Yamaha BW’S 125 – Long Termer (part 2; Groupies)

The CMG Medium-Termer Yamaha BW’s 125 gets shuffled off to do the rounds with the usual Ottawa suspects. Five riders give their options on how the BW’s worked (or not) for them.


Words: Larry Tate & testers. Photos: Sam Dye & Sarah Moffat

Scooters are so CMG. You need only look at the world-famous Mad Bastard Scooter Rally, brainchild of the crazed CMG editor/proprietor, to have that demonstrated as sharply as by getting a pointy stick in the eye.


CMG model JP Schroeder ponders how the BW’s medium termer changed from black to yellow …
Photo: Sam Dye

Best of all you can ride the absolute p*ss out of them (at least the smaller ones), cackling madly with glee the whole time as you career around town flat-out without attracting the attention of the constabulary. Now that’s CMG.

Try that on your Hayabusa.

In order to ensure a scooter fix last year, CMG snagged a brand new Yamaha BW’s 125 for the medium term in mid-season.

Editor ‘arris promptly rode it for 13 hours to get it back to Montreal (which you can read about here), but after a month or so of riding it around the city, passed it on to a gaggle of CMG tester-types to get their 2 cents on the scoot late last fall.

Said testers range from a touring Harley owner to an off-road fan to a rookie on a probationary Quebec licence to the editor ‘imself. The following is what they had to say about it (short bios of the riders first so that you can judge whether to believe them or not!).

sam.jpg lee.jpg glen.jpg sm_matt.jpg arris2.jpg
38, no longer married and zero kids. Works in sales in Montreal.
39, married with
three kids, works in tech support for RCMP in Ottawa.
40, married, one kid. Firefighter for City of Ottawa. 43, criminal
defence lawyer in Ottawa.
42, editor and publisher of CMG. Based in Montreal with almost 2 kids.
Sam’s a new rider (1 year) attempting to come
to grips with Quebec’s arcane licensing laws on her first bike, a
Kawasaki EX500. She doesn’t know what her ideal ride is because she
hasn’t had it yet!
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  a Triumph
Bonneville. He currently has two non-running Hondas.
A passenger since four years old, a rider since about seven (regularly since about 12), he now rides a Suzuki Bandit 1200 and generally likes sport touring; one big ride (or sometimes two) each year, plus a bunch of afternoons here and there, not a commuter. Started riding at 16 on his brother’s Suzuki ER125. First bike was a Honda CB200 which he purchased when he was 18. Got into scooters riding a Ruckus around Lake Ontario (which led to the MBSR). Currently has a KLR650. Best ride is an undulating gravel road – sideways.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

First Impressions


It gets the thumbs up for good looks!
Photo: Sam Dye

Everybody commented on the looks (except Matt, whose keen legal mind no doubt at once saw through the surface to the core of the BWs) in a favourable light.

Glen said, “Bush guards, meaty tires, chunky-looking exhaust and that snazzy dual headlight up front added to the aggressive look. The bush guard not only looked the part but [was] functional as well as I managed to ram it into a derelict Honda that occupies space in my garage (no damage done).”

Sam’s take was, “I liked the look of it – a bit more masculine [than other scooters] thanks to the crash bar around the headlights and a chunky exhaust and matt black casings on the technical stuff (honestly, I’m a girl, I have no idea about what bits of the engine go where, so it’s all ‘stuff’ to me. But I thought it looked good anyway).”

Lee had his own odd take on it, perhaps due to his RCMP involvement: “The big round tubing that makes up the frame and surrounds the headlights, combined with the off-road styled tires, gives the BW’s a real rugged look and solid feel, begging to be abused like a red-headed stepchild.”


JP takes it for a day at the track (silly man).
Photo: Sam Dye 

Editor ‘arris too liked the styling; “Yamaha have done a good job of carrying over the styling from the BW’s 50. It works for the 50 and it works for the 125”.

Twisted Throttle

So, chunky, meaty, solid, ready to be abused – a good first impression. How does it work, then?

It was getting on past sane two-wheel time in Canada when the testing was done, so the temps were cold. The BW’s didn’t care, seemingly. Matt “ran it around town in frigid temps as low as –10; started and ran as reliably as a stone.”

Glen added, “I managed some frosty morning starts on my commute … This scoot is fuel injected and started without fuss. It had a snorty exhaust note that I well liked as I continuously blipped the throttle (something that is a must on all scooters).”


Leaning off is only recommended on smoooooth surfaces.
Photo: Sam Dye 

It ran well after it started, too. Our legal eagle said it was “surprisingly peppy; were it not for the [Ontario] anti-hooligan laws I would swear the front wheel came off the ground once,” but added that he thought it needed even more.

“[It] ran out of guts below useful suburban speeds; it’s fine for a spin around the neighbourhood, but something bigger would be far more useful for suburban commuting.” The others disagreed, making one wonder if Matt was looking for an interesting court challenge.

