Yamaha BW’S 125 – Long Termer (Part 1; Going the Distance)

CMG has a BW’s 125 for a few months. Editor ‘arris writes the first installment on how we’re finding Yamaha’s latest addition to the BW’s family.


Words: Rob Harris. Photos: Sarah Moffat

There’s something about scooters that always put a smirk on my mug. Not the big scoots (as capable as they are), but the small scoots. It’s something to do with the combination of lightweight, small size and riding around everywhere at full throttle.

Strangely, I’ve never found that fun factor able to translate with rising cc. With the extra power comes mass and size and the scooter morphs from its own thing into a motorcycle, just one that you can step through and don’t need to use any gears.


Honda’s 250 Ruckus lost both the charm of the smaller 50 version as well as the funk.

But then with a mere 50cc comes the obvious problem of coping with that miniature amount of power. It means that you have to keep to the side of the road or find the inner gall to not give a damn that there’s a line of cars behind you and they all hate you.

As a result I’ve always wondered where that compromise of small scooter fun with big scooter power is at its best. Anything above 400 becomes an oddly shaped motorcycle. Come down to 250 and you still have a motorcycle, just one that doesn’t go very fast.

Even the 150s that we tested last year in our 150 cc scooter comparo can feel just too big to keep the little scooter charm. So, when Yamaha announced two new scooters this year, I said “hmmhh” to the new 500 cc T-Max and “gimme” to the new 125 BW’s – which we now have until the snow flies!

BW’s 125 DNA


125 BW’s retains the funk factor but can it keep the charm too?

Canada’s best selling scooter is the Yamaha BW’s 50. Its longevity, funky styling and build quality have all conspired to make it so popular. But as Honda found out with its popular 50 cc Ruckus, bringing in a bigger version does not necessarily guarantee success.

The 250 Ruckus lacked the funk of the 50 in all aspects – styling, handling, feel and character, and was subsequently dumped from Honda’s line up tout de suite. But Yamaha are being a little more conservative with their new BW’s 125.

Like the Ruckus, it’s branded with the same title as their popular 50, but where Honda had scant ties between the two Rucki, Yamaha have kept the styling (bug-eyed lights and fat, coarse treaded tires) as well as keeping the engine size down to a more conservative 125 cc.


Motor is air-cooled and uses a  fan on right side.

Unlike the current 2 stroke 50cc version, the 125 uses the more emission-friendly four stroke motor (with cat), which somewhat surprisingly melds tech with basic, sporting electronic closed loop fuel injection and a four valve head, but then cooling the motor by air (getting assistance from a large fan bolted to its right side).

There’s no published power figures for the BW’s but it’s likely in the 11-12 HP range. Torque is published – a mere 7 ft-lb to be had. With the current price of gas, Yamaha’s pushing the economy figures of 37 km/litre or 105 mpg. This is claimed at a steady speed of 40 km/h on level ground, but we’ll be sure to note some real world figures during our tenure.

Hydraulic forks up front offer 78 mm of travel with dual shocks at the rear giving 71 mm of travel. As per BW’s standard, the wheels (up to 12” from the 50’s 10-inchers) come with chunky tires that no doubt help out in the suspension department somewhat.


220 mm disc does well.

The front brake is a 220 mm disc with a single piston caliper, while a 150 mm drum can be found at the rear. Underseat storage is a claimed 20 litres, which Yamaha admit is enough for some full-face helmets, though not my Arai Quantum … well, it can be made to latch but good luck getting it back open again!

Claimed dry weight is 113 kg (249 lbs) and fuel capacity is 6 litres (and yes that is quite satisfying to fill up at the pumps).

The BW’s 125 is available in blue, black or yellow with a Canadian MSRP of $3,999.00. That’s in the right ball park when you compare it to other 125/150 scoots (though a few hundred dollars up on cost), although the US (who call it a Zuma) manages to come in a whole grand less at US$2,999.00. Sigh.



Possessive little bugger.

We picked up our BW’s (BTW why is it BW apostrophe S? What is it possessive of?) from Yamaha headquarters in Toronto … though I live in Montreal. This meant that the first real ride of the bike would be a long tour – a good test of just how usable that 11 or so horsepower actually is!

So what kind of performance can you expect from a 125 cc four stroke scooter? Well, simply put, about double that of a 50. It’s delivered in the same way – roll on the throttle and the engine winds up to a fixed RPM as the CVT transmission whirls you forward. But unlike a fifty there’s a distinct eagerness and even the sniff of a slight lunge forth.


‘Arris waits at the  lights after leaving the cars in the dust.

