YAMAHA YZF-R125 (2019 - on) Review

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £140
Power: 15 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.5 in / 825 mm)
Weight: Low (313 lbs / 142 kg)

Prices

New £4,499
Used £3,700 - £4,300

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The outgoing Yamaha YZF-R125 was already a fantastic introduction to motorcycling, winning MCN’s 2018 sports 125 group test. For 2019, Yamaha have taken this recipe and made it even better, with a purposeful new face, better engine and class-leading handling to boot.

With an 825mm seat height, the European-built bike will favour the taller rider, however remained perfectly manageable for this 5ft6in tester.

With more mid-range, no longer are you constantly chasing the higher RPMs to keep up with the traffic and out in the twisties, the improved ergonomics, wider rear tyre and boosted top-end make it a pleasure to chuck around.

Cornering on the Yamaha YZF-R125

In May 2019 Yamaha unveiled a race-livery version of the 2019 YZF-R125 that matched the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP bikes ridden by Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales.

The YZF-R125 Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Edition is expected to hit showrooms by the end of May 2019 priced at £4699, which is £200 more than the standard model.

Ever since Yamaha launched their R-series styled entry-level sportsbike a decade ago it’s loitered menacingly at the top of the sales charts, and at McDonald's drive-throughs.

Yamaha R125 MotoGP

Buy tickets to the 2020 Carole Nash MCN London Motorcycle Show here

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Cradling the new engine is a revised chassis with new geometry, which has been developed to inspire smoother handling characteristics.

This is combined with a more rigid aluminium swingarm, complete with a wider pivot, housing a fatter 140mm Michelin Pilot Street rear tyre and rim, which replaces the outgoing 130-section design. The bike feels planted and predictable at all speeds, allowing you to tip into corners with confidence and apply throttle on exit with no movement from the rear.

A larger rear tyre and new swingarm benefit the handling

We also had the opportunity to test the YZF-R125 around the tight Ribera Circuit. Used by locals for pit bikes and go-karts, the dinky Yam felt perfectly geared for the short track, with plenty of tight and fast bends to achieve maximum lean, only helped by ample ground clearance.

The Michelin tyres didn’t once break traction and the confidence inspiring front end allowed you to stuff it into every apex whilst chasing the hallowed scrape of slider of tarmac. The bike also felt stable through fast changes of direction, helped by the fatter rear tyre and stiffened chassis parts.

Despite the sporty stance and slightly forward riding position, the bike remains comfortable on longer journeys and provides plenty of leg room. What’s more, the well-damped, non-adjustable suspension soaks up the majority of bumps in the road with ease, while remaining stiff enough to feel planted in the turns.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The bike gains a new engine for 2019, complete with Variable Valve Actuation (VVA). The system consists of low-lift and high-lift cams, which work on separate rocker arms. At lower RPMs, the low-lift cams will operate the valves, with the valve timing then switching at 7400rpm.

The aim of this is to achieve better acceleration, a higher top speed and a more torquey feel from the engine. As a result, there’s more bottom-end and power delivery is strong and consistent from the middle of the rev range, with the motor pulling all the way to 11,000rpm. The shift in timing is seamless, and allows you to be lazier with gear changes when you’re not in a hurry.

Exploring the VVA system

The VVA system on the Yamaha YZF-R125

It’s a tough time for kids these days. As if the stress of ten thousand exams wasn’t enough, they don’t even get the pleasures of eye-popping two-strokes. In fact, all A1-learner legal motorcycles are restricted to around 14.5bhp (11 kW) with a power-to-weight ratio of not more than 0.1 kW per kg and a max of 125cc.

Luckily, the requirements do not specify a maximum torque, so if you are looking for an advantage in this highly competitive segment, this is the area to exploit. Which is exactly what Yamaha have done with the 2019 YZF-R125 and its Variable Valve Actuation (VVA).

Within the head is a single camshaft that operates two intake and two exhaust valves via two independent rocker arms. Shaped like a ‘Y’, these rockers are activated by the cam’s lobe and push directly on the valves to open them before they are shut again by the valve springs. Then when the revs hit 7400rpm the VVA system is activated and the magic happens.