Glen’s take was, “I managed an ill-advised 100 km/h tucked-in jaunt on the Queensway, something I won’t do in the future. It … held its own where it was meant to on main roads and side streets. I was able to sprint away from the cagers, no problem.” Lee agreed, saying, “It has a nice, peppy power deliver and plenty of  ‘oomph’ to propel me all the way to 90 km/h, settling down nicely for the early morning 60 km/h commute.”

Happy Place?


Sam found it so damned easy (especially on the centrestand).
Photo: Sam Dye

Handling, brakes, and ease of operation received generally good comments from the motley test crew.

Newbie Sam (who’s just starting two-wheeled life on an EX500) said, “Now I know why 17-year-olds all over the country are riding around at breakneck speed on these things – it’s so damned easy!  It’s a bit like driving an automatic car because you don’t have to worry about gears and stuff, you just point it in the right direction and turn the throttle … I rode it to work, and showed off to all my colleagues, who were very impressed and thought it looked very cool.  I rode it to the pool, I rode it to the shops – in fact, I rode it all over the place.”

Even being new, however, she quickly noticed a typical scooter’s small-wheel shortcoming, aided by typical downtown Montreal streets. “The roads in Quebec are known to be a little well, crappy, and do you ever feel it with a scooter.  The wheels are small and every bump in the road feels like a giant crater and jars all the bones in your body. I learned to swerve out of most of them, but got caught a few times, and it takes a while to recover.”


Editor ‘arris during a relatively sane moment.
Photo: Sarah Moffat

Editor ‘arris, who also piloted it around Montreal, had quite the moment: “On one trip over the ‘mountain’ in Montreal I decided to see how fast I could corner it and leaned off the scoot as far as I could while holding the throttle wide open. Hitting a pot-hole mid-corner almost threw me off the bike, though I’m sure the scoot would likely have carried on for a while without me. I didn’t do that again.”

Lee took more of a cavalier attitude toward the handling, “I managed to avoid most obvious road imperfections and comatose pedestrians and felt the suspension and tire combo soaked up the rest of the stuff well. The front disc/rear drum brakes offer excellent stopping power and I hammered them mercilessly from stop light to stop light.”

In a moment of honesty, he added, “[It] brings out the hooligan in me (stop light to stop light racer, drive over sidewalks in traffic); the insane handling thanks to the 12-inch wheels kept me entertained. Sitting in traffic, I just couldn’t help myself and motored on up along the sidewalk to the front of the line.”


Ready for hooliganism.
Photo: Sam Dye 

Matt belied his legal training and confessed to similar feelings. “I had fun beating cars at the stoplights.”

Glen was remarkably and suspiciously circumspect, admitting he was “mightily tempted to split every lane I saw. However … I decided to uphold the law lest I incur the wrath of our esteemed editor.”

The truth surfaced when Glen admitted to some off-roading with the BW’s (so much for fearing the wrath of ‘is Editorship), hardly its intended purpose despite the chunky frame and heavily-treaded tires. “[My friend] dove into the first mud hole he saw … what was a man on a borrowed BW’s to do but follow suit? … The meaty tires were meant to shed mud, as are the fork gaiters. I was worried about the cooling fan sucking up the crap but the plastic shroud kept out most of it.”

Ergos & Nomics


Seat is not as comfy as it looks.
Photo: Sarah Moffat

All very well for giggles, but scooters are above all supposed to be practical, so how does the BW’s fare in that way? Surprisingly, most of the riders felt that the little Yamaha was lacking in luggage space and comfort, although they weren’t unanimous on the second point.

Matt (who’s about 5-8 or so), said he found it “surprisingly tall and tip-toe inducing for a small scooter, no doubt in part due to the huge underseat storage compartment.” He also found the seating position less than ideal, saying that “the large floorboard was too far forward for me, so my feet were perched on the tiny upper footrests, and could not move about. Finding a comfortable foot position was a challenge.”

Glen duplicated that comment, adding, “The seat seemed comfortable for around an hour; however, I started to squirm after that. There is a ridgeline towards the front that I tried to avoid by moving rearward.”

Lee likewise found the “long, wide, padded seat” fine for an hour, but didn’t spend longer so didn’t confirm Glen’s complaint.


Ignition protection is a nice touch.
Photo: Sarah Moffat

‘Arris actually rode the thing for most of the way from Barrie, Ontario, to Montreal (13 hours in all) and added, “The seat allows you to push back and for a lanky sod like me, means that the BW’S 125 gives me the room I need. However, it’s nowhere near as comfy as it looks and that becomes the issue after a few hours on the long haul”.

Everyone commented favourably on the hand guards that kept wind and rain off the rider’s gloves, “a nice little touch for commuting,” as Glen put it, although Matt qualified that by adding, “they should have more wind protection for the body if it is to be used in Canada for commuting.”

