Best 125cc motorbikes (2023)


For most of us when we start out in motorcycling, one capacity category of bikes is the most important of all – 125s.

Although legally you can start on two wheels at 16 (as long as you hold a provisional licence, have a CBT certificate and display L plates), the restriction at that age to AM category machines, bikes or scooters of under 50cc that are capable of no more than 45kph (28mph), can hold limited appeal. 

Instead, many hold on to 17 when they become eligible for an A1 machine, which is when, for many, motorcycling really starts to become interesting.

The A1 category, in effect, allows riders their first taste of ‘proper’ motorcycles. A1 bikes can be up to 125cc and 11kw/15bhp (as long as the power/weight ratio is no more than 0.1kw/kg), are often capable of around 70mph and as such, although targeted at novices, can also include the whole gamut of ‘big bike’ motorcycling features such as six-speed transmissions, proper brakes and suspension not to mention the ‘big bike’ looks that go with it.

And, by being such a popular category, there’s a constant stream of newcomers each year all designed to tempt us onto two wheels.

So, what’s out there? What are the new 125s you should be aware of? And which are the best ones across the different types of A1 bike, whether after a sportster, naked, trail bike, supermoto or even retro? Here’s our pick of the best new and existing 125s to help you decide… 






Yamaha XSR125



Honda CB125R



Yamaha R125



Lexmoto LXR125



Aprilia RX125



Sinnis 125 Terrain



KTM 125 Duke



Honda MSX 125



Benelli BN125



Lexmoto RSS Street



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1. Yamaha XSR125 - £4,800

Launched in 2021, one of the most popular 125s of the last few years has been Yamaha’s retro-styled XSR125 – and with good reason. It’s based around the Japanese firm’s latest and highly rated, Euro5 liquid-cooled, single cylinder 125cc engine and has a steel Deltabox chassis derived from the MT-125 (but with slightly more budget forks). That gives it an easy, novice-friendly upright roadster posture which is both easy for novices and makes it a great town commuter. Then it dresses the whole thing up in ‘on-trend’ retro-inspired styling (Yamaha calls it ‘Sport Heritage) complete with an affordable price tag below that of Yamaha’s more high-tech and high-spec R125 sportster and MT-125 naked. By our reckoning, that’s not just a win-win, but a win-win-win-win-win (or something). The buying public seem to think so, too, which is why the XSR’s been a serial best-seller in the class, enough for Yamaha to now add the XSR125 Legacy model (at £5200) complete with wire wheels and other premium touches. Read our full Yamaha XSR 125 review here.


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2. Honda CB125R - £4,599

Honda’s current most compelling bike in the learner 125cc/A1 category is its snazzy CB125R. Introduced in 2019 and intended as the junior, ‘entry-level’ member of Honda’s ‘Neo Café’ roadster family which also includes the CB300R, CB650R and CB1000R, it’s Big H’s take on a stylish, premium equipment but learner-friendly 125 roadster and, with trendy styling including a round LED headlight, decent spec including inverted front forks and radially-mounted front brake caliper it ticks a lot of boxes. Updated in 2021 to meet the new Euro5 regulations it gained an improved engine with more power and new Showa ‘BPF’ forks (a claimed first in the class). It’s a typical Honda in being blissfully user-friendly and well-built, has enough performance and, although not quite as cheap as it once was, remains temptingly priced. See our Honda CB125R full review here.


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3. Yamaha R125 - £5,300

Ever since its original launch in 2008, Yamaha’s ‘junior R1’ has been the benchmark sports 125 thanks to its combination of grown-up proportions, brilliant, yet novice-friendly dynamics and styling any Valentino Rossi fan would die for – even if it has also been one of the priciest offerings in the class. The most recent major update in 2019 raised the bar again with a new, more flexible, variable valve-timing engine; revised chassis to give more confidence-inspiring handling and new R1-alike styling that makes it the poster bike for any sports mad 17-year-old. While for 2023 further tweaks include a flash new colour TFT dash. Not cheap, but if you want a sport 125 and can afford it, this is the one. Read our Yamaha YZF-R125 review here.

It's also worth mentioning here the R125’s ‘naked’ little brother, the MT-125 which, although less celebrated, has been a big success, too, and shares most of the R125’s tech and ability in a more upright and affordable roadster style. The result is one of the classiest, nicest-riding 125s out there, the only downer is the fairly steep price. Read our Yamaha MT125 review here.


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4. Lexmoto LXR125 - £3,099.99

The British/Chinese firm’s successor to its hugely popular XTR125 came out in 2018 and has a helluva lot going for it, enough in fact to make it one of the UK’s best sellers in the class. ‘Proper’ sports styling, roomy proportions (due to it sharing its chassis with a 300cc version), OK handling and performance from its 11bhp, liquid-cooled, SOHC, fuel-injected single and adequate spec tick most of the boxes but its biggest ace card by far is its c.£3000 price – approaching half that of the R125. No, it can’t quite match the Yamaha for performance, spec (the clocks and cycle parts in particular suffer by comparison) while reliability and residual values aren’t as reassuring, either. But at this price, complete with a warranty and the sheer sheen of ‘newness’, especially when money is tight for most prospective buyers and, considering its use, the performance differences matter little, it’s very hard to argue against. Read our Lexmoto LXR125 review here.


