That is to say, one that is within the prescribed limits of entitlement of a 'Learner' or Provisional Licence.
Directgov website provides its own explanation here: "Motorcycle's You May Ride".
But in essence, a 'Learner-Legal' motorcycle is:-
A Moped, a machine up to 50cc and with a speed not exceeding 50Km/h (aprox 31mph)
A motorcycle, up to 125cc, making no more than 11Kw (aprox 14.5bhp) and with a power to weight ratio no higher than 0.16Kw/Kg.
Put simply, that is it. Though for something SO simple, though, topic generates a lot of rather oblique and bizarre questions! Such as:-
I was looking at mopeds in the dealers, but none of them had pedals, they Cant be Mopeds, right?
I'm a full car licence holder, I have full moped entitlement from it, so can I ride a 100cc 'Ped?
I'm 16 I don't want a scooter, can I 'restrict' a geared 125 and ride that on my moped licence?
My 'ped is SO slow? How do I de-restrict it, now I'm 17?
I was told I can ride a 250 on L-Plates, but my insurance company tell me I cant?
I have bought a Chinese Honda CG150 Copy, it only makes 11bhp, so its learner legal, right?
I have bought a Honda Benley 200. How do I 'restrict' it to be Learner-Legal'?
I'm over 21 & doing DAS so I can ride a 400 on L-Plates, Right? But some-one told me I have to make sure its restricted to 33bhp?
Behind ALL these questions is some naive HOPE that there is some LOOP-HOLE on the law, that will let people have something different. But sorry, NO, there isn't. Rest comes down to rumour and mis-information.
Bottom line is, it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that you have the licence entitlement to ride a motorcycle, AND that that motorcycle is taxed, insured and road-worthy. NO-ONE-ELSE'S! Don't believe ME, don't believe some chap in the pub, on a forum, or college at work who says "Oh! They've Changed the Law" or "Oh, I learned to ride on a Suzuki TS185".
GO CHECK the Directgov website "Motorcycle's You May Ride". Make SURE you know what you can and cannot ride on learner entitlement!
But to explain a few bits of 'rumour'. Before 1973, there was no 'Moped' laws, and a 16 year-old was eligible to ride a motorcycle, up to 250cc on a provisional licence. From 1973, 16 year-olds have only ever been allowed to ride a moped, and you had to be 17 to ride a motorbike.
Until 1982, laws allowed learners to ride machines up to 250cc. Since then, they have been limited to 125cc machines, with strict power limitations. The original UK limit was 9Kw aprox 12.5bhp, but this was raised during EU harmonisation to the current 11Kw/14.5bhp limit in the 1990's.
Meanwhile DAS rules were introduced in the early 1990's. These permit a provisional licence holder OVER 21 to ride almost ANY motorcycle of any power or capacity, BUT ONLY when on a lesson supervised by a qualified and DSA approved instructor. Students CANT legally ride a 'Big-Bike' unsupervised on their own without a full licence.
If you are 16 - you are allowed a MOPED, a machine with an engine less than 50cc and top speed of 30mph. End of. Don't like it, then lump it.
If you are 17 or over - you are old enough to hold a FULL licence. Until you have passed tests to obtain such you MAY ride a Learner-Legal machine. That is a MOPED, or a Motorcycle UP to 125cc and less than 14.5bhp. THAT IS ALL. If you want more; take the tests, get a licence!
Going to start here, because the clarification is useful I think.
A moped has a maximum design speed not exceeding 50 kilometres per hour (approx. 31 miles per hour). It has an engine up to 50 cubic centimetres (cc).
Taken straight from Directgov web-site. THIS is what the government deem a 'Moped'. It comes from legislation, significantly the 'Construction & Use Regulations' (actual LAWS). These define what a 'moped' may or may NOT be, and it has NOTHING to do with the shape of form of the vehicle, and the engine size is only part of the story, and the smaller part at that.
Doesn't matter if the thing has pedals or not, doesn't matter if it looks like a bicycle, a scooter, a dirt-bike, a sports-bike, a cruiser, or a monkey-bike. Doesn't matter if it has gears, or is an automatic; doesn't matter if it is a two-stroke or a four-stroke. ALL that matters is that it has an engine LESS than 50cc and a top speed less than 31mph
ALL these are MOPEDs
(LEFT: Traditional 'Pedel & Pop' MIDDLE: Step-Through-Commuter RIGHT: Contemporary 'Scooter' AKA a 'Ped)
So are these MOPEDs
(LEFT: 50cc 'Cruiser' MIDDLE: 50cc 'Dirt-Bike' RIGHT: 50cc Sports-Bike)
these are also MOPEDs
(LEFT: 'Traditional' Scooter MIDDLE: 'Retro' Scooter RIGHT: Err... well, its still a moped! A 3-wheeled one! With a roof!)
And THIS lot are MOPEDs
(LEFT: 50cc 'Street-bike/Commuter' MIDDLE: 'The Monkey-Bike RIGHT: The legendary 'Fizzy' FS1E 'motorbike with pedals' )
If it can go FASTER than 31mph, it is NOT a MOPED!
Just because it says 'Moped' on the log-book, does NOT make it so! If it has been bored out to more than 50cc or tuned in any way, to go faster than 31mph, IT IS NOT, in the eyes of the law, a MOPED!
It is a MOTORCYCLE, and a completely different set of construction & use and MOT regulations apply to it.
"De-Restricting" a moped may make it faster, but it ALSO makes it legally a motorcycle. You CANNOT de-restrict the licence entitlements! (See:- De-Restricted Danger)
OK, so you may be over 17 and hold provisional motorcycle entitlement, you might even hold a FULL motorbike licence to ride ANY motorcycle. So you MAY have entitlement to ride it.
BUT, a Moped is registered on a declaration provided by the manufacturer, that vehicle meets ALL the Construction & Use requirements to BE a moped. If that vehicle is later 'modified' to become a 'motorcycle', it NEEDS to be Re-Registered AS a motorcycle.
This is not impossible, but requires expensive VOSA inspection to requirements for a 'self built vehicle' and for the vehicle class, ie: motorcycle, you are registering to. Requirements under C&U regulations for mopeds are a lot less demanding than for a motorcycle, for example tyres do not have to have minimum tread or speed markings; certain lighting and equipment requirements are reduced. So quite possible that a modified moped would NOT meet standards to be registered as a motorcycle.
But neglect to re-register a modified moped as a motorcycle, and you have a vehicle 'other than described on the registration document'. In other words a 'Ringer', and as such, Police have powers to seize and destroy such vehicles. And ALL you have to do to let them evoke those powers is exceed statutory speed limit for the vehicle type.... 31mph..... and they have PROOF that the vehicle is NOT what is on the log-book!
At that point actual licence entitlement will be the least of your worries; you may have charges of tax fraud levelled against you, taxing the vehicle as a 'moped' not a motorcycle; as well as riding without valid insurance (Insurance will have been provided for the vehicle described on the log book, remember!) as well as exceeding statutory speed limit for the vehicle type, and anything else they can chuck on the charge sheet, BEFORE whether you MIGHT have licence entitlement to ride the vehicle that's NOT what your documents say it is!
Might as well hang a moped number-plate on the back of a Suzuki GSXR1300 Hyabusa, one of the worlds fastest production motorcycles and try and pretend that THAT is the 'moped' registered on the the log book the number plate belongs to! Its NO different! And for what? Waiting a few months to get a motorcycle licence, or perhaps be able top do a whopping 45-50mph instead of the miserly 30 allowed? Not exactly a great reward for the risk really. But up to you.
You have been warned!
I was looking at mopeds in the dealers,
but none of
them had pedals, they Cant be Mopeds, right?
See above. LEGALLY a moped doesn't HAVE to have pedals. As long as it is under 50cc and cant go faster than 31mph, it is a moped. When legislation was originally introduced to the UK, defining a moped in 1972, YES they had to have pedals, AND be capable of being propelled by them. However, the legislation proved rather 'malleable' and manufacturers responded by building 50cc motorcycles, like the Yamaha FS1E or 'Fizzy', with a raucously tuned 50cc engine, that could achieve speeds of over 50mph, with pedals that could be used to (very ungracefully!) propel the machine, but had little latch mechanisms so they could be unlocked from a 'pedalling' position and locked into a 'foot-peg' position. In 1977, to close this loop hole, revisions were made to the construction & use regulations. These abolished the necessity for a moped to have pedals, allowing ANY style of 50cc machine you liked, BUT imposing (then) a strict 3.5bhp power limit and 35mph top speed. (these restrictions have been 'adjusted' during EU harmonisation laws and the speed limit reduced to current 31mph) Consequently, 'Classic' mopeds from before 1977 are quite desirable, as provided they still have their pedals, they are technically still exempt from later C&U imposed speed limits.
I'm a full car licence holder, I have full moped entitlement
from it, so can I ride a 100cc 'Ped?
Many people call modern scooters, of ANY capacity 'Peds. They could call them "George", or "Jillian" for all it matters. LEGALLY to be a Moped, it has to be under 50cc and incapable of going more than 31mph. If its 100cc, its not a moped. If its 35cc and can go 50mph, its not a moped. Its a motorcycle.
You COULD ride a 100cc scooter on the PROVISIONAL entitlement of your car licence, but only once that has been validated by completing a CBT course and getting the DL196 form. See also Do I HAVE to do CBT? Because in all likelihood you would need to do that to 'validate' the FULL moped entitlement of your licence awarded when passing a car test. THEN you could ride a 50cc/30mph 'MOPED' of ANY style you choose, without displaying L-Plates, and you could even carry a passenger, though Mopeds still aren't allowed on motorways; and they CANNOT go more than 31mph, so 'no' if you have full moped licence, you cant 'De-Restrict' it either!
I'm 16 I don't want a scooter,
can I 'restrict' a geared 125
and ride that on my moped licence?
You could, but its probably not worth it. See above. Motorcycles & mopeds are DIFFERENT classes of vehicle in law. To ride a geared 125 on a moped licence, you would have to MODIFY the geared 125 to be a moped. This could technically be done; changing the engine, or doing some complex engineering to reduce the engine capacity, AND making sure that it doesn't exceed power and speed requirements, and THEN paying to have it 're-registered'. The VOSA inspection, to do this costs around £300, so even if you can do all your engineering to modify your geared 125 to become a moped, its probably cheaper to simply BUY a moped! And as provided above, you can have any style you like, it doesn't have to be a 'Pedal & Pop' or twist & go scooter, it can be a full sized and geared 'motorbike' in any of the conventional styles.
My 'ped is SO slow? How do I de-restrict it, (now I'm 17)?
Reverse of above really. A MOPED cannot LEGALLY go faster than 31mph. If it can, whatever it says on the log-book, its NOT a moped, its a motorcycle, and ought to be re-registered as such. Some mopeds are artificially 'restricted' to less than 30mph, and can therefore be 'de-restricted'. Some-times they have speed governors in the ignition, limiting plates in the transmissions variator, or other mechanical or electrical means of limiting the performance to that allowed by European Moped C&U regs. But many do NOT. They are designed from the outset to meet the Moped performance criteria and that's what you get. All motorcycles can be modified though, and most mopeds can often be easily 'suped-up' for more speed. They can be bored out, or fitted with big-bore kits to make the engine's bigger. Many two-strokes can be fitted with big bore kits that will increase capacity to around 60cc, some, maybe including new crank-shafts can take them to 80cc or so. The four-stroke mopeds using Honda 'cub' derived engines, I believe can be fitted with cranks and barrels that will increase the capacity to around 110cc. And you can play with carburettors, ignitions, exhausts and any manner of 'stuff' to make them faster. BUT, same problem; to ride such a beast LEGALLY requires the vehicle RE-REGISTERING under new vehicle class. £300 for VOSA inspection, on top of however much you want to spend on tuning the thing, usually cheaper and easier to just BUY a new bike. (See:- De-Restricted Danger)
I was told I can ride a 250 on L-Plates
, but my insurance company tell me I cant?
No, you cant. The 'Learner-Legal' capacity limit was 250cc, but they changed the laws in 1982! I missed out on being able to ride a 250 on L-Plates by about six years, and I'm a 'granddad'! Yet amazing how 'old' quirks of lore get repeated as though they are still in force!
I have bought a Chinese Honda CG150 Copy, it only makes 11bhp, so its learner legal, right?
No, you cant. The 'Learner-Legal' capacity limit is 125cc. Doesn't matter if its under the learner legal power limit still, it does NOT comply with the Learner-Legal requirements. Same as a 125 that makes more than 14.5bhp. Same 'basic' problem as the CB200 Benley Question, see below.
I have bought a Honda Benley 200. How do I 'restrict' it to be Learner-Legal'?
No, you cant. The 'Learner-Legal' capacity limit is 125cc, and 14.5bhp. CD200 Benley is over BOTH limits, power and capacity. I SUPPOSE it may be feasible to swap the engine for a Honda CB/CM/CD125 engine, which would probably fit, with a little work to match the electrics, but then you would have to 'declare' the modification to your insurance company, and change the registration details, which DVLA MIGHT accept on a local garage 'letter' saying that it is definitely a 125cc engine, but they could demand VOSA inspection. Either way, for the value of old CB200's vs old CB/CD/CM125's its not really worth the hassle.
I'm over 21 & doing DAS so I can ride a 400 on L-Plates,
Right? But some-one told me I have to make sure its restricted to 33bhp?
No, you cant. This is a confusion of a couple of laws. BUT, if you DON'T have a full-licence, then you do NOT have entitlement to ride ANYTHING other than a 'Learner-Legal' 14.5bhp/125cc Machine, with L-Plates, 'unsupervised'.
Does NOT matter how old you are, nor whether you plan on taking DAS route to a full licence. UNTIL you have a full-licence, 14.5bhp/125cc is your LOT.
The 'confusion' comes from the fact that since the mid 1990's, when the introduced the DAS-Scheme, if you take tests on a 125 (no matter how old you are!) your Full-Licence entitlement is endorsed with a two year probationary power limit set at 33bhp. Capacity doesn't matter, just the power. Riders under 21 who were not eligible for DAS, commonly bought 400cc 'sports-bikes' because they were relatively 'cheap' to buy and cheaper to insure than the 600's they were based on, but often making around 60bhp, they had to be artificially restricted to meet the 33bhp licence limit.
I have a mantra, I am fond of repeating!
TIME ON A TIDDLER IS RARELY WASTED!
'Tiddler' is not a derogative, but affectionate term for all 'lightweight' machines, whether they are Learner-Legal or not, but most Learner-Legal machines do firmly fall into the category. And YES they are VERY worth it.
125's basically have two 'functions'. They are a 'Training-Tool' a stepping stone by which you can get some early-miles road experience, and take your bike tests to get a full licence. Or they are low cost utilitarian transport, a way to beat bus-fares; but even in this mile-miser role, 'more' money might be saved, getting your licence and stepping up to just a slightly larger-capacity, NON-Learner-Legal, lightweight Commuter machine.
So if you are getting to know your 'stuff'. Learner-Legals, PRETTY MUCH are really only 'useful' as training tools to get early miles experience and pass tests on, and for THAT they are BRILLIANT.
125's are not often hugely inspiring machines, and its very easy to dismiss them as 'Toy' bikes; especially if you are older, and you think of them predominantly as 'Kiddie-Bikes' for teen-age hooligans! They are also, comparatively expensive for what you actually get for your money, and particularly if your ambition is a 'big-bike' a PROPER Grown-Ups machine; starting out on one can seem rather pointless, expensive, irrelevant & demeaning.
But, contradicting myself slightly; I have held a full licence many many years, owned and ridden many 'big-bikes' in that time, and I STILL own and ride 'Tiddlers'!
TIDDLERS ARE FUN
It's 'something' many longer standing riders also find, re-discovering the joys of a simple, low performance lightweight.
The 'Learner' will usually look at the 'Learner-Legal' offerings; and without much real experience or knowledge, judge them by pre-conceptions and aesthetics. Then they will get to ride one, and for a short while, they will be utterly 'awed' by it.
125's are AWESOME!
SCOFF YE NOT! You wait until your FIRST RIDE! You will be struck with awe, believe me, or you have no soul! Yes, looking at the brochures and the magazines, you see bikes of all shapes and sizes that LOOK truly 'awesome', either their speed, or performance, their looks or simply their shear SIZE, but that is NOTHING compared to the exhilaration of actually RIDING!
And, that 'Awesomeness' lasts, because its not just the shear joy of discovering powered motion, and the rather bizarre nature of doing it on a motorbike that tilts through turns, but because as a newbie, you are on a journey of discovery and its ALL new, all novel, and you will constantly be surprising yourself with new experiences.
It WILL wear off, and at some point that 'awe' drains away to mundanity, as your ability grows, and then will likely to turn to 'frustration' as you realise just how limited the machine's capability is, and you start yearning for something 'more'.
BUT, that 'something more'; when you progress from a lightweight, will NOT be anywhere near AS 'Awesome'.
Here and now, you look at 'big-bikes' and they have the awesomeness you probably don't associate with 125's; but when you get there; when one is a real possibility, not just a dream; you'll have lost half the trepidation towards it, learning on a tiddler, and the 'awsome-ness' will merely be in experiencing that 'little' bit more. More weight, more speed, more acceleration. It wont be the 'whole', "Crikey! I'm actually RIDING!" awesomeness you get from those early miles on a tiddler.
