With Motorcycle Live and EICMA wrapped up for the year, it's time for us to take a look at just some of the most exciting 125cc motorcycles that should be on your radar ahead of 2023.
The general standards and quality of these bikes are constantly improving and with so many great options on the 125cc market, we are going through 10 of the best manufacturers and some of their most exciting options currently on sale.
So let’s get into it, shall we?
Starting off the list we are going to look at some of the best offerings from China. These budget motorcycles usually struggle to keep up with their more premium rivals, however over recent years the quality and standard of these Chinese offerings are really levelling up.
A great example of this levelling up is Lexmoto. Lexmoto produces some of the cheapest bikes on the list and these Chinese models have been selling in huge numbers.
Not only are they cheap, but they look fantastic and ride very well, although they don't quite have the power-to-weight ratio of the more expensive rivals and their long-term reliability remains to be seen.
LXR 125/ LXR SE 125
First up for Lexmoto, we have the LXR range. Surprisingly, the LXR 125 was 2020's biggest-selling sport bike thanks to its excellent design and large proportions - The ridiculous three-grand price tag doesn't hurt either.
When it comes to the engine, the LXR packs the latest liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine and puts out a respectable 12.5hp. One of the downsides, however, is the 167kg wet weight, meaning that the acceleration will be noticeably slower than premium models.
With that being said though, the LXR 125 can reach 69mph top speeds and at this price, it has become a serious contender.
Coming onto the new SE edition, this edition adds a TFT display, USD forks, and a cool sporty paint job for an extra £400 - so if a sporty more aggressive version of the bike is something that you’re looking for, then this may be the one for you.
Lastly, if you like what you see with the LXR, we here at BikeMatters have a full road test review for you to take a look at!
Price starting at £3,099
Next up on the list for Lexmoto has got to be the LS-N.
The LS-N marks a notable step up in spec for Lexmoto thanks to its new liquid-cooled 13.7hp engine and steel trellis frame. For 2023, the LS-N’s power-to-weight ratio has been improved (which is a massive plus), however, it is still a little on the heavy side at £159kg.
Coming decorated with a stylish street bike design the LS-N now comes equipped with 4-pot caliper brakes with full ABS, instead of the combined braking system seen on the older models.
The LS-N also comes packed with USD forks and has in-built Bluetooth speakers with smartphone connectivity. This noticeable increase in the spec has led to the rise in price, with the LS-N now sitting at £3,799 - meaning it is still a worthy competitor in the budget 125cc category.
Sitting second on the list, here we have Sinnis.
Sinnis are another surprisingly good Chinese manufacturer, which we have reviewed plenty of times here at BikeMatters, and every single time we have been firmly impressed by the rideability and level of quality on offer.
One of our top choices from Sinnis is the GPX, thanks to its true sports authenticity with an aggressive riding position and high revving abilities.
I had the pleasure of testing this beauty and it is fair to say I have been left firmly impressed!
The GPX has stunning big bike looks and very respectable top speeds due to that impressive liquid-cooled 12.7bhp engine. With a wet weight sitting at 158kg, the GPX can’t quite match the acceleration of premium rivals, however, this beauty is still fun to ride and an excellent introduction to the supersports category.
Another great offering from Sinnis is the SM-R. Sinnis’ supermotard-styled bike was one of the most impressive during our testing and really stood out to us.
Not only does the SM-R look great and is extremely high quality, but it also rides great too, putting out an impressive 14.8hp.
This is a bike that can perform similarly to premium models and if you want a more enduro vibe, the SM-XE takes the same basic setup and adds knobbly tyres for the same bargain price tag of £3,399.
Another manufacturer worthy of a top spot on this list is Zontes.
Zontes are looking remarkably good right now with their latest liquid-cooled engines putting out 14.4bhp which is only a fraction under the top performers in the class, although they are slightly heavier.
Zontes pack 2-channel Bosch ABS, USD forks, and even a slipper clutch as standard on all of their bikes. I think it is fair to say that the spec and looks of these bikes are incredible for the price.
The basic Zontes setup comes in 4 versions, so you can pick the one that best suits your tastes or needs...
First up for Zontes, here we have the ZT125-G1.
The ZT125-G1 is a beautiful neo-retro street bike coming equipped with a whopping 20-litre fuel tank! The trade-off is the increased 160kg kerb weight but this is an extremely economical bike that can put the miles in for only £3,499.
If you are someone who prefers a motorbike with a more aggressive design, maybe this offering from Zontes will be the one for you.
The ZT125-U is a futuristic street bike that comes with a more competitive power-to-weight ratio and can be picked up for just £3,299. This model also reduces the fuel tank to a still respectable 12.5 litres but comes in at 20 kilos lighter than the G1.
