In 2009 Yamaha keeps both kids and adults riding hard on those trails with the two most notorious Yamaha 125cc dirt bikes ever, the TT-R125E and TT-R125LE. There is no wonder they’re beloved as fun, excitement and ease of use are there three most important features. How’s that for a new bike?
Addressed to everybody who wants to develop off-road riding skills or simply feels like having loads of fun on a bike from which they can really get the best out of, the two TT-R models come with the awesome-performing 125cc air-cooled SOHC 4-stroke, two-valves engine and the impressive YZ design that will surely have teenagers beg daddy for it.
And if they actually have their wishes accomplished, there will be no problems with controlling the bike. Having a seat height of less than 32 inches, it can be kept well under control by all kinds of riders, but we also have to consider its serious ground clearance (over 10 inches) and long-travel suspension.
Both models are fitted with an electric starter and mechanics don’t differ much as you can see by checking out the specs sheet. But what you’ll notice different is the fact that the “E” model features a 17-inch front and 14-inch rear wheel while the “LE” stands out higher with 19-inch front, respectively 16-inch rear wheel dimensions. This last model also comes with longer rear travel suspension (6.6-inches instead of 6.3-inches on the “E”) and a 220mm front brake disc. Ground clearance is also bigger in the case of the “LE” (11.6-inches instead of 10.4-inches on the “E”).
Even though not very different the one from the other, they do manage to offer the same kind of excitement, but at whole different levels.
Yamaha had orientated on entry-level dirt bikes in 2000, which is relatively late, considering that kids have to be hooked up from the very first start in order to remain faithful to a certain manufacturer. But the TT-R125 had come to conquer this category and it did it with its light weight and user-friendly four-stroke power.
Properly balanced, reliable and a real companion on small rider’s evolutionary graphic (whatever that may be), the TT-R125 came in two different size versions, the second featuring an “L” at the end of the bike’s name which stood for larger wheels on the actual motorcycle. The TT-R125L also had a 1.2-inches taller seat height (30.1-inches on the simple TT-R).
Using this simple and efficient recipe, Yamaha managed to sell more such bikes than it could have with a single version. And the best thing for this manufacturer is that it didn’t even needed to radically upgrade these bikes, but simply bring them up to date with decals and stylistic features as the YZ models changed during the years.
For the same price, Suzuki offers the greatest opponent for the TT-R125E, the DR-Z125 ($2,699). The Suzuki draws its roots from the RM-Z motocross bikes, but only in what concerns the visual aspects. The engine is still the 125cc four-stroke, air-cooled, OHC and the brakes feature drums instead of discs, just like on the Yamaha.
You can buy the Suzuki DR-Z125L for 100 bucks less than the TT-R125LE. The $2,899 MSRP says a lot of this maker’s marketing strategy and, as the TT-R125LE, the DR-Z125L comes with larger wheels and disc brakes up front.
Kawasaki is in for more power and speed with the KLX140 and KLX140L. They get it out in both cases from the 144cc four-stroke, SOHC, two-valve single. The difference here is that the small bike features disc brakes (220mm single petal disc) on its 17” front wheel as well as on its 14” rear one (186mm single petal disc). All that for only $2,799!
In the case of the KLX140L, the wheels grow bigger (19-, respectively 16-inch), as well as the MSRP ($3,099).
The critics would say “decals changed and that’s all folks”, but we’re not like that. What we must admit is that, stylistically, the bikes have a fresher feel for 2009, even though mechanically they are pretty much the same.
Easy to be confused with motocross bikes as they don’t feature a headlight, but only a number plate, the 125cc TT-R models don’t disappoint in any matter. The low positioned front fender gives a clue about it not being designed for the track, but more for the trails and that is noticeable only when jumping with it hard enough.
Race-inspired side panels and two-tone seat are great on any bike, but on the TT-R models they are even greater as they complete the overall racing looks of the bike. Also, this is exactly the purpose of the Team Yamaha Blue/White color scheme.