AND, as you progress onto larger bikes; they get more 'serious'. All that 'More' demands so much more 'respect'. Frequently costs more money too! Your attitude and your approach to riding changes. Naturally you will 'mature' as a rider, and for a long while, tiddlers will seem 'demeaning'; but at some point, you WILL look back on that time you spent on a 125, and you will remember the SHEAR JOY, and wonder "where has it all gone?"
Time on a Tiddler is Rarely Wasted. You wont get all that wonderful experience, and simple 'joy' trying to jump in the deep-end, avoiding them! (I tried, I failed and I do NOT regret a moment of my time on L-Plates on a 125!)
Why do I still ride one? Well, rose tinted specs is a big part of it; but another is that 'simple' joy. 125's with limited performance from a little engine, are demanding to ride. ANY idiot can get onto a 'Big-Bike' open the throttle and go very very fast. And modern big-bikes, with brakes, suspension and tyres all up to the standard needed to handle the power and speed the machines have, can go round corners pretty bludy fast too! And all told, they can do it rather TOO easily!
125, with 10-15bhp? That is NEVER going to be 'fast'. Brisk, maybe, not fast. And with a top speed of around 70mph, rather than 170mph, well, you can 'explore the envelope' at slightly more real-world velocities where you are not so at risk of loosing life or licence! And its hard work, getting 'the best' from a tiddler; and consequently it's rewarding, and consequently its a heck of a lot of fun. And as an experienced rider, its a CHALLENGE, that you do not get, or certainly so easily from bigger inherently more capable machines.
And at forty something years old, and a full licence for over two decades, I can almost insure one for free, tax it for less than the price of a bottle of rum, and have an awful lot of VERY 'cheap thrills' on it!
BUT, for you, the Newbie. A LOT of what makes a 125 'fun' for me, an experienced rider, makes them a VERY good training tool for YOU to lay down the core foundation skill-set for your future riding career.
125's TEACH to how to RIDE
I mentioned that with limited performance, you can explore the 'envelope' at real world velocities. A typical 125cc Learner-Commuter, probably only has around 10bhp, and it will usually take a LOT of work to get it to that kind of speed. In fact, just riding across town, through 30 & 40mph speed limits will take a lot of effort. Bike only has 10bhp at peak revs, so to keep it 'hustling-along' you have to work the gear-box and find where the power is. Even on a humble commuter with a more softly tuned and 'tractable' engine!
But let me start at the very beginning, on CBT, and your first wobbly yards of riding. Motorcycles fall over. They have two wheels arranged one behind the other, and its like trying to balance a kitchen knife on its blade! Without a stand to hold them up, or a foot, they fall on their side.
Once they are moving, though, they stay up-right. They attain balance from moving. They are what's known as an 'Auto-stable' vehicle. There are a number of reasons for why and how they do this, and most common explanation is that the wheels act like gyroscopes. This is partly true, and partly not. Bigger part is simple momentum, but I wont debate the physics here.
Once moving bikes balance!
BUT, as a newbie; you will get on and unfamiliar with how and when they start to balance themselves... you will be trying to balance them with your own body weight, and be wriggling around like some sort of nervous tight-rope walker on a loose line!
Most of the bikes wobbling YOU will actually cause. As you lift your foot off the floor, you will have weight in the wrong place, and you will start wriggling to compensate as you put your feet to the pegs, and as the bike responds, you'll wriggle some more to 'correct' it, and that will make the bike wobble some more, so you'll wriggle some more, and so it will go on hopefully the wriggling and wobbling getting less and less, rather than more and more, until you are sort of balanced and the bike is doing the balancing!
I have TWO very important bits of advice for new riders about this;
"LOOK Where you Want to BE!" and "Neat-Feat'!
Briefly, bikes TEND to go where you look; and newbie's will frequently be looking anywhere and every-where BUT where they want to go. Especially when things are getting a bit wobbly! Other is they don't know what to DO with their feet.
And compounding errors, as they transition from the 'stable' state of being stationary, propping bike up with their foot, to the 'stable' state of riding along on 'auto-stability', feet start flapping, as they try and use their legs weight to balance the bike, 'hover' a foot over the floor in case they have to prop it up again, or simply 'hunt' for the foot-rest to put it!
AND, while all this flapping is going on, where do they look? Yup. Down at their feet! So that's where they fall! Where they were looking!
So, early riding tip: keep your head up, look where you want to be, and Neat-Feet. if they ent on the floor propping you up, get'em on the pegs STRAIGHT away. No flapping or paddling. Stops an AWFUL lot of wobbles before they even begin.
The Advantage of Weight
I weigh 14 stone. About 90Kg in new money. I'm no lightweight, but even so MOST motorbikes are heavier than me. There are a few exceptions & I have owned a few of them! But USUALLY the bike will be heavier than the rider. Even a 'lightweight'. Most 125's weigh somewhere around the 125Kg mark, so its close, but bike is still heavier.
If we imagine a see-saw, bike on end rider the other, to make it balance the see-saw has to be pivoted in the middle, closer to the bike to make it balance, so for a small movement of the bike, rider will have to move further, because of the leverage effect. Bigger and heavier the bike in relation to the rider, greater that leverage effect is going to be.
SO, me, 90Kg, sat on little Honda 125 Super-Dream that weighs 125Kg. Little movement or 'wobble' from bike only needs a very SMALL movement for me to correct it. If I am sat on my CB750, that weighs 225Kg, then the leverage effect is almost twice the size. Small movement or wobble on bike, I need to move twice as much weight, or as much weight twice as far, to correct it. Make sense?
OK, turn that the other way around; lightweight bike, you CAUSE a wobble waving your leg around... its going to have TWICE the effect on the bike..... you then have to correct that wobble, and being a bit nervous and clumsy, when you 'over-correct; that too is going to have twice the effect....
IF you were on a bigger, heavier bike to begin with, the bikes greater weight, the mechanical advantage IT has over your clumsy movements and corrections, will have HALF the effect.
THIS is one of the MAIN reasons people say that Big-Bikes are 'Easier' to ride. And to some degree it is true. The greater weight of a bigger bike gives them more 'inherent' self stability, so they are much more tolerant of newbie clumsiness.
HOWEVER, being tolerant of your mistakes ISN'T always 'good'. As a newbie, you WILL make mistakes, and the trick is to MAKE mistakes, LEARN from them, recognise what caused them, and figure out what to do to correct them!
If you are on a big-bike, that naturally damps out your 'clumsy' newbie wobbles, you may not even KNOW you are making a mistake; and you will NOT so easily LEARN what to do to correct them!
BUT, if you can learn to ride on a lightweight, that WILL magnify your wobbles, and MAKE you do something about them, and learn to be 'SMOOTH' and launch a 'little-bike' without wobbling..... CORE foundation SKILL acquired. Get on a big bike, and you can use that skill to be EVEN smoother.
If you jump straight on a big-bike, and never acquire that basic fundamental and 'innate' level of balance and machine control, yeah, you can rely on the big-bike damping out your wobbliness, but at SOME point, you are going to ride into that hole in your skill-set and NOT have the skill to deal with the situation.
The Advantage of Power
Another early CBT exercise, changing gear. 125's do not have very much power. Yamaha YBR125, 10bhp at approximately 10,000rpm. Suzuki GS500, 45bhp at aprox 10,000rpm. The 500 probably has as much power at just 2000 rpm. Yes with probably four times the potential power on hand, you DO need to be more delicate on the throttle of a 'big-bike', but twice the weight, not AS delicate as you think, because it will take almost twice the power to get the same amount of acceleration.
Yamaha YBR125. Makes 10bhp, and needs pretty much all of it to do 70mph. It has low gearing, so that in top gear, the engine IS turning at or near that peak power to be able to go that fast. Suzuki GS500, is capable of about 110mph, and is likewise geared to get there. And in each lower gear, with more power available, across the rev range, it will similarly have taller gearing.
1st gear on a YBR125 will take you to ABOUT 20mph, the engine screaming at maximum revs. 1st gear on a GS500, will comfortably take you to probably 35mph, before the rev-limiter.
So lets try a gear-change. You have to pull away, get rid of the wobbles, accelerating to change-up speed and then: Roll off throttle & pull in clutch; Engage second gear; Match engine revs and balance clutch until 'drive' engaged; Accelerate to new road speed. Simple, hugh?
Well, yeah, ish! But it takes some co-ordination. AND that moment when you roll off the throttle and pull in the clutch to start the shift, the bike is 'coasting'. Only thing that is keeping you moving is 'momentum'. And momentum is an interesting 'thing'. Its Weight, multiplied by Speed.... and its ACTUALLY momentum that gives a bike it's 'auto-stability'. So lets do this gear-change on a bike.
GS500, your gear-change comes at about 30mph. So you accelerate to speed, and have plenty of time to get any 'launch' wobbles into check, which ought not be too big a problem, with the greater 'damping' mass of the bigger bike. You then have a LOT of momentum as you pull in the clutch, so you wont loose very much speed very quickly if you take your time over the change, or 'miss' the gear and find neutral instead, and PLENTY of time, to rev the engine, wonder what's happening and try again, before the bike is going so slowly, you fall over. You also have PLENTY of power available at low revs. So IF you do loose a lot of speed, you can STILL change up to 2nd gear, and have enough power available at whatever speed you are going to not stall, AND carry on accelerating.
Lets try this on a YBR125. Change up comes at maybe 15-18mph. You have barely half the speed and a QUARTER the momentum you would have on a 'big-bike'. So when you haul in the clutch and start 'coasting', you will loose speed a LOT more quickly. If you miss the gear, by the time you have revved the engine, and realised its not pushing you along.... you have probably stopped moving! But even if you haven't; if you take a little too long changing gear, you could easily have slowed down enough that you are NOT travelling fast enough that the engine has to power to keep you moving, or to let you accelerate after you have made the change, and you either stall, or you have to change back down again.
Meanwhile, the lighter bike, without the 'damping mass' is going to be pitching and wobbling from all your clumsy movements trying to get the plot together, where the bigger bike, would smooth them all out.
AGAIN; the bigger bike is easier to ride, but NOT doing such a good job of 'Teaching' you to ride, and attain the co-ordination, smoothness and precision, and glossing over a CORE foundation skill that would put you in good stead in future riding.
Learning to REALLY RIDE
And it carries on like this. On the road, on a bike bike, with greater reserves of power and speed, and a more forgiving ride; when it comes to cornering, you don't HAVE to go fast through them. You can use the brakes hard to slow right down, then use the power to accelerate hard out again. What we call 'Squidding'.
On a tiddler, without the luxury of an excess of power, you have to make best use of what you have, and to make good progress, not just 'go fast', you cannot afford to be so 'timid' through the corners. If you brake too much for the corner, you don't have to be so precise and tidy picking your line, or so brave leaning the bike over, BUT, without the power to pick that speed back up again, you will be going more slowly come the next bend, and you will NOT make good progress.
That 'challenge' to make progress and hold a sensible road speed; and I'm not talking fast roads and breaking speed limits, merely not holding up traffic on a National-Speed limit country road, you HAVE to acquire forward planning, you have to develop 'tidy' riding habits, and pay attention to corners and picking swift, smooth, safe lines through them.
All this builds confidence in what a bike can do, GOOD core foundation skill-sets, that stand you in good stead for future riding career, and good habits of using them.
This is NOT about passing the bike tests and getting the licence. Standard required for that is not particularly demanding. Tough, yes, but people can pick it up quick enough. Tests is more about attitude and observation and management than machine control. THIS is about getting the skills that will let you RIDE a bike, rather than merely being a passenger holding onto the twist grip.
And 125's are probably THE best thing to do that.
OK, well presuming you have no interest in mopeds and skipped straight past them, or have read that bit, but are still a bit vague on what the different kinds of motorcycle there are, let me explain a few of the different 'genre' or 'styles' to you.
Basically, in law, a motorcycle is a vehicle with two-wheels arranged one behind the other, and an engine. Mopeds are specifically a motorcycle with an engine displacement less than 50cc and top speed under 31mph. So ANYTHING else is a motorcycle! And they come in ALL sorts of shapes, sizes and styles, with varying price tags, new or used.
And, for a Newbie, I have absolutely NO hesitation recommending a 'Commuter'. I have quite a few, recommending anything else, though!
So lets have a look at the main 'genre's of what's out there, and WHY I put the commuter top of the list.
This is the Yamaha YBR125 Its a 'Traditional' styled motorcycle. It has large wheels, the engine in the middle, and a petrol tank and seat over the top. And my No.1 Top-Choice for a Learner-Legal motorcycle.
It is a no-frills 'Street-bike', designed to have an all-round practicality. And is defined more by what it DOESN'T have, than by what it does!
It does not have expansive bodywork or fairings, either for touring comfort or high-speed aerodynamics.
It does not have an expanse of chrome or decoration, like a 'cruiser', nor fitted luggage like a tourer (though many owners fit after-market racks to carry luggage)
It does not have the tall seat, long travel suspension or knobbly tyres of a dirt-bike or 'off-road' motorcycle.
It does not have the 'crouched' riding position of a sports-bike, or the laid-back riding position of a 'cruiser', it has a 'conventional' seating position, with relatively level handlebars;
In short, its what I said at the start, a traditionally styled, 'no-frills' road-bike, and capable, 'all-round' machine.
For the Learner These things are MADE of pure 'win'. They are simply the BEST tool for the job, and they have very few down-sides. so I'll start with them!
What's not so great about Learner-Commuters? They are rather 'boring', and depending on your taste, possibly old-fashioned and 'ugly'. Yup. I think that just about covers it all! They MAY be a little less 'sprightly' than more sporty Learner-Legals, but hey. NOTHING with less than 15bhp is going to be astoundingly 'fast'!
The good things about them?
RUNNING COSTS. This type of bike TEND to be the cheapest to own and represent the 'best' value for money.
Generally they fall into the lowest insurance groups for the class. Insurance is a volatile thing, and prices vary hugely on circumstance; but the humble learner-commuter consistently attracts lower premiums. 125's are generally 'loaded' as a class in insurance stakes, because so many are crashed by learners, and they are more 'stealable'.
Mentioned earlier that I can almost insure one for 'free', because my circumstances mean I benefit from fairly low premium loadings to begin with. And in fact on one policy, I can actually insure a second bike 'for free'. However, when evaluating insurance deals and options; insuring the 125's, prices for the CB125 Super-Dream were not a LOT different to insuring the CB750, while my Yamaha DT125, because its a dirt-bike and a 'fancy' 125, was actually more expensive. Same rider, same security, same address, same cover, same bike value.
If you are a more mature new-rider, then the difference may not be that great; especially if you have a garage and don't intend using the bike to commute to work, but if you are a 17 year-old, and its you sole means of transport, differences can be HUGE, and choosing a Learner-Commuter, for all its 'boring' nature, can be the difference between being able to put petrol in the thing or not!
The fuel consumption of the Learner-Commuters tends to be pretty good. Some of the spec-sheets claim well over 100mpg for many of them, though in the real world and in newbie use, this is probably only best taken for 'guidance'. They achieve 'best' mpg, chugging along at 40-50mph, but ask them to do more, and it can take a hefty knock! Newbies will also generally not ride for best economy, and they will frequently spend a significant amount of time, pottering around 30mph suburban streets practicing manoeuvres and gear changes, working the bikes fairly hard, not going very far. And again, the fuel consumption will tend to fall. Often real world 'average' mpg for a 100mpg bike will be around the 70mpg mark. Which is still good. If you have a 'sports' 125 that has a book figure of 70mpg to start with, Newbie use can see that fall to something my car would only 'just' be proud of! More so if its a two-stroke, that takes a litre of expensive two-stroke oil for every 50l of petrol! Petrol is currently £1.40/l, and a litre of good quality synthetic two-stroke can be around £20. That puts the fuel price up by 40p/l of petrol!
Maintenance on these bikes also tends to be not too demanding, and consequently relatively cheap. ALL bikes need maintenance, and parts do need adjusting, and periodically replacing when they wear out. Learner-Bikes and 125's in general live hard lives. See feature 125's - Live Hard, and good maintenance is important. Keeps the machine in 'best' condition, which makes it faster, safer, and long term, usually costs less. These bikes, usually with four stroke engines in a low state of tune, are pretty robust. They tend to like the oil changed frequently and their tappets adjusted regularly, along with oiling and adjusting the drive chain and cables. But other than that, they are fairly unsophisticated, and there is nothing very complicated or demanding needed. They don't have too many moving parts in their suspension to be cleaned and greased for instance, and you don't have to remove half an acre of body-work to get at and check the spark-plug or anything.
And if, or more likely WHEN, you Crash, again, there is little that is likely to be badly damaged by a low speed tumble. More sporty bikes, can be something of a liability here, and scratching a faring panel, or breaking an integrated mirror, can be rather expensive to repair. On these bikes, there is a minimum of bits to break, and what may, is usually fairly cheap and easy to fix; like handlebar levers, mirrors, maybe an indicator.
And Finally on the costs of ownership; these bikes tend to be cheaper to buy than more inspired offerings, and hold their value better. Often said, these bikes can often cost you NOTHING, selling for much what you bought them for, if you look after them.
Economically they simply deliver the MOST newbie-biking for your buck.
Meanwhile, their no frills design, means that they are EASY to ride and One size pretty much fits all. Often hear people grumbling that they are of larger build or more petit, and so they want a cruiser for its low seat height, or a Dirt-Bike for its tall one. I get to those ideas later. Thing is that these bikes have an absolutely NEUTRAL riding position, they are like a dining chair, and they fit almost any-body REASONABLY well.
