Comparison test of 125 cc motocross bikes


Comparison test of 125 cc motocross bikes

Air guns

Which eight-liter crosser bounces, drives and flies best? At the control stick for MOTORCYCLE – the Spanish aerobatic pilot Edgar Torronteras.

Man is a hesitant creature of habit. Basically reticent, anxious and always striving to preserve what already exists, which gives it familiarity. It is all the more understandable that the economy is scrambling for newcomers like the Titanic crew for the lifeboats. Because once on board, a huge freighter has to turn up to lure the customer from the usual dinghy.

No wonder that the manufacturers launch their most colorful and technically attractive speedboats first and foremost before the young beginners in the 125cc motocross class. Because as I said: the first time in the boat, always in the boat.

How much the young captains are favored is shown above all by the technical effort made by the six manufacturers. While Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha tend to focus on facelift, Honda, Husqvarna and KTM left no stone unturned in technical terms. But one after the other in quick succession.

Honda: Brand new bridge frame made of aluminum profiles. Already introduced last year for the 250 and found to be as good as it is durable. However, the eight-liter frame was given thinner walls in order to save weight on the one hand, and on the other hand the 125 engine conducts significantly less power into the chassis than its bigger 250 brother. With the engine, the Honda engineers broke a previously valid basic rule and implanted the CR 125 with a five instead of the usual six-speed gearbox.

Husqvarna: After works driver Claudio Federici’s third place in the 125cc Moto Cross World Championship in 1997, the men from Varese have uncompromisingly relied on the eight-liter class with a brand new speedster after the production stop of the 250cc. The completely redesigned engine and the heavily modified chassis with a suspension strut from Sachs-Boge that was previously unknown in the motocross scene testify to the importance of the 125 project.

Kawasaki: The tubular steel bridge frame that is now typical for the Greens remains the same. Instead, there is a so-called power jet carburettor from Keihin as a premiere and without parallels in the entire 125 series. The enriches the mixture via an electrically controlled nozzle in the lower and middle speed range, promoting performance.

KTM: Completely new engine in a revolutionary chassis with so-called PDS strut from White Power. The monoshock, which works without deflection, achieves the necessary progressivity via two damper pistons connected in series, of which only one initially, and then the second from the middle of the spring travel, the second limits the flow rate of the damper oil.

Suzuki: New engine case with integrated instead of the usual external water pump and – as the only Japanese woman – still a conventional front fork from supplier Showa.

Yamaha: Apart from the beautiful blue of the plastic parts and the frame, only changes in the details. For good reason – the YZ 125 was already considered the hot tip in the eight-liter warehouse in 1997.

So that would be the most important thing in a nutshell. But what good is it ultimately on the slopes when the shine of the new is covered with splashes of dirt and the resourceful engineering is only subdued by bumps, rutted berms or tens of meters long jumping hills?

Often the first contact is decisive for mutual sympathy. Honda, the adult. Massive, but not too wide frame for proper knee closure. The flattest tank bench line in comparison. Ideal for shifting your weight far forward on the hairpin bends. Husky, the spacious one. But the feeling of size is clouded by a gear lever that is much too short, which seems to be more shaped for ballet shoes than for rough cross boots. And from the noticeably high frame rear, the seat falls too steeply to feel at home outside the seat recess. Kawasaki, the sweeping one. With wide knees when sitting and a bench that is much too soft. KTM, the high one. With an almost Japanese feeling, but a board-hard saddle. Suzuki, the filigree. Minimal operating forces for clutch and brakes, extremely narrow knee joint at the tank-seat transition. Yamaha, the compact one. In a stocky outfit and also too soft a bench.

When you talk about racing, you first and foremost mean performance. Especially in the camp of the eight-liter Crosser, whose almost 40 HP are able to exploit much more pilots than the 50 horses of a 250 or even ten more horses of a half-liter burner. And yet it is precisely on this point that paper form and reality differ strikingly. Despite almost identical performance curves (see page 169), the six steeds represent their idea of ​​ideal performance in a highly individual manner.

