Is Yamaha’s new 2020 MT-125 worth the price?
The new Yamaha MT-125 is a small capacity bike aimed squarely at a young audience of 16-20 year-olds, and while it’s admittedly been a while since I was asked for ID in a pub, I think Yamaha’s got the design, styling, colours and, importantly, the image spot-on and it feels quality.
But before we get too carried away, we do have to remember this entry-level ‘budget’ 125 is £4449, which makes it the most expensive bike in this 125 ‘naked’ category, and significantly more expensive than the competition. But at 17 do you care so much about money? Would you rather spend a little more for the best tech and kit?
Would you prefer an iPhone or a motorbike?
Every 17-year-old I know has the latest iPhone and smart watch, and the best, most expensive trainers on the market. So maybe the price isn’t as important, and the young audience is willing to pay for the latest kit. At just £65 per-month on PCP I’m sure most teenagers are paying similar for their monthly phone contract.
Furthermore, Yamaha quotes fuel consumption at 132mpg, which give a theoretical range of 292 miles – that’s cheap motoring. Here is what we think of Yamaha’s new MT-125.
Bikes didn't look this cool when we were 17…
It’s an aggressive and distinctive bike, the MT-125, and the ‘face-like’ headlights are immediately identifiable as being part of the wider MT range and a big transformation from the previous model. The shorter riding position (there’s a smaller fuel tank) and exhaust, the classy looking 10-spoke wheels, new switchgear, and clocks combine to make it a big step forward over the old bike.
A well-sorted chassis
Behind the dramatic eye-catching styling is an all-new chassis that has been adopted from Yamaha’s own YZR-R125. The result is a Deltabox frame with modified geometry, the rake and trail having been lengthened. They’ve increased rigidity around the swing-arm pivot and a shortened the swing-arm. Quality KYB upside-down 41mm forks remain along with a single KYB rear shock with a reduced spring rate to accommodate for the rider now sitting further forward. This is crucial, because the rider's weight and position significantly affect the handling of a bike that only weighs 140kg when full of fuel.
More torque and variable valve timing
Like the chassis, the engine has been stolen from Yamaha’s YZF-R125, which was updated in 2019, with an all-new variable valve activation (VVA) engine. Simply put, at 7400rpm the intake valve timing changes from a low-lift cam to a high-lift cam. Yamaha has adopted this clever but simple system that keeps peak power within legal limits but equally improves torque at the same time.
But what's it like to ride?
The MT-125 might be expensive, but it feels quality
You immediately notice the differences once onboard. You’re sat closer to the front than before, and it feels sharper. The fuel tank has decreased in size by 1.5 litres to accommodate this change and the bars are now wider, out from 680mm to 740mm. The new clocks are a vast improvement over the old bike’s, and there is even new, high-quality switchgear.
On the move, you immediately try to feel or sense the VVA system working. A small icon on the dash illuminates at just over 7000rpm when the system is active, but even with surgical throttle control I couldn’t feel or sense the system working. Just because this is an entry-level ‘budget’ bike doesn’t mean they’ve cut costs on engine quality.
Variable valve timing means you get more torque through more of the rev range while still keeping within legal power limits
In fact, it’s hard to see where Yamaha has saved money. Normally after a few miles it becomes apparent where a manufacturer has cut back to save on a price-competitive bike: parts usually feel cheap, or the suspension bounces around like a toddler after two cans of Redbull, but none of this is noticeable on the MT-125.
The dash is clear, concise and you even get a fuel gauge – that's better than plenty of litre bikes!
It oozes quality. The suspension is on the firm, sporty side, as is the new seat, but the damping is controlled and supportive. Even when you ride outside the bike’s easy access design window, jumping over speedbumps or close to knee-down levels of lean, the suspension remains controlled. It took all the punishment I could throw at it without any complaints.
On the road, the new handling allows you to safely and confidently attack apexes, carry corner speed around busy roundabouts or dart in-between traffic for fun. The radial brakes are ABS-assisted of course, and therefore idiot-proof, and the ABS only intervenes once the rear wheel starts to lift up under seriously hard braking. Yamaha has even added a slipper clutch for 2020 which works in partnership with the excellent radial stoppers. The only downside is the ABS can’t be deactivated like every other Euro5 bike in this class.
What'll she do Mister?
Yamaha offers an optional Akrapovic end can – though we'd save our money and put it towards decent riding gear
The little four-stroke single-cylinder engine is comparatively impressive in 14.8bhp A1-legal form. Yamaha has shortened the gearing to make it livelier. It’s nippy and thanks to a relatively smooth gearbox more than capable of keeping up with busy city traffic without dancing on the gear-lever. However, should you be brutal with the clutch and revs, it can fire from the lights, ideal for outraging unsuspecting car drivers and nipping in front before the next set of lights. 60mph cruising is comfortable and the engine copes no matter what the conditions or gradient, with just noticeable vibrations as expected.
70mph is do-able, but 75mph is around the limit. After that, it's time to tuck in, slipstream a friend or wait for a downhill section for anything more. I’m sure a 17-year-old whippet will be able to witness an indicated 80mph, even possibly 85mph.
Is this the best A1 entry-level bike? We reckon so
Yamaha has significantly improved on what was an already good bike. The new MT-125 has a real big-bike feel, a sense of quality and an impressive tech sheet. The new MT-125 is a quality ‘budget’ A1 entry-level naked bike, possibly the best on the market – albeit for a price.
Don't freeze on your 125 this winter
We're massive fans of riding all year round, but you need the right gear. A proper Merino neck buff is a great way of keeping your neck warm and keeping out pesky wind noise. And because this one's made of Merino wool, it shouldn't get smelly as quickly as a normal Buff. It's about £15 – grab yours here.
2020 Yamaha MT-125 spec
Make and model: Yamaha MT-125 (2020)
Engine: 124cc air-cooled single SOHC 4-stroke
Power: 14.75bhp (11kW) @ 10,000rpm
Torque: 8.5lb-ft & (11.5Nm) @ 8000rpm
Frame: Steel Deltabox
Brakes: Front: single 292mm disc, four-piston radial caliper. Rear: 220mm disc, single-piston caliper
Transmission: 5 gears, chain final drive
Suspension: Front: 41mm inverted forks, non-adjustable. Rear, non-adjustable
Wheels/tyres: Front: 110/80 x17. Rear: 140/70 x17 (Michelin Pilot Road)
Seat height: Street 810mm
Fuel capacity: 10 litres
Weight: 140kg (wet)