Great escape on two wheels
By Harriet Ridley
THANKS to rising petrol prices and soaring rail fares more and more people are discovering the joys of motorcycles as a way of getting to and from work.
New figures from the Motorcycle Industry Association show that sales of bikes up to 125cc grew by 8.5% last year after also rising in 2011.
And last year the top five best-selling bikes were all 125cc and below.
With manufacturers bringing out more bikes of between 250cc-500cc, there’s no doubt many of these new two wheel commuters will become big-bike riders too.
But in the meantime, if you’re thinking of joining the growing number of people switching to motorcycles or scooters here’s a selection of what 125cc bikes to start off with.
If you want to be the coolest small bike commuter in town, then consider KTM’s 125 Duke supermoto. A brand new model will cost just £3,695, but it doesn’t feel like a budget motorcycle.
It looks like a big bike, with good finish and attention to detail, and the coolest looks in town. It’s quick and agile in rush-hour traffic, with an upright riding position that will give you a good view ahead.
Yamaha also does a good range of off-road and supermoto-styled 125cc bikes, the WR125R and WR125X respectively.
If you like the sporty look, then Yamaha’s YZF-R125 is a winner. At £3,299 new, it looks awesome, like the real thing.
You can easily mistake this four-stroke single cylinder for its big brother YZF-R6.
Yamaha built it to try and emulate the hugely successful £3,170 new Honda CBR125R, which is a frequent bestseller out of all motorcycles big and small here in the UK, and around the world.
The Honda doesn’t look as sharp as the Yamaha and with 13.1bhp, it’s slightly down on Yamaha’s near 15bhp, and when you have this little horsepower to begin with, every little helps. But this 124cc four-stroke single has Honda build quality and reliability that most owners rate above all else, it’s comfortable and has good fuel economy.
If you like custom bikes, then the £2,965-new Suzuki GZ125 Marauder is a good buy for a learner. It has plenty of presence for such a frugal commuter, more so than the other four-cylinder budget custom style 125s such as Yamaha’s SR125, while twin-cylinder alternatives cost up to a grand more. And if you plan on carrying pillions, then it’s a lot comfier than most other 125ccs.
If you aspire to the adventure bike lifestyle, then the 125cc to buy is the Honda XL125V Varadero.
It’s a tad expensive at £4,500 new, but it’s quite some small bike. It’s spacious if you’re tall, but not too tall if you’re not – the dimensions are just right.
The engine has plenty of go and handling is agile, plus the upright position means it's super-comfortable and you can see all the traffic ahead, and you can get a colour-coded top box for it to carry all your work gear. And it’s a Honda so build quality and finish are great.
In your search for the ideal 125cc commuter, don’t discount a scooter. They make the best city runarounds.
Make sure the underseat space is large enough to hold your full-faced helmet, and fit a top box for more storage. No need to change your shoes – simply hop on board, twist and go!
There are plenty of budget 125 scooters on the market, from strong brands too – look at the £2,099 Peugeot Vivacity 125.
However if you can stretch that bit further, then Kymco does a fine scooter, the Downtown 125i. It has the presence of a maxi-scooter, with loads of storage, great looks and a strong, super-economical engine, for £3,299.
Also check out that icon of the 60s and 70s, the Piaggio Vespa range, in particular the £3,099 LX125 3V that looks divine and gets the all-new, long stroke three-valve engine with a fuel economy upwards of 110mpg.
If you don’t want to take the initial depreciation hit of a new bike, or your budget’s a bit measly, then there are plenty of great value used examples of these bikes to be had.