Affordability is the most important thing when setting out to buy a motorcycle, especially if it’s your first. You’ll want something that’s nice to look at that’s equally nice on the wallet. Lucky for you there is a whole section of the market that sets out to do just that.

The 125cc Chinese-built motorcycle market has exploded over the years, with manufacturers offering more varied and stylish models than ever before. Not sure you believe me? Well, with my pick of the top ten (in no particular order), I’ll prove it to you!

1.

Lexmoto LXR SE

Starting the list off today is Lexmoto’s LXR SE and what a choice she is!

Updated for Euro 5, you can catch that new single-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine producing 12.5 hp. The engine not only improves performance but offers a better pick-up on the throttle and, with the help of upside-down suspension and a lightweight aluminium swingarm, a smoother ride and sure-footed handling also.

Alongside this, it also features aggressive and sporty looks, an LED headlight, full colour TFT display and front and rear braking discs – not bad for a Chinese 125cc after all, hey?

Once upon a time, it was unusual to see such good spec, more specifically a liquid-cooled engine, on a motorcycle like this – it’s something more than one of the options on today’s list have omitted. Therefore, because of that and the rest of its spec, I’m not surprised Lexmoto’s LXR SE has dominated the sales chart for so long! It’s a well-rounded small-capacity bike that has those ‘big boy’ looks and feels for such an affordable £3,099.99 price.

Engine 125cc, 12.5 hp, liquid-cooled
Fuel tank 13.5L
Brakes Front and rear disc
Seat height 820mm
Weight 167kg
Price £3,099.99

2.

Zontes ZT125-G1

With their ZT125-G1 you can see which direction Zontes is going in. They’ve seen how popular retro-looking bikes are and they’ve wasted no time jumping on the bandwagon. With the classic round front headlight that’s LED and indented full tank that’s made from shiny black steel, it nods to the classics in the most modern way.

Other things to note on this model are its liquid-cooled engine that produces 14.4 hp making it more than comfortable in the ‘L-plate’ legal limit and that whopping 20L fuel tank capacity – the largest on the list so expect to get further for less.

To add, the ZT125-G1 also features two riding modes (‘Eco’ and ‘Sports’), dual-channel BOSCH ABS, CST adventure styled tyres, electronic seat lock and USB socket – you’re quite impressed after all, aren’t you?

With its good looks, vintage charm and affordable £3,199 price tag, it’ll be easy for this street scrambler to steal your heart (and cash).

Engine 124.7cc, 14.4 hp, liquid-cooled
Fuel tank 20L
Brakes Front and rear disc
Seat height 795mm
Weight 160kg
Price £3,199

3.

Sinnis T125

We’re moving on to something a little different now. Sinnis’s Terrain 125 has been on the market for a while but for 2021 they’ve given it a new name and updated a few bits to help differentiate itself from the others. The new T125 is a larger-sized, for a 125cc, adventure bike which includes luggage boxes and crash bars – we don’t see many bikes of this price coming with accessories and extras like this. Recently, Brett from BikeMatters had the pleasure of getting to know the T125 and in his

that feels so well-sized for a 125, it gives you extra confidence!”

But he also found that it could be sluggish as “anything from 45mph+, you’ll need plenty of time and tarmac!” Though it does have a liquid-cooled motor and plenty of storage, it’s also missing a few of the bells and whistles some of the other models have, such as LED lighting and a more equipped dash.

He concluded that, compared to the Euro 4 version, “Sinnis haven’t really changed a great deal” but that’s not always a bad thing as the “the T125 really does excel in offering you that something not many others are doing in the 125cc market!”

Overall though, at £3,199 (+OTR), this true do-it-all motorcycle is well-built and well-priced – especially considering you get those crash bars and 66.5L luggage boxes included as standard. Are you impressed with the updates Sinnis have made to the Terrain 125? Drop your thoughts in the comments now! 

Engine 125cc, 12.7 bhp, liquid-cooled
Fuel tank 14L
Brakes Front and rear disc
Seat height 780mm
Weight 162kg
Price £3,199 (+OTR)

4.

Benelli TNT

Benelli’s TNT may be a small bike, but it provides large amounts of fun! Because it’s small, lightweight and compact, nipping through traffic is easy and blasting those back roads is, you guessed it, fun!

Equipment-wise, the TNT features a 5-speed gearbox, LCD dash, LED headlights, and indicators. Like many of their rivals, Benelli have worked hard to keep the price as low as possible, so you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s missing ABS and a liquid-cooled engine, but this isn’t unusual for a Chinese-built bike and, really, £2,399 makes it very good value for money.

Benelli’s TNT is a cracking little bike that’s been popular for some time, and that’s no surprise thanks to it being so easy to modify and stunt-like styling.

Engine 125cc, 11.1 bhp, air-cooled
Fuel tank 7.2L
Brakes Front and rear disc
Seat height 780mm
Weight 124kg
Price £2,399 (+OTR)

5.

Keeway Superlight

The Keeway Superlight is our only cruiser/custom-styled bike on the list and, it’s fair to say, that it’s has been a bigger seller for a few years now.

With an average air-cooled 125cc power output of 10.4 hp, well-designed and comfortable chassis and front and rear discs brakes with CBS mean handling will be easy, confidence will be inspired, and fun will be had on Keeway’s Superlight.

Worth mentioning is also the 15L fuel tank and claimed 110 mpg range as both will help to keep the costs down, and as I said at the start affordability is everything. Speaking of affordability, it also has a low price of £2,499 (+OTR) – putting this machine towards the cheaper end of the spectrum.

