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Bike chooser: Fun 125s

Published: 14 March 2013

Updated: 20 November 2014

"I’m 23 years old and have recently got into bikes having passed my CBT. I’m looking for a 125 to learn on and also pass my test.

"I’m not looking to get straight up onto big bikes as I feel this would be unwise so I’m happy to stick with a 125 for a few years. What would you recommend that is both good to learn on and also fun?

I believe a two-stroke is the best fun while a four-stroke is reliable but a bit dull. I’m looking at spending £1,000 to £1,500 although I am willing to look at a good finance package." Ben Thomas

Yamaha YZF-R125, £1,500 - £2,000
The YZF-R125 was launched in 2008 and instantly rocketed to the top of the UK’s sales charts. New riders could, at last, buy a good looking 125 sportsbike that wouldn’t break down every second.

Designed to mimic the firm’s bigger capacity YZF-R6 and YZF-R1, the YZF-R125 uses a 125cc four-stroke engine that simply refuses to burn any fuel. You can easily get 70mpg out of this little beast, giving it a tank range of close to 200 miles with a top speed nudging 70mph. But the real trump card is the YZF’s size.

Unlike the likes of the CBR125 the Yamaha feels like a big bike with a comfortable riding position and fairly effective fairing, making it much more than just a short-hop commuting tool. You can ride proper distances on the YZF and with its larger than the average 125cc machine wheel sizes the Yamaha handles well too.

The YZF-R125 has proved an incredibly popular 125 and topped the UK’s sportsbike sales charts for several years, meaning that there are loads of used examples out there. Prices are slightly higher than other 125s, but bargains are there to be had if you don’t mind a few scratches on the fairing.

Honda CBR125, £1,200 - £2,000
The original CBR125 should be applauded in many ways as it was the first Japanese bike to combine cool sporty looks with an ultra reliable four-stroke 125cc engine.

However as soon as the YZF-R125 appeared on the scene the CBR instantly looked horribly dated. A subterranean seat height and unbelievable reliability are the Honda’s trump cards, looks certainly aren’t but they are plentiful and very cheap.

Aprilia RS125, £1,500 - £2,000
The two-stroke RS125 is the hooligan of the 125 class. In restricted form the engine is gutless and a pain to ride due to the need to continually slip the clutch at low revs, however get the restrictors out (once you are legally allowed to) and the Aprilia is a complete missile.

Easily the best handling 125 out there, many big name racers including Casey Stoner learnt their craft racing an RS in the UK. The engine is fragile in derestricted form and quality two-stroke oil is expensive, making this a pricey bike to run.

Yamaha YBR125, £800-£2,000
Yamaha’s YBR125 is the commuter’s favourite and the market is flooded with second hand examples, making this the budget option. Not a very cool looking bike, the YBR does everything a new rider could possibly want while sticking to a very tight budget.

Reliable, cheap to run and pretty crash resistant, the YBR may not set your pulse racing, but it will teach you all you need to know about riding bikes. Buy one of these and put the money you save towards a bigger bike.

KTM Duke 200, £4,195
If you are 19 years old or over and have an A2 licence you can ride KTM’s Duke 200. It may only be 75cc more than the Duke 125, but this extra capacity really makes a difference and the Duke is an excellent town bike that handles well and looks great.

At the moment KTM are offering the Duke 200 with KTM finance, which is a little cheaper than other packages, and makes it a tempting prospect as this is a bike you will keep for longer than a 125. ABS is standard as well, which is a bonus.

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