But it is the 'boring' that makes them great learner-bikes. The neutral riding position provides good balance and very good 'control'. There are almost NO compromises to making these bikes as EASY to ride as they can be. For example, the gear-lever on sports bikes or cruisers, is often connected to the selector shaft on the engine by convoluted arrangement of rods and joints. With play in the actual gear lever pivot, then in each joint of each link, to place the gear-lever where needed for the 'jockey' riding position of a sports-bike, or the 'lancer' riding position of a cruiser, you DON'T get such direct 'Feel' for what is going on when you change gear, as on a commuter, that usually has the gear-lever on the end of the actual selector shaft going into the engine, DIRECTLY.
When you are trying to learn to change gear smoothly, and finding lots of false neutrals, things like this just eliminate completely unnecessary variables from the equation!
Many other features of alternative machines are the same. For instance, Dirt-Bikes, usually have quite sophisticated 'long travel' suspension designed to soak up big bumps over rough terrain. This can be rather 'squishy' and vague and not give you a lot of feed-back about what the bike is doing. More sophisticated suspension on a 'Sports' bike, can be similar, though a lot firmer. Where the unsophisticated suspension on a Commuter bike, will generally start getting a bit 'bouncy' if you are a bit silly with the bike, and let you know long before its a problem, its struggling to do what you ask of it!
Getting to and from work, or college? Manoeuvring through city streets? These bikes offer very good visibility, from the uncompromised riding position. They also offer you good control, and balance. And they are reasonably comfortable, even for longer journeys.
While for Training & Test manoeuvres, they are almost perfect. Light, manoeuvrable, manageable. They make it as EASY as it can possibly be for you, to learn AND do.
So, if you accept that a 125 is JUST a 'Stepping Stone', a training tool to help you get your early-miles experience, and get your licence with, and it is NOT your once and for-ever, must do everything, and look like you want a bike to look like, 'dream' bike, REALLY you need not look any further. Consistently, they are the cheapest machines to do the job, AND the most suitable, and uncompromised for the task.
Anything else, is going to cost you more, and do less for you.
Foot Note; the 'modern' test requirements demand a 'full' 125cc machine, meeting DSA Performance criteria. IF you wish to take tests on your own bike, then you need to ensure you buy one that meets DSA requirements.
In years past, you could test on any machine (that wasn't a moped!) up to 125cc, but many 125's had to be artificially 'restricted' down to the Learner-Legal power limits. 100cc Learner-Commuter machines were often as or nearly as powerful, cheaper to buy and cheaper to insure, and until the test requirements were changed in the mid 1990's far more popular.
If you DON'T want or need to take tests on your own bike, or want to investigate potential 'savings'; older sub 120cc machines CAN be a bargain, especially for an older rider wanting a bike to get some early miles riding under their belt, and maybe some low cost training, before doing a DAS course. For a seriously budget minded youngster, savings on the price of such a bike, are likely to be rather dented by needing to hire a school-bike for the actual tests, but may still be possible.
The Yamaha YBR125. It is currently the 'bench-mark' 125cc Learner-Commuter, a no-frills, utilitarian motorcycle, with 124cc four-stroke engine, developing a peak power of about 10bhp, quite a bit beneath the maximum permitted by the Learner-Regulations, but still enough to propel this little beauty to around 70mph.
And I have few qualms about recommending one to ANY new rider. A Favourite of Motorcycle Training Schools, they are pretty much the BEST all-Round package for a Learner-Bike.
Brand-New, the YBR is the cheapest 125 Commuter from the more reputable and better supported 'Big-Four' Japanese Brands, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, & Yamaha. It has a list price of £2300 (as 2012), £200 less than rival Honda CBF125, though neither Suzuki or Kawasaki have an offering in this sector currently! (Though I often See Suzuki EN125's offered, occasionally cheaper, though not in the official Suzuki UK Catalogue, I suspect these are 'Parallel' Imports)
The YBR is built in China, which accounts for why they can offer these bikes for half the price of the more inspiring 125's, as well as their slightly less durable quality of fit and finish.
There are many 'Chinese' 125 Commuters on the market which are often half the price again, or even less. But, they Yamaha is MUCH better value for money! (See:- Chinese Bikes they cant be THAT bad, Surely?)
Its finish is not wonderful, but it doesn't seem to dissolve in the British rain, as so many Chinese bikes do! Its built to Yamaha's standards of Quality Control, which, for a 'budget' commuter have to be lower than on their more 'aspirational' models such as the R6 & R1 sports-bikes or their popular Virago series of cruisers. BUT, for your money you DO get a reliable, dependable machine, with the full quota of performance you might expect, backed by a 'proper' warranty, a widespread and well established dealer-support-network, and a healthy 'after-market' support network.
If you need new brake pads for a YBR, you can drop it into a franchise dealers and they'll probably replace them on the spot. If you took it to an independent mechanic, they would probably ask you to leave it with them and have it fixed in a day or so. Or if you want to DIY your own servicing; you could call any of the main mail-order emporiums and they would find the parts you need in their listings, from the model name and year, and probably despatch your bits the same day.
THIS kind of thing is IMPORTANT for a Newbie. When you are on the bottom of a steep learning curve, last thing you want or need is extra hassles. YBR eliminates an AWFUL lot of them!
If you buy a 'generic' Chinese bike, even brand new, if anything goes wrong, and its very likely, then you could be all on your own trying to work out how to fix it, because they often dot have any franchise dealer support and many independent mechanics simply wont deal with them, because they are too much trouble.
Only REAL niggle, with a brand-new YBR is the cost of 'depreciation'. That £2300 motorcycle, moment you wheel it out of the dealers show-room, will only have a second hand value of about £1800. At a year old, it will probably still be worth most of that though, and at two years old ought to still command prices around £1500, and at three years old around £1250.
That initial hit of depreciation CAN seem pretty hefty; BUT, nothing compared to buying a £1600 Generic Chinese bike, whose value will probably be barely £600, the moment you open the crate! SERIOUSLY! But that's nothing compared to a £4500 YZF-R125, that will probably be worth as little as £3200 as soon as you wheel it out the dealers!
ALL motorcycles depreciate in value. BUT the YBR holds its value fairly well, certainly better than the more expensive Japanese brand bikes, and an AWFUL lot better than the Chinese bikes!
BUT You are NOT just buying the bike, you are buying the SUPPORT that comes with the brand, and for a Newbie, that is worth a LOT.
Buying Second Hand though, you could be laughing. My TOP recommendation for a learner bike, is a three or four year old Yamaha YBR125.
All 'new' motorcycles are exempt from MOT inspection until the third anniversary of their registration. See 125's - Live Hard. An AWFUL lot can happen to a bike in that time!
For a newbie, who PROBABLY has never bought a motorbike before, a 'fresh' MOT offers a fair bit of confidence that some-one who knows what they are looking at has had a good poke and prod at it, and deems it road-worthy!
And a machine that is eligible for its MOT, will be old enough that the first owner, or owners have taken the biggest 'hit' of depreciation on the dealers show-room price tag, and you will be looking at a bike with an asking price around half the original show-room price. YET, it ought to still look pretty neat and tidy and 'new', and while half price, have MORE than half its useful service life still in it, and still be pretty 'tight' mechanically, so it will ride nicely, and prove reliable and pretty economical, and in the time you are likely to own it, ought not need any particularly major, difficult or expensive repairs.
If you buy an older bike, perhaps six years or more; chances are while you save on the buy-price, you will have a bike that has a lot less service life left in it, that has been owned and ridden by more 'clumsy' newbie's, and is due, if not over-due, for a lot of remedial maintenance that is likely to cost you more than you save, as well as give you un-wanted 'hassle' into the bargain.
Buy older still, scraping the dregs at the bottom of the 'Bargain' barrel, then again, you are likely to find you have a machine that costs you more to make and keep serviceable than it is worth, and for the upfront 'saving' proved more expensive in the longer term, AND gives you a lot more hassle and problems along the way.
The three-four year old Freshly MOT'd Yamaha YBR125, is REALLY the 'accountants favourite'. It Does the job, for overall, least cost, least hassle and maximum functionality.
Harp on elsewhere about 'Cool-Riding'. Like cool-jazz; Maximum effect for minimum effort. On same basis, the Yamaha YBR125 is probably the 'coolest' 125 on the streets.... if you can get past the 'Boring-ness' of it! But what the heck, its ONLY a stepping-stone, its NOT a once and forever bike!
It really does set the standard for everything else, and I have few qualms telling people to look no-further, and just 'do it'. I don't like the expression 'You cant go wrong'... people will always find new and innovative ways to err... BUT, starting out, the YBR125, new or used, is a PRETTY good way to go, and is a pretty tough all-round package to 'better'.
There are alternatives, though, its NOT the one and only; but alternatives are few. Closest rival, is the Honda CBF125, which being a Honda is slightly more expensive, but in this case only by a couple of hundred quid. And comparison is almost down to hair-splitting to decide which might be 'better', and isn't worth the arguing.
In the second hand market, the Honda CG125 was the CBF125's predecessor and a firm favourite. See:- The Legendary Honda CG125. Its NOT a bike I can easily recommend these days. Mainly because the Yamaha YBR is its 'Spiritual Successor', and is doing everything that the CG used to, while the CG is selling on its reputation and 'cult' status, and NOT doing the job anywhere near as well or as cheaply any more.
The Suzuki GS125 is a similar age rival, of similar merit, while its successor, the EN125, built down to a price I believe in Spain, was another, until it was dropped from the official UK Catalogue. Though, these are fairly close rivals, in the older second hand market, ultimately, the condition and price of any individual machine would be more of a deciding factor that the actual make.
The Yamaha YBR, then sets the 'standard' by which others might be judged. Whether they are alternative 'Learner-Commuter' machines, or bikes of other genre's.
Its a known quantity, a very well optimised all-round, and VERY good Value-For-Money package, and is highly recommended; and it DOES THE JOB. You might NOT need to look further, but bear it well in mind if you do!
This is a Peugeot Speed-Fighter. A contemporary 'Scooter' and favourite of modern 'Ped-Boi'
I really CANNOT recommend a Scooter as a 'Learner' motorcycle.
The more usual defining features of a scooter are; small wheels, a 'step-through' style frame, usually with the engine at the rear of the machine. Enclosed or enveloping body-work, usually with 'foot-board' area for the feet, rather than foot-pegs.
And, these days, most usually with an 'Automatic' transmission.
The evolution of the 'Scooter' as we know it today, dates back to the 1950's and the Classic 'Vespa'. This was conceived as a utilitarian lightweight commuter machine, significantly for a 'non-enthusiast' market.
I apologise to true Scooter enthusiasts in advance, but this is significantly still the consumer that these machines are most bought by.
'Ped-Boi', the track-suit clad teenager, darting in and out of traffic, and doing wheelies outside the chip shop, is far too common to be a 'minority'. As is the 'Dumb BMW Driver' who has found a way to beat the congestion charge! Attitudes towards motorcycling amongst scooter riders, and standards of riding are, on the WHOLE tend to be very poor.
This is significantly because they are 'Learner-Legal' and CAN be ridden on a 'Learner-Licence' without taking tests, but do little to let you take those tests and get a full licence, mainly because of their (usually) automatic transmission.
In the UK, if you take and pass motorcycle (or car!) tests on an automatic, or 'semi' automatic, then that is noted on your pass certificate, and your Full-Licence entitlement is endorsed with the restriction 'Automatic Only'. Ie you may ride any capacity of machine you like, but it cannot have a manual gearbox.
So BASICALLY passing tests on an auto scooter, would limit you to only ever being able to ride automatic scooters, most of which you can ride on L-Plates anyway.
See comments under I don't see the point in getting a licence; why should I bother? Many new riders buy scooters with absolutely NO intension of taking motorcycle tests, planning on riding purely on 'Learner' entitlement. I comment here WHY that is NOT a great idea, yet it is a very prevalent attitude amongst scooter riders, and I have no doubt one of the reasons why scooters contribute SO great a proportion to the light-weight and Learner-Rider accident statistics.
Scooters CAN be a useful way to get around town, but they were almost conceived as a 'bad-joke' with ALL the features you WOULD NOT want to make a 'good' stable motorcycle.
I have been shouted down by scooter fans many times over the years that 'modern' scooters are a far cry from the 1950's Vespa, and have much better suspension and chassis and I ought not be so dismissive of them. BUT, that does NOT change the fact that from the very beginning, they are a VERY compromised design, and one that is NOT be the best to provide a beginner with confidence.
Their little wheels, can make them very nimble and manoeuvrable, but at the same time, they can be rather nervous and 'wobbly', which if you are a bit wobbly as a beginner, can be un-nerving.
Automatic transmission eliminates one common 'difficulty' getting to grips with riding, throttle & clutch control and manually changing gears, but this also means you don't LEARN how to change gears or manage clutch & throttle, and impedes your ability to get a useful licence, testing on one.
The small wheels and limited suspension, also don't do a lot to make them comfortable and stable, while the perverse weight distribution, gives them some notable handling quirks. They lack ground clearance for cornering for one, but with little weight on the front wheel, their cornering 'grip' is significantly compromised, which also makes itself known in braking, significantly emergency braking situations.
They are easy to ride, but I also feel, they are rather TOO easy to fall off!
And if you want to get onto two wheels, the Scooter, has an awful lot of short-comings that will hold you back, and they do not really present themselves as a great way to learn to ride, nor get your licence.
They do have a few advantages, that they are often cheap and readily available. Sometimes cheaper to insure than conventional motorcycles, and commonly, have quite low maintenance demands.
However, when they do need maintenance, or worse repair, they can prove troublesome. So much 'mechanics' out of sight out of mind behind the enveloping body-work, they can easily be neglected, and when they need attention, it can be difficult to get to and sort out!
Personally I DO NOT recommend a Scooter as a 'Learner-Bike'
For a 16 year old to get some early-miles road experience with a 50cc moped version, they have some small merit. Beyond that, they are, to my mind, best suited for the non-enthusiastic, disinterested commuter, with no intension or ever gaining a licence or progressing to anything else. But even then, if they had any sense, they would get trained and take a test, even if it was only for an A1 125 only licence with Auto-Only endorsement! At least then they would be a 'qualified' hazard rather than an unqualified one!
Mentioned they exist. The 'traditional' Vespa, and its copies or licence built clones, is the only one I really know of, still in production. And even then, I have a feeling that in recent years Learner-Legal versions may have become auto, or the manual version only be a 'option'. Many 'Classic' Scooters, such as the Lambretta had manual transmissions though.
BUT, this only removes ONE of the more significant impediments to the scooter as a Learner-Bike. And yes you could take tests on a geared Vespa PX125 and get a full motorcycle licence, same as if you took tests on a Yamaha YBR125, but it would probably be easier and cheaper to do it on the Yamaha!
Geared Scooters have a few peculiarities; the gear-shift is on the handle-bar not a foot-pedal for one. AND you still have the short-comings of small wheels and perverse weight distribution and stability. Some-what compensated for by shear weight though, in the case of the 'traditional' Vespa. Its quite a heavy beast, with sturdy 'drain-pipe' frame and all steel bath-tub enclosure. Certainly compared to modern scooters! I believe that Peugeot won a design award for making one of theirs entirely from plastic!
As a concession to style, I am ambivalent, and really I cant recommend the idea. You would be paying a lot of money JUST to buy a design icon, over and above the premium of a 125cc Learner-Legal.
Though, many buy with their heart rather than their head, buying other more aesthetically pleasing Learner-Legals. The Classic Vespa DOES have the advantage that you CAN get a useful licence on one, and they DO hold their value well, so needn't be THAT much more expensive, or THAT much harder.
BUT, if a traditional scooter is REALLY what you want; I think I would have to suggest, you would probably be better off, getting a conventional 125 Learner-Commuter bike, as a stepping stone.
Once you have a full licence, without Auto-Endorsement, you could then go look at either the Vespa PX150 or PX200, or any manner of 'Classic' Scooter. Same style, and in fact for the Vespa's I think they are even the same frame and BODY as the PX125, only they have a bigger engine. That makes them a little bit faster, and a tad more forgiving to ride, though they are not exactly earth shatteringly fast. BUT ironically in a capacity 'hole' in the insurance groupings, they are often cheaper to insure, and no more expensive to run.
They are certainly cheaper to buy; Learners cant ride them! While most full licence holders who could ride a 'big-bike' wouldn't be seen dead on one! That makes them much better value for money, 'cool'.
In the late 1950's Sochiro Honda toured Europe on a number of 'fact-finding' missions. He was inspired by the Vespa Scooter to make a light-weight, user-friendly, commuter motorcycle; but the Vespa's mechanical aesthetics offended him! As did its noisy, smelly two stroke engine.
He set his engineers to work to build a 'Scooter' that wasn't so inherently compromised. And they succeeded!
The Honda Cub, 'Step-Through' motorcycle, was a 'proper' motorbike. It had full sized wheels, an engine in the middle, mounted on the frame, not the rear suspension, and all the 'dynamics' of a motorbike, but the 'usability' of a scooter.
Offered in three engine capacities, as the C50 'Moped', the C70 and the C90, these have become the worlds BIGGEST selling motorcycle, and the worlds biggest mass produced motor-vehicle, world wide, and a design classic.
