What are ‘Legal Learners’ and what bikes can they ride?
Once you have completed your CBT training or have a Category A1 Licence, and are 17 years of age, you are able to ride a learner-legal motorcycle up to 125cc with a maximum output of 15hp.
Not to fear if you aren't 17 yet, as if you are 16 with a CBT you can still ride a 50cc moped which is restricted to 30mph.
What should beginners look for in their first bike?
There are a few things beginners should look out for when considering their first motorcycle. Before you even look at specific models, it is important to do your research first...
For advice on how to purchase your first motorcycle, check out our Guide to Buying Your First Motorcycle.
A great thing about 125cc bikes is they tend to have much better fuel economy in comparison to bigger bikes, which is ideal if you are using your motorcycle to commute to and from work (especially with the current fuel prices!). However, for longer or faster journeys they might not be so ideal.
The 125cc market can vary in price massively. So depending on your budget, you can spend as much or as little as you like on your first bike!
A brand new 125cc motorcycle can start around the £2,000 mark for a budget-friendly Chinese model but for a premium Japanese or European model you could be spending up to £5,000
Manual or Automatic?
Whether to go for an automatic (more often a twist-and-go scooter) or manual (more associated with motorcycles) model really depends on personal preference.
One thing to consider is your previous experiences with gears, and whether adding gears and a clutch into the mix could add too much pressure while trying to get to grips with riding a motorcycle.
A second thing to consider is where you live and commute to. If you are someone who lives and commutes in busy or urban areas, an automatic or twist-and-go may cater to your needs slightly better, but really for most people, it is a personal choice.
However, if your 125cc is the first step in your journey onto bigger bikes in the future, getting used to the functions of the clutch and gears early may be a better idea as it will give you valuable experience and confidence.
Regardless of what you choose, twist-and-go automatic or manual transmission, your CBT instructor will be on hand to teach you accordingly. So, if you'd like to learn gears don't be daunted and put off, it might take slightly longer to learn but most people get to grips with manual transmission quite quickly...
New vs. Used 125cc
Well-researched and carefully selected second-hand motorcycles can perform and hold their value just as well as shiny new models.
Japanese and European brands will tend to be more expensive but will hold their value, whereas Chinese bikes tend to land on the cheaper end of the spectrum and struggle to retain their value.
A bonus with new motorcycles, however, is that they come with a manufacturers’ warranty which covers parts and labouring costs. Thus, removing the worry of any hidden costs (especially important for first-time motorcycle owners).
Getting the right fit
When choosing the perfect motorcycle, you should consider your body type as one size doesn’t necessarily fit all, so look out for:
- Seat height
- Bike height
- Bike weight
Seat and bike height: You'll find a typical motorcycle and scooter seat height is around 800mm (but they can vary). Seat height can give you a good indication of whether a bike is accessible for you; for instance, if you are 5' 4 or under a bike with a seat height of 850mm could well be a struggle. It is always important to check out a motorcycle for accessibility.
While seat height is a great indicator, seat width can also play an important factor. For instance, some maxi-scooters have average seat heights, but they are wide so it can still be a struggle for shorter riders to get their feet down. Don’t rush into buying a motorcycle until you know it fits you nicely!
From a comfort point of view too the height and positioning of the bars along with the seating positioning vary vastly, so whereas some are quite neutral seating positions putting little strain on the body, some of the more aggressive and sporty set-ups, can put a little more stress on your back and wrists and can be less comfortable, so these are things to consider.
Bike weight: Most 125s are designed to be easily accessible and user-friendly, so most are a decent weight (with most 125s coming in under 150kg). If you are concerned about weight, always check out the bike in the dealership or in person. If it’s over 150kg this is on the heavier side for a 125, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will be too heavy for you.
Due to the nature of 125cc motorcycles being designed as beginner-friendly bikes, most are accessible, but it is always something to consider. Showrooms will become your best friend, allowing you to jump on a motorcycle and see if it's right for you.
