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Bike Chooser: Mini adventure bikes

Published: 14 July 2013

Updated: 20 November 2014

Honda Varadero XL125

Honda’s baby adventure bike has been busily going about its business since 2001 and is something of an unsung hero of the 125 class. Looking like a mini version of the Varadero 1000 (which was launched two years earlier in 1999), the 125 even uses a tiny and intricate V-twin motor. How’s that for attention to detail?

The Varadero has a ‘big bike’ feel about it that is lacking in so many 125s. The upright riding position gives you a commanding view of the road while the wide bars, deeply padded seat and low pegs make for a comfortable commute. When the traffic gets a bit tight the huge steering lock and 149kg weight make low speed manoeuvres simple, although with a seat height of 802mm, shorter riders may wish for the ground to be a touch closer to their toes.

One of the main things that set the Varadero 125 aside from other 125s is the engine. Although a V-twin may sound over-kill for a 125, the extra grunt the twin provides is certainly appreciated and adds to the overall package’s charm. The gearbox is slick, clutch light and as you would expect from a Honda there are no real reliability dramas apart from the steel exhaust downpipes rotting through over time.

However as impressive as the engine is, where the Honda really wins is the availability of official optional extras. A taller screen, centre stand, top box and heated grips are just the start and by spending a few quid (or getting a used bike with them already fitted) the Varadero can be made into a brilliant city tool.

Prices start at close to £1,200 for a 2002 model however a good one will cost nearer to £1,600. It may be a bit more expensive than most, however the Varadero is certainly one of the best do it all 125s on the market and easily justifies its price tag.

Rider 1, aged 25 from Hull -
£116.59 (£350 excess)

Rider 2, aged 35 from London -
£117.94 (£100 excess)

Rider 3, aged 45 from Edinburgh -
£73.80 (£150 excess)

Kawasaki KLX125

The off-road styled KLX is remarkably proficient on the rough stuff. However, it is more aimed at new riders who like the off-road look. The four-stoke 125cc engine has an electric start and is fairly nippy and very reliable. Prices start at around £2,000 for a 2010 model.

Rider 1, aged 25 from Hull -
£195.02 (£350 excess)

Rider 2, aged 35 from London -
£257.12 (£300 excess)

Rider 3, aged 45 from Edinburgh -
£98.18 (£200 excess)

Yamaha XT125R

While the two-stroke DT range makes for fun, the four-stroke XT are a bit more subdued in their nature. The SOHC motor produces around 12bhp and the Yamaha looks good, but if you want some proper fun then dig out an older DT and enjoy that two-stroke zing. XT prices start at £1,500 with the DT commanding a few hundred quid more.

Rider 1, aged 25 from Hull -
£144.15 (£350)

Rider 2, aged 35 from London -
£131.96 (£50)

Rider 3, aged 45 from Edinburgh -
£74.14 (£200)

All quotes correct as of 03/07/13 on Compare prices from 43 leading insurance companies and if you purchase a policy before 31.8.13, you will get a free £10 eVoucher to spend on helmets and clothing at

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