Yamaha YZF-R125 (2019) | Review

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
By John Milbank
BikingMilbank BikeSocial Consumer Editor, John owns a KTM 1050 Adventure. He's as happy tinkering in the workshop as he is on twisty, bumpy backroads, and loves every bike ever built (except one). He's bought three CBR600s, two Ducati Monsters, several winter hacks, three off-roaders, a supermoto pit bike, a Honda Vision 50 and built his own custom XSR700. 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

 

If you’re a new rider wondering “what is a good first motorcycle to buy”, you’ll likely have older bikers whispering in your ear that nothing can beat the FS1E (Fizzy) or RD they learned to ride on. They’ll tell you that the golden years have long gone thanks to today’s more involved motorcycle licencing structure. Getting your A1 licence is harder and more expensive than it used to be, but make no mistake, the new 2019 Yamaha YZF-R125 is every bit the perfect beginner motorbike…

 

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

 

2019 Yamaha YZF-R125 Price

The 2019 Yamaha YZF-R125 costs £4,499. With loan rates as low as 3%, that equates to £130 per month over three years, or £193 per month for the two years it would take before a 17 year-old new rider could get their A2 licence and move onto something bigger if they wanted.

While used learner bikes don’t always hold their value as well as larger capacity machines, a well-looked after version should still give you a good chunk of cash towards your next bike (or set you up for a good PCP deal).

Motorcycle prices have increased over the last few years, but the R125 is in line with its competitors:

Kawasaki Ninja 125

£4,573

Suzuki GSX-R125

£4,099

Aprila RS125

£4,699

KTM RC125

£4,499

Honda CBR125R

£3,999

 

If you want the latest model, you’ll need to expect to pay for it, though if you’re willing to go for a previous year’s bike, you could find some very good deals at the start of the year. Some machines haven’t changed for 2019, but the updates to the new YZF-R125 make it well worth considering the latest version…

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

A white version with fluoro wheels is also available

 

Power and torque

Because the YZF-R125 is an A1 licence-compliant bike, it can’t make more than 11kW – that’s 14.75bhp. Like many of its competitors, the Yamaha makes exactly that, and at a relatively early 9,000rpm. Torque is a class-leading 9.15lb-ft at 8,000rpm, but thanks to Variable Valve Actuation, it’s not all at the top of the rev range; more on that in a moment.

Bragging rights are important in this segment, and the R125 owner can hold their head high…

Yamaha YZF-R125

14.75bhp @ 9,000rpm

Kawasaki Ninja 125

14.75bhp @ 10,000rpm

Suzuki GSX-R125

14.75bhp @ 10,000rpm

Aprila RS125

14.75bhp

KTM RC125

14.75bhp @ 9,500

Honda CBR125R

13.14bhp @ 10,000rpm

 

Yamaha YZF-R125

9.15lb-ft @ 8,000rpm

Kawasaki Ninja 125

8.63lb-ft @ 10,000rpm

Suzuki GSX-R125

8.48lb-ft @ 8,000rpm

Aprila RS125

7.7lb-ft

KTM RC125

8.85lb-ft @ 8,000rpm

Honda CBR125R

7.67lb-ft @ 8,000rpm

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

The tail has a striking tunnel-style design

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

While licencing restrictions mean peak power hasn’t increased since the R125’s launch date of 2008, torque delivery has, thanks in part to the new single-cylinder engine having 1mm larger intake and exhaust valve seats, a 30mm throttle body (2mm wider than the previous engine, which was introduced in 2014), a 5.5 litre airbox (up from 2.9 litres), and a new oval intake port (instead of round). The combustion chamber is also more compact, while the piston, conrod, crankshaft and crankcase have a low-friction coating.

To help the bike warm up quicker, Yamaha has fitted a bypass thermostat (so the water flows around the engine until it’s up to temperature, rather than being blocked by the valve), which has helped towards a 26% smaller and lighter radiator.