Last but not least for Zontes, we have the ZT125-U1.
The U1 takes the same setup as the U but gives this motorbike a unique and slick motard aesthetic. And much like with the other Zontes models, the U1 looks amazing and is great value for money, coming in at £3,299 brand new.
And if you are worried about the reliability of these bikes, so far user reviews for Zontes have been rather positive and if that alone doesn’t convince you, they also come with a 2-year warranty agreement.
Sitting Seventh on our list we have KTM.
With the Chinese standouts taken care of, it's time to move over to Europe, and first up is KTM who happen to have an excellent pair of 125cc motorcycles with high spec and cutting-edge design.
Both bikes we have chosen have a unique flavour but utilise the same 14.8bhp single-cylinder engine.
First up for KTM, we have the Duke 125.
The Duke 125 has been on the 125cc motorcycle scene for a while now, and the updated version for 2023 is a real head-turner!
KTM call it the 'spawn of the beast' as it literally looks like a mini Superduke in 125 form. It features WP Apex forks and mono-shock as well as Bybre brakes and dual-circuit Bosch ABS. Despite the high spec and excellent performance it has a surprisingly reasonable price tag of £4,499 - it is definitely still worth considering in 2023.
The second contender on this list for KTM has to be the RC 125.
The RC 125 is KTM's newest 125 offering is a thing of beauty. Futuristic supersport styling with excellent ergonomics and an aerodynamic fairing make it a whole different kettle of fish from the Duke.
Even though it utilises the same engine and spec, it features revised engine mapping and improved torque for even more performance. The clip-on bars can actually be raised by 10mm if you want a more comfortable ride position and despite its performance focus, it still offers decent fuel economy.
6. Husqvarna Svartpilen 125
The Husqvarna Svartpilen 125 takes the now tried and tested engine used in the KTM Duke and reforges it with a cutting-edge, neo-retro visual design.
That isn't the only thing it borrows either as it features the same steel trellis frame, Bybre brakes, WP Apex suspension, and 2-channel Bosch ABS.
With such a great baseline we know it will perform well and what makes it completely unique are those fantastic looks. This is a bike that's almost a work of art, the future and the past combining into something altogether new.
And if you want to know about the Husqvarna Svartpilen 125, you can head over to our 7 things to know article!
Moving on to one of the most respected and venerable names in the 125cc category, we have Aprilia!
The legendary RS 125 has been the stuff of teenage dreams for 30 years now and despite losing its ferocious 2-stroke power, the modern 4-stroke version is still a great choice. If you're not into supersport motorcycles, its excellent DNA now comes in street bike and motard form as well!
The RS 125 received an update last year and might just be the best-looking 125cc motorcycle in the category. It perfectly copies the design of the RSV4 and will fool a lot of people into thinking it's a larger machine than it really is.
Still, the RC 125 has great big bike proportions with a nice 140" rear tyre, Brembo brakes with 2-channel Bosch ABS and 14.8bhp performance means you have a serious bit of kit on your hands for a reasonable price of £4,850.
Much like quite a few of the motorbikes on this list, we have reviewed the RS 125, so once you're finished with this article why not take a read?
The Tuono takes the same Euro 5 single cylinder 4 stroke engine as the RS, along with its high spec components, and re-presents them in a street bike design.
The Tuono 125 takes inspiration from its bigger sibling, the new Tuono 660, and looks phenomenal, weighing in at 144kg. While it isn’t the lightest naked on this list, it has the best aerodynamics, in my opinion, thanks to its small front cowling.
With a price tag of £4,600, I truly believe this will be a strong contender for 2023.
Last but not least, the last entry for Aprilia has got to be the SX 125.
The SX 125 again takes the base RS engine and puts it into a slick Motard design, and as you would expect with Aprilia, the visuals are outstanding and look very high quality for what is essentially their budget option.
With a price of just £3,850, this could be quite a bargain for anyone who loves the supermotard style.
Now we've seen Europe's best and most stylish, let's finish up with good old Japan, which has long produced some of the best and most reliable models on the market.
Kawasaki returned to the 125cc category in 2019 with a pair of excellent offerings in the form of the Z125 and Ninja 125. For 2023 there are no mechanical updates but both these bikes get tasty new colour schemes and are still strong offerings in the category.
Featuring the same Euro 5 liquid-cooled, single-cylinder engine with a maximum output of 11kw (equating to 14.8bhp), these bikes sit right at the top of CBT allowance as far as raw power goes…
Our first choice from Kawasaki has got to be the Z125.
