Craig Duff road tests and reviews the $2000 Honda CB125e.
Tell someone you've paid $2000 for a 125cc Honda and they'll assume you've bought a top-end lawn mower.
The CB125e might share similar displacement — and power — with its grasscutting relatives, but it is a real Honda motorcycle.
At this price, it doesn't have the latest and greatest features. What it does have is a low seat height and a lack of weight that should put it high on the radar of learner riders and inner-city dwellers who might otherwise have settled on a scooter.
With a massive 8kW at its disposal, it goes like a mixmaster on steroids. Still, compared to a similarly-engined scooter, the CB125 is a rocket. The five-speed gearbox beats a continuously variable transmission off the lights every time. That helps with safety as well as the smugness factor — there is no point filtering to the front of the queue if your ride doesn't have the power to out-accelerate the traffic.
At anything up to 80km/h the CB125e's single-cylinder engine is an enthusiastic, if not overly responsive, participant. From 80-100km/h the urge eases off but it will still happily sit on the legal highway limit on anything but a long climb. The simplicity of this engine means there's no need for a tacho — as the acceleration drops off, reach for the next gear. All too soon, you'll run out of them.
The five-speed gearbox is light and didn't miss a cog during Carsguide's time behind the bars. A set of red numbers climb the digital dash display to remind riders what gear they're in. Novice riders will find it a handy reminder, especially from a standstill where first gear is a must.
A set of pillion pegs and a roomy seat are backed by a smart rear rack with plenty of points to connect straps. As a two-up ride, I'd confine my trips to city streets but it would be perfect for shooting to the market and grabbing a few groceries.
And if the CB doesn't have the toys to earn bragging rights in the carpark, the price will shut most riders up. It more than makes up for the handlebar-mounted choke in place of fuel injection, the drum rear brake and the headlight that just about throws enough light to ride at night at 100km/h.
The tyres are low-cost units but have plenty of dry weather grip. They will move about if you lean the CB125 over on damp roads. Do what the Moto3 riders do and keep the bike upright — there's not a lot of rubber to play with.
A budget buy that is such good value, it's probably going to be smarter to trade it in than to buy new brakes pads and tyres. If my children wanted to ride, I'd buy this bike. It does everything a learner rider can want, at a speed parents can live with.
Warranty: Twelve months/unlimited km
Engine: 124cc air-cooled single-cylinder, 8kW
Transmission: Five-speed, chain-drive
Fuel tank: 14 litres
Kerb weight: 137kg
Seat height: 767mm
Size: 2.03m (L), .76mm (W), 1.1m (H), 1.3m (WB)
Colours: Red, white, blue