Why learner riders are spoilt for choice...
With grown-up, sporty looks and a variety of high-quality mods available, Yamaha’s YZF-R125 has been popular with budding sportsbike fans since its inception. In its eighth year of production, the highly-reliable and plucky single now produces 15bhp at 9000rpm. Specs have improved over time – original versions came with conventional forks but newer models boast upside-downers. Thanks to its sales popularity, YZFs are now available to suit most budgets – though newer models are still quite expensive.
What you’ll pay now: £1500-£4399.
But should you? Absolutely. Just look out for crash damage as many will have been thrashed within an inch of their life.
Honda CBR125R (2004-2010)
The model’s still in production but the older generation CBR offers fresh riders Japanese reliability at a fraction of the price of a new bike. Producing a claimed 13.4bhp and 7.8ftlb of torque from its 124.7cc four-stroke, the miniature CBR has been a hit with new riders since its launch. Its lack of fancy equipment and features made it cheaper than its rivals, but this also meant it was never as exciting to look at. Its skinny tyres, tiny dimensions and lightweight clutch made it easy to use around town – where these bikes will spend most of their lives.
What you’ll pay now: £1200-£2000.
But should you? Yes. The CBR is fun and reliable and tidy examples are still available in abundance.
Honda XL125V (2001-2009)
The XL125V has always been attractive to taller riders, offering big-bike styling and dimensions on a small-capacity machine. Housing an easy to use, non-threatening V-twin motor, this bike has a real presence – meaning you won’t feel dwarfed by traffic. Producing 15bhp, the Varadero has a top speed of around 70mph and will return a decent range from its 17-litre fuel tank. Build quality and reliability on these bikes is generally good, however the mild steel downpipes have a tendency to rust through if cleaning has been neglected.
What you’ll pay now: £1000-£3000.
But should you? If you are on the taller side then sure, however shorter new riders might be better suited elsewhere.
Producing around 12bhp, the GN is very easy to ride – light steering, impressive fuel economy and minimal maintenance requirements. The cheapest examples are often ex-training school bikes. They may have cosmetic damage, but most will be mechanically fine.
What you’ll pay now: £800-£2500.
But should you? Yes. It is easy to use and the perfect step into biking. Perhaps I’m being biased – as I passed my test on one!
Suzuki VanVan (2003-on)
With a long, comfy seat and retro single clock, the VanVan has become something of a cult bike and its docile 12bhp engine and narrow turning circle make the little Suzuki the perfect urban adventurer. The bike will also do 90mpg and return a 150-mile range but it struggles to reach 60mph on the open road.
What you’ll pay now: £1500-£3199.
But should you? Yes – even if only for its style and charm.
Yamaha YBR125 (2005-on)
Though not the most exciting bike out there, the Yamaha is hugely learner-friendly, producing roughly 10bhp from its 124cc air-cooled single. There is plenty of equipment too with a luggage rack, bungee rails and a centrestand all coming as standard on early models.
What you’ll pay now: £1000-£2599.
But should you? If you want something rider-friendly to give you your first taste of bikes then the YBR is perfect.
Honda MSX125 (2013-on)
A monkey bike for the 21st century, the MSX125 (or Grom as it’s known in the States) was an instant hit. With a seat height of just 765mm and a wheelbase spanning 1200mm, the MSX is extremely agile. These small bikes now command quite a following, with loads of custom parts available to make them special.
What you’ll pay now: £2000-£2899.
But should you? Not cheap, even used. If your budget stretches then go for it.
You can find these and any other 125s on MCN's Bikes for Sale page.