If judged solely on fit-and-finish and overall appearance, the CR125 would take top honors. It's just a few tweaks away from running up front.
Honda introduced its aluminum-framed CR125 in 1998, but its motor was a bit of a letdown compared to the rocket 1997 model. This year, Honda went to great lengths to improve airflow to the little motor. The rear number plates now have larger air openings to feed a new air intake boot and larger intake and exhaust ports. A bigger (up from 36mm to 38mm) Mikuni TMX carburetor and a bigger reed valve should improve top-end power. Rounding out the major engine changes are a revised exhaust system and powervalve.
Honda's twin-spar aluminum frame now enters its third generation. It has taller swingarm pivot plates and has been narrowed to make the bike skinnier and easier to maneuver. At the track, Honda's Eric Crippa modified the jetting slightly by going up two sizes on the main jet (420 to 440), using a larger pilot jet (a 30 to a 40), and a slightly different needle (6D6y21-71), with the clip in the third position.
In one respect, the Honda is a joy to ride because the chassis, brakes, clutch, and rider layout are so darn good. Honda's front brake is the best in the business due to the exclusive, more-direct cable routing that we mentioned earlier. The bike is a motorized work of art
that simply looks and feels phenomenal until you get it rolling down the track at speed, especially against the other contenders. It's simply not as fast and the suspension performance ranked near the bottom of the pack.
The 6-speed CR125 is rather torquey and strong off the bottom and into the midrange, but it starts to sign off soon after. Overall, there's just not that much "oomph" from the motor. Test rider Mace said, "The CR needs a harder hit and more top-end to be more competitive." The CR's motor reminded us of the KX's motor with its good bottom- to mid-range power, but without much of a hit up top. The KX is also slightly better in overall power, suspension, and handling, but not by much. The Honda is by no means a bad motorcycle, but you might have to spend several hundred bucks on porting and a pipe if you're a fast guy who wants to equalize the playing field on race day.