When you’re starting out in motorcycling and are looking to buy a bike, quite often one factor is more important than any other – affordability.
After all, for most, the start of your road motorcycling ‘journey’ at 17 or so, by definition coincides with when you’ve the least earning power and thus, unless you’re very lucky, money available.
And while the surge in PCP deals usually makes new bikes more accessible to those on a restricted budget, they don’t work for all. Plus, it’s also natural for inexperienced newcomers to want a new machine, with the reassurance of manufacturer warranties and dealer back-up that brings.
So, with all that taken into consideration, what are the cheapest new learner bikes – in this instance we’re concentrating on the most popular learner category, 125s?
It’s worth saying from the outset here that some of the names and bikes we’ve come up with will be unfamiliar. If cheapness is all, as with any product, we’re not talking about the most familiar, proven brands. So, you won’t find any Suzukis, Kawasakis or Yamahas – their current cheapest 125s are all over £4000. Likewise, there’s no BMWs, Ducatis or Triumphs. Although Honda, to its credit, comes close with their CB125F (£3049).
It's also worth adding that since the last time we compiled this list in 2021, rising prices have now also excluded even familiar budget names such as Kymco, Sinnis, Mash, Herald and AJS.
But there’s no getting away from the fact if you want cheap, we’re talking about lesser known, mostly Chinese manufacturers – and don’t be put off, the range of bikes they offer, even in this most budget bracket, is more varied, stylish and appealing than ever. Don’t believe us? Here’s our pick of 10 of the current best, in price ascending order.
The ZSB was the UK’s cheapest 125 when Bikesocial reviewed it a few years ago (although it was even cheaper then) – and it still is today. That in itself makes it worth a look. As you’d expect it’s a no-frills, straightforward machine: Chinese-made, it’s brought into the UK and rebranded by UK discount bikes specialists Lexmoto, who’ve built up a deserved reputation as a market leader in recent years. As such, the custom-styled ZSB is about as basic as they come with an air-cooled single-cylinder motor producing a modest 11.5bhp making it good for about 65mph; a tubular steel single loop frame; rudimentary twin shock suspension plus single dial instrumentation incorporating an LCD panel for speedo, fuel gauge and indicator. That said it does what it sets out to do more than adequately, comes with a luggage rack and cast alloy wheels and is a doddle to ride. For the money, it’s almost impossible to criticise.
Zontes is another Chinese brand which has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years now producing not just five different affordable 125s, with the cheapest now being the Mantis, but also 125cc and 310cc scooters and three different A2-compliant, 350cc machines – and all at very tempting prices. The roadster ZR125-E Mantis is currently its cheapest 125cc model (in fact it’s the only one that fits into this £2500 budget) and is a classically styled bike for everyday use that is now also Euro5 compliant. As most others it’s powered by an air cooled, single cylinder four-stroke motor but also has disc brakes front and rear, LED lights, rev counter and digital gear indicator.
Bluroc, formerly known as Bullitt, is a Belgium based brand which, similar to the UK’s Lexmoto and others, imports Chinese made budget small bikes that have been adapted to their own designs. Although slightly basic and unsophisticated they’re also stylish and affordable with the brand currently offering two 50cc machines, six 125s and two 250s, with prices ranging from £1899 to £4699. Its cheapest 125 model is the Heritage, which is a small wheeled ‘monkey’ bike with styling inspired by Honda’s classic ‘Dax’ from the 1970s. It’s light, low, a doddle to ride and fun around town – although we wouldn’t recommend it for dual carriageways or longer trips!
Next up from Lexmoto is this, the Assault. It’s worth saying here that the UK-based, Chinese-buil, budget bike specialists currently offer 13 – yes, THIRTEEN – different 125cc bikes (not to mention scooters), with FIVE of them under the magic £2500 budget price point we’re using here. Its second cheapest is this, the Assault 125, which is a more stylish, semi-supermoto-looking roadster that’s comfortable and easy to ride. It has disc brakes front and rear, an air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke engine, alloy wheels and a nose cowling and is available in three different colour ways. Lexmoto also offer a sister bike to the Assault, the more conventional, roadster styled Isca, which shares most of the Assault’s specification and is priced from £2389.99.
WK is another prominent UK company who’ve grown substantially in recent years based on a business model similar to that of Lexmoto whereby Chinese-built bikes are imported into the UK and then sold under the WK brand via WK dealers. Starting out with smaller, simpler machines, WK’s range now includes two 50s, the mini-bike Colt and retro Scrambler, and, in the 125cc class, the small-wheeled Maveric and a 125 Scrambler, both currently at £2299. Although simple and basic, the Scrambler is a full-sized machine with appealing retro styling including wire spoked wheels at a great price.
The Maveric (intentional spelling) is the other current 125cc motorcycle offering from leading British/Chinese brand that falls inside our £2500 budget here. It’s a small (12in) wheeled fun bike in the mould of Honda’s popular MSX125 Grom, although admittedly it’s far less sophisticated in order to be much cheaper. With small wheels, a low seat height and low all up weight it’s completely unintimidating, manageable and thus fun although, again, as it’s so small we wouldn’t recommend it for dual carriageways or longer trips!
Belgian brand Bluroc’s other 125cc offering in this price band after the Heritage monkey bike is this, the Legend 125, a far more conventional retro roadster again powered by an air-cooled single cylinder motor which, while hardly high-performing or technologically advanced, makes up for it with trendy heritage style and simple riding and mechanicals. Three colour ways are available, all with wire wheels, retro ribbed seat and classic fork gaiters!
The final Lexmoto 125cc motorcycle offering that falls into our £2500 budget is the custom-styled Michigan. It’s again an air-cooled, single cylinder four stroke but this time is a laid-back cruiser with larger front wheel, ‘apehanger’ bars, ‘banana’ seat and blacked-out engine and detailing. The low seat height and upright riding position is good for raw novices, there’s a 5-speed gearbox, electronic fuel injection, linked brakes, LED indicators and it comes in three different colours.
Keeway is another of the large Chinese motorcycle brands, in fact they’re one of the brands of the huge Qiangjiang Group, China’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, which now also owns Benelli, and are brought into the UK by MotoGB, the UK’s largest independent motorcycle distributor, both factors which bring some reassurance. They specialize in 125s, too. The new X-Light is yet another retro styled roadster with old-school aesthetics and neat detailing including tank knee pads, rubber fork gaiters and wire wheels and is available in two different colour ways.
Finally at this price point, Keeway’s Superlight LTD cruiser also sneaks just into our £2500 budget (Keeway also offers five other budget 125s that are slightly over £2500). It boasts a fuel-injected, single-cylinder engine, is available in a range of colours, both glossy and matte, with chrome accents, a twin exhaust system, alloy wheels disc brakes front and rear both a speedo and rev-counter and big 15-litre fuel tank. There’s also a fuel gauge, claimed fuel economy of over 110mpg, a twin shock rear end and two-year warranty.
Fancy a used option? Here’s our five of the best:
2015-2020 Honda CB125F, £1650-£2700
Definitive, workmanlike Honda commuter is proven and economical.
2008-2014 Honda CBF125, £1250-£1950
Earlier, half-faired commuter offers extra weather protection.
2017-2021 Yamaha YS125, £1650-£3000
Yamaha’s take on the economical commuter 125 is worth a look.
2008-2013 Yamaha YZF-R125, £1800-£2250
Ultra-sporty 125 is affordable… if you can find a decent older example.
2011-2016 Aprilia RS4 125, £1850-£3050
Definitive Italian sports four-stroke 125 can be had in this budget.