YAMAHA R125 (2023-on) Review

Highlights

  • New look bodywork, including R7-inspired centralised headlight
  • Traction control as standard and pre-wired for quickshifter
  • Single cylinder four-stroke engine, with Variable Valve Actuation (VVA)
MCN AWARDS
125cc Bike of the Year 2023
WINNER

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £700
Power: 15 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.3 in / 820 mm)
Weight: Low (318 lbs / 144 kg)

Prices

New £5,302
Used £4,900

Overall rating

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

Yamaha’s R125 has been the poster bike for sportsbike aspiring teens since 2008. Now in its fourth generation, the plucky CBT-friendly single has matured into an R7 aping pocket rocket, now featuring slightly wider bars, a full colour TFT dash, and even traction control.

A good bike to begin with, thanks to a major overhaul in 2019, it’s restamped its authority on the A1-compliant class – giving the impression of a larger sportsbike in the mirrors and remaining comforting and composed for even the happiest of throttle happy teenage tearaway.

This latest version of the R retains the pre-existing Deltabox chassis and aluminium swingarm brought in with the previous third update. This continues to cradle the same 14.8bhp single cylinder engine as before, which features VVA (Variable Valve Actuation) and went through the Euro5 treatment back in 2021.

Knee down cornering on the 2023 Yamaha R125

Already MCN’s pick of the learner legal sportsbikes, the latest generation R125 builds on an already competent package – with a decent dollop of room to move around, and enough ground clearance for some seriously animated fun along a nadgery backroad. This is all whilst retaining a novice-friendly seat height of 820mm, and more spongey comfort for your backside than its naked MT-125 sibling.

The cornering competence is helped further by the inclusion of Michelin Pilot Street tyres, which offered a Loctite grip on the dry Spanish roads of our press test and struggled to come unstuck on our hot track sessions either. In fact, it begs the question why Yamaha bothered to fit the bike with traction control – with the rear end never once breaking away.

In fact, activating the TC can only really be done when you’re being deliberately silly on a slippery surface. There’s just not enough power for the back end to get out of line in a regular riding scenario. It also defaults back to being on every time you switch the bike off with the key and, whilst it’s a nice safety net for nervy newbies, most riders – green or otherwise – would be fine without it.

Tucked in on the 2023 Yamaha R125

Other electronic additions include the five inch full colour TFT dash, which replaces the outgoing LCD unit with displays for road and track - including a built in lap timer. Whether you’d ever actually take an R125 on track remains to be seen, but both displays are clear, and the unit is typical Yamaha quality. An ambient temperature gauge would be nice touch though. It can also be paired to your phone, for additional details like lean angle for ultimate bragging rights in the college carpark.

Elsewhere, it’s nicely damped, offers plenty of room for tall riders, and can be equipped for a quickshifter. It might be the most expensive machine in its class by a few hundred quid, but it would be a bike to be proud of for those starting their sportsbike riding career.

Ride quality & brakes

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

We got the chance to sample the 2023 Yamaha R125 on the Spanish city streets of Barcelona, winding Spanish mountain passes, and the thick end of an hour on a 1.3km go karting track on the coast. A dry day, with temperatures in the high teens, it impressed in every scenario – performing hours of consistently controlled riding, regardless of how aggressive the riding got.

The non-adjustable 41mm KYB upside down forks and mono shock may be on the soft side to cater for new riders and absorb the lumps and bumps of urban living, but the plucky Yamaha lets you push your luck through the bends without protest. The additional squash at the back end also helps with a flatter footing at a standstill, which is important when you’re starting out on two wheels.

Rear shot of the 2023 Yamaha R125

There’s no nervy diving at the front, or wobbles at the back at lean – striking a nice balance between comfort and composure, which is sure to suit new riders just fine. It’s roomy too – with enough space to move around on the seat and generously set foot pegs for getting off the side of the bike whenever called upon without running out of ground clearance. It’s an impressive set up.

That said, in town it can feel quite wristy, with the clip-on handlebars now 10-degrees more open than before – as is the trend in modern superbike and Grand Prix racing paddocks. Whilst a disadvantage around town, it provides a more involving riding experience out of town that encourages you to hunker in behind the tall screen and extrapolate all you can from the half pint motor.

It also potentially hints at a replacement for the current R3 which, compared to the R125 and R7, feels much more practical and upright – like a naked bike with a fairing bolted in place for good measure. It sticks out in the line-up, not sharing the same centralised front LED headlight, either. Also not updated since 2019, a more focussed circa 47bhp race rep could well be on the cards. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Back to the 125 and that screen is also excellent at keeping the wind off your head and shoulders, making long periods of high speed riding less fatiguing than on its naked stablemate, the MT-125.

