Test motorcycles for beginners
What an indescribable feeling of limitless freedom that comes with a driver’s license for free. Especially with a motorcycle license. Finally independent of unimaginative timetables, musty buses and train compartments. Never again have to go on vacation with the hunchbacked relatives in the tight car.
Many drivers also dream of the latter, who ?? if you passed the 3 series before April 1st, 1980 ?? Without a two-wheel driving license, you can drive machines up to 125 cubic centimeters with a maximum of 15 hp.
But what should beginners buy? Two- or four-stroke, athlete or enduro, cruiser or maybe even a sleek scooter? To make the agony of choice a little easier, MOTORRAD has put together a colorful ensemble that has to prove its qualities in an extensive test program. Three 125cc ?? Namely Honda NSR 125 R, Suzuki GZ 125 Marauder and Yamaha DT 125 R. As well as three representatives of the »A-Class« up to 34 hp (see »Driving license regulations«, page 90). Allow me: Gilera Runner 180 ?? the hit among scooters; Kawasaki EL 252 Eleminator ?? inexpensive entry-level drug in dragster design; Suzuki SV 650 S sporty all-rounder that can be dethrottled to 71 hp.
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For 16-year-olds and owners of a well-hung 3 series
125 cubic are the measure of all things for you. With one restriction for the youngsters: their machines have to be throttled to 80 km / h, while the late-career workers are allowed to drive whatever is possible.
With a two-stroke engine and a racing seating position, the Honda NSR is aimed at sports enthusiasts. It’s much more comfortable in the extremely low saddle of the four-stroke cruiser Suzuki Marauder. If you want to go higher, an enduro from the beat of the Yamaha DT clamps under your butt. With a seat height of 900 millimeters, it is also a good starting aid for tall contemporaries.
And now: enjoy yourself. The differences between the three concepts extended. In the absence of dry roads, the test will be moved to southern France. Once there, the sun heats the mood with spring-like temperatures. Machines out of the van, let’s go. NSR and Marauder start at the push of a button, the DT reliably after the first or second step on the kick starter.
For the first few meters, the Yamaha rider concentrated on looking for the choke lever on the carburetor before the two-stroke engine drowned over-rich. But then the DT runs smoothly and spontaneously depends on the gas. So spontaneous that the other two have trouble following her. In addition, your gearbox can be shifted precisely, and the gear steps match the engine characteristics perfectly. The single-cylinder turns very lively between 4000 rpm and 9000 rpm, the dent at 7000 rpm in the power curve is no longer noticeable when driving.
Even in the 80 km / h version, the Yamaha does not lose any of its homogeneous power delivery. Because it is not “choked off” the cheap way via smaller inlet or outlet cross-sections, but is limited in speed by another control unit.
But no matter how fast the DT drives, the great thing about an Enduro is the easy handling. And the great thing about French roads are the many roundabouts. At least the Yamaha driver finds it. The traffic is checked as soon as the brakes are applied, and if no one comes, accelerate, right, left, right! Thanks to the wide handlebars and narrow tires, changing lean angles is easy. And the fully dampened chassis gives a good feeling. A detour to the next village is sufficient to put the easy-to-swallow spring elements to the test. The usual mini roundabouts there have a hill in the middle instead of a curb, and it’s fun to take a shortcut with the DT.
The NSR 125 pilot prefers to take the outside route. However, with his splendidly functioning stoppers, he repeatedly fights his way up to the DT through late braking maneuvers. Lean angle is not an issue on the Honda, rather the chassis, where the taut front and the underdamped shock absorber do not work synchronously. This is why the rear bobbles on a bumpy road, which leads to a strange choice of lines when cornering.
The DT constantly in his sights, strikes the hour of the sports driver on a long straight: crouching flat behind the fairing, he pulls past the Yamaha. The Honda can finally show off its long gear ratio and higher top speed. Although the NSR engine is nominally the most powerful among the 125 cc, it is noticeable when driving with a certain listlessness, the two-stroke makes a “clogged” impression.