Before getting on your motorcycle, make sure you gear up. The Highway code states that you MUST be wearing a protective helmet. All protective helmets must meet one of the following safety standards:
- British Standard BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI Kitemark
- UNECE Regulation 22.05 standards
- A European Economic Area member standard with at least the same safety and protection as the BS 6658:1985, and must carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark.
When it comes to protective clothing, while it may not be a legal requirement, it is certainly advised that you gear up fully to have the best level of protection.
Motorcycle jackets, trousers, boots, and gloves can help protect you from serious injuries in the case that you have an incident, read our article on the must-have accessories for beginner motorcycle riders for some inspiration.
Best Beginner 125cc Bikes (and Scooters)
OK so we've talked about some of the key aspects to look out for when looking at getting a 125cc bike, but now's the time for some of my recommendations on some of the best beginner 125cc motorcycles.
In no particular order, here are just some of the best beginner motorcycles out there today.
This list includes 7 motorcycles (manual transmission) and 3 scooters (twist and go automatic transmission) to give you a good idea of what is available for beginners.
7 of the best 125cc motorcycles for beginners
KTM Duke 125
The KTM 125 Duke is already one of the best naked 125cc motorcycles on the market, built with the same attitude and aggression as its other naked siblings.
The liquid-cooled, 4-stroke engine packs a punch and delivers a respectable 15hp, making it one of the sportiest and most dynamic options out there for CBT riders.
This urban warrior comes fully packed with all the latest technology such as an LED headlight, TFT display, and built-in smartphone connectivity. The Duke has all the trendy spec and styling to appeal to younger riders.
There is also good news if you want a KTM, but a sports bike is more to your liking. All the best bits of the Duke can be found in its sibling the RC125.
|Engine||125cc, Liquid-cooled, 4-Stroke (15hp)|
|Brakes||Front: 320mm disc, Four-piston radial fixed caliper
Rear: 230mm disc, Single-piston floating caliper
Husqvarna Svartpilen 125
Following on from its bigger brothers, the Svartpilen 401 and 701, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 125 is the newer A1-compliant bad boy on the scene.
The Svartpilen 125 shares the KTM Duke's latest EURO5 DOHC four-valve single-cylinder motor and trellis frame, which we already know is one of the best on the 125 market.
Coming into 2022 with a design refresh, the Svartpilen comes fully equipped with Easy Shift Function, Ride-by-wire-Throttle, Bosch ABS, Led headlights and taillights, and a pretty neat full-colour dash display.
Nimble, lightweight, and reliable. The Svartpilen makes for a perfect beginner motorcycle, with a fairly decent price tag too, coming in at £4,499.
|Engine||125cc, Liquid-cooled, 4-Stroke (15hp)|
|Brakes||Front: 320mm Disc with ByBre, opposed four-piston caliper
Rear: 230mm Disc with ByBre, single-piston floating caliper
The Honda CB125R offers an exciting riding experience for new riders, packed full of performance and style.
Coming equipped with a 124.9cc, liquid-cooled engine that produces a peak of 14.8hp. The Honda is another one with the maximum power output for a CBT-friendly 125, meaning it should be capable of speeds around 70mph.
The CB125R is undeniably specced up too, with an LCD dash, full LED lighting, ABS, and 41mm Showa suspension forks all as standard. Available in four flashy colourways, the Neo Cafe Racer of the Honda family makes a statement on the roads with its bold styling and frame.
Overall, the Honda CB125R makes for a great beginner's motorcycle, but also a great option for experienced riders looking for a cheap little inner-city commuter for a reasonable £4,599.
|Engine||124.9cc, Liquid-cooled, 4-Stroke Cylinder (13hp)|
|Brakes||Front: 296mm disc with hydraulic dual-piston brake caliper
Rear: 220mm disc with hydraulic single-piston brake caliper
Yamaha YZF R125
While the Yamaha YZF R125 is the smallest in the Yamaha R series, it is without a doubt one of the most popular since its arrival in 2008 (it's still in production today, hence its worthy position on our Best 125cc Sports Bike article too!!)
