Sexy they might not be, but 125s are back in the UK.
Yamaha's YZF-R125 has followed in the skinny tyre tracks of Honda's own CBR125R by topping the sales chart this year. And with small-bike sales as a whole on the up and up, the eighth-litre class seems to be chugging its way (slowly) out of the doldrums.
Now there's a new one to compete in the selling war. Built as a replacement for the ageing CG125, Honda's CBF125 fits the bill nicely as a (very) cheap, stylish, and easy-going commuter.
An afternoon on board the single cylinder machine quickly showed it to be superior to the outgoing Honda CG model, with much more modern looks backed up by a slightly keener motor and brakes. Like all 125cc bikes, the CBF is pretty modest when it comes to speed. But it's nippy enough around town, and will keep up with most stuff as long as you're not too ambitious when it comes to battling the big boys in traffic. It can also, of course, stay mobile when other, bulkier bikes can't make it through congested city streets.
Out on the open road I did manage to hit a massive 75mph when I tucked in like a jockey and kept the throttle cable pinned to stretching-point for a couple of miles. There's a bit of tingling to deal with when being caned this hard, but most of the time the motor is smooth enough to get the nod of approval. It's even quite torquey and doesn't totally rely on the slick-shifting five-speed box to maintain pace.
On hand to knock off speed are the competent brakes which just get on with the job of slowing the lightweight without any drama. The suspension can feel cheap and choppy thanks to insufficient damping, but it's not exactly worth moaning about. Besides, it's more than compensated for by the very light steering that does a fine job helping you slalom through traffic.
The biggest plus point of the bike, though, is its economy, which in these economically troubled times can only be good news. Honda's claiming as much as 135mpg, though I do think that's as optimistic as thinking the recession will be over by Christmas. Expect the fuel gauge needle movement to reflect more like 100mpg.
The little Honda is in the shops now and at a bargain £1,795, which for what the Indian-made CBF can do is great value. Its fairing, cast wheels and split-level seat help it to look more substantial, and more like a proper little sportsbike. I didn't actually feel that daft wearing leathers to ride it.
It's no Fireblade of course, but running around on one of these for a while will help you save enough pennies to get a bit closer to that point on the biking ladder if that's what you fancy. And I reckon it'll become a top seller in 2009
NU Ins Group: tba
Type: air-cooled, 2v, SOHC, single, 124.7cc
Bore x Stroke: 52.4 x 57.8mm
Maximum power: 11bhp @ 8,000rpm
Maximum torque: 8.2lb/ft @ 6,250rpm
Chassis: Steel-tubed single cradle
Suspension: (F) 30mm telescopic forks, no adjustment
(R) twinshocks, adjustable preload
Brakes: (F) 240mm discs with twin-piston calipers (R) 130mm drum
Wheels/Tyres: Cast aluminium (F) 80/100-17 (R) 100/90-17
Seat height: 792mm
Fuel capacity: 13 litres
Dry weight: 128kg
Contact: 01753 590500