20 Years of CMG: The six horsemen

In 2007, Honda introduced its new 125 cc motorcycle to Canada, and just a few days later, Founding Editor Rob Harris became the first Canadian to crash the CBR125R. You can read the story here, and his review from Miami’s Homestead track.

But that’s not our selection from the year, to help celebrate 20 years of CMG. Our choice is this excellent roundup from six CMG readers and contributors. Welcome back guys! -Ed.


Honda’s Gamble

In 2007 Honda Canada gambled big that Canadian riders were ready for a small, unintimidating, but sporty motorcycle. The decision was taken after a lot of research into who was taking the riding schools (lots of people, many of them female), and who was going on through to get their final riding licence (disappointingly, not that many).

The obvious question was then posed: Could the machinery available in the market be the reason for this gap? Honda certainly thought so and so took a rather extreme course (for the bigger-is-better North American market anyway) and opted to bring in the CBR125R. The next question is – in the real world – what exactly can you do with a CBR125R?


 What is it?

‘Arris in Florida.

Styled like the CBR600RR and CBR1000RR – but left much longer in the dryer – the CBR125R uses a single-cylinder 125 cc four-stroke with all the mod cons (fuel injection, etc.) in a small modern package. The bike had been in production for a couple of years before its introduction into Canada for 2007, but just got treated to a revamp.

CMG had the opportunity to thoroughly wring the little devil’s neck at its introductory press launch earlier this year.

But race-track shenanigans (fun as they are) don’t necessarily translate into something that’ll be a great street bike. We figured
that the best way to a consensus about how well the little bike works in real life and where it might best fit, was to try it out with as many riders as we could find (and trust!).

So we asked a bunch of devout CMG fans and experienced riders, whose bike ownership ranges from off-road to a faithful EX250 to a big Harley tourer, to try the CBR125R long-termer and see what they thought of it.


The six horsemen of CMG

Wes.jpg
Lee.jpg
WES GARLAND

30-ish, married,
one daughter, computer geek by trade in Kingston.

LEE MALLETTE

38, married with
three kids, works in tech support for RCMP in Ottawa.

GLEN MARCHAND

39, married,
no kids. Firefighter for City of Ottawa.

MATT McGARVEY

42, criminal
defence lawyer in Ottawa

PATRICK SHELSTON

30, married,
father of one, computer techie, downtown Toronto.

RICHARD PERRIN

34, married
with two kids. Software designer in Ottawa.

Riding seven
years, first and current bike a Kawasaki EX250F – which he uses for an 11-mile
commute, every day (even in winter – weather permitting).
Bought as an alternative to walking 12 miles to go visit Shelly
(GF, now wife).
Riding since 16,
currently on a 1995 Harley FLHT after a plethora of dirt bikes,
sport bikes, dual purpose, and standards. Ideal ride is a solo
500-600 km day with no particular place to go.
Started on mopeds
at 15, first bike at 17 (1979 Honda Twinstar 185 – still has it!). Others on the trail include a Ninja 900, CBR 600,
KLR 650, V-Strom 650, and presently a pristine Triumph
Bonneville
Rides an FJ1200
and generally likes sport touring; one big ride (or sometimes two) each year, plus a bunch of afternoons here and there mostly, not
a commuter
Started riding
on a Honda CM200T and until recently a
lardy 1977 GS750 Harris Special (that’d be Editor H, not the
famous and talented frame people). Currently
has a VFR750 and looking to dump the GS …
Races old Suzukis
in vintage when he can get away, rides same to work … when he gets them working, that is.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

So given that Editor ‘Arris’ fun and games in Florida had little relation to reality (true of much of his life, actually …) he had the sense to let the individuals described above take one of the little buggers and ride it for a week or two.

The CMG town bike.

Wes and Glen commuted on it, Matt took a couple of short jaunts and pottered around town, Lee commuted and did a bunch of highway riding, Richard commuted on it, and Patrick did a bit of everything, including getting the highest top speed (so he claims, anyway).

Following is a conglomeration of their comments.

Everyone was knocked out by the looks, fit, and finish, and said that reactions from bystanders ranged from bemusement to wild enthusiasm. A lot of that is no doubt due to the crisp lines and superb finish allied with its size – the thing is tiny, something that every one of the testers (none of them giants, other than Mr. Perrin [6-4, 238 lb], although a couple of others are six foot in height) commented on.

Ultra-flickability makes it ideal around town.

No question that the size makes it look unintimidating to the non-riding plebs out there .

The size has another effect, in that although it’s not scary, the handling is very quick and light, almost darty. Patrick commented that the bike was “so tossable it’s hard to go straight,” and everyone was delighted by how nimble the little devil felt, how far it leaned, and what a giggle it was to ride in corners (Richard was less than “delighted,” but agreed that the handling was “quick, light and fun”).

Matt said, “I would get one as a track bike in a blink if I were inclined to go racing … the nice handling just begs for tight, twisty fun – add some stronger springs or preload and you’re off,” while Glen added, “The bike is so light and flickable that far-off roundabouts and ramps were included on my way to work.”

