Yamaha YS125 first ride: "A basic, dependable commuter"

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While it could certainly never be described as sexy, Yamaha’s YBR125 has always fulfilled an important role. Consistently a best seller with over 150,000 taking to Europe’s streets, the YBR offered basic motoring with a recognised brand name to budget-conscious riders holding a restricted licence. Now, for 2018, Yamaha have decided to treat the YBR to a refresh to not only make it Euro4-compliant, but also give it a sportier look. It even gets a new name…

Beneath the YS125’s new sharper styling, which consists of a new fairing, light and bodywork, lurks what is effectively a tweaked YBR125. The engine is essentially the same SOHC two-valve air-cooled four-stroke as before, just with a new cylinder running a longer stroke and smaller bore with a redesigned head on top, and the chassis and suspension are largely unaltered.

Pleasingly for commuters, Yamaha have increased the tank’s capacity by 1-litre, improved comfort levels through a more relaxed riding position with a taller 795mm seat height and added a new braking system.


Euro4 regulations require 125s to either have ABS or a linked brake system and like most other budget bikes, Yamaha have opted for the latter. Called Unified Braking System (UBS), a cable connected to the rear brake’s foot peddle pulls on the front master cylinder, activating both brakes when you put pressure on the rear, while the front lever remains independent.

Is it better than ABS? Certainly not, and to use it’s a bit odd at first as you can feel the front brake lever’s pressure change when you apply the rear, but the single piston front caliper and drum rear are pretty unlikely to ever lock the wheels anyway, so in practice its performance is perfectly adequate.

In town it is easy to see why the YBR125 was such a hit. At just 129kg the YS125 is light, really agile and surprisingly good when it comes to flying around roundabouts. Its skinny tyres and big 18-inch wheels grip well enough and although soft and basic, the suspension is also acceptable for city usage while the riding position is comfortable. But get out of a 40-limit and the YS’s basic nature starts to show.

On a dual carriageway the YS125 feels so slow. You are basically limited to 60mph and unless you get a tow from a passing lorry 70mph is the stuff of dreams as the five-speed motor is a slug. That said, Yamaha conservatively claim the YS will do 100mpg (up from the YBR’s 90mpg), so what you sacrifice in speed you gain in economy. It also has an Eco light to help you increase its frugality even more (over 140mpg is rumoured), but the engine is so slow I only managed to light this up at walking pace…

Priced at just £2872 the YS125 is only £200 more than the YBR125 it replaces, which is impressive. Like its budget rivals it is also built in China, but the fact it has Yamaha on its tank not only helps resale values, but also adds a degree of trust as you know the spares and warranty backup is Japanese-standard and that makes it feel less of a disposable product. At the end of the day the YS125 is what the YBR125 always was – a basic, no-frills, commuter that will run and run come rain or shine. 


The YS125 is basic, but that’s its role in life and for a budget price you get a Yamaha-branded motorcycle that does all that is require of it. It’s not sexy, but it is very functional and that’s why it sells.

Price: £2799
Engine: 125cc (52.4×57.9mm) air-cooled, SOHC, 2 valve, single
Frame: Tubular steel frame. 
Seat height: 795mm
Suspension: Conventional forks, non-adjustable. Rear: Twin shocks, adjustable spring preload.
Brakes: 1 x 245mm disc, one-piston caliper; 130mm drum. UBS
Colours: Red, black, white
Available: Now
Weight: 129kg (wet)
Tank capacity: 14 litres
Power: 10.5bhp @ 7500rpm
Torque: 8ftlb @ 6000rpm

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