They are STILL a great little bike, and offer the virtues associated with a 'scooter', without so many of the inherent compromises. However, for the Learner, they still have a couple of draw-backs. The main one is that the largest engine is only 90cc (I think that there may have been a 110 or 120cc version available for some markets) So they do NOT meet the requirements for a DSA Test-Machine. The other is that many variants, though having a three or four speed gear-box, are deemed 'semi-automatic' by dint of having a centrifugal clutch; though fully manual versions were made, with manual clutch lever.
This, is the Yamaha 125 Town-Mate. Yamaha's rival to the Honda Cub, which is less common than the Honda, but a 'full' 125cc machine, that boasted maintenance free shaft drive to the feature list. And would be test eligible.
As commuter machines, these boast an awful lot of practicality, and can be very useful and very economical, and have proved incredibly robust over the years. If slightly uninspiring.
The Honda Cub, is incredibly well, supported, and its engine was used as the basis of the original Honda 'Monkey-Bike' and has spawned many many derivatives over the years.
Most modern Chinese built 'Mini-Bikes' or 'Pit-Bikes' are based on the 'Cub' engine, and they even make complete copies of the original 'Monkey'.
This has helped the Honda Cub to 'Cult' status, servicing the enthusiast will all manner of tuning and custom goodies for the engines and the machines as a whole. Many of the Chinese copy-engines have been 'stretched' in capacity to the full 125cc or even 140cc, and I believe can be fitted straight into a Cub frame. However, this is something for the 'enthusiast', and such 'custom' motorcycles can be something of a 'hassle' for a learner, especially one wanting to use it for tests, where it could cause some debate or argument over its eligibility, either over the question of engine capacity or the classification of its gear-box!
As with the older sub 125 commuter bikes; these are very useful machines, and can be a good learner-tool; if you don't need to take tests on them, but want to use them for early miles road experience and training, before doing tests on a 'School' bike, whether an eligible 125 or perhaps a DAS bike.
Designed to travel across rough terrain, Dirt-Bikes tend to have lightweight construction, a LOT of ground clearance; long travel suspension, a high level exhaust system out of harms way, and 'knobbly' tyres.
Three main disciplines of entirely off-road competition exist; Moto-Cross, Enduro and Trials. These terms often used to describe road-bikes with off-road styling. Some-Times called, Trail-Bikes, on-off-roaders, or 'Duel-Sport'
However, 'Dirt-Bike' styled road-bikes are often a very different animal to their competition cousins.
The modern Competition Moto-Cross bike or 'Crossa', wont have any unnecessary 'equipment', like lights, or horn, or a stand! It will also have a very highly tuned engine, that has service intervals measured in hours of running time, and a petrol tank that takes very accurately mixed 'Pre-Mix' fuel and oil, in very small quantities; usually JUST enough to last a 15 or 20minute 'heat' of an MX race! They do NOT make very practicable propositions for the road rider, let alone the learner!
The more usual 'Dirt-Bike' for the road, is often a far more civilised device; and will more usually be more closely related to a road-going commuter bike, than a competition machine, like this, the Honda XR125, which has all the usual street-equipment, and an engine based on that used on the CG125 commuter.
Of all the more 'inspiring' Learner-Legal machines, the 'Dirt-Bike' is probably the least compromised, BUT it is still compromised! The compromises it has, however, are for function rather than pure aesthetic though, and some can be helpful.
COSTS:- they are EXPENSIVE
The BIGGEST down-side to them though is the insurance costs. These machines are a magnet for thieves/ small, light and nimble, they are a favourite of the 'Joy-Rider' who can hack them about the fields or woods, and take to the dirt to evade police.
My Yamaha DT125, penalised by the 125 'Learner-Legal' loading, then by being a more 'sporty' two-stroke, and then again for being a 'Dirt-Bike' was approximately 30% MORE to insure, than my Honda CB750! Same rider, same security and same value of machine. And that was for an 'old' classic. For me, the difference was only £20-30
For a 17 year-old wanting commuting cover and higher miles as an every day rider, the difference between insuring a more contemporary Yamaha DT125LC and a Yamaha YBR125 is likely to be Hundreds.
And the bikes tend to be more expensive in the market place. Yamaha's current 125 Dirt-Bike the WR125, is priced at just over £4000, compared to the YBR which costs £2300. And second hand, the gap still tends to be as large. Many full licence holders like 125 Dirt-Bikes for 'occasional' off road use, like myself. Because the insurance overheads may not be so great. And they are very light and manageable on dirt.
Which is an 'advantage' I am ambivalent about.
The style evokes ideas of off-road adventure; but the reality is, that in the UK, you really CANNOT do much 'legal' loose surface riding, unless you happen to own a farm! You CANNOT head off down any dirt-track you happen across. Chances are its not a legal right of way, or if it is, chances are it doesn't have 'vehicular rights'. See: What Is Green-Laning . Its a 'fun' pass-time, but not something I would recommend you get too keen on before passing your tests!
Dirt riding can be great fun, and a great way to build confidence and machine control skills... but you tend to do that by falling off a lot!
Dirt-Bikes tend to be pretty robust, and they have plastic mudguards and stuff so they can take the odd 'knock'; but I can tell you from hard experience; if you want to keep your bike 'nice' and road legal, and not be worrying about bent or cracked indicators, cracked mirrors or snapped levers.... don't go hacking it about the 'rough'!
Doing it competitively a very long time, I have learned the hard way, that if you do it; you'll spend more time doing repairs and maintenance as you will riding!
Far too often, dirt-bikes sell on the 'idea' of riding off-road, rather than the reality, and if you are 'keen' to try off-roading, you would probably soon find the short-comings of a road-biased 'Trail-Bike' and want a 'proper' off-roader for competition, or something more off-road orientated for 'serious' green-laning.
So, 125 Dirt-Bikes CAN be a very expensive 'indulgence' towards aesthetics, and aspirations for off-road adventure, without actually delivering it, while, being something of a liability, with the theft risk!
I would SERIOUSLY caution any-one considering one to weight up the costs and the actual 'usefulness' before jumping in and buying one. But onto practicalities.
For the Larger Lad
Very common suggestion given for wanting a 125 Dirt-Bike, is that they are 'tall'. Larger riders seem to think that they wont look 'so' silly on one. Err... sorry mate, but got to burst your bubble on that one!
I'm a taller rider, and while I did appreciate the higher seat of my DT125... but only when I was STOPPED and put my feet down!
Seat to floor height is pretty long, but with a lot of ground clearance, seat to foot-peg distance can be less than on a 'cramped' sports-bike!
And I STILL looked a bit of a 'dork' on it! And YOU? Well you'll be hanging an L-Plate on the thing. THAT does NOTHING to add to your 'cool'!
So, that one settled!
Said at the start Dirt Bikes are compromised. Road-bikes don't have such long travel suspension, knobbly tyres, or so much ground clearance.
So, Dirt-Bikes are compromised for the off-road 'features', whether they offer any 'function' off-road or are just for the style.
The higher seat height will make them more difficult to mount for shorter riders, and can make them some-what more cumbersome to wheel-around or ride at slow speed.
The higher centre of gravity, wont help either, particularly with basic 'balance', and that will be compounded by the soft, long travel suspension that will let the bike bounce around more.
Designed for slow-speed manoeuvrability over rough terrain, they can be reasonably 'nimble' for CBT & test exercises through the cones, provided you have good balance, and wide handle-bars help.
But those wide handle-bars, also give a 'Human-Parachute' or 'Flying Crucifix' riding position, that hangs you like a sail on top of the bike. This is not good for aerodynamics, and Dirt-Bikes tend not to have as high a top speed as road bikes, or as great fuel consumption. The Yamaha YBR125 will reach 70mph with just 10bhp; the WR125 has a full learner-legal compliment of 14.5bhp, 50% more power, to go 5mph SLOWER and use more fuel doing it.
But, it is in windy conditions, contending with cross winds or the 'draft' from passing lorries, that is more concerning. With their high centre of gravity, and geometry compromised for low speed manoeuvrability, they tend not to be as stable at speeds, and that can be made quite uncomfortable, when wind tugs you around and causes you to steer those wide handle-bars 'inintentionally'!
On road, they are NOT the most inspiring machines to ride, or the most confidence inspiring. The tyres are probably the biggest factor. The Knobbly tread pattern, with wide relief grooves around the knobbles to allow them to 'bite' into softer looser surfaces don't put as much rubber in contact with the road, for ultimate grip, while the long unsupported depth of tread has a tendency to 'squirm' or move around under the tyre, a little like riding on an under-inflated tyre.
This reduces stability quite considerably, as well as 'feed-back' and feel you get for what the bike is doing beneath you. Then you have the long, soft squishy suspension, removing more, and allowing the bike to pitch around quite a lot.
Cornering on a dirt-bike is not as confidence inspiring as a proper road-bike. And braking, particularly emergency braking can need a very delicate touch.
Of all the more 'exiting' looking learner-legals, I have to admit that they are probably the 'better' choice, and they can be a lot of fun, and work reasonably well. BUT you have to be aware of the costs and compromises you are buying with one.
AS a Training & Test Tool, it can be a lot to bear for a bike you may not want to keep very long..... if no-one relieves you of it before you are done with it!
Super-Motards are a derivative of the 'Dirt-Bike', and share much of the features.
The main difference is the big 'off-road' wheels are replaced with smaller 'road' sized wheels and sports-bike tyres, the long travel suspension may also be slightly 'firmed up'.
The genre evolved, as people bought dirt-bikes for the style, and practicality, but used mainly on-road attempted to reduce some of the compromised demanded by the off-road capability, of which tyres were the major compromise.
This is the Yamaha DT125X, they do a Super-Motard version of the WR125 four-stroke as well.
These are a slightly 'better' Learner-Bike than the conventional 'Trail-bike', but only slightly. MOST compromises remain, but they can give some extra confidence from the extra stability.
The 'Adventure-Sport' is another variant on the 'Dirt-Bike'. In the 1980's, the major factories all offered 'Replicas' of their long distance 'Paris-Dakar' rally bikes, that at the time were large capacity Enduro Machines, fitted with monstrously huge long-range fuel tanks and small sand-beating windshields.
Few ever tried using them off-road, they were just too unwieldy! Especially as they became ever bigger, and most became twin cylinder machines.
They became ever more road orientated, incorporating elements of the full dress tourer as well as sports bikes and dirt bikes, though generally remaining in the larger capacity classes.
Honda however, decided to use the V-Twin engine from their 125 'Shaddow' Cruiser to create a 125cc 'Adventure-Sport' the XL125 Veradaro. I think its about the only 125 Adventure sport available to be honest!
A firm favourite of the more mature L-Plater, and city commuter, its a fairly 'good' bike, often praised for its comfort, especially for taller riders, and for looking like a much bigger capacity machine.... though the L-plate would usually give the lie to that suggestion.
In truth, this is more of a 'Super-Commuter' than a Dirt-Bike, and a fairly good Learner-Bike, though not without compromise.
Like a dirt-bike, it has a fairly high centre of gravity. Like a 125 Sports, it has quite a lot of expensive, vulnerable plastic, and like all the more 'posey' 125's its a LOT of money for what it is.
Currently listed at £4500, the same price as a Yamaha YZF-R125, its almost twice as expensive as its Honda CBF125 stable mate, and to my mind, NOT twice the bike. Its no faster, less economical, and more expensive to insure. Its twin cylinder engine is more complicated and more onerous to service.
Really, as a stepping stone to a full-licence, it probably doesn't do MUCH to warrant the compromises and expense, though their owners are often fanatical about them and they can hold their value relatively well.
The current 'crop' of four-stroke 125 Sports-bikes have been roundly derided as NOT 'sports-bikes'! They are critisised for being expensive learner-commuters, in a Toys-R-Us 'dress-up' outfit to 'ape' the style of the popular 600 & litre Sports-bikes. Harsh, derogatory, possibly insulting, but unfortunately too true!
This is the Yamaha YZF-R125, and it sits in the Yamaha Catalogue along side the bench-mark YBR125. Both are single-cylinder, fuel injected, four-stroke learner legal machines, with a top speed of 70mph. The YBR costs £2300, the YZF, £4500. Almost TWICE the price!
It has the defining features or at least token styling towards the defining features of a sports-bike:
'Race-Replica' fully enclosed fairings; Bum-Up, feet-back, lean forward, 'Jockey' riding position, with low, narrow 'Clip-On' handlebars and 'rear-set' foot-rests.
And there, it ends. The engine in this YZF is water-cooled, where the YBR is air-cooled, and it does make a bit more power, but its hardly any faster for it.
The handling is a little 'sharper' and possibly more inspiring; but ultimately, its still only a 70mph motorcycle! It wont let you go round corners significantly faster, especially a learner rider who probably hasn't acquired the skill to exploit it.
A fact that hasn't escaped the makers. This YZF closely resembles its bigger R6 stable-mate, but where that is bristling with go-faster technology, the 125... well it ISN'T! Its engineered DOWN to a price to maximise profit!
Comment elsewhere, about the comparison between the 'old' Honda CB125 and the contemporary CBR125. The 1977 CB125 Twin, is STILL, I believe the most powerful 125cc four-stroke production bike ever built, delivering 17bhp... still more than you are allowed on a modern Learner-Licence! While the later, 1982 'Learner-Legal' CB125 'Super-Dream' has AS advanced brakes as the modern CBR125, as sophisticates a chassis, and MORE sophisticated suspension!
The YZF-R125 is a nice enough bike, and is, physically 'large' for a 125, IF you fit the more restrictive ergonomics, but few will be fooled that its a 'big' bike. Especially when you slap an L-Plate on it! Similarly the Hyosung GT125R, which boasts a V-Twin engine. The Honda CBR125, is another matter. It makes little pretence at being a 'big-boy' bike. Its TINY, and it LOOKs more like what it is; a commuter with some token styling. And it is a more affordable, £3400, and is a 'little' more sensible.
Biggest problem I have with these bikes is rationalising the cost. The Yamaha YZF-R125 is, new, twice the price of its YBR125 'commuter' stable mate. For a machine that has the same short-lived 'functionality' of being a training & test-tool, I REALLY cannot consider one to be worth twice the price to buy.
They are also incredibly more expensive to insure. Mention that 125 Dirt-Bikes are incredibly 'Nickable'; well these are not a lot better; but where Dirt-Bikes tend to be stolen by thrill-seeking 'Kids' these are often targeted by the "Pro'.
LEARNERS FALL OFF. Its almost inevitable at SOME point that you will have a tumble, and THEN, on these bikes, the first thing touch the floor are those fancy plastic fairings. Some-one on one of the forums who had one of these and had 'that' tumble was asking about repair techniques. He had fallen off at barely more than walking pace practicing his E-stops, and cracked the fairing. Unfortunately it also damaged the nose nacelle, and he priced up the necessary replacement Panels from Yamaha at over £2000... I think that included a mirror and indicator too... but STILL!
NOT good when you are a 17 year old, and are on Third-Party-Only insurance... or worse, the Fully-Comprehensive mandated by the finance company.... who would write the bike 'off' as a total loss at that kind of damage, and pay you out only second hand value, leaving you to make up the short-fall on the finance, AFTER they have taken the bike off you!
Pro-Bike-Thieves know this, and nice examples, can turn a very tidy, low risk profit, being broken for spares to fix crash-damaged bikes!
However, as a Learner-Bike, they are not great. The 'Jockey' riding position is their main draw-back. Hunched forwards into the 'racer-crouch' they DO NOT offer the same all-round visibility that a sit-up commuter does. Making shoulder checks is not as natural or comfortable, so you are less likely to 'spot' hazards. This is a fundamental thing to get into good habits doing as a Learner, and straight away this style of bike makes it more awkward.
Next, that same scrunched and hunched riding position does NOT give such great balance or control; especially at low speeds; and manoeuvres will be hampered by the restricted steering lock and narrow bars.
Motorbikes steer by leaning, and sports-bike steering geometry is geared towards high-speed riding, where the bike will be leaned over a long way. Obviously they don't expect these learner bikes to be sweeping through many bends at 90mph, BUT they still demand a lot more 'lean' to make them turn, which with the more compromised balance and ergonomics can make them rather cumbersome.
I have seen FAR too many teen-age tears on the CBT play-ground from sports-bike riders cracking that expensive body-work falling off trying to master basic manoeuvres!
Economy wise, they are not too bad on fuel, being a four-stroke. And their service demands are not 'too' bad; though maintenance does usually mean removing bits of body-work, so it will be more involved and take longer.
Main 'problem' and more concerns with second hand examples. These bikes appeal to 'Boy-Racer' riders. They will usually be more concerned with looking 'cool' and 'going fast' than looking after the bike! If they have £80 to spare, they are more likely to buy a 'Race-Pipe' to make the thing louder, rather than replace a bald tyre, warped brake disc or sagging chain!
And when they DO crash them, usually because they haven't replaced that bald tyre or warped brake disc and were STILL trying to 'go-fast'; faced with expensive parts to buy, 'botchery' rules, and very poor standards on 'improvised repair' employed!
This is the 'legendary' two-stroke Aprillia RS125, which, at least in 'full-power' form, IS a true 'sports-bike'.
An Italian exotic, like the Cagiva Mito, which were both conceived in the late 1980's and evolved through the 1990's from true 125 Grand-Prix racing machines, and though 'productionised' still sport a lot of similarities.
Not least, the highly tuned water-cooled two stroke engine, with its high maintenance demands and inordinately short service intervals.