The slipper clutch (which reduces locking of the back wheel during aggressive downshifts) has fewer plates, making for a lighter weight and an easier action at the lever. As you’d expect of a 125cc motorcycle, the clutch is far from being tiring to use in traffic.

Where the real magic happens though is in the cylinder head, thanks to VVA (Variable Valve Actuation). From idle, a low-lift cam profile on the intake valves offers the best low-down torque it can, then at 7,400rpm, a high-lift profile comes into play before the torque curve starts to drop.

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

The low-lift follower that actuates the intake valves is shown here in pink, while the orange one follows the high-lift cam lobe. When they’re joined together they both follow the high-lift profile

 

So how does the Yamaha VVA system work? It’s surprisingly simple – the cam has one lobe (as usual) for the exhaust valves, but two for the intake. The two intake cam followers are both running on the cam lobes all the time, but only the one that’s operated by the low-lift lobe extends to press onto the top of the pair of intake valves. At 7,400rpm, an actuator slides a pin through a hole in both the low-lift and the high-lift followers to join them, so the low-lift follower (with the arm that presses on the valves) becomes driven by the high-lift one. Because the cam lobes are of course lower on the low-lift side, the follower clears them when it’s being driven by the high-lift lobe.

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

The dash is well specified, with the option to personalise the welcome message too

 

The changeover is barely perceptible in sound, and there’s no sharp boost when the VVA indicator appears on the dash; Yamaha intended this to be the case, wanting riders to get as smooth a spread of torque through the rev range as possible.

On track, VVA certainly works – while the R125’s obviously not going to upset a larger-capacity machine, at the extremely tight Spanish Circuit De La Ribera of the press launch, it was possible to leave the bike in third on many corners, avoiding frantically chopping through the gears as you bounce off the limiter in second.

On the road, it’s outstanding. With drive from surprisingly low in the rev-range, all the way up to the redline at 11,000rpm, you never feel as if you’re struggling for go. Needless to say, it’s not going to launch you through overtakes like a something with a bigger motor, but the R125’s delivery is a lot safer than some of the lack-lustre 125s on the market.

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

The standard exhaust is a one-piece system

 

2019 Yamaha YZF-R125 top speed

Yamaha quotes the top-speed of the YZF-R125 as ‘over 120km/h’ – that’s 75mph – but one of the test riders told me he’d seen 138km/h on the clock (86mph) while slipstreaming. I found it pretty easy to get to 120, and in the first half of the test I clocked just over 130km/h (81mph) while slipstreaming another rider. At the time, I had my phone running a GPS speed app, which told me I’d hit a maximum of 78.9mph, so the speedo appears to be pretty accurate.

Later in the day, slipstreaming a group of riders, I saw 144km/h – 90mph – though that did take a good long run-up. Still, for rural roads, city centres and even some dual-carriageway or motorway work, the YZF-R125 is surprisingly capable, and hence relatively safe in busy traffic.

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

Black is the other colour option currently available

 

The previous R125 standard final gearing was 14 teeth on the front sprocket and 48 at the rear, but the acceleration has been further improved by adding four more teeth to the rear, making the bike feel even more punchy – given that it’s been geared for increased acceleration, the fact that a real 70+mph is fairly easily achieved (without laying flat on the tank a couple of metres behind another rider) is even more impressive.

The exhaust sounds fine for a 125 – get a pack of these together and the roar’s pretty good, but it’s not going to upset the neighbours. An Akrapovič exhaust is available as an option, but there aren’t any noticeable performance gains to be had, and it only sounds a little bit deeper. The titanium full system does look good, but only you can decide if it’s worth £700. The standard exhaust is one piece – from the headers to the end-can. If you really want one, try to haggle with your dealer when you buy the bike, and remember to sell it separately later.

