Honda’s New Mini Neo-Sports Café

Honda looks to cash in on the resurgent interest in café racers with its all-new “Neo-Sports Café” design family that includes the entry-level CB125R at the very bottom of the totem pole. The CB125R packs big-bike features into a decidedly small-bike package with many of the same details as its slightly bigger brother, the CB300R. It comes with its performance restricted to 9.8 kW (13 hp) in order to meet licensing requirements across the European Union and serve to bait the table to draw in and indoctrinate new riders at the earliest opportunity. Did they hit the mark? Let’s dig in and find out.

Continue reading for my look at the Honda CB125R.

  • 2018 Honda CB125R
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Displacement:
    125 cc
  • Price:

2018 Honda CB125R Design

2018 Honda CB125R
- image 779910
Honda manages to capture the suggestion of the old café look without any of the actual features one would likely see on the originals.

The whole Neo-Sports Café look is a bit of an enigma to me. Honda manages to capture the suggestion of the old café look without any of the actual features one would likely see on the originals. Sure, the front fender could pass as a homegrown chopjob and the blackout touches certainly brush up against the custom culture of yesteryear, such details are hardly unique to bikes of the café-tastic persuasion. A round cyclops headlight makes a tenuous classic connection with a striking horizontal divider and LED technology, and it has the distinction of being the skinniest headlight can the Red Riders have ever used.

The LED emitters cover all lighting needs with bar-style turn signals on short standoffs and a taillight that rides recessed in the tip o’ the tail, and as you know, those little emitters punch far above their weight and slice the night with ease. Unlike its larger sibling, the 125 runs with a riser-mount handlebar rather than clip-ons, but they have the same net effect in that they pull the rider forward over the tank and encourage an aggressive riding position. Oh well, anything is better than old-school café bars; regular pullbacks mounted upside down and backwards with the concurrent tank dings from the bar ends.

A tall tail and generous, very un-café-like fuel tank hump work with the deep seat to put the pilot in the bike more than on it, and the sculpted tank leaves a narrow waist with a dramatic flange to hang a knee for some English action. A narrow tail leaves little room for a pillion pad, but it’s at least enough to cushion the most, ahem, important areas and a pair of flip-up, subframe-mount passenger footpegs finish out the girlfriend gear. An even skinnier mudguard stands out to mount tag and turn signals, but I don’t care how minimal it is; a hugger will always look better. It doesn’t even add to the café look, it’s just there. That said, you can still pick up the spirit of the old café if you just imagine that the originals were built on 21st century naked bikes rather than standard UJMs from the 1960s and ’70s.

2018 Honda CB125R Chassis

2018 Honda CB125R
- image 779908
The Inertial Measurement Unit works in conjunction with the ABS feature to give the 125 an anti-rear-wheel liftup capability you just don't see in bikes at this price point.

Tubular-steel members and pressed-steel plates make up the brand new Trellis frame to deliver the necessary rigidity without loading up with a bunch of unnecessary mass. The asymmetrical swingarm also comes made from steel plate for plenty of torsional resistance and consistent, predictable tracking. Steering geometry definitely registers toward the agile end of the spectrum with a 24.2-degree rake and 90.2 mm of trail over a 1,345 mm wheelbase that carries its 125.8 kg heft with a 51.6-percent front and 48.4-percent rear distribution. Additionally, the front end swings through a full 40-degree arc to give the CB125R a 2.3-meter turning radius, and the center of gravity feels nice and low which further improves the slow-speed/parking-lot behavior.

A set of 41 mm inverted front forks lend both visual and actual strength to the front end, and while purported to deliver a supple ride they deliver nothing in the way of adjustability. Out back, a coil-over monoshock sports a five-way preload adjuster that should at least allow you to adjust for changing cargo and passenger loads.

Cast, 17-inch wheels mount a 110/70 up front opposite a 150/60 to round out the rolling chassis. So far, the littlest CB is fairly mundane, but all that changes when we look at the brakes. Up front, a 296 mm disc and four-pot caliper takes care of business with a 220 mm disc and single-piston caliper out back to haul down the rear, but it’s the Inertial Measurement Unit that works in conjunction with the ABS feature to give the 125 an anti rear-wheel liftup capability normally reserved for machines much further up the measuring stick. Essentially, the IMU detects rotation along the transverse horizontal axis when you start to pull the endo, and it tells the ABS to ease up a bit on the front brake to keep your rear contact patch where it does the most good: on the ground.

Frame: Inner Pivot Diamond Frame
Caster Angle: 24.2º
Trail: 90.2 mm (3.6 inches)
Suspension, Front: 41 mm telescopic inverted fork
Suspension, Rear: Single damper
Wheel, Front: 17M/C x MT3.00
Wheel, Rear: 17M/C x MT4.00
Tire, Front: 110/70R17M/C 54H
Tire, Rear: 150/60R17M/C 66H
ABS System: Front & rear independent ABS with IMU

2018 Honda CB125R Drivetrain

2018 Honda CB125R
- image 779907
Power delivery is exactly what you would want for an entry-level ride -- smooth, predictable, and fun -- even if hilly terrain will expose the thin spot in its performance.

The beating heart is an adorable little thumper that manages to squeeze a total of 124.7 cc into the confines of the barrel. An engine water jacket serves a dual purpose by carrying off waste heat to the radiator and suppressing the mechanical noises that would otherwise escape and diminish the so-called social value of the powerplant. A simple, single over-head cam times the two-valve head, hopefully with its screw-and-locknut valve adjuster, but probably with some shim-and-bucket thing instead.

