£4499 | 15bhp @ 9500rpm | 8.9lb-ft @ 8000rpm | 124.7cc | 4-stroke single cylinder
Tested by: Carli Ann Smith Photos: KTM
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Developed on the race track and now brought to the streets, KTM has introduced its new RC125 – a bike the Austrian company hopes will compete with the oh-so-popular Yamaha YZF-R125.
The RC125 appeals to the young generation (or the young at heart). Even if you’ve been riding for over 30 years, rewind the clock to your first bike. If it was a small capacity machine, you’ll know the fun they can be…
The RC is powered by the same lump that’s in the 125 Duke – a water-cooled, 4-stroke single cylinder – and it’s certainly got some poke. In fact it’s right at the top of the power restriction for those with an A1 licence at 15bhp. It’ll easily see you reach the national speed limit (and above) allowing you to hold your own in traffic and perform some well-planned overtakes. The alternator is larger than used on the Duke, in order to power those ‘love em or hate em’ double headlights at the front.
Power delivery is smooth, and working up the six gears, either through sound and feel, or using the handy gear shift indicator, there are no uncomfortable vibrations – even at the top of the rev counter.
KTM has built a partnership with the third largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world – Indian company Bajaj – working together to produce the bikes in the range under 400cc, which includes the Duke 125 and 390. After being built, all the bikes then go through Austria for quality assurance and distribution.
What’s the chassis like?
The commitment from KTM is obvious: “Just because it has a smaller capacity, doesn’t mean it takes less of a priority than any of our other models.” The company is actively investing in products for a new generation of riders, and wants to give them the best they can, transferring some of the learnings from the flagship models such as the Super Duke and Adventure onto the RC. The suspension is a good example – the RC is fitted with WP upside down (USD) forks with the same 43mm outer tube diameter as the RC8 R.
Compared to KTM’s 125 Duke, the RC has a stiffer spring inside the fork to give it more of a supersport feel, and the stroke has been reduced from 150mm to 125mm. The rear shock has 150mm of travel, and features adjustable preload – for me the standard set-up was fine, with the bike sagging slightly when I jumped aboard.
The steering head angle has been steepened to 66.5° to give more ground clearance when leaning round corners, less trail and a shorter wheelbase. The result is playful handling with increased agility.
Stopping power is provided by a four piston radially bolted caliper on the front, and a single piston caliper on the rear, developed in cooperation with Brembo. The bike features Bosch ABS as standard too – for a machine aimed at young bikers, this will help build confidence, even when riding over on wet or loose ground.
KTM didn’t want the functional items required for riding the bike on the road to interfere with the overall look of the machine, and intended to replicate the look of the RC’s racing counterparts. You’ll find the LED indicators cleverly hidden in the mirrors, and the tail-light positioned under the rear seat cowl. Sharp styling is key and of course it features those eye catching orange wheel rims that you’ve come to expect on the KTM machines. There are some innovative touches, like the pillion seat which looks like a solo seat cowl unit but is made from rubber – having tried it, I can honestly say it’s comfortable too.
The chunky 150mm rear tyre provides good grip, and viewing the bike from behind, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s packing more than 124cc under those fairings.
Should I buy one?
If you’re a very experienced rider used to racking up the miles on a 1000cc machine, then this bike isn’t for you. But it’s not meant to be. KTM is purposefully looking to get younger people onto two wheels, and get them excited about motorcycles, rather than smartphones.
It’s A1 compliant so you don’t need a full licence to join in the fun – in some countries in Europe, you can even ride it on a car licence. Whether using it to commute or simply show off, KTM has developed a full range of PowerPart accessories to complete the look. This includes a sat-nav mount, tank protector sticker, small rear bag, a ‘NEON’ graphics kit, Akrapovic slip-on silencers and an ergo seat.
The RC sits at the top-end of the price point amongst its direct competitors, which include the Aprilia RS4 at £4471 and the Yamaha YZF-R125 at £4349.
For those of us who like to know about service intervals – it’s every 7500km – that’s just over 4600 miles to you and me.
So what’s it like to ride?
Climbing aboard the RC, the size is deceiving. On paper the 820mm seat height could put some of us shorter legged riders off, but the dialled-in sag means that – at 5ft 6 – I was able to put my feet flat on the floor comfortably. The riding position is sporty but there’s not too much weight pushed forward onto the wrists, so even after the 85 mile loop we did (including a few hours on a tight and twisty handling track) I could have done it all over again.
The 10 litre tank is relatively thin but is still meaty enough to grip with your legs and feel comfortable hanging off into the corners. The wide handlebars allow you to distribute your weight over the bike and thanks to the chassis set-up, cornering is always fun.
The mirrors were nice and large, so I had a great view of the road behind me, and the dash is the same as on the Duke which features fuel gauge, clock, mpg, speed and revs, as well as the gear indicator and a shift light which flashes red when it’s time to knock it up.
The RC delivered a whopping 138mpg during the launch – blipping through the mountainous roads of Austria and brapping it round the track, I would have thought I could get even more from it on a more sedate ride. There are six gears for you to work your way around – each with plenty of torque and grunt for you to make mischief with. This bike took me back to being 17 again: I remembered jumping on my first ‘big bike’ after my 50cc scooter and thinking it was the best thing in the world.
It’s fantastic to see a manufacturer consciously making the decision to develop a bike that will appeal to those new to riding, using its flagship models to refine the technology and applying those learnings to the smaller capacity machines.
“It’s not good enough to join the race – let’s try and get on pole.” said KTM. I think the company’s definitely got a podium contender with the RC, which is in dealers from the first week in September.
Engine: 124.7cc, water-cooled, 4-stroke, single cylinder
Power: 15bhp (11kW) @ 9500rpm
Torque: 8.9lb-ft (12Nm) @ 8000rpm
Dry Weight: 135kg
Seat height: 820mm
Tank size: 10 litres