I’m very lucky to have a job where I’m able to ride pretty much whatever I want but I still love the smaller capacity machines and look forward to 125 launches and group tests because they’re usually the best fun. This Honda CB125F launch was no different, a fantastic blast through great countryside and up a very famous hill climb with a dozen fellow bike journalists.
England is a stunning place to live; look further than the end of your road or local town and we have great roads, picturesque towns and pretty little villages. Occasionally the weather lets things down and holding an international press launch in Windsor could have been a wash out but thankfully we were blessed with wall-to-wall sunshine. Riding bikes in this kind of weather is one of the joys of life and it’s not about how powerful your bike is, it’s how you enjoy riding it that counts.
The old Honda CBF125 was launched in 2008 and since 2009 has been the best selling 125 in the UK with over 2,000 units being shifted every year (it’s also been a great seller throughout Europe). It was aimed squarely at new riders with 80% of sales going to that sector, due to its ease of use, low cost and popularity with bike training schools. To reduce costs and compete (like many manufacturers do with smaller capacity models), the CBF was built in China but production of its replacement, the new CB125F has been moved to India. A country known for dependable, fuel efficient, low cost motorcycles. To keep Honda ahead of the competition the new machine will also cost £200 less than the outgoing model bringing it in at £2499 on the road, so are we getting £200 less bike for the money? After spending a day on it, I don’t think so.
Heading out of Windsor on a gloriously sunny day on a selection of multi coloured new CB125F’s (colour options are, Pearl Twinkle Yellow, Onyx Blue Metallic, Candy Blazing Red and Pearl Sunbeam White) there was certainly no noticeable cost cutting. The bike looks sharper and feels better than the CBF and although it still shares many similarities it is different enough to set the two models apart. The front side fairings have been replaced with smaller shrouds to give a cleaner, sportier Honda family look and reduce damage/cost in the event of the bike being dropped. That’s a definite selling point for bike schools. The rear tail section has also been redesigned, as have the lights and dash (it has a gear position indicator and analogue speedo/tacho/trip) there’s sporty red ‘Honda’ detailing on the engine and clutch cover to match the red rear shock.
The frame has also been redesigned and the ergonomics improved to give a more upright riding position and to make it feel roomier (the six foot plus riders on the launch seemed to be fine after a hard day in the saddle so it’s worked). The low seat height and 128kg kerb weight are also great attributes for a novice friendly A1 class bike, being easy to manage, simple to ride, light and agile are all great attributes.
The fuel injected engine has been improved to provide better fuel economy and more torque, it produces 10.4bhp and 10.2nm of torque whilst returning a claimed 145mpg. Obviously that fuel figure is measured in optimum conditions (using the WMTC mode) but even on the launch whilst we thrashed the bikes for 120 miles my bike still achieved 100mpg and sipped just 5.15 litres of fuel, not bad at all.
Although the bike isn’t the quickest 125 I’ve ever ridden it does produce enough power to make it great fun. It’s a nippy enough engine that accelerates very well and has enough mid range torque to allow swift overtakes. It was also quite capable on a stretch of fast dual carriageway heading out of Ascot where slipstreaming was used to good effect by the leading group. In fact that stretch of road set the pace for the rest of the day’s frivolities as we tried to eek out any advantage by tucking in as tight as possible to stay ahead. Moto3 had nothing on us as we battled for the lead. Aside from being good fun the CB125F also proved that it’s more than capable of covering a few miles as quickly as possible. It soon notched up the first 60 miles through the South Downs National park and we were on time for our lunch stop at Goodwood Motor Circuit. A few posh sandwiches were consumed overlooking a Rolls-Royce track day (I’d rather have been on the Honda any day of the week) and we were soon saddling up for our next stop at Goodwood House, home of speed hungry Lord March and the famous Goodwood Festival of Speed and it’s 1.16 mile long twisty hill climb. We were lucky enough to be given a few runs up and down the hill on closed roads – so no stray golf carts or picnicking pensioners could get in the way. We weren’t expecting to set any records on the 125’s and there wasn’t much chance of beating the 41.6 second record but it was still exhilarating to be able to climb the hill as fast as possible, even more fun coming down it again, although a stray pheasant very nearly became a casserole as I followed the video car (see the video link below) much to the cameraman’s amusement.
Fun and games over at Goodwood it was time to race to the finish back in Windsor. It would be no word of a lie if I told you this was one of the funniest rides I’ve ever had, myself and three other riders set the leading pace and found ourselves forming a peloton with one rider leading and the others sitting in the clean air behind. It’s a great feeling when slipstreaming works well, it drags you along and you can ease off the throttle but still go faster than normal. Time it right and you can slingshot forward, dragging other riders along as well. At some stages we were three abreast, all with our chins on the clocks, arms and legs tucked in and looking side to side, giggling like schoolboys. Great fun.
The little Honda was unfazed by it all though, it handles itself well enough and is sure footed on it’s 18” wheels, the suspension is quite good and the rear is adjustable so the preload can be set if required. The bike has a front disc, rear drum brake set up with no combined braking or ABS (very unlike Honda but it saves weight and keeps the cost down) but the brakes work very well. The engine is smooth as well, thanks to the new balance shaft, which reduces vibration. As I said earlier, the bike is very frugal and used much more sensibly than we were it’s capable of a 600-km tank range so the average commuter will only have to fill it up once a month. My bike was showing ¾’s of a tank after 120 miles and took just 5.15 litres to fill the 13-litre tank so no complaints from me there.
If you’re looking for dependable transport that can still be great fun to ride the new CB125F is certainly one to have a look at. It’s a good looking; easy to ride 125 with everything a novice rider needs but with enough oomph to keep more experienced riders entertained as well.