Ridden: New Honda CBR 125R

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Honda CBR 125R

Ridden: New Honda CBR 125R

Wednesday, 21 March 2012 2:32 PM

Honda really needed to step up its game with the new CBR 125R. For too long the old variant went uncontested as the best learner legal bike on the market – it may not have been the most sporty of the bikes available but as an all rounder you couldn’t go wrong with the small, reliable and frugal little Honda.

However, along came Yamaha with the YZF 125R and suddenly the skinny little CBR seemed like it was nothing more than a child’s bicycle.

So what needed to be done? The bike performed well enough and the styling was hardly ugly, what was it that the Yamaha had that the Honda didn’t? Quite simply, it was the size.

When you line up the YZF 125R against the R1 and R6 it looked and felt just like its bigger brothers, only with small 125cc engine under the seat.

Honda listened and observed, but more importantly it’s put in the proper thought behind the new CBR rather than just going whole hog with production of a new model.

To win the hearts of learners once again, the new CBR 125R was launched alongside the new CBR 250R.

While the latest of the mini-MotoGP replicas don’t quite have the same stance as the CBR 600RR of 1000RR, there is little or no difference between the 125cc and 250cc bikes.

In effect, rather than simply pressing ‘Go’ on the photocopier with the blueprint of CBR 600RR sandwiched onto the glass of the scanner, Honda has created a new hierarchy for learners.

The CBR 125R is lined up alongside the faithful CBF 125 while those who have just passed their test can jump straight onto a 250R if they’re restricted to 33bhp or onto the new CBR 600F if not (insurance on the 600F is up to 75 per cent cheaper than the 600RR).

So what’s it like to ride?

Clearly this has been targeted at being competition for the YZF 125R, right down to the new price tag, however rather than comparing it to the Yamaha, I’m going to compare it to Honda’s own CBF 125.

And I do so with good reason. The CBF was always considered the ‘thinking man’s CBR’ because it was the bigger of the two and could do twice as many miles per gallon. It had less power but more torque and you could pick one up new for not much more than you could used.

Now, of course, the CBR is larger but don’t expect anything revolutionary in the way it rides.

In fact, the bike that I took out for a test ride actually felt rather sluggish. Driving around town you simply don’t have the room to use that extra little bit of power that the small engine produces. You need the torque and this simply doesn’t have it.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that the clutch felt like it had already worn away.

With only 135 miles on the clock you would expect a nice tight feel to the clutch lever but this only had the slightest bit of tension right at the end of the lever travel. With a little adjustment this would be fine but I’m hoping that not all bikes that leave the factory feel like this.

If you’re looking for a learner legal MotoGP replica then the new CBR is definitely closer to the YZF than it used to be, but in the real world I can’t help but think that Honda could have done a better job with it.

The new electric dash with gear indicator is a welcome addition and it certainly feels like a more luxury package than the old CBR and the current CBF – so if you spend the extra money you’ll at least feel like you’ve spent it wisely.

However, you probably won’t be as happy when you see the depreciation.

Honda CBR 125R

One of the strongest arguments for investing in a 125cc bike is that they don’t lose their value – there is always a market for leaner legal machinery. Yet, dealers are already stocking 2011 CBR 125Rs with less than 200 miles on the clock for less than three grand. How have they lost £1,000 in so little time?

This simply shouldn’t happen in the world of 125cc bikes.

On average, the old CBF is still around £2,000 cheaper than a gleaming new CBR and is just as nice to ride. And I use the word ‘old’ loosely as the design may be a few years old now but there are plenty of 2011 and 2012 models sitting in showrooms with zero miles on the clock with a price tag that is half that of the CBR sat next to it.

So what’s the verdict?

Well, if you go for the CBR then you probably won’t be too disappointed. But if you’re taking your time and doing a few test rides before you make a purchase, spare a thought for the CBF.

The money you save could be a welcome addition to the kitty when considering a bigger bike following your test – it would be better spent on a CBR 250R if you’re going to spend two years on a restricted licence.

Mike Fryatt

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Honda CBR 125R
Honda CBR 125R
Honda CBR 125R
Honda CBR 125R
Honda CBR 125R
Honda CBR 125R

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