The Kawasaki allows itself a rather shy appearance. With the lowest peak performance and a good-natured, but not very powerful acceleration despite the powerjet carburettor, the KX makes no friends among the eight-liter knights. The new Husqvarna engine is different. Here the extremely tame thrust of the silky smooth running engine is at least ironed out by a powerful sprint at mid-speed and a record-breaking revving ability.

The rest of the team is surprisingly user-friendly, contrary to popular belief about the nervous characters of the tiny cubicles. Already at the bottom of the rev range, the Honda, the noticeably rough-running Suzuki and the Yamaha offer usable performance. A little momentum here, the obligatory pull on the clutch lever there, and the red-yellow-blue trio begins to gallop – only in the final sprint does it become apparent that the more revving Yamaha ultimately has the longest breath. The new KTM engine defines the state of affairs in terms of efficiency. Whether in the corners of the low rev range or on the straight start at maximum revs, in direct duels there is always only one winner, the KTM. Especially since the Austrian is avant-garde in the eight-liter business that wears out the clutch. With a hydraulically operated clutch, KTM riders can only grin at the annoyance with swelling clutch linings and the corresponding change in play on the hand lever.

But that shouldn’t hide the fact that without a sensibly tuned chassis, even the comparatively weak-chested 125cc Crossers can only be quickly ironed around the course with a lot of suffering and good physical condition. Fast, safe and at the same time energy-saving is only possible if the fork and strut absorb the blows instead of elbows and knees, the load can be neatly threaded into ruts and the convincing force of a leg pressure is sufficient to turn in tight corners.

Front fork theme. The Honda Kayaba fork does its job better than ever, but it still ranks at the bottom of the test field. Similar to the rubber buffer on the piston rod of a shock absorber, an elastomer stop in the Honda fork recently avoids at least the notorious hard knockdown. The response to small waves remains as stubborn as ever. In this regard, the Marzocchi fork in the KTM can do much better, but the too softly sprung and underdamped part dips far too far when braking and jumping, thus making the SX uncomfortable top-heaviness. What the same fork, if the Husqvarna does too, thanks to somewhat harder springs in a softened form. Quite apart from the fact that the sealing rings of the 45 Marzocchi forks usually only have a short life.

The Kawasaki rider also quarreled with the too soft spring rate of the upside-down fork. Nevertheless: The KX-Bug is pleasantly sensitive on small waves. Just like the Kayaba fork from Yamaha, which ultimately sits closest to the best in its class with the right spring rate and elastomer end stop. Because whether it’s responsiveness, damping or bottoming out, the conventional Showa fork of the Suzuki is and will remain the reference model in current chassis technology.

Criticism of the rear suspension is also traditional at Honda. The stubborn hindquarters prefer to leave the issue of comfort and traction to others. The Suzuki and KTM can only do a little better. Above all, the PDS shock absorber of the KTM with a noticeably narrow adjustment range of the tension and compression damping is difficult to adjust to different route conditions. Yamaha and surprisingly also the Husky move very close to the optimum with the Sachs-Boge shock absorber, which is very similar to an Ohlins monoshock. However, the chair in terms of rear suspension is taken by the Kawasaki. Powerful propulsion, clean ground contact, a lot of comfort and smooth penetration – that’s how it has to be.

The KX just doesn’t like sweeping too much. Just like the Husky, when things get tight, they like to push them out over the front wheel. The KTM owes more to its height than to its geometry for its restraint in tight spaces. Because of the hard seat, the pilot, including the focus, sits much higher on the Austrian than on the competition. The Yamaha wants to be steered very precisely and firmly around corners. Not a bad corner scraper for those who can. Even if the tip is gone. Because they are shared by Honda and Suzuki. The supercrosser chooses red or yellow.

But no effect without side effects. If you hiss through the curves, you wobble on the straight. The Honda most, the Suzuki a little less thanks to a better fork, the rest follows the handiness ranking in reverse order.

And the brakes? Nothing spectacular. As usual, the Honda stoppers are perfect, the Suzuki and Yamaha systems are hardly worse, the Kawasaki front brake is a little bit thicker. Only the Brembo brakes on the Husky and KTM are losing a bit of ground. At the front the motto is: good effect with a little more manual force compared to the Japanese brakes. At the back, however, the Italians are noticeably worse metered than the Japanese competition.