The Z125 is Kawasaki's mean-looking street naked and alongside the classic black and green, it now gets a gorgeous Pearl Storm Grey colourway for 2023. Combined with the bright green frame and detailing, this thing is an absolute head-turner.
In terms of tech features, aside from ABS, Kawasaki has kept things pretty minimal but the result has meant this bike has a very attractive £4,299 price tag - with an extra £100 for the storm grey colour scheme.
The Ninja takes the same basic setup as the Z and adds fairings and a sporty ride position. The Ninja is 2 kilos heavier than the Z, but the improved aerodynamics should make for excellent performance and handling.
Despite having the same engine as the Z125, the Ninja has been fine-tuned to deliver its peak power at 10,000rpm, so it should feel more like an authentic high revving supersport.
One downside to the Ninja has to be the lack of tech in comparison to others on this list. However, stripping the tech back for this bike has meant that Kawasaki can bring this out on the market at a respectable and accessible £4,699 price tag.
Next up on the list, earning one of the top spots we have Suzuki!
Suzuki has taken a similar route to Kawasaki with their 125 options, providing both the faired GSX-R 125 and street naked GSX-S 125 as relatively minimalistic motorcycles with more accessible prices.
The legendary GSX-R1000 may have been discontinued in European markets from 2023 but you can at least get this little 125 supersport with all the classic styling the range is famous for.
Fully faired and light as a feather, this 137kg motorcycle still has the maximum 14.8hp and remains one of the most formidable bikes in the class. And despite its clear sports focus, Suzuki reckons the GSX-R can do 117mpg, so it could be a surprisingly economical buy too!
The GSX-S 125 takes the same high revving liquid-cooled single cylinder engine as the GIXER, and repackages it into an attractive street bike.
The addition of a belly pan adds to the substantial big bike looks and feel, while still remaining one of the lightest motorcycles on this list at 135kg. The GSX-S has great performance and great value for money, sitting at the £4,499 price point.
2. Honda CB125R
Up next for our Japanese manufacturers is Honda.
Our Japanese titan, Honda's impressive CB125R is getting four new colourways for 2023, on top of its already excellent visuals and performance. The CBR also comes equipped with the maximum 14.8hp and weighs just 130kg wet, meaning that the power-to-weight ratio is outstanding.
With Showa 41mm USD forks, a large 296mm front disc with a radial-mount Nissin 4-piston caliper, and an extra fat 150" rear tyre, the CBR 125 really captures the big bike feeling better than ever and for an excellent price (£4,599).
Taking the last position on our list, here we have Yamaha!
Yamaha has been producing some of the best 125cc motorcycles in the world for quite some time now and I don't expect anything to change in 2023.
The first thing to talk about is Yamaha's excellent 124cc engine, a fully Euro5 compliant, liquid-cooled single cylinder with a 14.8hp output. That means it sits right at the top of CBT allowance and combined with some of the best power-to-weight ratios in the category, all of these bikes are top performers.
Perhaps the key to their success is the VVA technology which is utilised on all three of the selected models. VVA stands for Variable Valve Actuation and basically allows the engine to adjust its valve timing as you accelerate by swapping to a second intake at high revs. The result is smooth and continuous pull across the entire rev range and having tested the XSR back in 2021, I can confirm this works an absolute treat!
Now let's look at the models...
The MT125 is Yamaha’s aggressive 125 street bike, providing us with beautiful neo-Japanese visuals, backed up with an excellent big bike feeling thanks to its full-size frame and fat 140-inch rear tyre.
You can expect slick gear changes, light levers and agile handling as well as smooth 70mph plus performance from the MT125, all for the price of £4,900.
XSR 125 Legacy
The 2023 edition comes with some lovely new black and gold visuals that match its larger siblings in the range even more closely than ever before.
The R125 has been a huge seller in the UK for over a decade now and this freshly redesigned 2023 model marks its 4th generation.
Immediately the most striking change is the new aerodynamic bodywork which perfectly imitates the R7. However, despite the race-style bodywork, the new R125 is only 4 kilos heavier than its naked brethren so combined with the improved airflow, this thing is going to be an absolute blast to ride.
The R125 comes packed with a bunch of features including a 5" TFT dash with smartphone connectivity, traction control, R1 inspired high-quality switchgear and Michelin tyres.
The increase in tech does mean that the R125 comes in at £5,300, making it the most expensive on this list - but we’d argue it's totally worth it!
The Last Stop!
So there you have it! Here are my top manufacturers for 2023, ready to take the year by storm.
Which one was your favourite? Make sure to me know in the comment section below!
Last but not least, if you have your very own 125cc motorcycle you need to insure, make sure to get a motorcycle insurance quote direct with Lexham!
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