Front end shot of the 2023 Yamaha R125

Elsewhere, the brakes are beginner friendly without the ABS diving in at every opportunity. In fact, the system leaves you alone to brake late and lean on the front end – only stepping in when it thinks you’re being too much of a loose cannon. A dab of rear brake is required on the run into bends from higher speeds too, with the front two piston caliper feeling a little spongey – likely improved by a different pad.

To further keep you out of trouble, the latest generation R125 gets traction control. This can be switched off if you want, but it will always default back to being on when you fire the bike up. Adjustment is made using a scroll wheel on the right bar but cannot be done when on the move and the dash sometimes lags behind your movements meaning you often go past where you need to be.

It might be a nice selling point in the Yamaha brochure, but the truth is it doesn’t need it. The bike produces 14.8bhp and even if it had three times that figure, it would still be overkill. The Michelin Pilot Street tyres are more than grippy enough for a bike and only became slightly flustered when pushing on during our stints on track. For normal riding on the road – where almost all of these bikes will spend their entire life – it’s an unnecessary addition.

Engine

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

The liquid-cooled, single cylinder four-stroke engine on the latest R125 first arrived in 2019, with the introduction of the third generation bike. Subsequently updated for Euro5 in 2021, the motor differs from its direct rivals from Japan and Europe thanks to the inclusion of Variable Valve Actuation.

What this effectively means is that the intake valve timing changes at 7400rpm, using a solenoid to switch from a low-lift to high-lift cam, which is then indicated on the TFT dash via a subtle VVA logo.

The result is a small capacity motor that has genuine flexibility, with meat at the bottom end to be lazy with the gears around town, and plenty of top end to reach the national speed limit and keep ahead of the surrounding traffic. On a private road, Yamaha say it will head north of 80mph.

2023 Yamaha R125 footpegs

It is all relative though, and whilst it’s grunty for a 125 there is only 8.5lb.ft of torque on tap and if you want to make overtakes they need to be planned well in advance - dropping a couple of gears and pinning the throttle to the stop.

Fortunately, the clutch is also one-finger light to help snatch up shifts and rush back down the box whenever called upon. In the hours of animated riding we enjoyed there wasn’t a single missed shift either way, with the friendly controls also allowing you to dispatch tight congested city streets without even having to think about it.

Cornering on track on the 2023 Yamaha R125

Being Euro5 friendly, the motor is unsurprisingly sewing machine quiet. You can hear it at all times, but it’s hardly the soundtrack you’d aspire to for a bike of this style. That’s not the fault of Yamaha though – it’s just the nature of the engine type – and if previous generations of R125 are anything to go by, they will all be fitted with bean-tin-sized exhaust cans as soon as they leave the showroom anyway.

Yamaha are claiming 112mpg, which would make for a theoretical 271 miles of range and whilst it’s a frugal motorcycle, you’d have to riding incredibly conservatively to achieve that.

Reliability & build quality

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

If you’re looking at the R125 as a new customer then good news, this is a nicely screwed together motorcycle, with sturdy R1-inspired switchgear, proper big bike styling, and a proven motor in the middle. There’s also more tech than some much larger modern motorcycles too, and it should last the test of time – providing generations of bikers with a quality introduction to two wheels.

In fact, MCN owners’ reviews of the 2019-2022 R125 (the bike this is based on) score it an average of 4.5/5 stars in this category – with the main criticisms coming from the large quantities of plastic around the tank, which can feel a bit cheap when aboard.

A front view of the 2023 Yamaha R125

If you’re coming to this review in a few years’ time, considering one of these on the used market, be sure to check for the tell-tale signs of a crashed (many of them will have taken a tumble). Aftermarket pegs, different (usually smaller) indicators, resprays, scuffed bar ends, and tatty levers are all things to be mindful of.

Have a look at the servicing too – you want one that hasn’t been scrimped on and has plenty of stamps in the book. A well maintained chain, decent matching tyres, and minimal corrosion on the fasteners are all good signs it’s been well looked after, too.

Value vs rivals

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

The 2023 R125 is £5302 without any extras, making it the most expensive bike in the class. That said, no one buys a new bike with a big bag of cash these days and if you opt to have one on PCP, Yamaha are offering 36 monthly payments of £75 with a deposit of £1042.50. That’s not bad at all really – no more than your monthly phone bill and a couple of streaming service charges.

But what about the cheaper alternatives? The learner legal sportsbike class is incredibly competitive and the R125 will have its work cut out to retain the top spot amongst its established rivals.

Taking a corner on track on the 2023 Yamaha R125

Starting in Japan, potential customers could also consider the £4699 Kawasaki Ninja 125, and £4999 Suzuki GSX-R125. Honda’s CBR125R may have now left the range, but there’s always a healthy selection found on the used market.

