Yamaha YZF-R125 (2023) - Review

Technical reporting: Ben Purvis


Price: £5302 | Power: 14.75bhp | Weight: 144kg | Overall BikeSocial Rating: 4/5


Since 2008 Yamaha’s YZF-R125 (more recently called simply R125) has been at or near the top of the 125cc sports bike class and for 2023 it enters its third distinct generation with all-new bodywork and a range of technical upgrades, including the all-important smartphone connectivity.

While new to the R125, the updated styling might look familiar. Not only does it have a family resemblance to the Yamaha R7, with an LED headlight tucked into the MotoGP-inspired central air intake on the nose, but the 2023 R125’s bodywork first appeared 12 months ago on the Yamaha R15 – a 155cc sports bike sold in India and Asian markets that shares the R125’s chassis and appearance but features a slightly bigger engine.

Being a learner legal 125cc motorcycle, the entry-level Yamaha sports bike has its peak performance capped at 11kW, or 15bhp (rounded up), but the trickery inside that single-cylinder motor that allows it to stand out from rivals is VVA – Variable Valve Actuation - not new on this model but an unnoticeable engineering masterpiece that allows for faster acceleration while not compromising top end performance.

Why does the marque pump so much budget into top level racing, including the successes across the board in 2021 sealing MotoGP, World Superbike and British Superbike titles? It’s a branding exercise to sell the smaller capacity bikes in their droves.

BikeSocial’s Mann heads to Barcelona to mix a little city riding with some coastal roads, and even a couple of sessions on a go-kart track to hone his inner Toprak.


Pros & Cons

  • Few 125cc learner bikes look cooler
  • New update brings traction control and TFT instruments
  • Variable valve timing makes the R125 more advanced than most rivals
  • Rivals from lesser-known brands are getting increasingly competent
  • Price starts with a ‘5’ – yes, the quality is there but customers might rule themselves out before riding
  • Only two colours – a GP rep is surely on the cards


Review – In Detail

Price & PCP
Engine & Performance
Handling & Suspension (inc. weight & brakes)
Comfort & Economy


2023 Yamaha R125 price

How much does the 2023 Yamaha R125 cost? The on the road price in the UK of both colour options (Icon Blue or Tech Black) is £5302 OTR, which is £200 more than the MT-125, and just like the R’s naked cousin, they are in dealerships now.

For that price, the 17-year-old Rossi wannabes (and their parents) will be scouring Autotrader for 2nd hand Fiesta’s instead… but the PCP package makes that lower rung of the motorcycling ladder accessible. A 36-month deal with an £1000 deposit means one can be in your garage for £75 per month, and that’s less than 4 hours work per week on minimum wage. Just saying.



36 months

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2023 Yamaha R125 Engine & Performance

Aimed squarely at the learner-legal class, where power is limited to 15hp (11kW), it’s no surprise that the R125’s peak is exactly on that mark. However, just because there’s a limit on peak power doesn’t mean that all engines in the 125cc class behave the same, and the R125’s variable valve timing system (aka VVA) – introduced with the last model upgrade in 2020 – means it doesn’t sacrifice low end grunt for top end power. The 125cc single is essentially unchanged, with 11.5Nm (8.5lb-ft) of torque at 8,000rpm and hitting its peak power (11kW, 15hp) at 10,000rpm. It drives through an assist-and-slipper clutch to a six-speed box, and for 2023 the R125 gains traction control for the first time, switchable via the new 5-inch TFT instrument pack.

The R’s screen differs from the MT version with by offering two options – Street or Track. The latter is inspired by the R1, showing only the revs from 6k upwards, and comes with a lap timer too. I can’t see this being of the upmost importance seeing as though a full licence is required before you can take any bike on track in the UK, and while we don’t condone timing a dash to McDonald’s and back, I’m not sure where else this accessory will be useful.