While several of the riders did some highway riding, other than Wes (who’s tall and gangly and is used to touring two-up on his EX250) they all said the bike should be kept off the bigger highways. Even Wes said that although he considered the bike “capable of being ridden at speeds prudent for Ontario’s 400-highway series,” it was probably best to avoid such roads.

A comfortable top speed of about 100 km/h up to an indicated 120 or so if you crawl under the paint (130 if you believe Patrick found a hill that long) just won’t cut it on the slab. Richard alone found it dangerously slow on his normal commute:

Glen tries to keep up with highway traffic.

“Merging into four lanes of expressway at a snail’s pace … I was stuck behind a Buick as it merged into the 110 km/h traffic at about 60 km/h. I just didn’t have enough power to accelerate around, so as I watched a semi’s headlights get bigger in my rear-view mirror, I crept further and further to the right-hand side of the lane. All ended well as the truck driver changed lanes to clear us, but it didn’t leave me with a great sense of comfort on the bike.”

On the other hand, most found that on 80-90 km/h country roads it’s perfectly acceptable. Lee noted that hills were a bit of a problem: “The slightest incline makes [the speed] plummet faster than Britney Spears’ career.” Revs are the answer, as Wes put it: “[it’s fine as long as you] remember to downshift until the tach points at 11 o’clock.”

Handling, and even power, surprisingly, earned praise from the group. This bike loves to lean, and then lean some more, and while it needs to rev in order to make horsepower, it does that happily – but it’s also reasonably responsive even at 6,000 rpm, a sign of an excellent fuel injection system.

Definitely not ugly.

And while Wes thought the transmission was “fantastic,” others complained about occasional missed shifts and difficulty engaging first gear.

Around-town comfort received mixed reviews. Suspension was deemed to be “okay” for what it is, but not up to the rigours of abused pavement. All felt the seat was comfortable, but half our testers thought the bars were too low for stop-and-go city riding.

Fuel economy from the little 125 was excellent, of course, with the 10-litre tank giving a theoretical range of 250 km or more.

There were a couple of unanimous nits: the windscreen rattled, and didn’t provide sufficient coverage (Matt called it “mostly ornamental, as it directs air into … the torso”). And the lack of a centre stand, on a chain-driven bike, irritated those who like to do their own maintenance.

As for the ugly … we’ll have none of that. The CBR125 looks fabulous.


What’s its place?

Having said all that, what’s to be done with a CBR125R? Over to the CMG horsemen …

WesWes – This is a GREAT city motorcycle, and it will happily perform rural
highway scenic riding.
LeeLee – I’d like a little more horsepower but that’s my only
gripe. It’s a package that’s fun, lightweight, sporty,
and confidence-inspiring. While aimed squarely at the novice rider,
the CBR can help seasoned riders hone their skills as well.
GlenGlen – I believe it to be the perfect beginner bike and a great, affordable
commuter bike for the experienced rider wishing to live green.
MattMatt – For a trip more than 10 minutes I’d prefer my FJ for most purposes
except sheer giggles with the little thing. It was great for hopping
across town, up to the market, etc.
PatPatrick – A very well-built bike, but I’m not sure who it’s
for. I would recommend this for my wife, but I think she’d
rather have a trendy scooter instead.
RichardRichard – Someone more adventurous would want a bike they can comfortably
take on the highway, or maybe carry a passenger. Go places other
than city streets at flow-of-traffic speed, maybe. Someone more
resourceful would look to a used EX250, EX500, GS500 or SV650.
They might pay a bit more, but they’d end up with a much more capable
bike.

10 thoughts on “20 Years of CMG: The six horsemen”

  1. I was looking for at this as a runabout but I couldn’t find one. There’s always one for sale locally but when I needed one – one couldn’t be found so I bought a used Sym Wolf 150. Small bikes are so much fun to get around the hood on. The CBR125 was available in Thailand, where it was made, as a 150cc. With a bit more punch they may of had more success with it in Canada.

    1. I bought one in 2009, and kept it for about 5 yrs, but I think I put more milage on it when I got it, in 2009 I put 13,000km on it that summer. 🙂

  2. Bought one when I arrived here ,being on a limited budget their was a good deal on the previous year model. It was an awesome bike for the price, i had some comfort issues in the seat/tank area and with vibrations at high rpm in the same area , didn`t like the feel of the footpegs but beside that it was great and would maybe buy another one if it was still available since the shape of the seat and tank on the latest version has changed.

    1. Now, anything below 250 cc is not likely to sell very well. Why buy a CBR 125 when you can have a CBR 300 at a good price and offer so much more possibility and still very friendly to new motorcycliste. The ninja 300 change the game… new motorcycliste and people looking for a commuter have so much choose and quality product. Ninja 300, Yamaha R3, Cbr 300, KTM RC 390, New suzuki GSX 250.

      1. I think there is still a market for hipster bikes, like the Wolf 150, until Suzuki designs something along those lines powered by its GW250 engine.

        1. I agree on the Wolf 150, it’s a amazing looking little bike. (Even for a second bike in the garage 🙂 . Sym have some great thing in canada like Wolf 150 and the little Cub. But a lot of 125 are build because in some country you can drive it with a car licence (Like in France). If you want a modern 125 cc KTM have the Duke 125 this year for Canada.

Join the conversation!