Moving to Europe, there’s also the £5199 KTM RC125, and £5100 Aprilia RS125 – with all options boasting a superbike-aping side profile, decent build quality, and very similar bhp figures and top end poke. The Yamaha may have VVA, but you’ll have a hoot on whichever one you pick if your wallet can’t stretch that far.

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

Considering the Yamaha R125 is designed to be an entry point into sportsbikes and will more than likely be many riders’ first motorcycle, the spec sheet is mightily impressive. Dressed in R7-inspired bodywork, there are proper big bike dimensions, a 140-section rear tyre, and a centralised LED headlight.

Not only has the motor got Variable Valve Actuation (VVA) for a broader spread of power (in relative terms) than its direct rivals, there’s also an easy to read and nicely detailed five inch full colour TFT dash, said to be inspired by the unit found on the R1 superbike. This inspiration has also led to new switchgear and a revised top yoke.

You get two themes on the dash too - one for the street and one for the track (not that you’re likely to take it on a circuit anytime soon) – with all of your key information and even a lap timer. This timer has memory for an impressive 25 laps too, but as most UK trackdays forbid the timing of laps and the admission of four-stroke 125s, it’s a pretty redundant feature.

Riding the 2023 Yamaha R125 in an urban environment

If you fancy setting the McDonalds carpark lap record, the system is operated using the headlight flasher switch on the left switchgear. An ambient temperature display would be more useful for most though. Other features include an adjustable shift light and smartphone connectivity, which can be accessed via Yamaha’s free MyRide mobile app.

Away from the dash, the latest generation Yamaha also gets a traction control system, which could benefit throttle-happy rookies. That said, with the bike producing a regulation-maximum 14.8bhp output, it’s simply not necessary for almost any riding situation. Take it off and charge less of a premium for the bike we say!

2023 Yamaha R125 colour TFT dash

To encourage you to dip into the optional extras catalogue, the bike has also been pre-wired for a quickshifter, which is arguably a much more worthwhile addition to a bike like this that requires speedy gear changes and plenty of throttle to stay ahead of the surrounding traffic. I would personally rather have this as standard than the TC.

There are also a multitude of accessories to add, including a ‘Sport Pack’ that features the aforementioned quickshifter, side-mounted tank grips, a tail tidy, brake guard, and billet levers produced by Gilles.

Specs

Engine size 125cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, SOHC, single cylinder with Variable Valve Actuation (VVA)
Frame type Deltabox
Fuel capacity 11 litres
Seat height 820mm
Bike weight 144kg
Front suspension 41mm upside down KYB forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Single rear shock, non-adjustable
Front brake Single 292mm floating disc with two-piston radial caliper. ABS
Rear brake 220mm rear disc, with single piston caliper. ABS
Front tyre size 100/80 x 17
Rear tyre size 140/70 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 112 mpg
Annual road tax £25
Annual service cost £700
New price £5,302
Used price £4,900
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 271 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

2008: First generation R125 launched with R6 mimicking styling, conventional forks, big bike proportions, and a 14.8bhp four-stroke single, held in a Deltabox chassis.

2014: The bike maintains the same overall silhouette, but the bodywork is modernised – with upside down forks and a radially-mounted front brake added. The engine also gains a new fuel injection system.

2019: Major overhaul for the third generation R125, with new bodywork to mimic the last 2017-on R6 supersport to be sold in Europe. There was also a new chassis and swingarm, plus a new engine with VVA (Variable Valve Actuation).

2021: New colours and the single cylinder engine tweaked to meet Euro5 emissions and safety regulations.

Other versions

The Yamaha R125 is the smallest in a long line of Yamaha sportsbike models, ranging from A2 licence friendly parallel twins, to screaming four-cylinder super sports, and even full blooded superbikes knocking on the door of 200bhp. The full list of sporty Yamaha models can be seen below:

Owners' reviews for the YAMAHA YZF-R125 (2023 - on)

1 owner has reviewed their YAMAHA YZF-R125 (2023 - 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 (2023 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Engine: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Reliability & build quality: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Value vs rivals: 3 out of 5 (3/5)
Equipment: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £700
4 out of 5 Perfect, but quite expensive.
14 February 2024 by Karel

Year: 2023

Annual servicing cost: £700

After 12.000 kilometers in just about 4 months, I can say that the bike is absolutely perfect and flawless, however the maintanance costs are quite alot, may be different by countries or dealers.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Excellent handling, brakes are good enough.

Engine 5 out of 5

It's still an 125cc, however the most powerful one I've ever been on. If you have the budget, this is the way to go.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 3 out of 5

Spare parts are expensive as hell. So insurance is a must. Servicing costs are quite high aswell. Annual servicing cost is higher then for avarage user, I've made 12.000 kilometers in 4 months of ownership. (Costs are in USD)

Equipment 5 out of 5

ABS and TCS are perfect to keep you up. Saved my butt few times. Bright colorful display, quickshifter is possibly one of the best accessories.

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