The mini-streetbike market heats up with new competition to go head-to-head with the long-standing K-Pipe 125 from Kwang Yang Motor Co, Ltd — better known to us as the Taiwanese manufacturer, KYMCO — recently introduced to the U.S. market.

Intended to be lightweight and fuel-efficient, the K-Pipe gives the pocket bike class — long dominated by Honda with the Grom and now with a hot new kid on the block in the Z125 PRO from Kawasaki — a viable, less expensive option.

Entry level? Yes. Commuter? Sure. Fun? Definitely.

Continue reading for my review of the KYMCO K-Pipe 125.

  • 2013 - 2017 KYMCO K-PIPE 125
  • Year:
    2013- 2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    4 STROKE
  • Displacement:
    123 cc
  • Price:
    1999
  • Price:

Design

2013 - 2017 KYMCO K-PIPE 125 Exterior
- image 488905

Even though, the K-Pipe is touted as a good starter bike, it isn’t only that. It’s small and approachable for folks new to two wheels, but it’s also fun for experienced folks. If you have a congested commute through down-town traffic, the K-Pipe is small and agile enough to let you filter through and still has enough get-up-and-go to...well...to get up and go.

The vertical twin headlamp gives a bit of styling to the overall aggressive look and a high-lumen Caribe LED tail light adds a bit of tech to an otherwise basic street-snarly design.

Chassis

2013 - 2017 KYMCO K-PIPE 125
- image 682162

Rather than repurpose one of its existing frames, KYMCO designed the “Spinal Column” chassis from the ground up specifically for use in the K-Pipe. The stressed-engine skeleton is nice and light at only 26 pounds, 30% lighter than KYMCO’s previous sportbikes, and that contributes to keeping the overall weight down at around 225 pounds, dry.

More streetbike than scooter, the frame layout gives it almost a nose-down stance with a surprisingly tall, 31-inch seat height. KYMCO calls that a “low” seat height, but shorter riders are liable to feel uncomfortable as they shift between tip-toes and one-foot-or-the-other.

Conventional forks float the front end on 4.33 inches of travel, but the central-mount, coil-over shock only gives up 1.1 inches, and neither end offers any sort of adjustment at all. Brakes are likewise vanilla at best. A twin-pot caliper pinches the single 276 mm front disc, but the rear tire relies on a 140 mm drum to slow it.

Now, normally I’d make some noises at this point about the poor brakes and suspension, but I haven’t lost sight of the fact that the bike weighs in under 300-pounds soaking wet, and this is all probably good enough for its heft and designed purpose.

A set of 10-spoke, cast-alloy rims mount the 2.75-17 front tire and 3.50-17 rear, and help keep unsprung weight down at both ends. Seventeen-inch tires; did you catch that? If there’s anything that lifts this entry in the pocket-bike category above the rest and makes it stand proud of the scooter market, it’s the 17-inch tires.

Drivetrain

2013 - 2017 KYMCO K-PIPE 125
- image 682160

Light as it is, the K-Pipe doesn’t need much of a motor to get it moving, so the little, 123.7 cc mill fits the bill quite nicely. KYMCO kept waste-heat management light and uncomplicated with air-cooling instead of a heavier, more complex and expensive water-jacket and radiator. It stuck to that philosophy at the induction/engine control with a carburetor to control the mix rather than fuel injection, and all this is good news for folks who prefer to turn their own wrenches, at least for routine maintenance and low-level repairs.

A single over-head cam actuates the two-valve head, and the low compression ratio of 8.6-to-1 helps the mill keep cool, takes it easy on the bearings and allows for the use of less expensive, non-premium fuel.

The engine runs a square layout with bore and stroke both measuring out at 54 mm, and that gives us a total of eight horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 6.3 pound-feet of torque at 6,000 rpm. A four-speed, manual transmission crunches the gears for 70 mpg and a top speed between 60 and 65 mph, depending on weight, altitude, tailwinds, etc, and it comes with a kickstarter as a backup to the electric starter for a little extra safety.

2013 - 2017 KYMCO K-PIPE 125 High Resolution Exterior
- image 488930

Pricing

MSRP on the 2016 K-Pipe 125 is a mere $1,999. That’s affordable. KYMCO offers the U.S. market the choice of red, pearl white or black and covers the little go-getter with a two-year factory warranty.