S.o, that’s it. Everything new, everything good? Only in part. The aluminum frame from Honda sets new standards in design rather than function, the new Husky lacks a real parade discipline to be at the forefront, and the KTM shines with its engine, but not yet with the chassis. And so in the end, the typically human wins out in terms of technology – the motorcycle that has been least modified for this model year, the Yamaha. Obviously, moto crossers are basically reluctant, fearful and always striving to preserve the existing that gives them familiarity.

Technical specifications

Technical data Honda Husqvarna Kawasaki KTM Suzuki Yamaha Engine Liquid-cooled single-cylinder two-stroke engine with exhaust control Power * 38 (28) 38 (28) 37 (28) 39 (29) 39 (29) 38 (28) Rated speed * 10 900 11 500 10 800 11 000 11 100 11 000 max torque * 2.5 (25) 2.5 (25) 2.5 (24) 2.5 (25) 2.5 (25) 2.5 (25) max. Torque at * 10 500 9600 10 500 10 100 11 100 10 900 Bore x stroke 54 x 54.5 54 x 54.5 54 x 54.5 54.25 x 54 54 x 54.5 54 x 54.5 Displacement 124.8 Trolley bridge frame made of aluminum profiles Single-loop tubular frame with split beams Bridge frame made of square steel tubes Single-loop tubular frame with split beams Single-loop tubular frame with split beams Single-loop tubular frame with split beams Front fork manufacturer / type Kayaba, 0: 46 mm / Upside down Marzocchi 0:45 mm / conventional Kayaba 0:46 / upside down Marzocchi 0:45 mm / conventional Showa 0:49 / conventional Kayaba 0:46 / upside down Rear wheel suspension Square aluminum swingarm with central spring strutSpring strut manufacturer Kayaba Sachs-Boge Kayaba White Power Showa Kayaba Weight without petrol * 93, 5 98.5 97 95 96 96 Price 9955 9755 9990 10 190 10 090 9290 * MOTORCYCLE measurements

Edgar Torronteras

At least since the Supercross in Dortmund, his name has been known – Edgar Torronteras. The 17-year-old Spaniard from the vicinity of Barcelona has redefined the super jump. When Edgar flies, the fans freak out – just like photographer Stefan Wolf, who was allowed to photograph the 125cc Moto Cross comparison test exclusively for MOTORRAD with the king of the skies. The Kawasaki contract rider studies all of his tricks on the BMX bike beforehand. By the way: To avoid misunderstandings – Edgar was a photo driver, but was tested by MOTORRAD.

1st place – Yamaha

The YZ 125 proves that what’s new isn’t always good. With moderate but skilful facelift, the Yamaha excels above all through the sum of successful individual elements. Without dominating in a single discipline, the well-coordinated chassis with the kind and powerful engine forms a successful overall concept.

2nd place – Suzuki

Like the Yamaha, the Suzuki is relatively inconspicuous in the front field. The nimble RM can shine above all with an easily controllable power development, child’s play and the best front fork of all eight-liter crossers, comforting you with the mediocre rear suspension.

3rd place – KTM

Hats off to the Austrians. KTM has managed to break up the phalanx of the Japanese with a bold new design. While the engine dominates everything in practice, only the suspension tuning, which is in need of improvement, and the moderately adjustable brakes prevent the KTM from marching through to the top.

4th place – Honda

Although the CR with its aluminum frame is now also setting new accents in the 125cc class after its much-acclaimed premiere in the quarter-liter class, Honda is still sticking to a tradition: The one, the potential of the powerful engine-chassis ensemble through poor to destroy coordinated spring elements.

4th place – Kawasaki

If it were only up to the fantastically coordinated rear suspension, the Kawasaki would be the clear test winner. Unfortunately, a front fork that is too soft and, above all, the somewhat weak engine noticeably inhibits the forward thrust of the KX. It’s a shame, because the Kawa, which is stable in direction, is the most gentle way of handling the forces of the pilot.

6th place – Husqvarna

Sixth place reads worse than the Husky really is. The fast-revving motor and the excellent rear suspension are slowed down by a seating position that takes getting used to, moderate brakes and – small cause, big effect – an ergonomically unfavorable gearshift lever.

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