At the sort of mileage you might have to change the spark-plug and air-filter on a Yamaha YBR125, one of these things lists the PISTON as a service item! (that means taking the engine to pieces!)
Meanwhile, it demands expensive £20 a litre fully synthetic racing oil, that a pump mixes with the fuel at a rate of 1l to every 50l of petrol.... making a litre of 'fuel' around £1.80 instead of £1.40... which it will drink 'like a fish'!
The Honda CBF125 is currently praised for genuinely achieving the supposed 100+mpg of a 125cc learner-legal. One of these things, in real world use is lucky to achieve half that!
And they are NOT 'Learner-Legal'.
The Aprillia RS, depending on model year and variant will develop around 28bhp, almost double what is allowed by Learner or A1 Class Licence entitlement, and they can achieve speeds around the magic 'ton'... if they are in good condition and don't blow up or seize in the attempt!
And in the case of the Aprillia, at least, DSA notes on their list of approved 125 Test-Bikes provides, that AS this bike was NOT originally sold as 'Learner-Legal', 'proof-of-restriction' (to Learner-Legal Power-Limits) is required to allow you to test on one.
The two-stroke 'sports' 125's are genuinely 'sporty'. Even restricted to Learner-Legal power limits, the machines have a certain 'eagerness' that the four-strokes don't. They also were designed to handle a lot more power and were less engineered down to a price.
But don't kid yourself. Get a full-power one, slap L-Plates on it, and have some fun.... yeah.... well!? They are STILL not astoundingly 'fast' bikes.
The Italian exotics of the Aprillia and Cagiva, are certainly incredibly quick by the standards of road-going 125's. But they are a tool for the discerning expert rider. Demanding to ride, and demanding to live with. They are NOT a 'Learner-Bike'.
As incredibly 'quick' as they were, they were also just as incredibly expensive, to buy, even MORE incredibly expensive to run and to maintain! And JUST as incredibly 'unreliable' when they frequently didn't get the care and attention they require!
If you like the idea of a bike like this though, for the 'performance'; well if you are old enough to ride a 125, you are old enough to take tests and ride ANY capacity of bike. And if you can afford to live with a 2-stroke 125 Sports, you could MORE easily afford to live with a bigger sports or at least 'sporty' bike.
Yeah, 100mph from an Learner IL-Legal 125, sounds impressive... until you realise that's not REALLY any faster than a thirty year old Honda CBX250, single cylinder four-stroke 'commuter' bike!
It is NOT fast when you compare what else you could have for the same money. Fuel consumption is higher than on my 750, to go slower. Insurance is 'ridiculously' high on them. Insurance on my DT125 is about 30% more for me than on my Honda CB750. A Cagiva Mito or Aprillia RS is even MORE again! While the service costs are simply 'stupid'.
for the same money, you could PROBABLY afford to pass tests, and get the 'real-deal' 600 you really want, that could offer REAL 'speed' for your money.
Buying one of these things is only ever going to hold you back from unlocking the door to ALL biking has to offer.
See Comments for 4-stroke sports-bikes. Much still applies; only magnified! These bikes are just as 'unwieldy' for play-ground manoeuvres, balance and visibility.
The Italian Exotics, are really NOT 'Learner-Bikes', they are experts machines, that just happen to be attractive to learners by dint of their looks and suggested (illegal) performance.
They are incredibly expensive and impractical, and pressed into service as 'every day' bikes by optimistic learners, they tend to suffer diabolically; degenerating quickly as the maintenance demands aren't met, and as they are crashed by over enthusiastic use.
More sensible is the Honda NSR125, which was made in Italy, but was slightly more 'restrained' with an engine derived from a well proven dirt-bike, tuned more conservatively to around 24bhp depending on variant.
'Genuine' UK models were supplied in a 'De-Tuned' standard, to the UK Learner-Power-Limits, and proved relatively reliable, if looked after, as well as fairly robust and not TOO demanding of maintenance.
Unfortunately far too many were not well looked after, and a large proportion suffered attempts to 'De-Restrict' them, often without the correct parts or know-how to the specification of the Italian Market models.
There are also a host of Italian Domestic Market models, 'Grey Imports' that were never officially imported to the UK by the Honda Distributor, for which spares support may be rather patchy. This likewise applies to the Yamaha TZR, of which later models, post approximately 1994, were made in Italy and not officially imported to the UK.
The Two-Stroke Sports 125's have been being gradually phased out of production by ever tightening European Emission control regulations.
Given the age of most 2-Stroke Sports 125's that are available, and the abuse they are likely to have suffered, I am inclined to SIMPLY say that they are just NOT worth the potential 'Hassle', and are unlikely to make a 'useful' Learner-Bike.
This is the Honda VT125 'Shadow'. It is on of the more 'full-on' 125 cruisers and displays the typical features.
Styled like a 'Chopper' they usually have a skinny front wheel and fat rear wheel, raked out front forks, low sculpted seat, tall wide 'ape-hanger' handle-bars, and forward set foot-pegs, and lots of chrome and other 'decoration'.
This one, also boast a V-Twin engine, like the iconic Harley Davidson.
Long, low and laid back, the genre is evolved from those iconic 'custom' machines of America, where the intent is to sit-back, relax and watch the country-side roll by on the long, gently winding road.
'Real' Cruisers, have big softly tuned engines, usually well over 800cc that throb away effortlessly, surging the machine along on the surf of immense reserves of elastic 'torque'. They aren't 'fast', they don't need to be. They aren't great in the bends, they don't need to be. These bikes are built for 'show' not go, that laid back 'Easy-Rider' idiom.
SO... lets just say, that NO 125 can really BE a 'Cruiser'! They are still slow, and they still don't like corner's very much, but... NO.... lets be brutal here, with 125cc of 'thrust' and 14.5bhp IF you are lucky, revving the nuts off that poor little engine.... elastic surge of 'torque'? Nope. THAT is what defines a cruiser, and 125 'Cruisers' JUST don't have it!
You may like the idea and image of donning a 'cut' and heading down Route 66 on a hog..... but these will NOT deliver the 'dream'. Heading off along the A5, following the path of the Roman Invasion into Britain, in a pair of day-glow water-proofs on one of these will NOT quite 'do-it'!
This, Honda 125 Shadow, brand new, is another £4500 motor-cycle (though I believe it has recently been dropped from the catalogue). Suzuki offer the 125 Intruder, is again a 'full-on' V-Twin machine, with every effort to ape the styling of its bigger cruiser stable mates. Again I think this may have been dropped from the current model range; but Hyosung who have been in partnership with Suzuki for many years, build a cruiser based on it, while Kawasaki offered the 125 'Eliminator', with a single cylinder engine.
Meanwhile, there are simply HUNDREDS or more or less 'Cruisery' machines on offer from the Generic Chinese brands; utilising frequently the Honda CG125 copy engine, the Suzuki GS125 engine, or the Honda 'Benley' engine. Honda's first 125 'Cruiser' was the CM125 'Rebel', which used the 125 'Benley' parallel twin engine, and many of the Chinese Brand cruisers are based on that bike. (See:- Chinese Bikes they cant be THAT bad, Surely?)
The 125 Cruisers are often mis-sold to smaller or 'lady' riders on the 'benefit' of their low seat height. So I am going to start with that one. YES the seat is low, but this is only of importance getting on and off the bike, and when you stop to put your feet down.
During CBT you will be taught that when you stop, you should adopt the 'safety-position', left foot propping the bike up, right foot on the foot-peg covering or applying the rear brake. While RIDING you only put down ONE foot. You do NOT need to be able to straddle the bike, BOTH feet flat on the floor. If you are slightly shorter of leg, you simply tilt the bike a bit more onto that one shorter leg!
Moving around? Another CBT 'No-No'! We do NOT 'paddle' bikes around sat on the seat! Paddling is something you do at the beach, NOT on a motorbike. When you are SAT on a bike, you are either propping it up, one leg, in the safety position, OR you are MOVING both feet up on the pegs! If you are wheeling the bike around, you GET OFF, where you have both feet firmly planted, YOU have best balance and manoeuvrability, and can wheel it around in THE most stable manner.
That LOW seat is NO real 'advantage'. However, rest of the ergonomics can be a significant DISADVANTAGE.
Sat low, when you DO have to assume the safety position, you are likely to have to move your foot from a reclined position, a long way back to effect a 'prop' and with your leg bent a lot, its as likely to be uncomfortable, AND not give you the leverage advantage to hold the bike up AS easily.
And low seat, may seem a good idea to the vertically challenged, BUT you still have to stretch legs from seat to foot-pegs, and on cruisers they can be stretched a LONG way in front of you.
Then there is the handle-bars, and if you have short legs, you probably also have short arms, and reaching a long way to high wide bars is likely to stretch you out.
You need to look at the WHOLE ergonomic, not just one feature.
Those wide bars and forward pegs can give a lot of 'control' problems to ANY rider, but significantly the shorter one. A shorter rider, to turn a corner will have to turn those bars a long way to make it steer, and to keep a hold of the grips, if you have shorter arms, that can mean having to lean forward and the WRONG way, to the 'lean' into the turn you are making!
Cruisers are from the start, incredibly 'unwieldy', they are NOT very manoeuvrable, to begin with.
The steering geometry, to get that 'raked out' chopper look, means you need to use a lot more steering AND lean to make the bike turn, and with a long wheel-base as well? They steer like a barge, basically! It is NOT easy to hustle these things through a Mod 1 Test Slalom!
And they tend to be slow, EVEN by the standards of not very fast Learner-Bikes. They tend to be quite heavy, with a big, long frame, and then deep, often metal, heavy body-work, and a forest of chrome accessories. Takes a lot of shove to get this weight moving, so they tend to be geared low, and have their engines de-tuned even more for low-down power. But even the more powerful ones, suffer, and like a Dirt-Bike, those high-wide handle-bars pull you out into a human crucifix or flying parachute shape, getting the full wind-blast and holding back speeds. The 'Best' 125 Cruisers, with full-limit Twin Cylinder engines will struggle to better 60mpg. The Chinese Generic ones often wont even be that fast, and 55mph will be good going!
They can be FAIRLY economical though, and they often aren't so badly loaded on insurance. But they are usually more expensive to buy, certainly new. The Honda, Suzuki V-Twins also command something of a premium on the second hand market, bucking the trend that Cruisers TEND to suffer worse depreciation.
Second hand, then they can be something of a 'bargain', and they DO benefit that many owners aren't typical boy-racers. These tend to appeal to more mature riders and lady-owners. So they can be better looked after.
However, maintenance can be more expensive. The twin cylinder models certainly have more complicated engines that demand more looking after, and the V-Twins particularly, it can be awkward getting access to things like the rear-cylinder rocker cover to adjust tappets. But the more often heard grips is that with less common tyre sizes, they can be harder to come by and more expensive.
I would say that this is a derivative of the Cruiser, but historically, its actually the other way around! The Cruiser 'Genre' has evolved out of every-day street-bikes, as people have 'customised' them, and the factories have followed that fashion. In the late 1970's and early 80's, as makers started this trend towards more 'specialised' machines, the limit of the 'Factory Custom' was to make a variant of the regular street-bike with maybe slightly longer forks and shorter rear shock-absorbers to lower it and rake it a bit, and maybe fit higher 'ape-hanger' handlebars and possibly a stepped seat and peanut petrol tank, and these were given names like 'US-Custom', though Honda, realising that the American market likes propper names, rather than model codes, started giving their bikes 'names', and their early 125 'Factory Custom' was the Honda CM125 'Rebel', based on the Benley, parallel twin engine, and THAT is the ancestor of an AWFUL lot of more modern Cruisers or Cruiser/Commuters. However.
The usual 125 commuter has a single cylinder engine, and the original 'Commuter/Cruiser' was probably Yamaha's SR125, which was a pretty 'standard' early 80's 'Factory-Custom', a conventional commuter, with stretched forks, short shocks and revised styling. It is still with us in the form of the Yamaha YBR125 'Custom', as pictured.
We are into a cross-over genre, diluting the merits of the commuter, with the styling concessions of the cruiser. The YBR, looks more like the standard model than a full on cruiser, and works very well as a 'Learner-Bike', and they are often discounted new, and a lot less sought after second hand, so can be something of a 'bargain' for the cost-conscious newbie, though for the style-conscious, they probably offer little more than 'tokenism' towards cruiser styling.
The Suzuki GZ125 Marauder, is a better 'balanced' half-way machine, and I have to admit a pretty good compromise that CAN work reasonably well. Its styling is more deliberately 'Cruiser', but with its single cylinder engine, it retains many of the commuter's virtues, and while 'raked' it avoids being SO long, or SO barge-like, or SO slow, though many complain that they struggle to reach 55mph.
An awful lot of the Chinese 'Generic' bikes on offer, are Cruisers or Cruiser/Commuters, frequently with single cylinder engines, though some boast derivatives of the old Honda CM125 Rebel engine (and probably its frame and cycle parts!) These tend NOT to work anywhere near as well, and often combine the worst of both worlds unfortunately! They tend to have all the short-comings of a Cruiser, AND a Chinese bike, which means HORRENDOUS depreciation from new! (I have actually seen 3 year old Chinese 'Cruisers' change hands for as little as £50!), and none of the benefits of the humble 125 commuter.
Ignoring the Chinese Generic-Bikes, though; the 'old' Yamaha SR125 is a useful little bike, as is the more modern YBR125 'Custom'. The Honda CM125 'Rebel' is quite a sturdy little device, and the Suzuki Marauder, a reasonably useful bike with 'better' effort towards the styling, and ALL can be something of a bargain, frequently being more cheaper to buy than the conventional commuter, for small compromise in performance and usability. BUT that bargain buy-price will often come with the niggle of having a bike that is harder to sell, and not AS likely to return you as much of your buy-price.
What are we talking about?
'Chinese Bikes'? or 'Generic Brand' Chinese Bikes? I refer to Haynes Publication 4871: "Chinese (Taiwanese & Korean) 125cc Motorcycles - Four-Stroke Single & Twin Cylinder Engines". On the back, this lists the following 'Brand-Names':
AJS; Bashan; Boatian; Branson; British Trackstar; Chituma; Dadyw; Daelim; Dafier; Dayang; Dayun; Easy-Rider; Feiying; FYM; Geely; Giantco; Hartford; Himo; HiSun; Hoatian; Hongdou; Honling; Hsun; Huoniao; Hyosung; Jailing; Jainshe; Jincheng; Jinfeng; Jinlun; Kaisar; Keeway; Kymco; Lexmoto; Lifan; Loncin; Megelli; Moto Roma; Necht; Oubao; Pioneer; POR; Pulse; Qingqi; Romet; Sanya; Sanye; Shineray; Sinnis; Sinski; Sky Team; Skyjet; Sukida; Sumoto; Superbyke; Suzuko; Sym; Tayako; TMEC; Urban; Venture; Vulcan; Wangye; Warrior; Wuyang; Xgjao; Xingyue; Xinling; Xiongtai; Yamasaki; Yaun; Zennco; Zhongneng; Znen; Zongshen; ZY Moto; This is a few of them, there ARE others!
I am bamboozled by folk turning up on my door-step, or asking me to come over and have a look at one of these devices asking "Could you fix it?" To which I reply; "Fix it! I can barely even SAY it!" (No, its not a Jincheng, its a Jinfeng...?!?!?!?!) CONFUSING, CONFOUNDING, and GENERALLY more hassle than they are worth! However, lets explain some more!
Since we gave Hong-Kong back to the Chinese People's Democratic Republic, in 1997, China has been opening up its market-place to the world. This has lead to them swamping Europe with cheap T-Shirts and filling pound-shops the length and breadth of the country; but increasingly into higher levels of manufactured goods, like washing machines and motorbikes.
THIS is the tip of a very big ice-burg as it is put in the Haynes Manual; and the Chinese market is almost un-regulated. There are HUNDREDS of little back-street work-shops knocking up motorbikes from generic components, or copies of generic components, and they are filtered out to world markets.
The ones listed, or some of them, are better known 'Brands', like Lexmoto or AJS. Some, like Jailing have some sort of 'partnership' with one of the big Japanese brands; in Jailings case its Honda, and they make copies of the Honda CG Engine, under 'licence' used by many of the other makers, as well as a complete copy of the Honda CB125, that was sold for some time in the UK as the Shineray.
AJS are a British Company; AJ Stevens of Wolverhampton, a legendary motorcycle marque of the 1930's & 1950s that was incorporated into the Norton AMC group in the 1960's, and is now owned by BSA-Regal, who own many of the 'old' British names. When BSA went Bankrupt as a manufacturing business in the 1970's, they sub-contracted manufacture of machines of 'nominally' their own design, using 'proprietary' (mostly Yamaha) components, in Asia.
Of all the 'Chinese' Brands, BSA-Regal-AJS have probably been doing this the longest; and are now using Chinese sourced components and sub-contracted assembly, to make machines based around the Honda 'Benley' engine, though now, modified to their own design, with water-cooling, I believe.
Lexmoto, are one of the more aggressive 'British' importers, marketing many Chinese Sourced machines from different makers, and trying to establish a 'brand-name' for them. Others names come and go. So the GENERAL RULE is,
"If you haven't Heard of them; They are PROBABLY Chinese"
Why are they SO CHEAP!?
These bikes are cheap for a number of reason, but the fore-most is that they are made in China, exploiting low-cost labour, a lack of regulation in general, and artificial currency exchange rates.
