It must be to the CBR125R’s credit that on an overcast day in southern Spain I frequently had to look closely to tell the 125cc model from its CBR250R sibling, and occasionally even from the much bigger, multicylinder CBR600F. Honda has done well in revitalising its smallest capacity sports bike with a fresh set of clothes that gives it some welcome additional credibility in the hotly contested 125cc sports bike market.
Unlike the CBR250R, the 125cc single is far from a new bike. Instead, it’s a revamp of a model that has been very popular since its launch in 2004. Honda say their brief was simple: to create a 125cc sports bike with the look and feel of a bigger, more expensive machine. It has a new and sleeker fairing that incorporates a single headlight, and mounts the mirrors on the fairing rather than the bars.
Its liquid-cooled, SOHC two-valve single engine is retained, although it gains a new and stubbier exhaust silencer that contributes to the more modern look. The steel twin-spar frame also comes straight from the old model, along with the 31mm forks and rear monoshock. But the 17-inch wheels are wider, matching those of Yamaha’s rival YZF-R125. And the uprated brake system comprises a 276mm front disc and twin-pot caliper, with a 220mm disc and single-pot rear.
The digital instrument panel is also new, complete with analogue tacho, digital speedo and info panel including fuel gauge and clock. That helped make the CBR seem pleasingly modern and well equipped after I’d thrown a leg over its narrow seat, which is slightly higher than its predecessor but still low at 795mm, and leant forward to the raised clip on bars to thumb the starter button.
With an unchanged max of 13bhp at 10,000rpm on tap the Honda was never going to feel particularly quick, though at 137kg with fuel it is at least light enough to accelerate with reasonable enthusiasm. Its injection system was very efficient, making the bike easy to pull away on even for novices, and giving an instant, though not particularly strong, response every time the throttle was tweaked.
Power built very gradually through the midrange, so naturally the CBR got plenty of thrashing, and didn’t seem to mind going well past the 10,800rpm redline as I hunted for every available mph. On one straight road, with my head behind the screen, it thrummed up to an indicated 85mph, with smaller riders reporting a few mph more. The bike was happy to cruise at 60mph most of the time, though occasionally needed a down change when faced by a long hill.
Comfort was reasonable, with a fairly roomy riding position and compliant yet well-controlled suspension. But the single-pot motor was buzzy at times, through the tank or seat depending on revs. And the six-speed gearbox also felt slightly agricultural, with a notchy feel and occasional missed changes.
Handling was fine though, with pretty good control from the simple but efficient suspension. The wider wheels and Road Winner tyres gave reassuring grip even when the roads were damp. And although the front brake was slightly spongy and its power was good rather than outstanding, that felt about right given the Honda’s target customer and the fact that this CBR doesn’t have ABS.
What it does share with the CBR250R is a competitive price, in this case £3170 on the road, which is mighty impressive given that its YZFR125 rival costs almost four grand. A head-to-head test would probably show the Yam still having a slight edge in performance and glamour, but for most riders the Honda’s price advantage will be hard to ignore.
Price: £3170 OTR
Engine: 124cc liquid-cooled SOHC fuel injected sixspeed single with two valves
Max power (claimed): 13bhp@10,000rpm
Max torque (claimed): 7.67 lb-ft@8000rpm
Rake and trail: 35º/90mm
Chassis: Steel twin spar
Suspension: Front:31mm telescopic,120mm travel. Rear: Single shock,126mm wheel travel,
adjustments for preload
Brakes: Front:Twin-piston caliper, 276mm disc. Rear: Single-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Wheels/tyres: Front: 100/80 x 17in Road Winner on cast aluminium rim. Rear: 130/70 x 17in Road Winner on cast aluminium rim
Wet weight (claimed): 137kg kerb
Seat height: 795mm
Fuel capacity: 13 litres (including LCD-indicated reserve))
Colours: Black, silver, red/white/blue