The qualities of the Honda include other things: workmanship and appearance. With its slim silhouette and sloping headlights, it looks like a big one when viewed from the front, reminiscent of a Yamaha R1.
However, there is a problem for those under 18: Honda only delivers the NSR in the 125 km / h version. This is good news for the accessories industry, which makes good sales with 80 km / h throttle kits. For example, Alpha-Technik (telephone 08036/300720) offers such a conversion kit (via control unit and chain wheel) from 479 marks.
The Suzuki Marauder doesn’t need anything like that, the four-stroke single is available ex works with eight and ten hp. And so the Easy-Rider can watch the hustle and bustle of the two-stroke from a distance. He lounges casually in the saddle, enjoying the cruiser feeling. Because that’s what the Marauder brings across perfectly: Forward-positioned footrests, a handlebar that is easy to hand and a luxurious seat cushion just 680 millimeters high ensure comfortable conditions on board. And since the Crusier aren’t there to heat anyway, the cruiser driver doesn’t mind that there is simply no area in which the Suzuki engine would show even a hint of temperament. The certificate of good conduct for stationary units says: “He always tried.” In order not to completely lose the others, the four-stroke engine has to be cheered to the limit. Incidentally, there is no tachometer on the Marauder.
On the chassis side, the Suzuki technicians meant it too well with the soft tuning; harder springs and more damping would do well. In return, the brake system shines with its great effect and controllability. The typical cruiser equipment called »Gunfighter« includes a windshield and a leather tank protector as well as a case system for the long journey, and all of this is included in the price of 4,990 marks.
Before it is the turn of the »A-Class«, the 125th calculation is made at the gas station: Despite the heating, the Marauder only needed 3.7 liters per 100 kilometers. “So now you!” The Easy-Rider triumphs. Bad cards for the two-stroke: the NSR approved 4.1, the DT even 5.5 liters.
And don’t forget: The Honda and Yamaha have two-stroke engines with separate lubrication. So oil has to be topped up here when the red lamp in the cockpit indicates it is needed. Quite a fiddly undertaking at the DT, since the oil filler neck ?? placed between tank and steering head ?? can only be unscrewed with pointed fingers. The NSR, on the other hand, looks like a real pit stop. Here the seat has to be removed and a screw on the tank has to be loosened, which is then folded up and fixed with a rod to release the oil container. Meanwhile, the Marauder driver is cleaning his sunglasses. With the four-stroke single, the oil only needs to be checked every 1000 kilometers.
The A-Class: for bikers aged 18 and over
After lunch, the second round begins, this time with machines up to 34 hp. The Suzuki SV 650 S is the first to be taken, it has the most power and looks like a real big bike compared to the two competitors. With 12,190 marks, the SV is at the bottom of the price list, but it can be dethrottled to 71 hp for around 72 marks in material costs and 1.5 hours of working time. A good price for twice the engine power.
However, if you want to buy another motorcycle after two years of a tiered driving license and are into exotic things, you can sweeten your 34 hp time with a scooter. The Gilera Runner 180, for example, is a pretty sharp piece. Much funnier and more interesting than some throttle motorcycles. For 5895 marks there are 19 poisonous two-stroke horsepower. And they have around 70 kilograms less to push than the 34 hp of the 189-kilogram SV 650 S. The sporty, centrifugal automatic control determines the digital driving experience on the scooter: accelerate, accelerate, without shifting.
However, it is precisely this automatic system that is also responsible for ensuring that only the peak performance could be measured on the Bosch roller dynamometer, which MOTORRAD usually uses to check the factory specifications. And that is a proud 20 hp. Unfortunately, there is no line curve.
