish CB125R is not just a great bike, it’s serious value for money, as well. When new, it was the second cheapest offering in its class (sitting behind the lesser-equipped Suzuki GSX-S125) while also boasting a similar spec sheet to the significantly more expensive Aprilia SX125, KTM 125 Duke and Yamaha MT-125. The Honda is also impressively affordable to run and, as a used buy, with proven reliability and plenty of quality, it represents even better value still. So, yes, you can have your cake and eat it with the little CB.
Being a Honda, you also get the added bonus with the CB125R of benefitting from a strong dealer network – something not shared anywhere near as much by the Aprilia or KTM. While in terms of running costs, there should also be little to be concerned about.
Fuel consumption figures approaching 100mpg have been reported by owners and the CB125R's slightly 'softer' performance compared to rivals such as the MT-125, mean that its hunger for consumables such as brake pads, tyres (although that fat rear hoop will be more expensive than most when the time does eventually come to replace it) and the chain and sprockets should be fairly slight, too. And, although Honda spare parts aren’t the cheapest, the CB125R’s service intervals are fairly standard and owners report annual servicing costs of around £150 (admittedly this will be significantly more for a major valve adjustment check) which shouldn’t deter prospective buyers either.
As a used buy it makes sense as well. Apart from the exhaust paint problem, durability is good and although Honda residuals are better than most and the CB125R is a popular bike, the low initial purchase price means used prices aren’t prohibitive. Find a good one and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
Replacing the outgoing fully-faired CBR125R sportster as Honda’s flagship 125, the CB125R adds a level of sophistication to the roadster genre, offering big bike looks and components alongside a claimed lightest weight in class and near 300-mile tank range.
With an easy to read and operate LCD dash, the CB also shares the same frame and 41mm upside down Showa forks as its larger brother, the CB300R, which explains why the 125 seems to have more purposeful, 'big bike' proportions. They also help make the CB125R more than adequate for experienced riders looking for a cheap inner-city commuter.
On top of that you also get an appropriately-damped, non-adjustable rear shock, full LED lighting front and rear (including indicators), IMU-operated two-channel ABS and a fancy four-piston, radially-mounted front brake caliper, even if it doesn’t offer as much bite as expected.
But again, however, it’s not perfect. The fancy, 'reversed' LCD digital display may be stylish, generally clear and easy to read and handily include not just a fuel gauge and gear selection indicator but also a clock, but in certain conditions such as bright sunshine it is also susceptible to glare.
Nor are many official Honda accessories available for the CB125R yet – although there is an increasingly amount of aftermarket ones. Nose cowlings by the likes of Givi or Ermax are popular and help deflect some of the windblast this naked bike suffers from on longer, faster journeys, crash protection would be a wise move considering the Honda’s quality and likely novice appeal, while a top box might appeal to commuter types without compromising its manoeuvrability through traffic.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled 2v SOHC single|
|Frame type||Tubular and pressed steel|
|Fuel capacity||10.1 litres|
|Front suspension||41mm upside down fork, non-adjustable|
|Rear suspension||Single shock, preload adjustable|
|Front brake||296mm single disc. Radial four-piston caliper|
|Rear brake||220mm single disc. Single-piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||110/70 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||150/60 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£20|
|Annual service cost||£170|
|Used price||£3,000 - £3,500|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||13 bhp|
|Max torque||7.4 ft-lb|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
- 2018: Honda CB125R introduced.
- 2021: Honda update the CB125R with a new Euro5 engine, plus 41mm Showa Separate Function Big Piston forks – something Honda are calling a world first for a 125.
Related Honda CB reviews on MCN
Owners' reviews for the HONDA CB125R (2018 - 2020)
10 owners have reviewed their HONDA CB125R (2018 - 2020) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£170|
Having rejoined riding after 25years, finding the Honda a great introduction back before completing my direct access of Covid eventually allows me...
Annual servicing cost: £80
Great bike for the first time rider. Looks like a bigger bike and handles well. Very comfortable and easy to ride.Would recommend it.
Very good power delivery. Just wish I was a bit lighter. At 15st. 60mph is a good outcome but lacks a bit on any type of hill which, I suppose, is understandable.
One year and 1500 miles and no issues.
First service after 6 months and 500 miles. Thorough service, was in garage for over 2 hours. Have had no problems with the bike and it feels much better with age and mileage.
