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Best cheap 125cc motorbikes - under £1500 | Specs and Prices

Freelance motorcycle journalist, former editor of Bike & What Bike?, ex-Road Test Editor MCN, author of six books and now in need of a holiday.




When you’re starting out in motorcycling at 17, not only are you restricted to A1 category 125cc machines, unless you’re very lucky (or rich) you’re more than likely going to be operating with a restricted budget, too, which further limits the choice of bikes on offer.
So, while those privileged few – or those prepared to buy on finance – may be able to consider a brand new £5K+ Yamaha R125 or the recently further updated KTM 125 Duke  – both of which, admittedly, are brilliant bikes – the great majority of us are instead limited to considering what you can get for, say, 1500 quid. 
But while that typical 17-year-old budget rules out machines like the stunt-styled KTM (even the cheapest, roughest second-hand Duke is now about £1600 thanks to strong used prices), it DOESN’T mean there aren’t any good bikes out there. You CAN, for example, just about get an older version of the Yamaha, in YZF-R125 form. There are plenty of others, too. So here, to help you make up your mind, and in no particular order, is our pick of the best first-time bikes for under £1500.

Honda CBR125R (2004-2010) - The ‘Sensible Sportster’

Although the updated, face-lifted, 2010-on version remains out of reach on this budget, with used prices currently starting at about £1400, decent examples of the original can still be found for around £1000+ – and we heartily recommend it. Although the CBR may lack the pizazz of more modern, racier rivals, such as the YZF or Aprilia RS, it’s still a brilliant first bike thanks to being reassuringly easy to ride, durable and robust with an impressively reliable four stroke engine. Importantly it also has completely safe handling and brakes. Find a decent one and you’ll have no complaints.

Price guide: £1300-3500


Kymco VSR 125i (2021-current) - The stylish roadster

Taiwanese brand Kymco are step up from the budget Chinese brands so much so that their wares are often knocking on the door of those from the Japanese, while its VSR125 is a stylish, decently equipped naked roadster that has much more going for it than a budget retro. Along with its stylish looks there are smart two-dial clocks, disc brakes all round, a quality feel and even a main stand. Best of all, however, although still retailing new at approaching £2500, it’s now been around since 2021 meaning that original examples can be had for under £1500.

Price guide: £1400-2400


Vespa LX 125 (2005-current) - The authentic city scoot

First introduced in 2005 and since replaced by the higher spec GTS, the LS is the classic, retro-styled scooter from THE classic scooter company. As such it has bags of style and authenticity, impressively decent build-quality and lots of pleasing design touches while also having all of the scooter practicality (including underseat storage, decent economy and easy twist and go manners) of less well-known rivals. Best of all, in 125 form, it’s a great city learner runabout while, although quite pricey when new, as a used buy it can be something of a steal.

Price guide: £900-2000

Suzuki Marauder GZ125 (1998-2011) - The custom cruiser

Laid-back, easy-going custom-style 125s make popular learner bikes as their ultra-low seats, comfort and unintimidating performance particularly appeal to first timers. Of the bunch, Suzuki’s air-cooled single-cylinder offering is one of the most popular – and affordable – of all, having more presence and substance than the ultra-budget Yamaha SR125 yet being simpler and more affordable and V-twins such as Honda’s Shadow or the now aging Yamaha XV125. It’s no Harley 883, admittedly, but the Suzuki’s still got adequate style, is solid and reliable, easy to ride and, best of all, great value used.

Price guide: £900-1900

Honda CBF125 (2009-2014) - The classic commuter

This traditional air-cooled, single-cylinder, commuter was a huge update on the massively popular CG125 it replaced but sadly short-lived being succeeded in turn by Honda’s CB125F due to tightening emissions regulations in 2014. With smart, half-faired, but upright styling, idiot-proof manners, solid Honda build quality and being capable of well in excess of 100mpg, the CBF is a tempting rather than exciting learner buy. But as cheap, easy transport on an A1 licence, they don’t come much better – which explains why the CBF is still in strong demand as a used buy today.

Price guide: £1000-2300

Suzuki RV125 VanVan (2003-2017) - The beach bike

Oddball, fat-tyred ‘fun’ bike is effectively a two-wheeled beach buggy – its low, light trailie-style combined with those balloon tyres is designed to work best in dunes or on sand – but it’s also a perennial learner favourite. Being low and light makes it a doddle to ride, particularly for shorter riders; it’s air-cooled four-stroke single, although only 12bhp, is rugged and reliable; it has an unmistakable style all its own and, being mechanically simple, it’s relatively cheap, too – although its popularity keeps residuals higher than you might expect.

Price guide: £850-2600

Sinnis Apache (2021-2024) - The affordable supermoto

Sinnis is one of the better Chinese motorcycle brands and its Apache is its proven, reasonably long-established, A1 learner legal supermoto-styled machine. As such it’s sexy and sporty enough to be the envy of all your friends but at the same time is upright and manoeuvrable and relatively novice friendly. Its air-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder motor produces 11bhp so is perky enough for this use, there are disc brakes all round, it’s fairly robust and, although slightly on the basic and budget side, for a supermoto it wants for little. The only slight downside is that its upright, trail-bike derived ergonomics might mean its seat height is a little tall for shorter riders.

Price guide: £1300-2300

Herald Classic (2015-current) - The Chinese built retro

In truth, there are plenty of Chinese-built, retro-styled roadsters available at this price, not just from Herald but the likes of Bullit and even historic British brand AJS. Their style of basic, air-cooled, four-stroke single cylinder engine in an equally basic twin shock, tubular steel frame with, yes, basic cycle parts suits the Chinese industry down to a ‘T’. But Herald is better than most for being UK based who then assemble the bikes from bought in components. The Classic looks good, has a traditional sounding British name, is a doddle to ride and, best of all, can be easily snapped up second-hand for under £1500 with not many miles under its wheels.

Price guide: £1000-1800

Yamaha YBR125 (2005-2016) - The cheapest of all

Sometimes, price is everything – and this can be more so than ever when buying your first bike and faced with the additional costs of sky-high insurance, new gear and training. Naturally, though, you still want something that’s credible, effective and proven – and there’s none more so than the YBR125. Effectively Yamaha’s rival to Honda’s CG and CBF125s, it’s a no-frills, air-cooled, twin shock roadster/commuter. As such, it might not be the sexiest or most stylish, but it is both a doddle to ride and ridiculously cheap to run. And, with used prices for decent ones starting at under £800, that’s, sometimes, all that counts.

Price guide: £700-£2200

Yamaha YZF-R125 (2008-2018) - The extreme sportster

The original YZF-R125 was the which took over from Honda’s CBR125R as THE learner sportster of choice for the headbanging youth – at least for those who couldn’t afford Aprilia’s super-exotic RS125. With a regulation 15bhp from its liquid-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder moto, great spec, R1-alike looks and sporty handling, it was the poster bike for a new generation of Valentino Rossi wannabes. Successively updated and facelifted in 2019 and 2023, its long lifespan and fairly rugged mechanicals also means that early examples can still be had (if you buy carefully) for under £1500. Buy wisely and you’ll have a truly desirable sportster, albeit one that may need a little fettling and cosmetic improvement!

Price guide: £1000-3400

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