Another nice touch several testers commented on was the ignition protection. Sam said it best: “When you take the key out, you slide a key guard over the lock opening. In order to open it, you use the other end of the key [which is shaped to trigger the mechanism]. That deters tampering and makes it much harder for someone to steal your precious scoot. I really liked that feature.”



Underseat storage is not as good as it should be.
Photo: Sarah Moffat

Comments on the luggage space were surprisingly different. Matt was happy with the underseat storage, saying he spent a day using the BW’s as a delivery vehicle after a computer crash, and found it “plenty large for carrying laptops, etc.” Glen complained that there should be some front-end storage. “I could have used a glove box type compartment for various necessities. Instead I was forced to pop the seat to stow stuff there.”

Lee agreed about a glove box, saying, “Would have liked to see additional storage in the cockpit like the T-Rex PGO we tried last year.”

Sam found that “the shopping wasn’t that easy, but the underseat storage meant I could pick up a few groceries each day – it meant more trips, but I wasn’t complaining.  The underseat storage was also perfect to hold my full-face helmet whilst I was in the shops, so I didn’t have to carry it around with me – another bonus.”


Big melons beware.
Photo: Sarah Moffat

Sam’s helmet storage comment is interesting, as both Glen and Lee found that their hats didn’t fit  (Yamaha does state that “not all full-face helmets will fit”), while Sam had no problem. Glen said, “My size medium Shoei was too much for this space,” while Lee added that “my only real gripe was that I couldn’t fit my XL melon sized Shoei in the under seat storage.”  It seems that size matters more to the guys than the gals … something we’ve been told before in other contexts.

Editor ‘arris also found the storage space to be a little on the light size. “I could just get my full-face Arai to fit but had to push the seat down a little hard to get it to latch. Then I couldn’t open it! Okay, I did manage to eventually, but figured that squeezing something so critical into something that may not open again wasn’t a good idea”.

The Dog’s Bollocks?

So how did our testers sum up their time with the BW’s?

sm_sam.jpg Sam – I had great fun, gained a huge amount of confidence on the road in a very short space of time, and it hardly cost a thing, as it was so good on gas. I got admiring looks at traffic lights, too (which I like to think is not just because of the bright yellow scooter), so I went to work, to the pool, and the shops with a very large smile on my face!
sm_lee.jpg Lee – I was compelled to try the little yellow bumblebee downtown through the usual horrific rush hour offering of cell phone-wielding drivers, construction, and pedestrian mayhem. This is the BW’s’ raison d’etre. This is by far my favourite scooter and one I would gladly own. 
sm_glen.jpg Glen – Would I buy one? Yes – if I was in the market for a great commuting set of wheels. It’s affordable, well-built and cheap to run. What else could one want?
sm_matt.jpg Matt – Like Honda’s CBR125, I enjoyed riding it within its limits, but ultimately was left wishing for twice the size and power.
sm_arris2.jpg ‘arris– The main selling point for me is that the 125 has managed to retain the fun feel of a 50, but with the altogether more usable amount of power. It’s the perfect commuter, though I’d have to do something to the seat before taking it on another long-haul adventure!

Life’s a Gas


So how does the BW’s 125 fare when it comes to fuel economy?

Yamaha claim 2.63 L/100 km (or 38 km/l) which was pretty close to what Editor ‘arris saw when he let his better half take it for part of his Barrie-Montreal trek. Of course, his stint saw those figures spiral to 3.4 L/100 km (29 km/l) under similar conditions (flat out in the country), which just goes to show what height and any additional lardy pounds will do.

If you’re not tall and chunky then you can expect to get about 225 km to the 6 litre tank, though don’t reckon on more than 170 if you are. That will take you on a lot of shopping trips (or as little as three gas stops if you enter yours in this year’s Mad Bastard Rally).




125 cc

four-stroke sohc single, air-cooled

(crank – claimed)

1.0 kg-m (7 ft-lb.) @ 6,000 rpm

Electronic Fuel Injection

Final drive
V-belt CVT



Single 220 mm disc with single-piston


780 mm (30.7 “)

1,290 mm (50.8 “)

122 kg (269 lb)

Yamaha Blue, Metallic Black, Calm Yellow


  1. McGarvey – You may want to try a Silverwing 600 or Burgman 400 or 650 scooter. Still plenty of fun with low down centre of gravity but loads more power and comfort.

  2. Addendum: My helmet fit in the storage compartment. I too loved the key cover. But opening the seat required turning the key to “On”; in my mind, it should be the other way. I would shut the thing off, take out the key, then “D’OH”, put the key back in, turn it on to hear the fuel pump, turn it past “on” to open the seat, then repeat the whole ordeal when I realised I forgot to put my gloves in too. As well, suspension seemed harsh in the rear; I was pogoing on bumps. Front end seemed fine to me. I have a Bandit; power matters, looks don’t.

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