Vintage motorcycles are still as hot as ever and classic Cafe Racer styling can be found even among the 125cc class! Aside from their iconic style, these motorcycles are some of the most accessible on the market.
As long as you are aged 17 or over, they require only a CBT to ride and come with budget price tags and excellent fuel economy. You could save money on your commute and look darn good going it!
If you are looking for something a little bit different for your urban commuter or just some affordable fun at the weekend, there could be a bike here for you.
The History of the Cafe Racer | A Cultural Icon
So where did the term 'cafe racer' come from and why is it such an iconic part of British culture?
The Ton-up Boys of the 1950s and 60s introduced the world to a new style of motorcycle. A stripped-down bike built for performance and speed, the likes of which had only previously been seen on the race tracks.
They would become known as 'cafe racers', due to their passion for racing between London's various cafe hotspots where the latest music could be found and they would influence the global manufacture of motorcycles for years to come - and if you want to learn more about the history of the cafe racers, head over to our in-depth article!
So without further ado, in this blog, we are going to take a look at 7 of the best 125cc Cafe Racers currently available in 2023!
7. UM Scrambler X Cafe
In at number 7 and taking the top spot on this list has got to be the UM Scrambler X Cafe.
The Scrambler X Cafe was released in 2022 and can still be found in showrooms across the UK. This bike is exactly what the name suggests, a neo-retro fusion of scrambler and cafe racer. It has the tuck-roll seat, sculpted tank, and front cowl you might expect from a cafe racer design but with higher bars and scrambler side plates. The result is a somewhat fresh take on the formula that combines two very popular retro styles.
The engine here is an air-cooled single cylinder with a 9.65hp maximum output. The most you can have on a CBT licence is 14.8hp, so it does fall a little bit under the high-end premium models in the 125 category. Fortunately, it is relatively light at 136kg and packs a large 15.5L tank, so the commuting power and fuel economy are going to be great.
There aren't any fancy tech features here, although the vintage analogue rev counter and bar end mirrors are a nice touch. The stripped-down nature of the Scrambler X Cafe is in keeping with this style of bike and it results in a nice budget-friendly starting price of £2,799 and includes a 3-year warranty.
- Cool neo-retro visuals
- Large fuel tank
- A bit behind in terms of pure power
- Won't hold its value as well as some others
6. Lexmoto Tempest GT 125
Next up at number #6, we have the Lexmoto Tempest!
Lexmoto has become hugely popular here in the UK, with their flagship LXR125 becoming one of the biggest-selling sport bikes on the market. For the retro enthusiasts out there, Lexmoto has the Scrambler-styled Tempest and Cafe Racer-inspired Tempest GT 125.
The Tempest GT uses an air-cooled, single-cylinder engine with a maximum 10hp output which, combined with a nice light wet weight of 126kg, offers some respectable 125cc performance. As with most Chinese manufactured motorcycles, tech features are kept to a minimum with a combined braking system over ABS but the result is another bargain price tag, starting at £2,659. The cheapest on the list!
The Tempest GT makes for an excellent beginner bike or an affordable commuter capable of covering around 200 miles on a full tank. The visual design is excellent, with some lovely vintage features that make for a very attractive option.
- Excellent fuel economy
- Cheapest cafe racer on the list
- Good all-rounder
- Not the fastest or best looking in the class
5. AJS Cadwell
At number 5 is another offering from a Chinese manufacturer - the AJS Cadwell.
Being Chinese-built means that this cafe racer aims to be one of the most affordable 125s on the market, while still maintaining some of the legendary AJS heritage in its authentic visual design.
Now we have been lucky enough here at BikeMatters to have reviewed It's sibling the Cadwell Clubman, and I think it is fair to say we were truly impressed. This is a bike that is a Cafe Racer through and through, looking like it stepped straight out of the 1950s. The traditional forward-leaning ride position has been relaxed a little for modern comfort, with slightly raised clip-on bars but everything else is pure vintage, including the classic analogue dials!
The Cadwell's air-cooled single-cylinder engine has a maximum output of 9.7hp which makes it one of the weakest on the list in terms of raw power. However, weighing in at just 122kg with its 11L fuel tank fully filled, it is also the lightest, so the overall performance should still be decent for the class with a 60mph top speed. I already mentioned how affordable this bike is, with a £2,899 starting price, it could be ideal as an economical urban commuter that is packed with retro style.
- Ultra-light 122kg wet weight
- Excellent value
- Great styling
- AJS heritage brand name
- A little low on power
4. Mondial HPS 125
Coming onto number 4, here we have the Mondial HPS 125!