Alongside the intake rocker arm sits another arm that is moved by the cam’s second intake lobe. Shorter than the main rocker, this arm follows the cam but does not act on the valves at low rpm.

When 7400rpm is reached and the VVA is triggered, a solenoid pushes a metal pin through the main rocker arm, connecting it to this secondary rocker arm. Thanks to the more aggressive profile of the second cam lobe, this rocker then takes over the control of the valves' movement because it is moved by the cam’s lobe before the primary rocker arm is, effectively changing the YZF-R125's intake valve timing.

When the revs drop below 7400rpm the pin is retracted and the rockers move independently again. So why is this important?

"At low revs the cam profile has a low lift, which gives less of what is called 'valve overlap,'" says Leon Oosterhof, Product Management for Yamaha Motor Europe.

Leon Oosterhof, Product Management for Yamaha Motor Europe

"Valve overlap is the period both the exhaust and intake valves are open at the same time. Less overlap gives good low and midrange torque as well as better fuel economy. More valve overlap created by a high-lift cam delivers improved performance at high revs.

"With VVA we have given the YZF-R125 both high and low-lift cam profiles, significantly increasing its torque throughout the low and midrange without sacrificing top-end performance."

According to Yamaha the VVA system is simple tech that is reliable, effective and, for a 125, an efficient and low-cost way of boosting its low-down torque while retaining its top end.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Although it’s much too early to talk about the reliability of the new European-built machine, MCN reader reviews of previous models indicate largely positive feedback. As with any 125, if you’re buying one used be sure to check for crash damage and signs of neglect as many of these bikes will have been owned by new riders.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Although gaining no additional cost over the outgoing 2018 bike - despite a new engine and styling - the Yamaha is priced towards the premium end of the sports 125 class. At £4499, the bike is a whole £400 more than the Suzuki GSX-R125, £100 more than the standard Kawasaki Ninja 125 and £50 more than the KTM RC125.

What’s more, remaining Honda CBR125Rs found in the dealer network are a whole £500 less, too. That said, it is £200 cheaper than Aprilia’s premium RS125.

Unlike some of the less expensive options, the R125 exudes quality and will stand out as the poster bike for many budding biking teens, thanks to the quality components and styling mimicking more powerful sports machines in Yamaha’s range. What’s more, it also offers some of the best engine and braking performance in this class, as well as an impressive claimed fuel economy.

Rival 2019 prices:

  • Suzuki GSX-R125 = £4099
  • Kawasaki Ninja 125 = £4399 base, £4499 for KRT version
  • KTM RC125 = £4449
  • Honda CBR125R = £3999 (discontinued)
  • Aprilia RS125 = £4699

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

Yamaha have developed a number of new optional extras for 2019, ranging from larger screens, to a rear seat cowl. Prices range from £57 for a set of LED arrow indicators, to £700 for a full titanium Akrapovic exhaust.

The £700 pipe is expensive and makes little to no difference in performance or noise, thanks to a fused baffle courtesy of Euro4. As of March, Yamaha will also sell you a Sports Kit consisting of a larger 'Endurance' screen, number plate bracket, side-mounted crash protection and LED indicators.

Another welcome addition to the bike is the inclusion of a new LCD display, replacing the previous bikes’ convoluted three-part unit, which could be hard to read on the move. In its place comes a much cleaner, more logical device, housing all of the features you would come to expect for a modern machine, alongside a VVA actuation indicator and a personalised welcome message when the key is turned, which can be altered to display your own name.

The LCD dash is easy to read

2020 colour options

New for 2020, the Yamaha YZF-R125 will be available in an M1-aping Icon Blue, stealthy Tech Black and Competition White, complete with fluo yellow wheels.

Specs

Engine size 125cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled SOHC 4-valve single
Frame type Steel Deltabox
Fuel capacity 11.5 litres
Seat height 825mm
Bike weight 142kg
Front suspension Upside down 41mm telescopic fork
Rear suspension Single shock, non-adjustable
Front brake Single 292mm disc, four piston radial caliper
Rear brake Single 220mm disc, single piston caliper
Front tyre size 100/80x17
Rear tyre size 140/70x17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 135 mpg
Annual road tax £20
Annual service cost £140
New price £4,499
Used price £3,700 - £4,300
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 15 bhp
Max torque 8.5 ft-lb
Top speed 80 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 323 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

The Yamaha YZF-R125 was launched in 2008 as part of a new generation of four-stroke sporty 125s, replacing arguably out-dated temperamental two-stroke predecessors, such as the Aprilia RS125 and Cagiva Mito.