One of the cheapest ways to drive a motorcycle over 125 cm3 is the Kawasaki EL 252 Eliminator for 7990 marks. It stands in front of almost every driving school, and many learner drivers remain loyal to the mini dragster even after their apprenticeship. The comfortable seating position and the low seat height of 720 millimeters are the main reasons why the Eliminator has so many fans. The motto is: sit on it and feel good. Everything just fits and gives the feeling of having everything under control.
The engine starts softly and delivers its power very homogeneously. Spread over 15,000 tours, then the limiter kicks in. There is still someone talking about the speed miracle Yamaha YZF-R6. The two have something else in common: Nothing works below 4000 rpm. 2000 revs later, the EL is ready for anything. In order to make good progress on winding roads, the EL driver still has to make a lot of effort, as the rear suspension elements rumble over bumps, while the early footrests prevent larger inclines.
After a long night, the Kawa is bitchy, either turning 3000 / min or not at all ?? Depending on the choke position, like an old kawa made from real meal and grain. And what else do Kawasakis have in common? Sure, the good brakes. With more adhesive tires, the “Elli”, as we named her, could achieve even shorter braking distances.
The Gilera Runner takes more getting used to than the Eleminator. Anyone who has motorcycling experience will find the Runner, with its 850 millimeters seat height, wobbly and nervous. The small twelve-inch wheels only build up stabilizing gyroscopic forces at higher speeds.
However, once the scooter driver has shot himself, there is no stopping it. In city traffic, SV and Eleminator see no land against the agile, nimble Gilera. In the wild, their chances are better. With a top speed of 121 km / h, the scooter is the slowest of the trio. Its chassis can cope with this speed, but the upside-down fork was already oiling at the start of the test. Fortunately, no lubricant dripped onto the brakes, which are already having a poor effect. The harder you pull the lever, the more reluctantly the scooter can be forced into an inclined position by the momentum of the wide tires. The rear disc brake does a better job without the hassle of setting it up.
Braking in an inclined position? No problem with the SV 650 S. The Suzuki remains stable even on bumps. This motorcycle is actually straightforward to drive. The only downer: strong jerking when changing loads. A lot of play in the drive and a hard throttle response constantly ruin the line in corners.
The two-cylinder pushes forward powerfully up to 5500 rpm. But then the invisible great master seems to grab the SV by the pillion grab bar, only to let it slowly increase its speed. But at least it swings up to a top speed of 162 km / h with a lot of acceleration. Not least thanks to the well-protective half-shell cladding. The brakes are always up to the pace.
Incidentally, the seating position on the SV is not as sporty as the visual appearance suggests. The footpegs are high, but not inconvenient, for greater freedom of leaning, and the relatively high handlebar position allows an upright sitting position.
At the end of the tour through the streets of the south of France, the three meet at the gas station. On average they used between 4.3 and 4.8 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers, that’s okay. Not so nice: that refueling at the Gilera Runner is so complicated. Unfortunately, the petrol filler neck under the handlebars is designed so that the fuel overflows before the nozzle turns off. Refilling the oil is easy: fold up the seat, fill in oil, done. It can be so easy and clean. The oil can is simply transported in the large helmet compartment.
Helm times, yes, there’s something like that on a scooter. And all-round cladding. Very suitable for everyday use. Feel free to include that in your considerations. Unfortunately, we cannot help you much further at this point. Now it’s time to take a test drive. That’s why nobody comes around. Whether 16, 18 or just before the mid-life crisis.
With the three motorcycles with very different characters, the personal decision should be relatively easy. The Honda NSR 125 R with its sporty seating position is clearly designed for young hotspurs. Less youth-friendly: their high price and a reduction to 80 km / h is only offered by accessory dealers. The counterpart: the Suzuki GZ 125 Marauder. In terms of purchase and consumption, it is easy on your wallet and spoils you with a comfortable and low seating position. If ten (or eight) horsepower is enough for relaxed cruising, the Suzuki is a good choice. Yamaha DT 125 R: a motorcycle for pragmatists who don’t mind functional design and kick starters. The engine and chassis of the Enduro are great, but the extreme seat height for short-legged people is rather off-putting.