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5. Aprilia RX 125 - £3,900

Italian exotica experts Aprilia have a proud heritage of sporty small-capacity bikes and its RS 125 sportster remains one of the most desirable of its type. But it has a similar tradition for tiddler trailies and supermotos, often sharing many of the mechanicals of their sports siblings and the RX/SX125s, introduced in 2018, are the latest examples. The RX is the trail version complete with larger, 21in front wheel, dual purpose tyres and longer travel suspension but otherwise the two share the same liquid-cooled, four-valve, four-stroke single, beefy twin spar frame, decent cycle parts including inverted forks and swish Italian styling. They’re great to ride, too, being upright, light and novice-friendly, yet also nimble, sharp and reasonably lively. But best of all, they’re also pretty impressive value, too, at under £4000 when their sportster RS brother is a full £1000 more. Aprilia now also has its Tuono 125, a more upright, ‘naked’ (odd, as it’s actually half-faired, but you know what I mean) version of the RS available, at a mid-priced £4650. Read our Aprilia RX125 review here.


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6. Sinnis 125 Terrain - £3,599

Sinnis are another successful brand of Chinese-built but British distributed small capacity bikes, ranging from budget-priced, run-of-the-mill roadsters to stylish but still affordable sportsters – in fact they’ve a full range of six different 125s in their range – but the Terrain is surely the most striking and different. Intended as a full-sized adventure machine but with only a 125cc power plant it’s unique, as far as we know, in being a true adventure bike accessible to learner riders. And, with full-size proportions, decent spec including small screen, inverted forks, LCD dash and standard panniers and (small) top box, it behaves like one, too. Admittedly, with just 11bhp from its air-cooled single-cylinder motor, no real off-road ability and slightly budget build quality, it’s lacking a little when it comes to performance and durability but it’s still a great introduction to the breed, is a serious option for larger learner riders and, at the price, is undeniably a lot of bike for the money. Read our Sinnis 125 Terrain review here.


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7. KTM 125 Duke - £4,799

KTM’s junior, entry-level Duke remains, arguably, the definitive example of the 125cc funky naked roadster breed. Bold, brash and garish in its bright orange livery it’s exciting and cool at standstill and lively and fun on the move. With a lightweight, compact tubular steel chassis, a punchy, 15bhp liquid-cooled single and quality suspension, brakes and even ancillaries such as the slick colour TFT dash and flash LED headlamp it’s as minimal and nimble as KTM’s off-road heritage would have you expect, yet also has enough quality and class to want for nothing. At 17, no bike is cooler around town yet the little Duke is also novice-friendly and durable enough to be a great learner machine as well. The only downsides are diminutive dimensions that count against it for larger riders or longer rides and a price that’s as high as any. But if you’re happy with all that you’ll be the envy of the ‘hood’. Read our KTM 125 Duke review here.


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8. Honda MSX125/Grom - £3,849

If you thought KTM’s Duke was on the small side… Sometimes, however, ‘cute’ is irresistible – and they don’t come any ‘cuter’ than Honda’s MSX125, or ‘Grom’ as it’s also called among its cult following. Inspired by Honda’s original ‘monkey’ bikes of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the MSX was an all-new take on the breed and has proved so successful it even spawned a retro-styled spin-off, the Monkey 125 in 2018 and last year the new Dax 125. MSX stands for ‘Mini Street Extreme’ and the MSX is just that: a three-quarter-scale fun bike with 12in wheels, low 765mm seat height, even lower 101kg dry weight – but virtually full-size performance. The air-cooled, four-speed single produces 10bhp, there are inverted forks, a disc brake and monoshock rear and it’s good enough, if you dare, for 67mph. Naturally, it’s a doddle to ride, too. Sure, it’s not recommended for long trips, but it’s certainly a great fun urban 125.

Read our series of features about life with a Honda Grom/MSX125 here.


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9. Benelli BN 125 - £2,599

After a slow reincarnation following being taken over by Chinese giant Qianjiang in 2005, Italian brand Benelli is now producing a rapidly growing range of Italian-designed but Chinese built machines, ranging from affordable 125 singles to stylish 500 and now even 800cc twins whose combination of Italian flair and Chinese affordability is making them increasingly desirable. One of the latest is the BN 125, a straightforward but stylish street single with more than a few shades of Ducati Monster yet also with an almost irresistible price tag of just over £2500. In truth, its spec is nothing to get too existed about: a tubular steel trellis frame holds a fairly average air-cooled single producing just 11bhp, but on the plus side it looks great, is easy to ride has a great name on the tank and can be had for a relative pittance. What’s not to like?


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10. Lexmoto RSS 125 - £2,899.99

The latest and arguably among the most impressive new 125s of all is the brand new Lexmoto RSS, a modern, street single in the style of Honda’s CB125R or Yamaha’s MT-125 with a lot of the spec of its Japanese rivals, including a 14bhp liquid-cooled single cylinder motor, LED lights and even a natty 5inch TFT dash but all for a fraction of the price.  In truth, it’s so new we haven’t even tested it yet but going by Lexmoto’s previous products, the RSS’s impressive spec and, most of all, it’s sub-£3K price (when the Honda and Yamaha are £4,599 and £5,100 respectively, we expect to be very impressed indeed.


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