Since its inception, the bike has remained largely unchanged; receiving a variety of smaller upgrades such as upside forks and an improved instrument cluster, with this 2019 upgrade being the bike’s first major overhaul.

Other versions

Although this is technically the only version, the YZF-R125 is the smallest member of Yamaha’s sportsbike family, with this machine sharing styling traits with the updated-for-2019 YZF-R3, supersport YZF-R6, and YZF-R1 versions.

Also to be considered is the naked MT-125, which uses the same liquid-cooled Minarelli engine as the lump in the previous generation R125, as well as the same internals. The only thing setting the two bikes apart is the styling, with the MT adopting an upright streetfighter design, reminiscent of the larger MT-07 and MT-09.

Other Yamaha YZF reviews on MCN

Owners' reviews for the YAMAHA YZF-R125 (2019 - on)

2 owners have reviewed their YAMAHA YZF-R125 (2019 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your YAMAHA YZF-R125 (2019 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Engine: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Equipment: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Annual servicing cost: £140
4 out of 5 YZF R125 2019
29 January 2020 by Andy

Version: 2019 Mini R1

Year: 2019

Annual servicing cost: £135

Overall i think its a great bike, yamaha have always made quality bikes made to last, its nippy around town and easy off the lights leaving most cars behind, clocked it 0-60 in about 9.78 seconds but the wind helped with that. My only Gripe with the bike is that the riding position isnt great, im 6ft and i felt like alot of the time there was weight on my hands having to lean over the bike. I would also like to point out that as an avid fan of Akroprovic i would not recommend getting one for this bike as it literally makes no difference to the sound of the bike at all. Black widow, scorpion or arrow would be a better and cheaper alternative.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

I find the brakes are pretty good, they are reactive when used and ill be honest they have saved me in a good many situations! only issue i had and im not sure if its just my bike but i find the rear brake to be lacking.

Engine 5 out of 5

Engine is great! so far after 2500 miles i havent had any issues (Yet) the bike has VVA which you cant really tell when it kicks in but for me after using the bike for a while can tell it has a bit more oomph in the top end of the revs compared to say a kawasaki Ninja 125 which my friend uses.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Good Quality, well made as per yamaha's we know and love, only issue i had was after having an aftermarket exhaust fitted there was a god awful rattling which i assume was because the dealership didnt take out the secondary silencer.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

In terms of running costs i do about 10 miles a day and then some just enjoying the twisties where i can, on average i did a check over a month between 2 fill ups and i personally averaged about 118 mpg, when i was being a bit abusive one day i think i got about 82 which again is still not bad. As for servicing it gets a bit expensive but its the price we pay to keep our bikes in good nick, fuel wise i think a full tank costs me about £11-£13

Equipment 4 out of 5

The Colour screen i find is great, has a gear indicator which is always nice and has the usual trip monitor fuel gauge etc. A nice addition is it welcomes you by name when you turn it on! e.g Hi Andy!

Buying experience: Buying experience from Arnolds Motorcycles in Loughborough was great, the chaps know their stuff there and followed up with some nice aftercare a few weeks into riding the bike just to make sure everything was spot on.

5 out of 5 Good fun
23 April 2019 by Winnie1411

Year: 2019

Very early days at the moment as I have only had the bike for two weeks. Best bits are that I find it very comfortable to ride (I am 5'7" and a bit), good fuel economy and I have the tech black model that looks great. As of yet I have no complaints.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

The brakes seem very good and inspire confidence. The rear tyre handles and grips really well on the country bends although I haven’t been out in much wet weather yet.

Engine 4 out of 5

This bike is great fun. It accelerates nicely and is surprisingly smooth, effortlessly reaching 70mph without working the engine too hard.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Again, this bike is new. The build quality is of a good standard when compared to other new bikes I looked at before purchasing. Regarding reliability it is simply too soon to comment.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
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