For years now, the YZF R125 has been one of the best 125cc motorcycles on the market. For 2022, the R125 has kept the EURO5 compliant engine, utilising the Variable Valve Actuation (VVA) for smoother, consistent, and responsive acceleration through the rev ranges.
At 144kg, the YZF R125 is nimble and easy to handle, helping to instill confidence in new riders. The YZF R125 also carries over the fully faired styling of the YZR-M1 that features in the MotoGP, giving all the big boy vibes while remaining A1 friendly.
While the Yamaha YZF R125 may not be the cheapest on this list at £5,000, we’d debate that it is certainly worth it.
|Engine||124.7cc, Liquid-cooled, EURO5, 4-stroke (14.5hp)|
|Brakes||Front: 292mm Hydraulic single disc
Rear: 292mm Hydraulic single disc
Aprilia RS125 GP Replica
Originally released in 1993, the Aprilia RS 125 has paved the way for what a 125cc motorcycle can be.
The Aprilia RS125 is a sports bike, appealing to younger riders and beginners with its resemblance to its larger counterparts such as the 1000cc RSV4 RR. The Aprilia RS125’s sporty riding position, with foot pegs and handlebar position, gives the rider total control of the bike.
The RS 125 also matches its peers when it comes to its modern features like its single cylinder 4 stroke engine with fuel injection, led lights, and ABS, with extra details like adjustable upside-down forks, an aluminium frame, and a quick shift gear system.
If you'd rather go for a naked Aprilia, check out the Tuono 125.
|Engine||124.2cc, Single-cylinder, 4-stroke (15hp)|
|Brakes||Front: 300 mm stainless steel disc, 4 pistons radial caliper
Rear: 220 mm stainless steel disc, single-piston caliper
The Kawasaki Z125 is the perfect naked roadster ideal for A1 compliance.
The 125cc liquid-cooled engine gives off the maximum amount of horsepower (15hp) for A1-compliant motorcycles.
When it comes to the bodywork of the Z125, the exposed trellis chassis and aggressive modern styling of the Z125 give homage to its much larger and powerful siblings, making for the ultimate road presence.
The green giants have successfully done it again with the Z125, sitting at just £3,999, making this Kawasaki a great yet affordable option for those on a smaller budget for their first motorcycle.
However, if you are looking for a sportier equivalent, check out the Kawasaki Ninja 125 which is part of our Top 10 125cc Sportsbikes article!
|Engine||125cc, Liquid-cooled 4-stroke engine (15hp)|
|Brakes||Front: Single 290 mm petal disc. Caliper: Dual piston
Rear: Single 220 mm petal disc. Caliper: Dual piston
|Price||£3,999 (Candy Lime Green/Metallic Spark Black)
£4,099 (Pearl Stardust White/Metallic Spark Black)
£4,099 (Metallic Spark Black)
For over 30 years now, the GSX-R line has redefined sports bike performance.
It goes without saying that the Suzuki GSX-R125 is a true sports bike with an excellent power-to-weight ratio and acceleration.
The GSX-R125 weighs 137kg, giving riders control and confidence when manoeuvring around bends, making for nimble and easy handling. And to reflect on its true GSX-R heritage, the GSX-R125 features vertically stacked LED headlights and LED licence lights.
With two standout colourways (metallic triton blue and titan black), the GSX-R125 has maximum road presence while remaining A1 compliant.
While it may be one of the more expensive ones on this list at £4,699, we’d argue that the Suzuki GSX-R125 is definitely worth it when you take into consideration its looks, performance, and high-tech spec.
|Engine||124cc, Liquid-cooled 4-Stroke (15hp)|
|Brakes||Front: Petal Disc
Rear: Petal Disc
The above are our 7 picks for a great beginner 125cc motorcycle, but if you’re looking for a larger motorcycle why not check out:
Now onto my last three recommendations in the form of scooters, which might appeal to those wanting something Twist N Go (automatic)…
3 of the best scooters for beginners
Formally known as the ‘king of commuter scooters’ the Honda PCX remains a bestseller in the UK since its first production in 2009.
