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My experience with the Yamaha SR125 took place a few years ago when I was sitting my bike test. Under current regulations, after completing a CBT course, at 17 years old you can take a test on a 125cc bike restricted to 12bhp after which you can ride any bike as long as it is restricted to 33 bhp, and after 2 years you may ride any bike you wish.
At the riding school there were two fleets of 125s, the Honda CG125 and the Yamaha SR125. Being a bit of a shorty I decided that the smaller Yamaha with its lower mounted seat would be a better bet. Sitting on board, everything seemed fine, all controls nicely to hand and easy to manipulate, with a handy electric start for when you can't be bothered kick starting it. The switchgear (lights, indicator switches etc) were all in a decent position and easy to use with a gloved hand and the clutch lever reassuringly light. The clocks gave the impression of being made to suit a budget however, with the bare minimum of a speedometer, oil light, main beam and indicator lights. The fuel and temp gauges however were handy features which have been missing from some bikes I've ridden, and the neutral light comes in handy for unsure learners.
The engine powering the SR is a single cylinder four stroke with 5 speed transmission. An inherent drawback of single cylinder machines is that they tend to vibrate quite badly, causing bulbs to blow and electrical connections to break. The Yamaha however didn't seem that bad to me, and was certainly a lot better than the two stroke dirtbikes I was used to. Unfortunately, along with the lack of vibrations was a distinct lack of power. Most machines of this capacity, even restricted ones, have a distinct powerband, an area in the rev range where the engine seems to pick up and come alive, but not on this bike. The drive, although smooth and quite tractable without the need to be constantly changing gear, always felt as though you were riding into a strong headwind and was quite frustrating. Top speed was in the region of about 60+ mph, but the lack of power makes fifth gear useless for anything except downhill runs. The poor performance of the engine combined with the notchy, sloppy gearshift makes this bike thoroughly irritating for anyone except a nervous learner, but if it's the first bike you've ever sat on, its dull and unthreatening character makes it really easy to get on with.
The styling is purely a matter of taste. The Honda CGs the riding school had, not exactly the most striking bikes ever, looked pretty smart next to the SR. The Yamaha seemed to be styled as a kind of mini Harley Davidson, complete with big padded seat, swept back handlebars and big chrome megaphone exhaust silencer. In my opinion, trying to model small bikes on big bikes just doesn't work, and the SR I hold as proof of my claim. It simply looks dumpy, too small to be a cruiser but with too many tacked on bits and entirely the wrong shape to be a commuter bike. One feature I did like however was the mandatory black painted bodywork with smart gold SR logo on the fuel tank, which on its own would probably seem quite tacky but worked quite well with the rest of the package.
The suspension and brakes are adequate for the job, basic for ease of maintenance and easy to live with on the road. The front forks are very soft, making them ideal for a bike which will never reach high speeds high enough to warrant anything firmer, but for hopping over speed bumps and soaking up potholes, they are as much as you will ever need. The rear suspension is a twin shock setup, again, not the cutting edge of technology but perfectly good for this application and easy to look after with it. The front disc brake is strong if you put enough pressure through the lever and never feels like its going to fade. The rear drum brake is there more for balancing purpoes than for actual stopping power, but again does the job more than well enough.
All these factors put together make the Yamaha SR125 a well balanced little bike, perfecty suited to hopping about town or coaching learners on. The low revving engine means you can ride at walking pace easily without needing to use the clutch, the firm and effective brakes make emergency stops fairly easy and the low centre of gravity helps with the old U-turns.
Economically, the SR is a little gem. Small engined four strokes are quiet, clean running and use very little fuel. As the bike belonged to the riding school I never had to fill it up, but I reckon on the fuel consumption being 55+mpg. Yamaha main dealers can be found in every major city and parts and servicing should be no more expensive than other bike manufacturers. Tax is cheap, as is insurance and you can pick up a decent SR from upwards of £400, with tatty examples being available for less. Riding schools often buy fleets of new bikes during the early summer and so need to sell off older machines, so keep an eye out for these in the free ads. These bikes will be well maintained and serviced but are likely to have a few scrapes and dents from low speed drops. Use any defects to haggle the price down as much as you can. Just make sure the forks, wheels and handlebars are straight and true. Faults wise, bulbs blow, exhausts rust through and rain can leak into the electrics, but a well looked after bike should sidestep these niggles.
Personally, if I was after a bike of this size I'd opt for a two stroke dirtbike, purely for a bit of decent performance and the fun factor, and to hell with the fuel/oil bill and the intrusive exhaust stink. But if you're in the market for a completely unintimidating learner bike whick is dead easy to ride and maintain and costs pennies to run, take a look at a second hand SR125. Yamaha have just stopped making them new so look hard and you may spot one at a knockdown price at a Yamaha dealer. If you're taking your test and have stumpy legs, find a school with SRs, pass your test and get something better, but I'd personally find it hard to live with it for longer than the state of my licence dictated.
great op.... my mate has just bought one of these bikes for 1400 quid! ouch! oh well... I think I'll stick to my harley...take care...dave
Connoisseur_Haggler1 19.03.2003 23:27
mmm, well I'm sure you remember your test days very clearly and this bikes small niggles may just be fine for the first time bike learner/to test in. Are these relatively cheap or inexpensive to maintain? I assume so. I like it.."Use any defects to haggle the price down as much as you can." Always the way! Enjoy!no doubt you will... Splendid review of the SR.
Collingwood21 25.01.2003 17:16
Excellent review, Roy - very descriptive and some useful advice on buying one.