The HPS 125 from Mondial is a neo-retro styled offering, fusing modern street design with classic scrambler and cafe racer elements. The result is a unique bike that, while not the purest cafe racer on the list, is still a beautiful looking bike that will appeal to the new generation while still capturing some of that classic cafe racer spirit.
The HPS 125 is a little higher spec than most of the other bikes here too, with a 13hp liquid cooled engine capable of 70mph top speeds. There are both ABS and CBS (combined braking system) versions available, as well as the slightly more premium Ubialli edition, although with only 40 released in the UK, that version may be hard to come by (you can check out Felix's road test review of the HPS Ubialli for more).
The flip side to having a bit more power and polish is a higher starting price. The standard HPS 125 comes in at around £3,800, making it the most expensive model on this list. However, compared to the top premium bikes in the 125cc class, it could still be considered an affordable option by comparison.
- Unique styling
- Most powerful bike on the list
- ABS versions available
- Most expensive bike here
- Not as traditional as the others
3. Herald Cafe 125
Taking one of the top three spots has got to be the Herald Cafe 125.
Herald have a whole bunch of tasty retro 125 offerings and their Cafe 125 focuses on authentic cafe racer styling, while offering great value for money.
As the name would suggest, Herald have focused on keeping things authentic with clip-on bars, a quilted leather seat and a sculpted tank. The retro visuals are matched by a pair of analogue dials and some cool bar-end mirrors. The overall result is a lovely looking motorcycle that oozes style.
When it comes to power, the Cafe 125 comes in at 10hp and weighs 135kg with its 12L tank fully filled. It isn't at the top end of the performance but is still respectable for the 125cc class. You can buy one of these brand new for £2,895, which makes it great value for money and if you are looking for a cheap commuter or town runabout with a unique and stylish look, this could be worth checking out.
- Excellent authentic style
- Cheap to buy and run
- A little heavier than the others (still light for a 125)
- Not the strongest performance
2. Bluroc Spirit 125
Just missing out on top for me and sitting at number two has got to be the Blueroc Spirit!
The Bluroc Spirit 125 is one of the most gorgeous retro bikes in the class. It captures the authentic Cafe Racer vibe perfectly with its clip on bars, rear set pegs and single person leather seat. The engine is fully blacked out and the two colourways of gold black or racing green both look stunning.
As with most Chinese built bikes, it uses a combined braking system and keeps things simple when it comes to tech features but that suits the retro category just fine. The engine is a 10.7hp air cooled single cylinder, which combined with the Spirit's feather light 127kg wet weight, gives it an excellent power to weight ratio. Even more impressive when you consider it is rocking a 15L fuel tank, so it is another bike that can soak up the miles on your town commute.
Aside from the stunning looks, the other standout feature here is the price tag. All this Chinese simplicity leads to a budget starting price of £2,999. You will be hard pressed find a brand new 125 that looks as good as this one does for less than three grand!
- Gorgeous visuals
- Authentic cafe racer design
- Great value for money
- Not the most powerful
1. Mutt Akita 125
Reining supreme and stealing the show today is the Mutt Motorcycle Akita!
Birmingham-based Mutt motorcycles have produced what is for my money, one of the absolute best looking retro designed 125 motorcycles on the market in their Akita 125. Despite the knobby tyres and low-rise bars, the cafe racer influence is clear and subtle details like the quilted leather seat help to give the Akita a vintage custom look.
The engine is an 11hp air cooled single and despite offering one of the biggest tanks in the 125cc class ( a whopping 17L), the Akita still has an impressively low wet weight of just 129kg. The power to weight ratio is good so expect 60mph cruising speeds and some nice agility if you want to flick it around the country lanes.
Where the Akita 125 really shines, is as a trendy urban commuter, where its excellent economy and gorgeous looks will really stand out. Mutt's offering is priced at £3,650, so it is a little more expensive than some of the other budget options here but still a bargain compared to the premium models in the class. All in all, the Akita 125 has a lot to offer and is well worth a look!
- Full of great detail and style
- Giant 17L tank
- Decent power to weight ratio
- Second most expensive here
- Not the purest cafe racer
The Last Stop!
As you can see, Cafe Racers are a mighty category and even though the 125cc variety may be small, it doesn’t make them any less mighty – I mean you’ve seen the styling on some of them! You’ve heard how we’ve ranked them, now I want to hear how you would. Drop your comments below now!
Before you go, if you're looking for an affordable insurance policy for your motorcycle, Lexham offers a range of policies on everything from 125cc bikes to adventure bikes. So make sure to get a Motorcycle insurance quote direct with Lexham when yout insurance is due!