If you want to make a motorbike; you need to get metal, melt it, shape it, drill it, weld it, bolt bits together. This takes materials, man-power, energy, tools, skill and some-where to house it all.
In 'The West', land is expensive, and labour is expensive, and 'energy' is expensive. Labour Laws mean that employers have to spend a lot of money on Health & Safety precautions; power generations demands expensive pollution controls, things like this that China pays little heed to, and so can save operating over-heads.
Actually making a motorcycle; ironically, costs almost as much to make a 'crap' one as it does a really good one. Its simply down to applied 'Quality Control'; something that the Japanese Learned from British & American Academics in the 1950's & 60's and have been teaching the rest of the world ever since.
So its some-what ironic, that the Chinese are working to such a LOW standard of quality control, and making machines that often are only BARELY fit-for-purpose. However there are reasons for this, and one is that they are on an early portion of the manufacturing technology learning curve; another is that their 'local' market standards demand nothing better, and wont pay for anything better; while international trade agreements, essentially 'tolerate' the huge flow of Chinese consumer goods, as long as they are of lower quality than western made goods.
Its Not a "Motorcycle"
BUT, for the largest portion of time these machines have been coming to the UK, the MAIN reason that they have been able to sell them so cheaply is that they are NOT selling a 'Motorcycle'.
If you walk in to a Yamaha Dealers, and buy a Brand-New Yamaha YBR125, it is made in China, same as a Lexmoto, but where a Lexmoto might cost £1100, the Yamaha costs £2300. And what you are paying for, apart from the Yamaha Name is the Yamaha Quality Control to assure the products standard. You are paying for the Yamaha warranty. You are paying to support the country-wide support infrastructure of Yamaha franchise dealers; you are paying for the European wide support structure of spares support; keeping parts on hand, should you need them, etc etc etc. You are, in short buying MORE than just a 'bike' the metal object with wheels and an engine, you are buying into the BRAND and all it offers you to help support you USING that machine.
If you buy a Lexmoto, big chunk of the saving in sticker-price is that THAT company has no-where near the same 'support'. They offer bikes from a number of Chinese makers, all with their own marketing badge on the tank, and they dont offer the same level of quality assurance, some bikes are a bit 'hit and miss' whether they are reliable or not, then IF you have problems or need service spares, they do NOT have so many local convenient franchise dealers you can take the bike to to get it fixed, and even where they DO, they may not be able to get the parts you need 'over-night' like Yamaha can. And this is one of the more 'reputable' purveyors of Chinese bikes!
If you sour e-bay, you will find people offering the same bikes Lexmoto do, the Haotian Vixen, for example, often for as little as £800. And its easy to THINK that a brand new Chinese bike like this, for LESS than a twenty year old Honda CG125 thats been abused to death three times over HAS to be worth 'a chance'. BUT, read the small-print!
You are NOT buying a 'Motorbike'! And the Clue is in ANY advert that says something along the lines of;
"Comes with manufacturers Certificate of Conformity & pre-filled forms for registration"
When it says something like that, you are NOT buying a bike that has been registered for the road, for you, BY the seller, you are NOT buying a MOTORBIKE, as we understand it.
Buy a Yamaha YBR125 in the dealers, you get given a bike, with a number-plate, a tax disc, and to go with it, a registration document, and a set of keys and you can ride it away. It is SOLD as a 'Road-Vehicle' and must be 'Fit-For-Purpose' as such.
You buy an UN-REGISTERED Chinese machine, you are NOT buying a 'Road-Vehicle'. You are buying a piece of sporting equipment, like a multi-gym, or worse, merely a 'kit of parts' that might be user assembled into a motorbike. And many adverts DO include comment, about bikes being supplied 'In the Crate - With Instructions'!
So, your £800 'Bike-in-a-Box' is NOT a Road-Vehicle, its a box of bits!
Its the 'Flat-Pack' wardrobe of the motorcycle world!
THIS is how the sellers can save a chunk of money. NOT selling you a 'Road-Vehicle', they do not have to pay 'Import-Duty' at the same rate as for a completed motorcycle or car; only that applicable to 'spare-parts'. BUT, then when they sell to YOU, they also don't have to pay, and hence charge YOU the UK New Vehicle Duty, you pay VAT at the same rate as on a packet of crisps!
Fair enough..... we're beating the tax man you say. We ALL like to get one over him, don't we? Ah! Yes! BUT!
Remember, you have just bought a mechano kit, NOT a motorcycle. So, it doesn't HAVE to be 'fit-for-purpose' as a 'Road-Vehicle' does it, because THAT is NOT what they sold you..... they sold you a self assembly bit of 'leisure equipment'.... which they IMPLIED you could register on the road..... but that's YOUR look-out, ent it mate?
You bought a box of motorbike bits; up to you what you do with them. You choose to try and register them as a road vehicle, your call, up to YOU to ensure its 'fit-for-purpose'....
AND sending off those pre-filled forms, you have 'self registered' the machine as a road-vehicle; Buy a Yamaha, and the dealers do it for you, and IF the manufacturers discover a design of manufacturing fault, then through the DVLA manufacturers 'recall notice scheme' you get a letter telling you about it...... Your 'Bike-in-a-box'? NOT subject to that scheme!
AND there's more. As a 'Self built vehicle; strictly the machine SHOULD be subject to stringent VOSA inspection, like a 'custom' chopper, or home-built 'special' or 'Kit-Car'. BUT, that 'Manufacturers certificate of conformity is driving through a loop-hole in those regulations.
Strictly, a 'Road-Vehicle' ought to be 'Type-Approved' by the manufacturer to ensure it meets Construction & Use regulations. Manufacturers compliance with these and their assurances of quality control, provide for the 'New Vehicle 3-Year MOT Test Exemption'. New vehicles do NOT have to be MOT tested every year.
Your 'Bike in a Box' though is NOT built by the manufacturer, technically it is built by YOU. BUT with that 'Certificate of Conformity' you can register it as meeting Construction & Use regulations.......
SO, the manufacture and retailer avoid high fees for product testing and more in registration, which they pass on in part.
BUT... in many cases, the bike you get in your box, WOULD NOT pass an MOT inspection, as you receive it... because its in BITS....
Put those bits together, though and it LOOKs like a motorbike, but MANY of them would NOT pass an MOT inspection, day they were un-packed, and put together.... because they DO NOT always meet Construction & Use regulations!
Even if they are put together properly, and you don't do something daft like leave the lighting harness un-plugged, or forget to fill the forks with oil or something!
MANY of these 'Bike-in-a-Box' e-bay specials end up back on e-bay shortly after their first MOT is due, sold 'Spares or Repairs', because they simply wont pass an MOT, and have probably been being used for three years in a pretty un-road-worthy condition, because in truth, they wouldn't have passed an MOT on Day one!
SOME don't even make it that far, and I have seen far too many people vexed by the supposedly 'simple' self registration process; because before you can register the bike, it has to be insured, and without a registration number, owners have been caught in an apparently irresolvable catch 22 of not being able to get a registration number until they have insurance, but not able to get insurance until they have a registration number!
THIS is the night-mare scenario, in the 'worst-case' situation. And the simple facts of the matter are;
If you know ENOUGH to not be caught out by all the potential pit-falls of of Chinese bike...... you are probably NOT going to buy one to begin with!
I have been 'told-off' for scare mongering repeating this about the 'self registration scam', and its been denied that 'any' reputable supplier of Chinese bikes is 'doing this' any more... But sorry, you go search e-bay, and count how many bikes are being offered, supposedly brand-new, and with that 'Certificate of Conformity' and pre-filled registration forms! There are LOADS, and I have EVEN seen mainstream adverts by DEALERS, offering thinly disguised 'Self-Registration' Chinese bikes!
(The advert implies you are buying a 'road-vehicle', but check the detail, and often you find that they are selling you a 'kit of parts', and an 'assembly-service' and though looks LIKE you are buying a dealer supplied 'road-vehicle' paper-work says other wise; you bought a kit of bits, then paid a mechanic to screw them together, then posted the forms that the dealer told you to!)
And it was suggested that 'all' Chinese bikes on offer now are fully 'Euro-3' compliant. Well, yes, they maybe. That is a standard for emissions controls, means little. They very well may-be, and say so on the 'Certificate of Conformity' you are provided for your 'Self-Registration'!
Also look out of the 'Delivery' scam; buying a 'Crate-Bike'. Prices for Chinese bikes can be as low as £650, but when you tally up, they put anything up to £200 on top of that to have the crate transported from the docks; and THEN they can start adding 'extras' like registration 'assistance' to fill in the forms for you, or for a mechanic to come and assemble & inspect the bike after its been delivered to you, which CAN make the thing as or more expensive that a dealer registered Lexmoto, by the time you have got the thing OTR or 'On-The-Road'.
So What about ones supplied by a Dealer?
Be WARNED.... if its a 'Road-Vehicle' the DEALER registers the bike; and it comes with a number-plate, and tax disc, and you get keys and a receipt AS a 'Road-Vehicle'.
If they talk of filling forms, and telling YOU to post stuff, and wont give you a receipt that CATEGORICALLY says 'sold as a Road Vehicle'... you are NOT buying a 'Road-Vehicle' you are buying a mechano kit, and self registering it for the road!
May be a new bike, may be from a dealer, not mail-order of e-bay, but it could STILL be a 'Bike-in-a-box' self registered scam. CHECK you know what you are getting before you pay your money!
And YES there are, 'better' Chinese bikes out there, and many ARE sold, 'properly' dealer registered, taxes paid, and you ARE getting a 'Road-Vehicle'. BUT these tend NOT to be the 'cheap' ones.
As said, Yamaha YBR125, is £2300 in the dealers show-room, and comes with that nation-wide franchise dealer support, and after-market support, warranty, and reputation.
Lexmoto, is one of the more 'reputable' Chinese bike brands, trying to establish themselves. Their equivalent of the YBR125, is priced at about £1100 from memory, give or take a few hidden charges, and is based on the 'old' Honda CG125 engine. Half the price of a Yamaha YBR, its a very attractive saving, and a 'new' bike for less than a 3-year old 2nd hand YBR.
BUT:- Read reviews and you will find that the bike has at best rather 'lack-lustre' performance compared to even the CG125 it is based on. That second hand Yamaha OUGHT to be able to rattle up to around 65-70mph without too much effort. This is likely to struggle to reach 60. As a 'better' built Chinese bike, with some European 'over-sight' to 'selection' if not manufacturing quality control, and properly supplied as a 'Road-Vehicle', these MAY not be the night-mare of poor reliability, so many prove. Though read around, there are a LOT of very angry people, struggling with 'silly faults' and poor warranty support. BUT the biggest draw-back, and the biggest 'cost' will come, when you try to sell on. It may be a new-bike for second hand price, but its a new bike, and subject to new-bike depreciation, and worse, CHINESE bike depreciation.
Your brand-New YBR125, will cost £2,300, and be worth maybe only £1800 after a year of use. That's a £500 'cost of Owner-ship' to have a NEW bike, with all the support that comes with the reputable brand, AND the quality of finish, AND the full quota of performance and ALL the 'hassle-free' ness that comes with it.
Buy a brand-new Lexmoto 'street' for £1100, you 'save' a remarkeable, £1200 'upfront', BUT 12 months down the line, having NOT had such a 'nice' bike, and probably a lot more 'hassle', you come to sell, and you will be LUCKY to get more than £500 for it.... in other words, even though its cheaper to BUY, it is likely to cost you MORE to 'own'.
Another comparison? AJS NAC12, is a slightly more 'inspiring' machine. It's a 'naked' street-bike, a more 'inspired' commuter, with AJS's Honda Benley derived twin cylinder engine. £1800. That's still £500 LESS than a Yamaha YBR, but you are getting a bike that lines up more closely with the £4500 Honda Veradaro, physically large, more exitingly styled, and with a more sophisticated, and more powerful twin cylinder engine.
BUT, similar draw-backs. I cant comment from 1st hand experience on the newer AJS's with water-cooled engines; Donna had an earlier air-cooled CM125 'Rebel' copy, in her AJS DD125 Raptor. It was relatively sturdy and proved very reliable by the standards of 'most' Chinese bikes, so I would be more inclined to take a chance on one. BUT, it was 'slower' than the 'real' Honda it was based on, and while we had no 'real' problems with it; it WAS a nightmare to get bits for, especially for Donna, before she met me, and could use my knowledge & experience to help her out! And again, depreciation is horendouse. That £1800 motorcycle, new, is likely to be worth £600-£700 at best within a year.
Compare the costs, of these bikes, BRAND-NEW to brand-new Japanese branded bikes and they fair 'poorly' at best. But compare them to a like-priced 2nd Hand Japanese machine, and they are DIRE.
£1200, gets you a four year old YBR125, new enough to be useful, old enough to be reasonably 'cheap', and still tidy enough that it ought to prove relatively trouble free and cheap to run. AND sell on in a years time, having looked after it half reasonably well, and you can expect to get back, perhaps £1000-£1100 of what you paid to put towards your 'big-bike' after passing tests.
SAME 'up-front' investment in a bike, to buying a brand-new Lexmoto; and you get more performance, better support, and fewer potential hassles, and it costs you HALF as much to own! THAT is win-win!
So What about Buying 2nd Hand?
You don't give up, do you! You are determined to find a way to beat the odds! OK.......
Yes, second hand, Chinese bikes CAN prove a real bargain. Donnas AJS Raptor certainly was. She Paid £500, and it served her well for two years, costing very little to run, and providing 'useful' service between times. She could have thrown it away at the end of that, and not been much out of pocket to having owned a three year old YBR for that same time.
BUT, the AJS is one of the 'better' Chinese bikes, and the Raptor she had, one of thier more 'upmarket' models. There is a HUGE variation in standards between Chinese bikes, and the best of them are, MAYBE as 'good' as the worst of the Japanese bikes. I would certainly say that the quality of finish on Donna's Cruiser-Thing were as good as on the Spanish Built Suzuki EN125 'School-Bike' we hired for her for her Mod-1.
I would NOT say that about the four year old Lexmoto 'Vixen' a lad asked me to go and have a look at for him a while back, when he was suffering electrical gremlins!
With Donna's AJS, the main problem that she had, the biggest 'niggle' and it was only a 'niggle' was that when she wanted a new chain & sprocket set; lacking the dealer support network of the big-brands, and NOT being listed in the after-market emporium's catalogues; ringing around, asking "Do you have a Chain & Sproket-Set for a 2005 AJS Regal Raptor" resulted in a stone wall of unhelpfulness.
Of course, being a 'girl' didn't help; she was fobbed off mercilessly; some told her her 'bike' didn't exist and she must have got the model name and year wrong; others just said; 'Sorry, cant help you'. While going to local mechanics, she was again, turned away, "Sorry, don't touch Chinky stuff, too much hassle!"
I turned up, pulled the chain off, went round local 'spares' place, slapped it on the desk and said, "I want a new one of them" and ten minutes later, walked out with one! They didn't know whether it was for an AJS, a Honda, or a ruddy lawn-mower.... but they could measure it up and count links and get a length of the right grade chain off the roll!
But is you are a Newbie? Who doesn't even know where to start, these sort of 'niggles' can be daunting in the extreme!
Lad with the Lexmoto, found this out the hard way. He bought it for £200, needing an MOT, for want of a charged battery, which wouldn't stay charged, and a headlamp switch that was 'bludgered'.
Yet again, the parts procurement problem struck, and he did NOT even know where to start looking for the bits he needed, a head-lamp switch, and a regulator. A local 'mobile (car) mechanic, popped found to have a look for him, and cobbled together his head-lamp switch, removing a detent ball so it stayed 'latched' and gobbed it back on with insulation tale, charging him £25 for the privilege of the 'bodge' Ironically, a brand new 'generic' switch & twist-grip assembly, off e-bay, HAD he known what to look for would have cost him just £18 + P&P.
The other problem, was the battery not charging, which MAY have been a duff regulator, that would have cost £20 +P&P if he could identify the bit he needed, of e-bay, and possibly the generator, which might have been what 'blew' the regulator, again, a part that could have been procured of e-bay for maybe £35+P&P.
All in, the 'problems' could, had he known where to start fault-finding, and had basic tools to do so, could have seen the bike through an MOT for about £100 and back on the road.
BUT, four year old Lexmoto, only WORTH £400 or so ANYWAY.... and it was effectively 'scrap' as more problems, were made by all his 'mates' offering to 'help' him have a look, pulling wires out and taking switches and indicators and 'stuff' to bits, and the thing sitting out in the rain in peaces almost all winter!
If you know ENOUGH to not be caught out by all the potential pit-falls of of Chinese bike...... you are probably NOT going to buy one to begin with!
For me, or some-one like me, with a half decent tool-kit and more than an idea of how to use it, AND 'clued up' enough to know where to look for faults, AND where to go to get the bits to fix them......
Yes, I could happily run second hand Chinese bikes as super-cheap wheels. There's little out there that's particularly inspiring to ride, so it WOULD only be for bus-fare beating economy, and something to 'mess with', and maybe bodge and butcher, having a little 'customisation' fun with it.
BUT, realistically, I am ONLY saving 'up-front' money. I could get as much 'biking' or more' AS cheaply and for less 'hassle' buying something Japanese or European.
AND, forced by economics to mugger around in the cold and the wet, employing desperation mechanics to keep 'something' road-worthy, with only a few hundred quid to spend, I would, as I have, buy an older Japanese 125.