Conclusion: A class
The Kawasaki EL 252 Eliminator is the ideal choice for those who place the highest priority on a low seat height but don’t want a chopper or cruiser. 72 centimeters, the traffic light stop works stress-free. And the measured 32 hp of the two-cylinder is easily enough for overtaking sprints. All of this is available for just under 8,000 marks. Those who plan for the long term can get the Suzuki SV 650 S for a good 12,000 marks, which can be throttled to 71 hp at low cost. The V2 engine and the great brakes appeal to sporty drivers. Small drawback: The twin shows weaknesses in the throttle response. The completely different alternative: the Gilera Runner 180. Impressive performance without having to change gears, a helmet compartment and good weather protection contrast with comparatively wobbly handling.
A particularly tight handling course shows how maneuverable the comparison candidates are (see drawing below). The distance between the pylons in the slalom is only five meters. The tight right-left chicane that follows has to be driven at the handlebars on almost every machine. A beginner and a sports driver each do two laps, the last one for time. A small turning circle, low center of gravity and a powerful engine: the Gilera Runner 180 is a clear favorite with the testers. But they bet on the wrong horse. Both pilots set the best time with the Yamaha DT. It also has a small turning circle, and the wide handlebars, low weight and good chassis make cornering on the DT so effortless. The sports pilot puts the Honda NSR in second place, with beginners it brings up the rear. Playing with the clutch and braking late require routine. With a softer accelerating engine the runner would have been better, but this way he marks third place. The SV 650 S can only achieve mediocre times due to its comparatively high weight and its hard load changes. The Kawasaki EL 252 can only “eliminate” the Suzuki Marauder, both of which have to struggle with catches that hit early and are relatively heavy.
Honda NSR 125 R.
It undoubtedly attracts the greatest attention. From the front, she could pass as great. The instruments are similar to those of the Fireblade
Suzuki GZ 125 Marauder
Low purchase price, independent design and a comfortable seat. Only the engine is a bit weak
Yamaha DT 125 R.
Whether on the road or off-road, the Yamaha DT 125 R is fun everywhere ?? thanks to the lively engine and good chassis
Kawasaki EL 252 eliminator
The handy »Elli« with a low seat height is a popular driving school and entry-level motorcycle. The engine needs high speeds
Suzuki SV 650 S.
Leads the registration statistics together with her naked sister: Suzuki SV 650 S. Can be dethrottled inexpensively
Gilera Runner 180 SP
Pretty strong! With the weekend supply in the practical helmet compartment, it rarely keeps the front wheel on the ground
Driving license regulation – who can drive what?
Don’t be afraid of the new EU driving license, MOTORRAD brings light into the darkness of the Europe-wide uniform driving license regulation that has been in force since 1.1.1999. Class A direct, the so-called “direct entry”, is new. From the age of 25 the driver’s license for motorcycles can be obtained without any performance restrictions. Class A corresponds to the previous 1a driving license, for which the driver must be at least 18 years old. With this class, motorcycles up to 25 kW (34 hp) and a power / empty weight ratio of no more than 0.16 kW / kg can be driven. This means that a 34-hp machine must weigh at least 156.25 kilograms. Open motorcycles can then be driven two years after the driver’s license has been issued. All you have to do is change the gray or pink driver’s license. Anyone who already has a new EU driver’s license in credit card format can, after two years, switch to a more powerful motorcycle without any red tape. The A1 regulation applies to 16 and 17-year-olds: Motorcycles up to 125 cm³ and a maximum of 11 kW (15 PS) that drive a maximum of 80 km / h. Anyone who acquired their car driver’s license (class B) before April 1st, 1980 is allowed to drive 125 cc up to 15 hp without a motorcycle license? without a reduced top speed.
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