Comparison test: Honda Varadero 125, Kawasaki KMX 125, MZ 125 SX, Yamaha TDR 125


Comparison test: Honda Varadero 125, Kawasaki KMX 125, MZ 125 SX, Yamaha TDR 125

The upper floors

Power from the cellar cannot be made with a displacement of 125 cm3. With the four test machines, life takes place in the upper room.

Fifteen HP is quite a lot of wood for a small four-stroke engine, after all that corresponds to a specific output of at least 120 HP / liter. So the 125cc is roughly on par with a Triumph Speed ​​Triple or Aprilia RSV mille ?? All attention. With the two-stroke engines, however, the situation looks a little different. The 15 hp variants are more of a throttle version, since top athletes in this class like Aprilia RS 125 create around 30 hp, which means an impressive 240 hp / liter. So completely different requirements for the four test machines, two of which, Kawasaki KMX 125 and Yamaha TDR 125, are powered by two-stroke engines, the other two, Honda Varadero 125 and MZ 125 SX, by four-stroke engines. What they all have in common is that they are based on larger role models.
At Honda, the name Varadero already reveals the parentage. It doesn’t look like a miniature version of its big sister, but presents itself as completely grown-up in terms of both dimensions and construction. It is the only one in the quartet to have a two-cylinder engine. The cast wheels, the large tank and the sweeping fairing emphasize the road-oriented touring character. There can be less talk of off-road suitability, who would want to crush the sensitive plastic parts off-road? The fact that no savings were made in terms of equipment is reflected in the price of around 4500 euros.
The dealer wants to see a few more euros for the Yamaha TDR. This is clearly based on the TDM 850, the same Deltabox frame concept, a similarly styled cladding. Fun bike or touring enduro? Probably the former, which is underscored not least by the lively two-stroke drive. The Yamaha also looks like a significantly larger motorcycle with appropriately dignified equipment: electric starter, luggage rack, an instrument panel including a rev counter and water temperature display. Only the choke on the carburetor is difficult to operate. The oil tank for the separate lubrication has its place below the bench seat, a warning light and the easy visual inspection from the outside prevent deficiency symptoms with fatal consequences.
The Kawasaki KMX 125, which is significantly cheaper at just under 3500 euros, is made of completely different wood, and comes in the bright green outfit of the in-house Crosser. The two-stroke engine and long suspension travel match this? Incidentally, the rear suspension is the only one with bell crank, studded tires and typical off-road features. The sport character goes so far that an electric starter is dispensed with, so kicking is the order of the day. After all, the choke sits user-friendly on the handlebars, but the fiddly turn signal reset is annoying.
Green is also MZ’s corporate color; apart from that, the € 3,600 125 SX appears less like a mini Baghira, but more like the small version of a KTM LC4 hard enduro. The angular, decor-free plastic parts give the Saxon woman a more functional design. In some places (such as the brake and gear lever) the tendency towards simple solutions is all too obvious. The equipment leaves an ambivalent impression: on the one hand, the MZ shows off great parts such as an exhaust system made entirely of stainless steel, on the other hand, like the Kawa, it has no O-ring chain, and is the only one with neither a luggage rack nor a rev counter. The single-cylinder four-stroke engine is state-of-the-art with an electric starter, dohc cylinder head, balance shaft and water cooling.
But now enough looked on to a test round. The KMX is about to take the lead of the small group. The two-stroke grabs lively even in the middle speed range, the cross ancestry cannot be denied. The KMX also plays in the top league in terms of top speed, only with the pulling power in the last gear there is a huge problem. Why this? The sixth translation stage is simply superfluous, the overall translation is far too long. Two teeth could easily be packed on the sprocket. Outside the engine, the lively handling is impressive, especially in the city the KMX digs its way through the traffic as swiftly as possible. Only when sharpening bends on country roads does it leave a somewhat spongy and imprecise impression due to the soft suspension and the coarse Enduro tires. You can get used to it quickly, but less so to the slack front brake. The whole hand is required for emergency braking, the lever must be pulled up to the handlebars.
Only the TDR rushes through the rev range with a similar bite, it can stand up to the Kawa in the acceleration phase and is also equal to it on the long straights, especially since the gear ratios are optimal. In angled combination of corners, the TDR demands more pressure on the handlebars, but straight-line stability and stability are perfect. Long tours could be a pleasure if it weren’t for annoying vibrations from the engine and a hard, angular seat. Furthermore, a more appealing fork is on the wish list, the clutch should also be a bit smoother.
The four-stroke two-cylinder from Honda has a completely different character than the oil-burning competition. The Varadero pushes it softly, but not exactly vehemently, appears almost a bit slack. If you want to move forward quickly, you have to let the two-cylinder turn mercilessly, the shift foot then hardly gets a break. On the other hand, the engine runs so smoothly and absolutely vibration-free that you can even jerk around comfortably in the last gear. Anyone who can make friends with the gentle character will hardly find any points of criticism on the Honda. The comfortable chassis responds cleanly, has sufficient reserves and smooths even the worst slopes. The seating position is ideal for riders and passengers of all sizes, and the wind protection makes longer tours a long-term pleasure.
On the other hand, the MZ is a real tough one, which conveys the typical single-cylinder feeling. The single doesn’t seem particularly powerful, at top speed it lacks around ten km / h compared to the competition. The kering sound certainly turns on, but the vibrations tend to be annoying in the long run. The chassis, on the other hand, is well tuned. The fork and shock absorber are properly damped, sufficiently tight even for off-road escapades. In addition, the MZ shines with the best brakes of the gang of four. You could definitely get involved on the road if it weren’t for the coarse-tread, limited-grip Heidenau tires. They turn cornering into a wobbly dance around the ideal line. This becomes even clearer with a pillion passenger, but passengers can’t stand it for long on the short, narrow bench seat and the high footrests.
Zwhite or four-stroke, enduro or fun bike – ultimately a matter of taste. They are all fun – and in contrast to their versions that are reduced to 80 km / h, they are by no means in the way of other road users as rolling traffic obstacles.

Conclusion: Honda Varadero 125

The Honda is certainly not cheap, but it offers a lot for the money: complex technology, extensive equipment and solid workmanship. Like its role model, the Mini-Varadero looks a bit disoriented off-road, but has a wide range of uses on the road. It is just as good for day-to-day use in city traffic as it is for a weekend tour for two. Certainly a sensible, but less emotional choice.

Conclusion: Kawasaki KMX 125

The bright green off-road speedster turns on because of its aggressive engine characteristics. The lively handling of the KMX is also a lot of fun both off-road and in traffic. Far less funny: the much too slack front brake is at the limit of what is reasonable and cannot be justified by the low price. The consumption of 5.5 liters / 100 kilometers is also not entirely up to date. Further requests: a shorter overall gear ratio and an electric starter.

Conclusion: MZ 125 SX

The elaborate east four-stroke looks like a small KTM and sounds almost as robust. Unfortunately, it vibrates like an ancient LC4, despite the balance shaft. In terms of power, it should improve a bit. The price is definitely right, the maintenance is cheap thanks to low consumption. Plus points are the firm, cleanly damping suspension and the superior braking system. But be careful off-road: the unprotected oil drain plug protrudes from under the engine block.

Conclusion: Yamaha TDR 125

The vicious two-stroke engine makes the TDR a real lethal injection. It fits the fun bike character perfectly, but has to be paid for with rough vibrations and a good surcharge for consumption. The slack, stubborn fork, which causes unrest in the otherwise stable chassis on bad slopes, as well as the uncomfortable, angular seat are in need of improvement. Workmanship and equipment are presented at a high level – unfortunately, so is the price.

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