However, what is extremely useful is the engine. Useful at the bottom-end to pick up away from a junction / the lights with more gusto than you’d expect from a 125cc and in a smoothly-fuelled manner, this peppy, vibey and free-revving motor is rather entertaining. The clutch action is light and very user-friendly while the throttle is play-free and neatly direct, with enough rotation to make it feel like you’re really winding it on. And wind it on you will need to do if you want to make that overtake – they’re to be planned well in advance and only when there’s plenty of run-up room can you drop a gear, or two, wrap that throttle back and grit your teeth. At the other end of the scale, the top-end performance is there too for a an effortless 70mph cruise, and beyond if you find a private road (wink). The solenoid that changes the cam from a low to high profile flicks in at 7800rpm but it’s unnoticeable – you can’t feel nor hear the change. The only notification is via the display on the dash. Simple yet highly effective technology that enhances the desirability of Yamaha’s competitor in this sector.



2023 Yamaha R125 Handling, weight and suspension

The Deltabox frame is essentially the same as its predecessor, but Yamaha’s tweaked the setup including a shift from a 25-degree head angle to 26 degrees and a fraction less rear suspension travel (110mm compared to 114mm), suggesting the rear end sits slightly lower than before. The handlebars are 10-degrees more open too, allowing for subtly more comfortable riding position.

The suspension itself, with 41mm KYB forks and a rising-rate monoshock at the back acting on an aluminium swingarm, doesn’t offer adjustability but is higher-spec than some rival machines in the class. Changes include a new top yoke that takes its visual inspiration from the R1.

Dynamically speaking, the 144kg kerb weight offers a near perfect result when mixing ease of manoeuvrability with on-road stability. The trouble is, adding another 90kg lump of flesh and bones on top tends to hinder performance! And while not many will venture on track, the ability to feel what the R125 can do on a go-kart circuit was an easy-to-justify element of the press riding launch. Mirrors and hero blobs had been removed and the quickshifter had been added to the bikes used on this circuit where 2nd and 3rd gears were all that we required, and rather entertaining it was too. Yamaha clearly weren’t scared to demonstrate their latest 125 sports bike in a slightly alien environment, because while it’s supposed to replicate the family line towards the R1, realistically the track is not where this young gunner belongs.

Its riding position, flickabililty, suspension and braking competencies were well presented. The quickshifter only works going up the ‘box, and banging back down again requires a little finesse when dumping the clutch lever.

Just as brilliant on the road as the track are the Michelin Pilot Street tyres offering plenty of confidence and that’s not limited to the inexperienced rider. I was super impressed by their road holding ability, how natural and progressive they are in the turn and above all, how much grip they offer on what can sometimes be tricky roads – the central white painted lines in Spain are to be avoided. The tyres complement the KYB forks nicely which offer a well-balanced ride without too much dive at the front end, or sudden rebound. Sleeping policemen aside, the ride is more comfortable that its sporty appearance might suggest. That said, the ABS and Traction Control almost caught me out once when a vigorous jump over the aforementioned traffic calming measure triggered the system and when braking hard into next corner the front level all of a sudden felt solid. Moving the bike from side-to-side either at speed on the coastal passes or in the depths of the city were easy too – the bike is narrow yet has a decent wheelbase measurement and plenty of room in the saddle to complement the athleticism of the ride.



2023 Yamaha R125 Comfort & Economy

The R125’s riding position is predictably at the sportier end of the scale but for a small bike it is surprisingly accommodating. The saddle, while canted forwards promoting a thigh cuddle of the fuel tank, is still spacious enough to slide backwards to find the optimum comfort. And the footpeg-to-seat distance is short but can be forgiven because of the riding position and, clutching at straws here, required ground clearance. Even the clip-on handlebars are more akin to athletic R7 in their positioning than the more sedate layout of the R3. I’m 6ft and 90kg (14.5 stone) and found the R125 far roomier than expected – fine, I wouldn’t fancy 100-miles of motorway but the bendier and more malleable target market might.  

One substantial change from the rider’s seat is the view ahead, which now features a 5-inch colour TFT instrument pack, operated by new handlebar switches. The setup gives control over the new, switchable traction control system, and adds a programmable gearshift light. The instrument change also means the R125 catches up on connectivity, with Bluetooth to link up your smartphone via Yamaha’s MyRide app. It gives the usual access to call and message notifications on the dash and means that the bike can send technical information to the phone and even be set up to notify a dealer automatically if there’s a problem.