Looking at that switch on the Lexmoto? It was after just three years, scrap. Made of plastic, I could NOT have made it functional with sticky-tape and glue! Honda CB125? Twenty years older, BUT I can take a dickey-switch apart, and inside the metal casing, strip it down to the component pieces without breaking annoying little clips, and I CAN fix it with sticky-tape, glue and maybe a wedge of paper from a fag-packet!
Either way, you try and look at it; you come round to the same thing, over and over. These bikes do NOT offer a solution to anything, and they are very good at finding problems for you. WHICH as a learner, with enough to get to grips with to begin with is HASSLE you can really do without buying yourself.
SOME, if they are lucky, or clued up enough, CAN make them work for them. BUT far more, lead to horror stories, frustration, and unwanted costs.
A LOT of that, I will grant, being down to unreasonable expectation in the bike. They get bought, NEW, with the expectation that they ought to be as fast and as reliable and as well supported as a new Yamaha.... oblivious to the fact that they are NOT.
But a lot of it IS down to the fact that they are NOT built to a very high standard, and are NOT easy or cheap to live with.
Which is a shame, because I really quite like the look of that AJS NAC12.... and I would LOVE to give them a 'fair-chance'... but for a newbie; that knows no better, they are just TOO much potential hassle you don't need.
And as a 'stepping stone' machine to get early miles experience and get yourself through tests and a licence in your pocket, new OR used, the huge depreciation and difficult re-saleability of a bike you inevitably will wont to 'shift on' is their biggest draw-back, EVEN if you got lucky, and managed to get something as reliable and trouble free as Donna's Raptor, that didn't have self unwinding screws and dodgy electrics from day one.
This question always raises a LOT of controversy and debate. End of the day, SOME-ONE has to buy new-bikes or there wouldn't be any second hand ones for any-one else!
125's - Live Hard There is a LOT to be said for buying a brand-new Learner-Legal. Provided it isn't Chinese! If you buy a reputable brand 125, like Yamaha or Honda, you are buying a HECK of a lot more than 'JUST' a bike. You are buying into the support infrastructure that goes with it, both the manufacturers franchise dealer network as well as the after-market.
This is true whether you buy new or used. But brand new, you will get a bike that is 100% never been abused by a former owner, that has 100% of its service life in it, that ought to be 100% reliable, and be backed with a dealer warranty. That is a LOT of peace of mind.
At least it OUGHT to be. See Chinese Bikes they cant be THAT bad, Surely?... the 'peace of mind, you THINK you should get, you often don't with many of the generic Chinese brands.
There are a LOT of good reasons for buying brand-new, and if you can afford it, its possibly not a BAD way to minimise 'hassle' and get yourself off to as good a start as you can. Few of us can expect to afford a brand new car ever in our lives; and brand-new 'big-bikes' can be as expensive as cars, so a Learner-Legal, CAN be one of the few opportunities we have to experience that 'New-Vehicle' feeling.
And, brand-new, you buy into the whole 'package deal' idea, and the dealer is likely to offer discounted credit, and bundle in a host off accessories and 'kit' into the bargain, that may be quite useful.
Only real drawback of buying brand-new, is the cost of 'depreciation'.
The MOMENT you wheel a brand-new bike out of the show-room door; it's 'Second-Hand', and its value will be around only 2/3 of the sticker-price; and if you have bought on credit.... maybe only a fraction of what you 'owe' against it!
Buying on credit is another topic really, but, if you buy a £2,500 motorcycle on credit at say, 30% 'representative'; 10% 'down', 'Ride Away' for £250 Deposit, then 36 months @ £81.50; Day 1, when you wheel the bike out the Dealers, you OWE, £2,250, on the credit scheme, BUT that bike is probably only worth £1900 '2nd Hand' Value, so you are in 'negative equity' to the tune of £350. It will be six months or more, until the monthly repayments have brought the 'outstanding' finance down to something 'close' to what the bike's worth, and THEN, you are playing 'chase the depreciation' for probably another year, until about HALF of the credit has been paid off, and the depreciation has slowed down to the point that your monthly instalments are actually buying any of it for you!
This is the nature of credit; BUT, worth thinking about. Learner-Bikes are a stepping stone machine; a short-term bike to get some early miles experience and a licence with. Few hang on to Learner-Bikes much more than a year, and those that DO, often wish they could trade up!
A 'long' credit deal, can be something of a mill-stone, on a learner bike, in this respect. If you buy on a credit plan over three years, it will be around 18-months or more until you can hope to trade in, and not have to FIND extra money to settle the credit, let alone, get any money BACK to help fund the bike you want to trade up to.
Meanwhile, it CAN be something of a liability. Remember, this is your FIRST bike, and the odds are you WILL damage it. Its also a Learner-Legal at quite likely to be stolen.
If the bike is 'written off' by the insurance company, either because its damaged beyond economical repair, or lost due to theft, USUALLY, you will be in the negative equity 'trap'. The Insurance Company will pay out the 2nd Hand value of the machine; BUT because the bike is on credit, and because that credit is 'secured' against the machine, they will pay that directly to the credit company, AND because on settlement, the machine becomes the property of the Insurance Company, your credit agreement is immediately 'cancelled' and YOU are liable for any out-standing finance.
Remember, biggest 'risk' is that the bike will be stolen or crashed in your first few months on the road, BUT this negative equity period will last probably longer than you will want to keep the bike.....
AND, the more 'Fancy' the bike you buy; bigger this risk is!
If you buy a £2,300 Yamaha YBR125, then the 'risk' of it being damaged beyond economical repair is NOT so great. It's a basic utilitarian commuter bike. If you drop it, WHICH you probably will, you are likely to break the handle-bar levers, smash a mirror, maybe bend a pedal. Even a more serious 'prang' may only add a pair of £25 handle-bars to the list, and a pretty major 'shunt', bending the forks, possibly only £250 for new stanchions. While, 'total-loss', if the bike's completely wrecked, or stolen; that 'credit-gap' is 'only' perhaps £300, in the first month, and getting smaller, month on month.
If you were to buy a £4,500 Yamaha YZF-R125? Well, the risk of a 'write-off' increases HUGELY! Some-one recently had a low speed 'spill' dropping their bike practicing an e-stop for the Mod-1 Test! They did little or no structural damage, but cracked the fairings, but annoyingly, rather than bending a pair of conventional handle-bars, the fancy 'clip-on' twisted on the fork and snapped a lug off the fork-yoke. The 'Insurance Assessment' from the Franchise Yamaha dealer lad bought the bike from was over £2500, for what was essentially 'negligible' cosmetic damage. Bike had been bought Brand-New; £4,500, on fairly good credit terms; bike was eight months old; but he had £3,600 'owing' and the insurance company were offering a 'settlement' of just £3,200, less his policy excess, on pre-accident 2nd hand value.
(NOTE: The Insurance company, chose to 'write off' at a repair value of £2500, rather than repair, even though they valued the bike at £3200. This sounds like they WANT to pay out more money; BUT, if they pay out the repair costs, that is all 'loss' on their books. If they 'write-off', then they pay out the market value, £3,200, but gain the 'salvage' which they can sell on to recoup some of that loss. Salvage value of an 8-month old YZF-R125, is probably in the order of £1500, so settling at 'market-value' they only loose perhaps £1700, not £2500. HENCE they will 'Write off' a vehicle at repair costs much less than the vehicles value.)
So he had the choice. IF he took the insurance settlement, he would have had to pay, there and then, the £400 difference between finance value and insurance value, PLUS the £250 'compulsory' excess, AND his £250 'voluntary excess, which would have meant he had to PAY £900 and give his scratched bike to the insurance company! And that was AFTER 8 months of unsettlements; so he had already paid £1500, towards the bike!
He chose, not to pursue the claim. He couldn't afford to! He paid to have the handle-bar and yoke repaired, I think around £300, and lived with the broken fairings, gaffer taped together! As long as the bike was still 'his', then he didn't have to settle the finance! But, he had fully-comprehensive insurance, that essentially wasn't worth the premium, and this was for 'damage'. Had the bike been stolen, that choice would have been denied him!
More expensive the bike; bigger the credit-gap will be; more 'posey' they bike, greater the risk, that it WILL be more expensively damaged or stolen.
SO, back to the top! IF you can 'afford-it', and here you have to consider the costs, both obvious AND hidden, AND the risks that go with them, and are comfortable with them; THEN a 'Brand-New' bike, from a reputable brand CAN be very well worth the money, to get a bike that is 100% as 'good' as you can get, AND have all the peace of mind and support that comes with it.
Second Hand? Well, immediately you avoid that initial big hit of depreciation. Buy a year old bike, for say £1900... you could ride it home, decide you don't like it, and re-advertise it straight away, and probably get back your full £1900!
You are saving money and minimising 'risk' straight away. (ALTHOUGH, if you buy from a dealer, and again, if you buy on credit, you are back into some of the same risk-regions as buying new.) BUT, you don't have ALL that 'New-Bike' confidence.
So its a question of where in the second hand market to buy, to minimise risks and maximise value, as far as getting a bike that's as 'good' and 'like-new' as you can get, without increasing the risk that you will suffer larger depreciation, or bigger repair and running costs.
CURRENTLY, to save you working out the optimums yourself, IT IS, best represented by a 3-4 year old Yamaha YBR125, that is still new-enough to be pretty much 'like-new' and should promise reasonable reliability and low running costs, with a 'nice' trouble free confidence inspiring ride. See The Bench-Mark Yamaha YBR125
This represents about the 'best' all-round compromise, for a second hand bike, and sets the standard to judge alternatives.
Buying 'older' will save you 'up-front' money; but risk is they will cost more to maintain, so cost more to own in the long run. And the older the bike, more likely that is, while you have a 'not-so-nice' machine for your money.
Buying an 'older' posier bike, rather than a newer humbler one?
Ie: you really WANT a YZF-R125, and buying one of those at 18months old for perhaps £2,800, rather than brand new for £4,500, makes some better sense; and probably does work out better on 'depreciation' than buying a brand-new YBR125 for £2,300. BUT, you are NOT getting the new-bike piece of mind, and you are gaining the risks of both reliability & running costs, as well as risks of theft and damage of a posier bike.
Another one? 3-Year old YBR125 for £1500 or six year old Gillera SC? Same price, but the posier bike will be more troublesome to live with, and be carrying more risk of NOT being such a tight, reliable machine, and the risk of mega cost crash damage.
So, bottom line is; ultimately it's your call, you have to look at it and weigh up the pro's and cons and what's best for YOU.
BUT, time and again, these commuters are sticking themselves to the fore as the 'least-risk' option, and second hand, is certainly the more 'viable' for more people.
This question pops up over and over again, and always results in the same comments, usually along the lines that dealers are all 'sharks', and will rip you off! The opinion is SO prevalent there has to be 'some' seed of truth in it, but end of the day, dealers are in business to make a profit! But, it does make you wonder how they can justify sticker prices some-times twice what similar bikes are selling for 'privately'!
However; WHAT do you get for your money, buying from a dealer? Well first off, a 'second hand' bike. If you are looking for a 'New' bike, then you WILL be buying from a dealer, so that you get the warranty and everything else that goes with it.
After that? Pretty much down to the dealer. There are good and bad out there, and a number of publicised dealer 'scams' recently, with dealers selling bikes 'on commission', ripping off the private seller who never gets their money. However, that's exploiting a loop-hole of Consumer-Law that as a buyer, IS to your advantage.
Buy a Second-Hand motorcycle from a 'registered' motor-trader, and the bike is 'yours'. Remember warning on the V5, registration, or 'Log-Book' says "This is NOT proof of legal Ownership". It is only declaring who is responsible for the bike. Buying privately, you could hand over money, get the bike and the V5, but legally the bike could be subject to a Hire-Purchase scheme, or be part of a matrimonial settlement dispute or 'something', and person offering it for sale NOT actually have legal right to sell it. In which case, at some later date, some-one could turn up waving a bit of paper, and 'reclaim' their property, leaving you, in the lurch, trying to get your money back of whoever 'fraudulently' sold it to you. Certain clauses of the Sale of Goods act, though give you confidence that if you buy from a dealer, responsibility to ensure that they have the legal right to sell, falls to them, so IF you buy it, its yours, buck stops there.
(NOTE: In the 'commission Sale' scams; cases have differed back to this, and the aggrieved seller, whose bike the dealer sold, have been told they have no recourse; they gave the bike to the dealer to sell, and its merely a case of 'non-payement' by the dealer to them, that they have to take to the small claims court to recover)
So, that's ONE bit of 'peace of mind' you get buying from a dealer. There are others, and they are obliged to comply with the Sale-of-Goods act, and ensure that the machine supplied is 'Fit-for-Purpose', so it ought to be road-worthy, and have tax and MOT and everything else, and they will usually offer some sort of 'warranty' whether its one month or 1000miles or something like that.
There are exceptions; and dealers will advertise bikes as a 'Trade-Sale', which is basically, 'sold As seen' and they offer no warranty. BUT they need to make that explicit... except if you don't know what 'Trade-Sale' means, and you don't ASK.... then that's your fault!
And THAT really, is about it, as far as peace of mind goes. Buy from a dealer, you get a bike that you can have a lot of confidence IS really yours, and OUGHT to be fit-for-purpose, and you have SOME come-back under Sale of Goods, to go back and get any problems sorted, that you don't get buying privately.
Rest is 'convenience'. Dealers might have thirty bikes in the show-room for you to look at and choose from, and a chap hovering to offer 'help' if you want to ask about any of them. If you buy privately, you could have to scour the small adds, make a couple of dozen 'phone calls, and arrange to view each bike individually, dealing with more or less dodgy or suspicious sellers!
Buying 'Privately' can be hard work; and traipsing around, burning petrol to go look at bikes, making 'phone calls, is all 'hidden cost', and can be a lot of hassle and frustration. Especially if you are looking for something 'particular'.
And in the Learner-Legal market; when you possibly don't have transport already to go off bike-hunting, and may need to beg lifts, and as a newbie, unsure what to look for, trying to find some-one more clued up to help you look? Its all 'agro'.
Go to a dealers, they may have half a dozen Learner-Legals on offer; and they are likely to be a lot more accommodating than a private seller, and offer 'extras' like delivery or chucking in a few 'extras' like a helmet, or a bike lock, as part of the 'bargain'.
If you want to save money, though, or are looking at the lower end of the market, buying privately is probably your only option. And you HAVE to be aware of the risks.
Buying privately, you have very few opportunities for recourse under the Sale of Goods Act. Legally, the bike ought to be 'fit-for-purpose' AND be legally the sellers to actually sell; BUT, its generally accepted that a private sale, goods are 'sold-as-seen' so its up to YOU to find any defects and either accept or reject the bike on the basis of them; while its up to YOU to do your best to vet the seller and do any back-ground checks, like an HPi check to gain confidence that the bike IS clear to be sold to you; because IF its not, while you DO have recourse against the seller, as they are NOT a 'business' its a LOT harder to peruse a 'Personal-Claim' against them through the courts.
Buying privately, is HARD WORK. And the Learner-Legal market is FROUGHT with risks, because you, the 'Newbie' are probably not all that clued up about bikes and don't really know what you are looking at, or what its really worth.
And its a Sellers-Market, with more people wanting Learner-Legal bikes than there are bikes on offer.
Meanwhile sellers are often no more clued up, or can exploit your clueless-ness to sell you a pig in a poke. Bikes sell, often for over inflated prices to naively optimistic newbies, FAR too easily.
Before you go looking, DO YOUR RESEARCH! You are on the web; PLENTY of resources out there for different bikes. Plenty of reviews, plenty of owners reports; plenty of owners forums. FIND OUT what bikes common faults are. Find out what to look for. Find OUT what 'tells' say if the bikes been crashed, or nicked or rebuilt. Make sure you know the differences between models and model variants. BE SURE you know what you are looking at, BEFORE you buy it!
And, buying privately, you CAN save some money; but on an old, and low price bike, its NOT going to be BIG savings for the effort. So again, IF you can afford it, the small premium a Dealer puts on, CAN be very worth-while. convenience and peace of mind.
I mean, a two year old Yamaha YBR125, in a dealers could be priced up at £1900; same bike sold privately, you might get for £1600. That's a saving of only £300. Dealers CANT charge you much more, because of the brand-new list price. Its NOT like buying maybe a ten year old Kawasaki ZX6R, which a dealer could sell for maybe £2,500, but might only fetch £1500 sold 'privately'.
As ever, its your call, at the end of the day, I can merely offer the pro's and cons. You have to work out which ones are worth it to you.
Less than 5% of all registered motor vehicles in the UK are motorcycles.
With only 1/20 the number of bikes in a given area, you HAVE to widen your Horizons
See I Why cant I find any decent Bikes near me?. You are buying a 'Specialist-Vehicle' not a push-bike or an every home has one domestic appliance!
If you were looking for a car, or a washing machine, you might 'reasonably' expect to find a good selection within a 20mile radius of where you live. BUT buying a motorbike, with perhaps only 1/20th the number of bikes in the same area, you would need to widen your search area to a 90mile radius or MORE to find the same number of possible 'candidates'.
And, looking for a washing Machine or Car, you would have a lot on offer locally, in adverts easily accessible, like the local free-paper, or the post-card ads in shop windows. Widening your search area, chances are that you wont have such easy access to as many of these adverts.