Meandering through Toronto’s urban chaos the BW’s has just enough to keep you in front of most traffic off the lights and (unless they’re inclined to squeal their tires) sufficient to keep you on the crest of the traffic wave till the next stop light. It’s the perfect power for a scooter, as it’s just shy of spoiling the party and with the ‘little scooter effect’ intact, enables you to still go anywhere and everywhere pretty much at full throttle.

Of course, with an indicated 95 km/h at full tilt on the flat, you have to keep in mind that this ‘little scooter’ can also get you noticed by the law, all the while thinking that you’re innocently scootering along all lawful like.

With that top speed and the ever-present threat of even that going down to a meagre 65 if adverse geography comes into the equation, highways are well and truly out. Well, save for the urban highway, which can range from limits of 70 to 90 km/h and are usually so choked with traffic that even those speeds can seem a little optimistic. Yes, I did a bit of DVP and survived to tell the tale.

Once free of the GTA I rolled open the throttle and sat back to enjoy the ride.


All the urban power you need.

With 125 cc of power comes the ‘rocking effect’ of hills. You know, when you’re bombing along quite happily and then you hit a hill and all of a sudden the little engine that could, can’t, and the traffic that was being left behind was now tailgating and the speedo slips helplessly down from 95 to 90, to 85, to 80 … to 65.

Thankfully it stops declining about here, but on its descent I invariably find myself rocking my whole body back and fourth as if somehow I’m adding a much needed pulse of momentum to the BW’s when in fact I’m just giving the guy in the SUV on my tail a show of desperate impotence.

Downhill gets the reverse effect as the speedo screams its way above the 100 km/h mark, tapping out at 110, with full tuck and satisfied grin. In a way it’s all a bit pathetic, but it’s this rider input and involvement in the process of getting from A to B that makes a scooter what it is. To me it’s the fun factor, but I concede that it might be just me who sees that.


Not sure what the bars do.

Okay, so it may have made more sense to trailer it back to Montreal, but for some reason, the thought of actually riding it back never popped into my head as being a potential issue. I’d even planned a detour north via the town of Barrie, which meant that for most of the trip I would be having a grand old ride through the countryside.

And in a way I was. As long as you like to take 13 hours to do something that could be done in half that time.

Yes, that sounds obvious, but what I found is that for the first 6 or 7 hours I was having quite a good time of it all. Rocking up hills and tucking down the other sides, or just watching the world go by on the straights.


Seat looks very comfy but not for the long haul.

The thing that started to make me count off the kilometers though was not so much the motor but the seat. It’s long, wide and seemingly well padded but after two to three hours you get to the point where you just can’t quite get comfortable anymore. Four to five and you’re stopping not because you want to but because the old arse cheeks need a rub and slap.

Okay, so can I blame Yamaha for making a scooter seat that gets uncomfortable after three hours? Not really, I mean who rides a scooter for 13 hours at a time? No need to answer that by the way.

While I’m on the seat topic, one very positive aspect of the BW’s seat is that it’s long and flat enough to accommodate my lanky 6’ 4” self. If you’re over 6 foot tall then a lot of scooters are non-starters merely because your knees have to wedge against the bars – which in turn means that little things such as being able to turn are somewhat compromised.


By the end of the day I was positively grumpy, not helped by having to weave my way back into Montreal through some godawful back roads of the northern suburbs and the always depressing (and seemingly never ending) island of Laval.

But wait, I’m getting into things that I want to cover after we’ve had the BW’s for the few months of our tenure. So far it’s proved able (if not comfortably, or particularly quickly) to do the distance. Over the next couple of months I’ll be using it pretty much solely in the city and will offer a full report once the snow flies.




  1. hello there guys. i have had my zuma 125 for about 2 years now and have done a lot of modding to it. i got it shorty after it’s release here in the states. i can do a solid 75 on it with the motor mod , throttle body bored out to 32mm, stretched and lowered. a bunch of people have been doing some serious modding to the zuma 125. you can sheck them out at zumaforums.net

  2. Sorry to go on about this but why is this scooter 25% cheaper in the U.S.A.? At $2999 [U.S.A. price] I think I would get one for my wife to learn to ride one [really it would be for me too]. Everyone now knows at least one person that has imported a car, bike or sled so it may be my turn now.


  3. Having a new motor in the shed (blessedly installed in a complete motorcycle), I’m just curious about the starting milage on this little scoot(er).

    Was the appropriate ‘break-in’ procedure followed? How did it’s break-in affect it’s performance? Or was this 13hr ‘jaunt’, the break-in?

    Just curious… 8)

Join the conversation!