The fuel economy is a remarkable claimed 134.5mpg, so even though the tank holds only 11 litres, there’s theoretically enough to go more than 300 miles between fill-ups. During the press launch, including 2 x 20-minute go-kart track sessions and the inevitable motorway Slipstream GP, we saw 97mpg, even thrashing the bike, which still makes for a 240-mile range.



2023 Yamaha R125 brakes

There’s no change to the brake system for 2023, but the R125 already has ABS as standard, with a large, two-piston radial front brake caliper grasping a single 292mm disc, and a single-piston rear stopper on a 220mm disc.

On the road, and the off-throttle engine braking is a fine supplement to the single disc. ABS is well hidden and unobtrusive until triggered by the TC and only under really hard braking from speed does the system feel sub-standard… but only the very hardest of brakers will need more. One point to note, the front brake lever nor clutch lever are span adjustable. Which is alright for me with my ‘musical’ fingers but worth trying if you’re in the market for one of these.



2023 Yamaha R125 Rivals

When thinking about which sporty 125cc motorcycle to look for as a first step, then power need not be your deciding factor because, of course, they’re all capped at 11kW (14.75bhp, rounded up below to 15). So instead, we start to look at styling, brand reputation, even proximity to the local dealership… or, weight, torque, and even riding position. Then there’s the little nuances that stand each model apart, in this case it’s the trick dash with its connectivity plus VVA, and the face that replicates the R1. Alternatives include:


Kawasaki Ninja 125 | Price: £4299

A slightly less aggressive take on the 125cc sports bike idea, Kawasaki’s Ninja is also significantly cheaper.

Power/Torque: 15bhp/8.6lb-ft | Weight: 149kg


KTM RC125 | Price: £5049

The trellis-framed KTM takes a different route to the Deltaboxed Yamaha and is surprisingly a fair bit heavier.

Power/Torque: 15bhp/8.1lb-ft | Weight: 156kg


Aprilia RS125 | Price: £4850

One of the most obvious choices in this part of the market, and with good reason, the Aprilia RS125 looks every inch a mini RSV4.

Power/Torque: 15bhp/8.3lb-ft | Weight: 144kg



2023 Yamaha R125 - Verdict

The VVA system is a gem buried deep within a high-revving, single cylinder engine strapped to a chassis that includes a fine brake/tyre/suspension that in turn offers confidence, comfort, and assurance – vital for a motorcycling newcomer. It’s a complete package of guaranteed entertainment with style, build quality, precise handling, economy, and strong performance to boot.

For all the gearchanges involved with riding a 125cc motorcycle, you’d want a machine that can utilise the magic of a quickshifter, and the optional extra (£150) version is worth the money. Though speaking of money, the price tag is hefty and competition is rife. It’d be nice to have a third colour option too, perhaps a GP, WSB or BSB replica to really coerce the youngsters.



2023 Yamaha R125 Technical Specification

New price




Bore x Stroke

52mm x 58.7mm

Engine layout


Engine details

4-stroke, 4-valve, SOHC, liquid-cooled, VVA


15bhp (11kW) @ 10,000rpm


8.5lb-ft (11.5Nm) @ 8,000rpm


6-speed, assist and slipper clutch

Average fuel consumption

134mpg claimed

Tank size

11 litres

Max range to empty

325 miles

Rider aids

Traction control (switchable). Pre-wired for optional quickshifter


Steel Deltabox

Front suspension

41mm KYB forks

Front suspension adjustment


Rear suspension

Rising rate monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment


Front brake

296mm disc, two-piston radial caliper

Rear brake

220mm disc, single-piston caliper

Front wheel / tyre

Cast alloy / 100/80-17 M/C

Rear wheel / tyre

Cast alloy / 140/70-17 M/C

Dimensions (LxWxH)

1990mm x 715mm x 1145mm



Seat height



144kg (kerb)


2 years


3500 miles/12 months

MCIA Secured Rating

Not yet rated




Looking for motorcycle insurance? Get a quote for this motorbike with Bennetts bike insurance


2023 Yamaha R125 Review Details Spec Price_18


What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars (three stars for bikes of 125cc or less), based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard
  • An ignition immobiliser system
  • A vehicle marking system
  • An alarm system
  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.