If you are looking for bargain basement bikes, though, this is where most will probably be advertised. People wont spend much money to advertise something they don't expect to get much back for, and with an advert in something like Auto-Trader costing £30 or so, few will pay that to advertise a £300 motorbike. They MIGHT pay 50p to put a post-card in a shop window though! So, as you increase your search area, so the number of adverts you will have access to in that wider area will reduce.
But to list the places to start looking:-
Word of Mouth!
The old fashioned grape vine! Tell people you are looking for a bike. Tell them the SORT of bike you are looking for. Ask them to keep their eyes open for post-card adds, or their ears open for people thinking of selling a bike!
The power of the spoken word, in the era of electronic communications is a very under-rated tool! But people talk, and its amazing what the grape-vine can throw up. Bikes that would often NOT be publicly advertised; bikes sat in the back of people's sheds, that they don't want silly money for, or bikes they don't want the 'hassle' of having people phoning up and coming round to kick tyres. OR simply a 'head-start' getting 'in' on a bike BEFORE they advertise it publicly, giving you a chance to 'snag' a bargain before any-one else has a chance!
Free-Paper / Local-Paper
People STILL place adverts in these! Its what keeps the papers in business! Many don't WANT or don't TRUST e-media, and wont put their bike on Gumtree or Pre-Loved or e-bay, for fear of all the 'wierdos' the adds likely to atract!
They often don't get so MANY adverts, but these papers come through your door for nothing! Cant hurt to LOOK can it? And the local papers? They are only a few pence, but hey, too tight even for that? Go to the local LIBRARY! They usually have all the local papers available to read for FREE!
Motorcycle News / Auto-Trader / Bike Trader
Once-upon-a-Time; MCN was about the ONLY place to go look for motorbike adverts. Then Auto-Trader was released and people started placing bike ads in that, and then they made a dedicated 'bike' trader publication.
MCN is a national publication, Auto-Trader & Bike-Trader are regional, and all tend to have relatively high-priced advertising fees, and so tend to attract more expensive machines, and more 'Dealer' adverts. BUT they are bikes, and they are all for sale!
Amazing what you find advertised in your corner shop, if you pause a few moments by the door to look! Freezers, Multi-Gyms, time-share apartmenst! Massage Services......
Anyway, they are CHEAP, 50p or something, and for CHEAP bikes, people WILL give them a go! Its another 'Resource' and EVERY shop you go to that HAS a post-card display is an opportunity to find MORE bikes for sale and potential bargains!
MORE, ones that NOT many people will be looking at! If you are looking at the bottom of the market; can be WELL WORTH taking a little stroll round the New-Agents & Corner shops of your town; looking specifically for Post-Card adverts, in shops you wouldn't USUALLY go to!
On the Computer
You are reading this, so you are on the net. AND, most bikes advertised WILL be on the net 'some-where'. There are LOADs of places to look, and I'll deal with e-bay seperately!
There is 'no' best place to start looking, and popular sites change all the time.
The Cyber equivalent of post-card ads is probably places like Gumtree or preloved, but there are loads of local and community web-sites around, as well as specialist interest listing sites. SEARCH ENGINES ARE YOUR FRIEND.
Motorcycle News has an electronic small-ads section, as does Auto-trader. But one of the better places to look is at the 'For-Sale' boards of the Motorcycle Forums. Most have such sections, and a lot are swamped with links to e-bay auctions, but like 'word-of-mouth' there are a lot of people that will put up bikes for sale on the Forums, ahead of a more 'public' advert.
HOWEVER; placing ads is easy, and we ought to be well aware of the internet scams. for the most part, people are generally every-day regular folk, and as honest as your friends and neighbours; BUT, there are 'crooks' everywhere, and electronic media makes it a LOT easier for them in many ways to scam people! So apply appropriate cautions!
e-bay is now SO prolific, it is probably THE number one place to buy and sell 'stuff'. And it has gained an AWFUL lot of motorbike adverts over recent years, and is responsible for a LOT of people dragging old wrecks out of sheds, scrubbing them up and punting them out!
e-bay is a mine field, and one of the biggest bug-bears is that its an auction, and that can be infuriating. And it generates an AWFUL lot of angst and unrest in many people.
And for the newbie, probably the biggest 'problem' is seeing SO many bikes on offer, and seeing them ALL 'slip by' as auctions end, being out-bid, or being messed around by sellers.
Biggest 'trouble' with e-bay though is buying 'blind'. And you REALLY ought to VIEW bikes before you bike, IN THE METAL, not go by vague descriptions and a few tarted up, and possibly not even recent photo's on the screen.
But that can mean double tripping to view and check, before bidding, and on a short auction or with an unaccommodating seller not eager to make viewing convenient; its LIKELY to push you to 'buy-blind'.
MOST of my 'project-bikes' have been bought on e-bay. And I am happy to buy-blind, because I am NOT spending a huge amount of money on them, and I know that I can make something 'useful' out of almost anything I get, even if its NOT as wonderful as the description. Basically, I'm buying 'Scrap', NOT something I expect to be a viable, serviceable road-vehicle!
And for a Newbie; expectation can be rather optimistic, and the impetus to JUST buy SOMETHING, l drive a VERY unwise purchase.
I am CONSTANTLY answering questions on the Forums, from people posting an e-bay ad "Just bought this! What Have I bought?!" Seriously sometimes they are THAT clueless, that they have bought a bike they have NEVER heard of!
And these days, there are NOT that many e-bay 'bargains' around, FAR too many people that DO know what they are looking at, and DO know how to work the system are using it, and buying a Learner-Legal motorbike, its FAR too easy for clue-less numpties, DESPERATE to buy ANYTHING, and too lazy to get themselves clued up, do any research or get off the settee and away from the lap-top to push bidding on bikes to STUPID levels.
If you ARE looking for a bike, it IS a very 'rich' recourse of adverts. BUT, its NOT your only source and you DO NOT have to buy a bike off e-bay!
Use it to gauge prices, but HEED the volatility of auction prices. Following CB125's for the 'little-dreams' project; I have watched complete SHEDS of bikes bid to silly levels one week, while pretty sound bikes have sold for peanuts. Week later, bike that looks half decent has sold for 'sensible' money, and a fixer upper with a lot more potential than the one that sold for more than the 'rider' has gone for pennies!
And DO NOT 'panic-purchase' and hit that bid button just because you think you have to, OR up your bid every time you have been out-bid.
Old rule of the Auction Expert. SET your TOP buy-price BEFORE you open the bidding, and DO NOT, under ANY circumstance, be tempted to stretch it, even ONE bid further. If it goes for more than you set at the start, it GOES. End of!
Well, they are, and they aren't! Generic 'Chinese' bikes CAN look incredibly 'Cheap' (See:- Chinese Bikes they cant be THAT bad, Surely?), and you regularly see, Brand-New 'Yamazaki' or 'Chituma' Honda CG125 'Copy' bikes, advertised for around £800, that would only just get you the 'Real thing' twenty years old in anything like a 'ready-to-ride' condition! But I have covered that one; 'Costs' aren't just the 'sticker-price' and these often DON'T prove 'cheap' to own!
New Bikes? The The Bench-Mark Yamaha YBR125 is not particularly 'expensive'. At £2300, in the show-room, its half what more 'fancy' 125's cost, and is not BADLY priced against 'big-bikes'. In fact, with the REST of the 125 'market' significantly 'over-priced', the 'Value-For-Money' and reletively 'reasonable' show-room price of a Japanese brand 'commuter' like the YBR or Honda's CBF125, does make them 'something' of a 'bargain' reletively.
But bikes like the Yamaha YZF-R125, or the Honda XL125 Veradaro. These have sticker prices of around £4500. This is NOT cheap. Prices do fluctuate, but The Hyosung GT650, was actually cheaper than either of these 125's, and the genuine Suzuki SV650 it was based on, with dealer-discounts recently, has actually been as cheap or cheaper on a few occassions!
But in the Second-Hand market, 125's ARE incredibly 'Over-Priced' for the main-part. And the main reason is simply that almost ANY-ONE can get one and start riding it, straight away, without taking any kind of tests.
They suggest themselves to the impatient teen-ager, wanting to get on the road, and the chap wanting to cut his commuting costs, and they are the starting point for the 'hobby-ist' looking to start their new 'life-style-activity'. And there are simply NOT enough bikes to go around!
Its simple Supply & Demand
Less than 5% of all registered motor vehicles in the UK are motorcycles.
Less than 1% of all UK Driving-Licence Holders have 'Full' Motorcycle Entitlement.
Consider this conundrum. There are more motorcycles 'available' to be ridden on UK Roads than there are people with licences to ride them. That MEANS that an AWFUL lot of folk DON'T have licences.
There are a lot of people, chasing a very small number of bikes they can ride, in the 'Learner-Legal' market, and with more people with the money in the pocket WANTING one, sellers can afford to hold out for best prices.
Ironically, in the 'Big-Bike' world, with so FEW people legally entitled to ride them; its the other way around. And older, less desirable machines are often very hard to sell, and don't fetch a lot of money.
Many a 'Learner' is chasing the mythical £500 CG125, ready to ride, and struggling. YET, there are people out there with newer, fairly 'desirable' bikes like an early 90's CBR600, which they cant SELL for £500, ready to ride! And people with bikes like early ZZR600's that are not as 'renowned' as the CBR, consequently struggling to sell 'better' condition bikes for the same money.
There are other reasons, that bikes like 'old' CBR600's and ZZR600's are 'cheap' and hard to sell; and one of them is that they are expensive bikes to insure, service and maintain, as well as that there are fewer people with licences to ride them.
But; 1989 Honda CG125, taxed, tested and ready to ride, you will be 'lucky' to buy for under £700. The Honda CD200, a machine that is equally as cheap to 'run', possibly cheaper, by way of Insurance, and that offers barely any more 'performance' than humble Learner-Legal commuter; you could expect to pay £200 for something in reasonable, road-worthy condition, and what would just about get you a rather sorry looking CG125, would buy you a pretty 'mint' CD200 'Benley'. SIMPLY because it CANT be ridden without a full-licence.
Worth considering feature 125's - Live Hard, and the fact that these little bikes work hard for a living, and second hand ones, that really CAN be rather 'Clapped-Out' bangers can still command very strong prices, in weighing up the 'value' of bikes in the market.
125's do NOT tend to 'age' well, and the market, significantly full of nieve and optimistic buyers, with little knowledge or experience of bikes, is one where its very EASY to Flog a dead horse!
And the 'Price-Gap' is rather brought into contrast against second hand cars, which seem incredibly 'Cheap', and if you are looking to get a bike as a way to avoid high insurance prices and use less expensive petrol, can be rather perplexing to find that you have to spend a LOT more money to buy one in the first place; more so if you are more 'mature' and remember the days when we used to ride bikes because they were 'cheap' until we could 'afford' a car!
But back to Supply and Demand. Twenty years ago, the car market was still growing, and not every-one owned one, and I think that it wasn't until about 1990 that the number of Cars on the road reached one per house-hold. Now its unusual for there NOT to be at least one car, if not two outside every home!
The Car market is what's called 'Saturated'. There are loads and loads of them around, and more than people that ACTUALLY want them. And there's a LOT of people that want them! So no surprise that my last three cars, I have actually been GIVEN because it was cheaper to give it away, rather than pay a scrap man for approved 'disposal'!
Bikes? Very different market. Its no where NEAR as saturated, and nature of bikes, and the 'Hobby' element to the interest, when a bike is taken off the road because its broken, often ends up becoming a 'project', or because it takes up so little space compared to a car, wheeled into a shed or tucked in the back of a garage, with some idea of doing something with it in the future. Old bikes don't 'Die'... they get 'Laid-Up'
So, simple answer is they are 'expensive' because the market will demand it! Not so great as a Newbie, looking for your first bike, BUT, not AS bas as you may think. Remember, 125's are a stepping stone to a Full-Licence. If you follow 'The Plan', get one, get some early miles experience and a licence with it; in a few months you can turn the tables, and with teh full licence in your pocket, the 'pass-port' to all biking has to offer, including all these VERY cheap bikes, whether super-cheap economy commuters no-one wants because they are barely faster than a Learner-Legal, or a hyper-performance 'big-bike' from the bargain basement; you can sell on your 'expensive' 125 to the next nieve optimistic 'know-nothing' Newbie in the queue, and get that money back to fund something more 'useful'!
What do you deem 'Near'?
I live in a little town, almost slap-bang in the middle of the country, right on the hub of the UK motorway network. (one of its few saving features! - I can always get away from it easy enough!) If I draw a circle with a radius of 90miles around my house, it touches three bits of beach, East-Coast at Skegness, West-Coast at Cardigan-Bay, Wales, with bits of the North & South Wales Coast-lines included, most of the Severn Estuary, and a 'bit' of the south Coast near Bournemouth, while the northern bit of the circle takes in most of Yorkshire, and covers the bigger urban areas of Leeds, Bradford & Sheffield. It covers an area well over half the land-area of the British isles and around 90% of the population! I don't REALLY think that I am 'very far' away from most places in England & Wales! There are few places that are more than a couple of hours drive away from me, without breaking speed-limits!
But, if I deemed 'Near' to be the town I lived in? Well, that's three or four miles across! Its all 'relative'.
And I say it like this, because a LOT of newbie's have this problem, and 'near' to them, is within their 'known' district, where they work, or go to school. Their town, or suburb, maybe a few neighbouring ones.
If you were looking for a car, yeah, you probably have half a dozen Car dealers in that sort of area to go look at, and if you look in the news-paper ort free-adds, can probably find a few hundred adverts for cars. Houses? Probably even MORE adverts. Bikes? You would be lucky to find a dozen.
Less than 5% of all registered motor vehicles in the UK are motorcycles.
Makes sense really, there is only one motorbike for every twenty cars on the road, SO, small adds in the back of your local paper, maybe 300 small-adds, WOULD mean that there will only be around a dozen bikes on offer!
That will NOT give you a big choice! And looking at the free-papers that come through my door; yeah. Maybe one or two 50cc Scooters, an advert by the local 'Chinese-Bike' supplier for daftly cheap 'New' scooters; some-one trying to sell a big tourer, some-one else trying to sell a clapped out sports-bike, and ONE 125...... IF I am lucky!
With only 1/20 the number of bikes in a given area, you HAVE to widen your Horizons
And that can mean travelling a LOT further, and hunting higher and lower, and accepting 'less' choice. JUST on the 'average' demographics, if it would be 'reasonable' to find a car, within say 20-miles, to find the same number of bikes on sale, you would have to widen your search area to 90 miles.
For ME, in the middle of the country, THAT is almost 90% of the country! It certainly covers the most densely populated areas and most major cities! So for MOST people; widening your horizons really means you HAVE to look at the whole country, to get a reasonable chance at finding anything on offer, and sifting out the bikes that are more 'likely'.
See: Where Should I be looking to find bikes for sale? If I was looking for a car, within 20 miles or so, 'Local Knowledge' comes in to play, and 'regional accessibility'. Auto-Trader, covers JUST the Midlands, and is full of cars for sale; I have the local paper; I have post-card adds in shop windows or super-market notice boards. There are a LOT of places 'Local' to me I can go and look, while passing, or not have to go TOO far out of my way to go look.
Widening my search, nationally? A lot of these 'local' sources of adds become impractical or inaccessible, so you have to widen the search further still to throw up the same number of 'candidates'.
And as mentioned in Why are 125's SO expensive?, its a 'Sellers-Market', there are more buyers, often not well clued up, knowledgeable & experienced, chasing too few bikes for sale. So good bikes sell fast, often for their asking price or very close to.
It is incredibly 'frustrating' for many newbie's, especially as its likely to be their first road-vehicle, and they probably don't have the means to easily get around and go look further afield for bikes than they can walk or catch a bus. Even more so if they are hoping to buy on a 'budget' second hand, privately.
But this is all a matter of attitude; frustration wont change facts, and these are the facts you have to contend with. Its not that there aren't any 'decent' bikes near you; its the fact that there are no 'decent' bikes in your PRICE range in what YOU think is 'near'.
There are PLENTY of 'decent' bikes about; but the chances are you think that they are too expensive and or too far away.
Go back and think about the relative 'value' of things. Look again at Why are 125's SO expensive?, go look again at Should I buy New or Used?, Dealer or Small-Ads? & Where Should I be looking to find bikes for sale?.
The Yamaha YBR125, brand new is NOT an 'expensive' motorcycle, relatively, and new or used, buying from a dealer, is a LOT of convenience, for not an AWFUL lot of extra money over buying privately, and you HAVE to look further afield than your local high-street or free-paper!
You are buying a Motor-Bike, a Specialist-Vehicle, something uncommon; NOT your weekly groceries! or a Push-Bike you could pick up in any Argos, Toys-R-Us, Halfords, Super-Market, or a dozen other shops in your town!
Its simply your 'expectations' of how easy it is to buy a bike that are unrealistic, NOT that there are NO bikes, decent or other-wise, and the world setting out to make life difficult for you.
If you want it 'easy', go to a dealer, pick the exact brand-new bike you like, and get the full 'package deal' to go with it. Its there for the taking. Its just NOT there for the taking for what YOU think it is worth!
So, if you don't want to spend that much money, or don't HAVE that much money, you HAVE to bend a bit, lower your expectations, and put in some effort to get what you want!
NO-ONE is going to be so keen to sell a motorbike to you, that they will accept only what you can afford, and then gift-wrap it and deliver it to your door-step, with a cast iron guarantee that it is never going to go wrong!