Scooters make great beginner-friendly bikes as they remove the stress of having to worry about changing gears, helping you navigate the urban jungle with less stress without having to worry about gear changes.
The latest Honda PCX comes fully equipped with the trademark Honda eSP engine and idle stop-start system to provide faster acceleration and performance while improving fuel economy.
The PCX also boasts an impressive amount of storage space, packed with under-seat storage, and a separate glove box department.
Coming onto the market at £3,599, the Honda PCX is a great and affordable option for beginners or first-timers who are gearing up to get their full licence.
If you want to know more about this scooter, check out our full Honda PCX Euro 5 review!
|Engine||125cc, Liquid-cooled, 4-Stroke|
|Brakes||Front: 220mm Hydraulic Disc with 2 piston caliper
Rear: 130mm Drum
Piaggio Medley 125
This is another must-have, which we also featured in our Top 10 scooters for 2022 article.
The Piaggio Medley perfectly combines sport with elegance.
Powered by a fuel-injected, 4-stroke I-Get engine, the Piaggio gives off 15hp (the legal limit). An added bonus is that the Piaggio I-Get Start & Stop Engine can actually help to reduce fuel consumption—especially helpful as fuel prices seem to only be getting higher!
The Medley is not just a nippy and agile goer, it is also pretty tech savvy too. Coming fully equipped with a new full LED headlight, an advanced LCD instrument cluster, and Bluetooth smartphone connectivity all as standard.
The current price of Piaggio's Medley 125 is £3,500. So combined with its economical features and utility, this is a fantastic commuter scooter well worth considering.
However, if the Medley's price is too much then make sure to check out the more budget-friendly Piaggio Liberty 125.
But if you like what you see, feel free to check out our Piaggio Medley 125 (Euro5) review!
|Engine||125cc, Liquid-cooled, 4-Stroke (15hp)|
|Brakes||Front: 260mm brake disc with dual-piston floating caliper
Rear: 240mm brake disc with dual-piston floating caliper
The Yamaha NMAX is an affordable, efficient yet stylish commuter.
The NMAX 125cc has a liquid-cooled engine that produces 12.2hp with a maximum of 11.2Nm of torque. It is a great 125cc with nice modern styling and a decent spritely engine that is also economical. In fact, there is very little to dislike about this scooter and it’s very similar to the Honda PCX.
For 2022, Yamaha gave the NMAX a sporty refresh. Featuring a twin-eye style LED headlight, built-in position lights, and a front and rear flasher to enhance the premium look and feel.
One of the bonuses when it comes to choosing a scooter over a motorcycle is under-seat storage. And the NMAX has plenty of room to store your helmet and other personal items, making it one of the most dynamic yet practical scooters to date.
We here at Bike Matters have reviewed the Yamaha NMAX, so if you like what you see, check out our full Yamaha NMAX review on YouTube! Alternatively, why not read our written review of the Yamaha NMAX scooter?
|Engine||125cc, 4-stroke, Liquid-cooled (12.2hp)|
|Brakes||Front: Hydraulic single disc
Rear: Hydraulic single disc
So, there you have it, our top 3 picks for a great beginner scooter. If you’re looking for more why not check out:
The Last Stop!
This list represents some of the best options that are currently available to beginners. It is clear to see from this list that there is a massive variation of bikes on the 125cc market today.
Lastly, when it comes to purchasing a new shiny bike, you need to remember to insure it! If you do need insurance on your very own 125cc motorcycle, make sure to get a quote direct with Lexham!
Beginners Guide to 125cc Motorcycles
In this blog, we are going to be running down everything you need to know regarding 125cc motorcycles.Read more