ABS as standard. Good lights. Tyres seem ok but I`m no expert. You have to take the seat and tank off to access the battery, so think they should include a battery hook-up under the pillion seat to enable easy re-charging over the winter months.
Buying experience: Great service from the guys at Honda, Farnham. About £4000.00 OTR.
For my first bike fresh from CBT it is excellent, Looks fab and is a dream to ride.
Absolutely lovely to ride. Brakes could be better but are sufficient
Could do with the couple more HP
Top class build
Really easy on fuel goes on the smell of it. Service was cheap at Honda dealer and runs better now.
Has everything and more for a 125
Buying experience: Dealer was excellent
Annual servicing cost: £375
The looks and styling perfectly sits between 'i am a new rider' cb125 and silly fully faired 'wannabe a big bike' cbr125. Battery placement is awkwardly under the petrol tank rather than the seat especially given the battery's tiny short lifespan
Having had a driver drive into me and a cb125 as a courtesy bike, the CB152R is in a different world in comparison. Shows forks make for a better ride. Higher seat makes you feel more confident on the road. The 13hp, 6 speed transmission makes for sporty feel without being intimidating for a new rider
Perfect commuter through London, enough low end torque to not be intimidating but still be fun off the lights. Average speeds to London about 50mph so comfortably in the mid range. At 70mph it is also plucky on the flat but uphill obviously struggles for power but nothing in comparison to other 125s
The battery is tiny and I've had one replaced and 3 flat batteries. Partly down to a faulty tracker. I can live with this though as it just means I ride it more
Servicing with Honda for first 3 services. I run mine for 60-70 miles to London office and back each week and costs £15 a week which is 2 tanks at £7-8 per tank! Cannot argue compared to the train at £500 per week!!!
People give the dash low ratings but they are 100% better than an analogue and more trust worthy. I haven't had any issues with sunglare but use the bike for commuting so early/late sun. You shouldn't be looking at your dash much anyway!!
Buying experience: Honda dealership near me were perfect and I am sure like many bike dealerships, they become extended biker friends before dealers.
Annual servicing cost: £80
Not got to ride much and I’m a first time rider. Seems to be a high wind blast at 40+ Bought a givi screen that makes a huge difference . Listed top speed is only achievable down hill with a tail wind I’m only 5’4 an 12 stone.
It’s much better with the givi screen the rear seat storage is next to useless I can fit a disc lock in an that’s it.
It’s what you get from a 125
Led light are great Quality suspension compared to many of others that I looked at. Looks like a proper bike not the chicken chaser it is. Sounds ok for a 125.
Buying experience: Sutton park Honda I Tamworth (Richard) were exceptional at guiding me through the purchase of my first bike from them after I had been everywhere else. Will be back when I finally pass my test!
Annual servicing cost: £100
Looks great, handles fabulously, great gear box, perfect commuter with added style and feel good factor
Feels great, I often take a longer route home to add to the 45 mins I usually take just to enjoy the ride. Its lovely sweeping through country lanes.
For a 125 it's a peach, perky, and performs well.
It's a Honda, it's exactly what we'd expect!
Service intervals are fairly standard.
Had to take 1 off for the dash, other than that it's great.
Buying experience: Bought new from a dealer, Sutton's in Bromsgrove, excellent team, very friendly and informative.
Version: Honda 125cc Neo Sports Cafe
Annual servicing cost: £150
This is a fantastic 125cc motorcycle and much much better than the Honda CB125F and Yamaha RD125 (twin cylinder, air cooled) that I had previously owned. This bike has 6 gears, disc brake front and rear, ABS, liquid cooled, monoshock, LED lights, gear indicator, LCD display with clock, wide tyres front and back. The ABS on this bike helped me to pass the A1 MOD1 test.
The bike is light, nimble and agile. I tend to counter-steer round corners and if I feel I am running wide then I just counter-steer more. However, at really slow speeds it is better to turn in the direction of travel and shift your body weight in the other direction. The ride is firm and this is really good for stability, cornering and getting feedback from the road. As with all motorcycles the front brake is far more effective than the rear brake. The combination of brakes and Dunlop GPR300 tyres enables the bike to stop quickly.