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

Our blue bikes looked fantastic, with some great R-series details

 

2019 Yamaha YZF-R125 Economy

Yamaha claims 133mpg for the R125. Keeping in mind that we were riding very aggressively on the launch, the 97mpg I achieved isn’t bad. According to www.fuelly.com, the average rider of the previous model typically sees about 105mpg. Yamaha says that economy is improved by 5% for 2019, so most riders could pretty easily see about 110mpg.

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

The aluminium swing-arm has been made more rigid for 2019

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

The steel Deltabox frame has been tweaked slightly to accommodate a wider, more rigid aluminium swing-arm. It looks the part – while weight isn’t wasted making the main frame look chunkier than it needs to be, the box-section frame and solid swing-arm make for a very sporty-looking motorcycle.

And it’s far from being all show – the un-adjustable suspension works well on track, even with my 85kg, 5’10” frame; the 2019 Yamaha YZF-R125 feels very light and easy to turn on track, without feeling twitchy or loose. It doesn’t feel like a small bike.

There’s plenty of ground-clearance too – I’m only an intermediate-level track rider, but nothing ever touched down on the bike, even on one lovely long right hander that gave plenty of opportunity to lean. Then lean a bit more. And lean a bit more still.

Brake deep into a bend and the bike will still turn pretty easily – new riders won’t find the R125 wants to stand up as readily as some other motorcycles during panic braking.

Which all translates great to the road – despite giving a pretty compliant ride over speed bumps and pot holes, the Yamaha doesn’t feel harsh, and it never feels small or flighty. Even on the frankly terrifying major Valencia roundabouts (with five sets of traffic lights, all of which can be ignored if you’re on the inside lane), the YZF-R125 flicks quickly and confidently between enraged Spaniards.

The R125 weighs 142kg, ready to ride with a full tank of fuel, which compares well to its rivals:

Kawasaki Ninja 125

148kg

Suzuki GSX-R125

134kg

Aprila RS125

135kg

KTM RC125

148kg

Honda CBR125R

137kg

 

Suzuki has bragged of having the best power-to-weight and torque-to-weight ratios in its class, but Yamaha’s new machine has just beaten it on torque for 2019:

 

Power

Torque

Yamaha YZF-R125

0.104bhp/kg

0.064lb-ft/kg

Kawasaki Ninja 125

0.100bhp/kg

0.058lb-ft/kg

Suzuki GSX-R125

0.110bhp

0.063lb-ft/kg

Aprilia RS125

0.109bhp/kg

0.057lb-ft/kg

KTM RC125

0.100bhp/kg

0.060lb-ft/kg

Honda CBR125R

0.096bhp/kg

0.056lb-ft/kg

 

There’s not much between them, but when you only have just under 15bhp to play with, every little helps.

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

The R125’s four-piston radially-mounted brakes work brilliantly

 

2019 Yamaha YZF-R125 Brakes

The Yamaha keeps the four-piston radially-mounted single front caliper (with a standard master cylinder) of the previous model, but with new pads, ABS control unit and revised hose layout. They’re not aggressive anchors, but they work very well – two finger braking isn’t a problem, and on track they had very good feel with more than enough power.

On the road they’re just as good – I never needed more than two-fingers, and the ABS increases confidence on some of the slick Valencia roads, where a good tug on the front brake would see the lever pulsing as the bike came to a safe stop.

 

Comfort over distance and touring

The YZF-R125 is very well laid out, making for a surprisingly comfortable machine. It doesn’t feel small, and the clip-on handlebars are rotated outward more than the previous model, as well as sitting more horizontally.

The 825mm-high seat’s got thicker foam, but has been reshaped to keep it fairly easy to reach the ground. Despite usually getting an achy bum pretty quickly, the only discomfort I had on the R125 was from my neck; six riders from the UK in close formation, flat on the tank in racing tucks for 20 minutes as we tried to beat the Yamaha test rider’s 138km/h tends to do that.

You won’t find any undue vibration on the bike, even at high revs, and the mirrors give a very clear, shake-free view.