Competitors

2017 - 2018 Honda Grom
- image 679117
2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Z125 PRO
- image 679366

As loathe as I am to call these “monkey bikes,” that seems to be what folks want to call these little street bikes. I disagree, though they are still rather niche. Since the Honda Grom gets so much attention and press, I decided to take a look at Kawasaki’s new-for-2017 entry into the pocket bike market, the Z125 Pro. Yeah, it’s a little bit “David and Goliath,” but choices are limited and I guarantee KYMCO won’t find a more even matchup in the Grom, so let’s get crackin’.

While KYMCO definitely gives the K-Pipe a sportbike stance, Kawasaki gives the Pro features common to its larger rides. The headlight housing, inverted front forks, engine shrouds and chin fairing all would fit in on up the range, but from that point back the truncated nature of the ride dominates the looks. In that way, the K-pipe looks more naturally proportioned, and the Pro comes off looking like a bit of a Frankenstein.

Engine design is fairly similar, with both rides running four-cycle, air-cooled, single-cylinder mills. Kawasaki steps it up a bit with electronic fuel injection instead of carburetors, which is a plus to many, but I still prefer a carb, ’cause at least I can work on it. As you might imagine, power numbers are very similar. KYMCO manages to get 8 ponies and 6.3 pounds of grunt out of its plant, and Kawasaki does just the tiniest bit better with 8.3 ponies and 6.5 pounds. Tiny win for Kawasaki.

The Z125 comes off looking a lot more sturdy when we consider the suspension components, namely the confidence-inspiring, inverted front forks and preload-adjustable monoshock in back. It also sports disc brakes all around, opposed to the disc/drum combo on the K-Pipe. One thing KYMCO did right was the 17-inch wheels; the 12-inchers on the Z125 just look almost cartoonish by comparison. All in all, Kawasaki’s experience shows in the chassis, and seems to make for a more solid ride.

KYMCO picks up a win at the till. At only $1,999, the K-Pipe wins the race to the bottom with the Z125 Pro clocking in at half-again more with its $2,999 sticker. Riders looking for absolute bargain-basement transportation might find a match with the K-Pipe, but I think if you want to really have something that will stand up to the abuse associated with “fun,” the extra grand for the Pro might be the way to go.

He Said

My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Ya know, it’s a cute little thing, but not as cute as the Grom or Pro, and it’s much more a scooter on steroids than the other two. Not saying that’s a bad thing, just calling it like it is. I can see this as perhaps a trainer, or maybe a commuter somewhere that has a large scooter culture, but beyond that, it doesn’t really have a lot of practicality.”

She Said

“As some of you are aware,KYMCO has been making a K-Pipe 50 and K-Pipe 125 for a while. It’s only recently come to the U.S. market. In 2016, Honda had some competition for its Grom, and competition is always good for the buyers. For anyone skeptical about whether KYMCO can make a reliable product, remember that it’s a Taiwanese company — not mainland China — and KYMCO has had a hand in a lot of the smaller engines used by some of the Big Four manufacturers.”

Specifications

Engine Type: 123.7cc Air-Cooled Single Cylinder Four Stroke
Bore and Stroke : 54mm x 54mm
Horsepower: 8hp@7000rpm
Torque : 6.3ft. lbs.@6000rpm
Compression Ratio : 8.6:1
Fuel Management : Carburetor
Ignition : Electric/Kick
Valve Train : SOHC; Two Valves Per Cylinder
Transmission: Four-Speed Manual
Final Drive : Chain
Front Suspension : Telescopic Forks
Rear Suspension : Mono Shock
Tires - Front : 2.75-17
Tires - Rear : 3.50-17
Brakes - Front : Twin Piston Caliper 276mm Single Disc
Brakes - Rear : Drum
Length : 76.4"
Width : 37"
Height: 41.3"
Wheelbase : 50.8"
Dry Weight: 224.4lbs.
Seat Height: 31"
Fuel Capacity : 1.2 Gal.
Estimated MPG: 70 mpg est (based on EPA data)
Emissions : Meets current EPA standards. Models sold in California meet current CARB standards and may differ slightly due to emissions equipment.
Warranty : 2 - Year Factory Warranty, extended coverage available with KYMCO extended protection plan.
Colors : Red, Pearl White, Black
MSRP: $1,999.00

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kymcousa.com, kawasaki.com, powersports.honda.com

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