A stylish, youth-orientated, naked Honda 125 has been a long time coming. Despite producing the brilliant, sports CBR125 for well over a decade, Honda never produced a naked version with its offerings in a class dominated by Yamaha’s MT-125 and KTM’s Duke 125 instead being simply the worthy but dreary CB125F and the preceding, half-faired commuter CBF125. But this new R has been more than worth the wait. It’s powered by an updated version of the CBR’s liquid-cooled, single-cylinder engine, gets an all-new tubular steel chassis including monoshock, and snazzy inverted front forks and radial front disc and is all wrapped up in sharp and slick bodywork inspired by its bigger brother, the CB1000R super-naked, getting nice touches like LED headlight and LCD digital dash along the way.
Honda simply don’t do dodgy ergonomics and the CB125R is no exception. Although the 816mm seat seems surprisingly high at first, the bike’s so slim it’s not at all awkward and you quickly realize it’s to tilt you forward into a more aggressive, typical naked stance. Not that it’s at all extreme – this is a Honda, after all – in fact it’s perfect for a novice fun bike – upright, comfortable seat and stretch forward to bars, perfectly positioned controls, light, slim and manageable: all-n-all it’s both easy to ride and eager and fun.
A naked, restricted 125 is never going to be the ultimate in practicality but, being a Honda, and having the pleasing lustre, easy comfort, predictable manners and reassuring durability that comes with that, the CB125R makes a decent fist of things. It’s a doddle to get on with, brisk enough round town, excellent through traffic thanks to its precise controls, steering and responsive delivery and a decent commuter, too.
Again. there’s a limit as to how excited anyone can get about a restricted 125 but, within the context of its A1 licence class, and full in the knowledge that, 13bhp or not, there’s not much to criticise about Honda’s newcomer. That 13bhp may be a tad down on its Yamaha and KTM rivals but you’ll barely notice it; the power delivery is linear, willing and characterful and it sounds good, too. Meanwhile, that front brake may be a single disc grasped by an impressive, radially-mounted, four-piston caliper, but it surprisingly feels a little dull. It’s not bad, but it lacked the sharpness.
The ride quality from those unadjustable but otherwise impressive beefy 41mm inverted forks allied with a single shock at the rear is plush and predictable enough without being wallowy. Better still, the CB’s upright, aggressive riding position and decently sharp steering geometry combine to make the little Honda a hugely nimble handler. In fact, it’s so quick and instant that, you think you want to wiggle through a gap in traffic and it’s already done – not a bad characteristic to have when you’re after an easy, idiot-proof and fun learner bike.
Although a relatively new bike, the CB125R is based around the well-proven motor from the old CBR125R (in case you’re wondering, Honda have chosen not to directly replace the old faired sportster, choosing instead for this new sporty naked to fill that bike’s shoes) so there should be little to fear. reliability-wise. On top of that the cycle parts are all decent quality and should prove durable while the finish is typically good as with all Hondas as well.
Considering it’s a naked 125, the CB is pretty lavishly equipped, which is another part of its appeal. Despite being among the cheapest in its class there’s a slick reversed LCD digital dash, inverted forks, radial front brake, LED lights and lots of nice detailing – you’ll be the envy of any self-respecting teen gang.