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

A MotoGP-style brake lever guard comes as standard

 

Rider aids and extra equipment / accessories

ABS is standard, and the new LCD dash features a clock, two trips, fuel consumption info, gear indicator and average speed, as well as the usual odometer, speed and revs.

A neat touch of the LCD is the ability to personalise the welcome message – ours all said ‘Hi Buddy’ (until we, ahem, tweaked the ones on other people’s bikes), and you can set up to six characters to say whatever you like. Literally, anything. When you power the bike down, it says ‘See you’. Some form of connectivity might have been welcome, perhaps to control an audio player, but the this would have significantly increased the cost, not just through the addition of a Bluetooth module, but for a more detailed LCD.

My only disappointment really is that there’s no storage space to speak of under the seat – you might cram a bag of Haribo in there. With no room for a lock, you’ll need to strap something to the back, like a BikeTrac Grab Bag and Chain, though you’ll need an Allen key to get the pillion seat off in order to fit it.

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

The new one-piece cast footrests look and feel good

 

Build quality

Look closely at the R125 and you can might spot the ever-so-slightly rough edges on the top of the plastic tail. You might consider the swing-arm pivot bolt to look a little weedy and cheap, but finding these niggles is hard given the wonderful deep gloss of the blue paint on our bikes. Also available in all-black or white (with fluorescent yellow wheels), the new Yamaha looks outstanding.

The footrests are one-piece, with the heel plates integrated – a clever design that doesn’t look cheap – while the race-style vented top yoke, tunnel-design tail and the addition of a MotoGP-style front brake lever protector all add to the appeal of this great little machine.

 

2019 Yamaha YZF-R125 verdict

Competition is fierce in the 125cc sportsbike market; the R125 might not be the cheapest, the lightest or quite have the best power-to-weight ratio, but the new Variable Valve Actuation technology makes it a very usable bike, without losing any of that top-end punch.

The high-quality finish and striking styling mean it’s worthy of the R-moniker; as an entry-point to the incredible larger-capacity Yamaha sports machines – like the R6 and R1 – the YZF-R125 is one of the best beginner bikes available to those who want a sports machine.

Don’t be misled by the ageing cynics with rose-tinted glasses… in forty years, the R125 will be fondly remembered as a brilliant motorcycle that introduced many of the new generation to biking.

 

Yamaha YZF-R125 Review Top Speed

 

Three things I loved about the 2019 Yamaha YZF-R125…

• Great performing engine in this capacity

• Lovely, deep paint finish

• More than enough go to get you out of trouble

 

Three things that I didn’t…

• No space under the seat.

• Strapping panniers on the back could be awkward

• Makes me wish I was young again

 

2019 Yamaha YZF-R125 specification

New price

£4,499

Capacity

124.7cc

Bore x Stroke

52.0x58.6mm

Engine layout

Single cylinder

Engine details

Liquid-cooled four-stroke SOHC, four valves

Power

14.75bhp (11kW) @ 9,000rpm

Torque

9.2 lb-ft (12.4Nm) @ 8,000rpm

Top speed

75-80mph (claimed)

Transmission

Six speed, chain final drive

Average fuel consumption

133mpg claimed

Tank size

11.5 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

337miles (claimed)

Reserve capacity

n/a

Rider aids

ABS

Frame

Steel Deltabox

Front suspension

41mm upside-down fork

Front suspension adjustment

None

Rear suspension

Single-shock with linkage

Rear suspension adjustment

None

Front brake

292mm disc with four-piston radially-mounted caliper

Rear brake

220mm disc with single-piston caliper

Front tyre

100/80 R17 Michelin Pilot Street

Rear tyre

130/70 R17 Michelin Pilot Street

Rake/Trail

25°/89mm

Dimensions

1,1955mm x 680mm 1,065mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1,355mm

Ground clearance

155mm

Seat height

825mm

Kerb weight

142kg

Warranty

Two years

Website

www.yamaha-motor.eu/gb

To insure this bike, click here

 

 

Full video review of YZF-R125
Road and track review of the new bike

 

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