Riding either of the 125s is fun and confidence inspiring. The 124cc air-cooled, SOHC four-stroke; 2 valves engine is smooth, but not docile, totally capable of putting a smile on any rider’s face and keep it there for a very long time. Pushbutton electrically starting immediately hot or cold, the small powerplant is tuned to deliver healthy low-and midrange rushes in all of the five gears without any unwanted punches. The exhaust note is consistent, but not threatening at all. Beginning and intermediate riders will definitely be impressed by the instant throttle response coming from that 20mm Mikuni carburetor while for the experienced crowd, it will simply be an expected aspect, one worthy of appreciation.
Apart from the engine, the two bikes also feature the same gearbox and cable-actuated clutch. The five speed unit is precise and easy to work with while the clutch is smooth and pulls so easily that I often found myself using only too fingers. Also, it showed no signs of weakness when being quickly released while getting out of tight corners.
In what concerns the chassis, things start to change a little bit. The frame is the same, but on the “LE” model you get a pair of 19-inch front and 16-inch rear wheels. These, unlike the 17-inch front and 14-inch rear wheels of the “E” model, are more capable of dealing with the off-road terrain. The jumps are easier absorbed compared to the “E” model, also thanks to the 6.6 inches of travel at the rear and the bike also feels a little bit more stable.
With a 31.7 inches high seat, the larger model is a real step up bike compared to the base model which features a 30.5 inches seat. The difference isn’t that big, but considering the wheels too, you really feel like being on a totally different bike when jumping from one to another. Furthermore, you also get a 220 mm single disc up front instead of a 110 mm drum, so the overall big bike feel is completed from the first time a rider will pull the brake lever with great expectations.
Either way, the bikes feel easy and handling is the most natural thing. The front end complies immediately with the direction that the rider indicates and the rear end always follows. Sharp corners are no challenge for the two TT-Rs, but more for beginning riders. The tires grip on to the surface they roll on very well, but they don’t necessarily need to stay on the ground, don’t they?...especially when TT-R’s front end lift up with the greatest easy if you know how and when to help them with a simple pull.
A fairly short jumping session left me with no reproaches for the suspensions on both the “E” and the “LE” model and ground clearance is more than decent as well. You really get an accurate feel of what dirt riding means on these things and in the end that’s their main goal.
In relation to their competitors, the two Yamaha bikes, TT-R125E ($2,699) and TT-R125LE ($2,999) are positioned right in the middle as the Suzuki models are relatively cheaper and Kawasaki more expensive, but also slightly bigger in displacement. The choice is yours!
By checking out the 125cc TT-R bikes from Yamaha it would seem they are being made under the motto “a bike for everyone” as they can be indeed fun for all of you out there, especially if you are a parent and need to supervise your kid. There’s no better trainer than the one that goes next to you and experiences with you every challenge and that is what Yamaha plans on providing with the two differently-sized motorcycles. Is it successful? You tell me!
Engine and Transmission
Type: air-cooled SOHC 4-stroke; 2 valves
Bore x Stroke: 54.0mm x 54.0mm
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Carburetion: Mikuni® VM20
Transmission: Constant-mesh 5-speed; multiplate wet clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Chassis and Dimensions
Suspension/Front: Telescopic fork; 7.1-in travel
Suspension/Rear: Single shock; 6.3-in travel (LE: 6.6-in travel)
Brakes/Front: 110mm drum (LE: 220mm single disc)
Brakes/Rear: 110mm drum
Tires/Front: 70/100-17 40M (LE: 70/100-19 42M)
Tires/Rear: 90/100-14 49M (LE: 90/100-16 52M)
Length: 72.6 in (LE: 74.2 in)
Width: 30.9 in (LE: 31.3 in)
Height: 41.7 in (LE: 42.7 in)
Seat Height: 30.5 in (LE: 31.7 in)
Wheelbase: 49.2 in (LE: 50.0 in)
Ground Clearance: 10.4 in (LE: 11.6 in)
Fuel Capacity: 1.6 gal
Wet Weight: 198 lb