After getting the full motorcycle licence I took this bike out onto the M25. I am 13 and half stone so the bike did slow down going uphill but on the flat I was easily doing the National Speed limit. The liquid cooled engine seemed capable of cruising at 70 for hours on end on a hot day.
It is a well built motorcycle but the exhaust is looking a bit tired for a bike that is only one year old.
The running costs are low so the only cost that I have to keep an eye on is insurance.
The bike was used for commuting so I did not need any additional accessories. I did buy some rear spindle sliders to protect the bike and so I could lift the bike up using a paddock stand in order to clean and lube the chain.
Buying experience: I was getting my old bike serviced and before I knew it I has purchased the CB125R. On reflection it was the best purchasing decision I have ever made. The dealer made me an offer I could not refuse.
Annual servicing cost: £300
I have had the bike from June 2018 to now 11 August 2016 so just over a year and the exhaust looks like it needs to be replaced. This is unacceptable from Honda as is look as if customers are powering the dreams of Honda rather than Honda powering the dreams of its customers. Other than the issue of quality it is a fantastic motorcycle. 6 gears. Liquid cooled. Monoshock. LED lights. Gear indicator. Front and rear disks. ABS. It can jump forwards and backwards in time (I may be exaggerating about this last point.) It looks good. (I may feel differently in 10 years time. Having said that I may dead in which case I will not care too much, either way.) I am a annoyed that one of the most expensive 125's has lost 50% of its value in one year.
The seat is okay but it would be difficult to go more than an hour and a half without taking a break. The brakes work as you would expect them to.
My spark plug were black and oily and this suggests the mixture was too rich. The sensor in the exhaust pipe, the ecu and the regulator in the fuel injection system is supposed to deal with this. So this is not good for fuel for the engine or the fuel economy,
The issue I have had the bike from June 2018 to now 11 August 2016, so just over a year, is that the exhaust looks like it needs to be replaced. This was highlighted when I was looking to trade the bike in. The quality of the exhaust is bad.
The rusty exhaust has reduced its trade-in value as I was looking to upgrade to a bigger motorcycle. The cost of a new exhaust is £300 and I am going to have to fix it myself.
I am sure some propellor-head could point out, wouldn't it be nice to have a: 1) rear view camera 2) built-in sat-nav 3) on-board lavatory etc However, the best solution would be to slap the propellor-head.
Buying experience: I bought the bike new from a dealer. The bike was offered at the RRP and I was given a good deal on the trade-in. Not sure what this has to do with the Honda CB125R.
Version: Matt Black
Annual servicing cost: £90
My favourite features are, in no particular order, the digital display which is clear and easy to read. It includes a fuel gauge and gear selection indicator. The rev meter is easy to read at the top. The LED headlight is super bright at night and has a nice design to it with a whitish hue to the light. All the lights at the front stay on as daytime running lights so you feel safe and visible to traffic. Feels like a quality bike, solid on the road and nimble in the corners. Cheap to run. Looks bad ass in matt black.
Generally it's a very good ride. The way the bike is balanced makes twisty roads and navigating traffic brilliant. You can balance it almost at a standstill. Brakes solid to me.
The bike feels torquey and picks up speed quickly. The power delivery is linear all the way up to the top of the revs where there's a slight power bump at the very top of the range. There's more than enough power to keep with the flow of traffic and sit at the legal limit. I haven't ridden it much on carriage ways, just short stretches. Like others have said about smaller capacity engines, it's a lot of fun using all the rev range through the gears.
Build quality feels rock solid and well put together. No issues after 3 months of ownership.
Averaging around 120mpg and that's using all the rev range! The range is near 300 miles.
I like the lights and display. Not many accessories out yet for this bike.
Buying experience: South Coast Honda have excellent service.
Absolutely lovely ride! My first bike I’ve ever had, and it’s so easy to get used to.
Feels planted and is great fun down lanes and on bends.
Doesn’t feel underpowered, however I’ve never ridden a bigger bike
One of the smartest looking 125’s on the market, however the only thing that has let it down is the fact that on two occasions so far (in the 2 weeks I’ve owned the bike) it was refused to come out of 4th gear.
Can’t argue with £8.50 for a full tank of fuel. Average mpg is 120 at the moment.
Buying experience: Honda dealership in Bromsgrove were brilliant. Nothing was too much trouble.