Oversquare, the bore and stroke measure out at 58 mm and 47.2 mm, respectively, with a thirst for top-shelf pump gas to keep the 11-to-1 compression ratio from causing pre-ignition/detonation/dieseling. The powerplant churns out 9.8 kW at 10 grand with 10 Nm that comes on fully at 8,000 rpm. No doubt it could generate more, but this bike is meant for the entry-level E.U. market and so comes governed appropriately.

Electronic fuel injection helps the 125 meet emission standards and turn in a 48.4 km/L fuel efficiency rating. Power delivery, overall, is exactly what you would want for an entry-level ride — smooth, predictable, and fun — even if hilly terrain will expose the thin spot in its performance.

Engine: Liquid cooled, 4 stroke, 2 valve, SOHC, single cylinder
Displacement: 125 cc
Bore and Stroke: 58 mm x 47.2 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
Max. Power Output: 9.8 kW (13 hp) @ 10,000 rpm
Max. Torque: 10 Nm (7 lb-ft) @ 8,000 rpm
Carburetion: PGMFI electronic fuel injection
Starter: Electric
Clutch: Wet, multiplate with coil springs
Transmission: 6 speed

2018 Honda CB125R Price

2018 Honda CB125R
- image 779909
MSRP in the UK is just under £4k, which is on par with its competition.

Brit riders can score a CB125R for £3,949, a price that puts it in a good position against the rest of the Big Four in the European market.

2018 Honda CB125R Competitors

2018 Suzuki GSX-S125
- image 779705
2018 Honda CB125R
- image 779912
Suzuki provides some stability protection with its Bosch ABS, but it lacks the IMU feature that Honda brings to the table.

Not all 125 cc rides are created equal, and that’s certainly true of the CB125R, so I needed another training bike that clearly attempts to give the rider a taste of the greater things to come with the successive licenses. Suzuki came right to the forefront with its GSX-S125 that, like its counterpart, looks like someone left a GSX-Ssomething bigger in the dryer for too long so that it seems more like a proper primer bike and less like a generic burner bike.

A Transformer-ish headlight can and bikini flyscreen adopts a bigboy-bike look early on, and carries it throughout the design. It’s really too bad that Suzuki went with standard front forks; they just seem a little bit wimbly against the stout-looking usd struts on the Honda. Bosch ABS provides some stability protection, but it lacks the IMU feature and so it doesn’t match the anti-moonshot function that the CB brings to the table.

Power comes from a water-cooled, DOHC engine that runs an even 124 cc displacement with 11 kW and 11.5 Nm on tap for just a skosh more performance. Suzuki compounds the pain for Honda with a competitive price. Granted, at £3,799, the GSX-S125 isn’t much cheaper, but at this price point, every little bit counts.

He Said

“Love the NSC look, and bless Honda for bringing it down to the unwashed masses. Affordable and manageable, it works well as a beginner bike, but I gotta’ say, I’m glad the U.S. doesn’t do their bike licenses that way. Yes indeed!”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “We don’t have tiered licenses here, which could be argued pro and con with equal vigor. It seems like all the manufacturers have a 125 cc entry-level ride in Europe to fit into the A1 license slot and Honda has finally added the CB125R to the pool. This really is a nice-looking bike. If I’m not mistaken, this is a CB300R with the CBR-125R engine and associated drivetrain swapped in so the bike feels a lot more solid than you might expect. It is a very light and agile bike, but with it governed to fit the A1 license tier, passing can be a bit exciting unless you’re going downhill with a good tailwind."

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Liquid cooled, 4 stroke, 2 valve, SOHC, single cylinder
Displacement: 125 cc
Bore and Stroke: 58 mm x 47.2 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
Max. Power Output: 9.8 kW (13 hp) @ 10,000 rpm
Max. Torque: 10 Nm (7 lb-ft) @ 8,000 rpm
Carburetion: PGMFI electronic fuel injection
Starter: Electric
Clutch: Wet, multiplate with coil springs
Transmission: 6 speed
Final Drive: O-ring sealed chain
Chassis:
Frame: Inner Pivot Diamond Frame
Caster Angle: 24.2º
Trail: 90.2 mm (3.6 inches)
Suspension, Front: 41 mm telescopic inverted fork
Suspension, Rear: Single damper
Wheel, Front: 17M/C x MT3.00
Wheel, Rear: 17M/C x MT4.00
Tire, Front: 110/70R17M/C 54H
Tire, Rear: 150/60R17M/C 66H
ABS System Type: Front & rear independent ABS with IMU
Dimensions & Capacities:
L x W x H: 2015 mm x 820 mm x 1055 mm (79.3 inches x 32.3 inches x 41.5 inches)
Wheelbase: 1345 mm (53 inches)
Seat Height: 816 mm (32.1 inches)
Ground Clearance: 140 mm (5.5 inches)
Curb Weight: 125 kg (278 lbs)
Oil Capacity: 1.4 qts
Turning radius: 2.3 m (90.5 inches)
Fuel Consumption (WMTC mode): 48.8 km/L (57 mpg)
Fuel Tank Capacity: 10.1 L (2.7 gals)
Electrics:
Battery Capacity: YTZ6V 12V 5Ah MF
ACG Output: 250W @ 5,000 rpm
Instruments: LCD Display
Headlight: Lo:13W Hi: 8.8W (LED)
Taillight: Stop: 2.5W Tail: 0.4W (LED)

References

Honda CB300R

2019 Honda CB300R
- image 777209

See our review of the Honda CB300R.

Suzuki GSX-S125

2018 Suzuki GSX-S125
- image 779899

See our review of the Suzuki GSX-S125.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: global.honda.com, suzuki.co.uk

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