Keeway’s Superlight has been a best-seller for a while and I think we can put that down to its cruiser-inspired looks, nice finish and decent performance.

Engine 124cc, 10.4 hp, air-cooled
Fuel tank 15L
Brakes Front and rear disc
Seat height 730mm
Weight 134kg
Price £2,499 (+OTR)

6.

AJS 71 Desert Scrambler

Based on the legendary tale of Mike Jackson, a sales manager who entered the 1971 Barstow to Vegas desert race riding an AJS Stormer and came 14th out of 3,200 entrants, the '71 Desert Scrambler pays credit to him and his story.

Alongside the history, you can expect to find green lane riding equipment including the air-cooled engine that reaches 9.9 hp (making it the least powerful on today’s list), rough-tough attitude, plenty of ground clearance, low 760mm seat height and serrated pegs.   

When comparing to a few of the others, the '71 Desert Scrambler can be described as quite basic but it’s another bike that favours the retro styling and has the story to back it up – and that’s what the £2,899 price tag buys you.

In summary, AJS really are a brand dedicated to keeping retro at the heart of their business and it’s great to see a model like this at such an affordable price point.

Engine 124cc, 9.9 hp, air-cooled
Fuel tank 13L
Brakes Front and rear disc
Seat height 760mm
Weight 126kg (wet)
Price £2,899

7.

Mutt Akita

And as expected we have another retro-inspired head-turner from Birmingham-based Mutt Motorcycles.

The Akita is one of the newer models in the range and showcases a 17L fuel tank, beautiful low-profile tan seat, LED indicators, stainless steel mudguard brackets, aluminium low-rise bars, rubber grips, twin-shock frame and air-cooled, single-cylinder engine that pumps out 12 hp and 10Nm of torque – making it a big dog in its own right!

£3,495 (+OTR) makes it slightly more expensive but, in the real world, that’s still an affordable price and therefore a realistic option for a 17-year-old.

One thing I will say is that it does have an air-cooled engine so, when searching, that’s something to bear in mind. You’ll want to look at the lower prices and higher specs of the other models. However, saying that, yes, they are Chinese-built, but Mutt makes sure to put the UK vintage stamp on these bikes to offer that little something different and special. Looking at their bikes and the customisable options, you really can make a Mutt your own!

Engine 125cc, 12 hp, air-cooled
Fuel tank 16L
Brakes Front and rear disc
Seat height 780mm
Weight 127kg
Price £3,495 (+OTR)

8.

Bullit Hero

What Bullit has done really well is make their Hero look smart on a budget. It’s got heaps of style and that’s because they’ve injected it with a good dose of vintage charm which includes the race-styled side panels, round front headlamp, bench-style seat, high-level exhaust and four fruity colourways – my personal preference being ‘White Racing’.

In addition to that, you’ll also get Kingstone chunky tyres, an upright riding position, front forks and, engine-wise, it copies the old Suzuki GN125’s so you should feel comfortable and confident in the mechanics.

You could argue that this mini scrambler is slightly basic, with its air-cooled engine averaging 11.6 hp and only having five gears, but Bullit have paid close attention to the detail and because of this it’s the styling that really sets it apart from most of the Chinese offerings – it being so affordable at £2,849 is just a bonus!  

Engine 125cc, 11.6 hp, air-cooled
Fuel tank 9L
Brakes Front and rear disc
Seat height 860-890mm
Weight 121kg
Price £2,849

9.

Herald Brat

Our penultimate bike on today’s list is Herald’s Brat and we’ll start with the finish because it is definitely something to talk about. The combination of brushed aluminium mudguards with hints of stainless steel on the exhaust gives it that much-loved custom look. Team that with the chunky tyres, industrial-like styling and choice of black, green or orange and you have a seriously stunning bike!

On the equipment side of things, LED lights, digital dash, USD front suspension and rear monoshock are all included as standard. Designed to give that real custom hipster look that will appeal to the vintage bike lovers out there, it is no surprise the Brat isn’t packed full of tech.

This is a bike that costs less than £3k making it hard to ignore, and what’s even harder to ignore is this Brat’s big attitude!

Engine 124cc, 10 bhp, air-cooled
Fuel tank 10L
Brakes Front and rear disc
Seat height 820mm
Weight 147kg
Price £2,999 (+OTR)

10.

MASH X-Ride

Getting straight into it, MASH’s X-Ride comes with an abundance of retro good looks. From the golden rims and side-panel graphics to the round front headlight, bench-style seat and chunky tyres, this off-roader is very nice to look at!

It may seem like just the ticket but wait until you see the price tag. £3,699 (+OTR) makes the X-Ride the most expensive bike on the list today. It does have a higher spec but is that enough to justify the £1.5k+ (in some cases) increase in price? With the inclusion of it being the most powerful with ABS, LED lights and a liquid-cooled engine on a Chinese-built 125cc, I’d be inclined to say yes! Let’s not get carried away though because, just like Mutt’s Akita, the price may look higher when compared to the others but a bike for over just £3k? That’s still pretty inexpensive!

Engine 124cc, 15 hp, liquid-cooled
Fuel tank 10.5L
Brakes Front and rear disc
Seat height 780mm
Weight 130kg
Price £3,699 (+OTR)

The last stop

These ten are seriously upping the ante when it comes to the Chinese-built 125cc motorcycle and there are plenty of others we could have easily included in this list too! I want to know what you think to these choices. So before you go, make sure you drop your favourite in the comments below or let me know which one you’re riding or want to ride!

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