Yamaha’s positioning for the 2013 YZ125 is fairly straightforward; the Tuning Fork company sees the eighth of a liter ring-dinger as the logical choice for those riders too large for a mini-racer but not ready for the weight and power of a 250 4-Stroke. But there is another group of riders that the YZ125 is just as well suited for – those looking for fun on a budget. At just $6,290 there are not many other bikes on the showroom floor today that pack as much enjoyment into such an affordable package.
I cut my teeth racing 2-strokes and even after a decade and a half of camshafts and multi-valve heads, I still get excited whenever I catch a whiff of burnt premix. And I get especially pumped when I get to throw my leg over a 125cc 2-stroke. So when the Yamaha’s Motorcycle PR Manager Tim Olson told me there was a 2013 YZ125 waiting to be ridden, I jumped at the opportunity and so did our plucky pro-level MX test rider, Chis See.
Right off the bat, we have to admit the 2013 YZ125 looks dated with styling that hasn’t changed much since 2005. Actually, not much at all has changed since 2005. The brakes, suspension, silencer and jetting specs have been updated along that eight-year span, but not much else. But does it really need the latest and greatest fork technology or sharp new bodywork or some new crazy power valve or reed block? We say no. We’re more than happy with Yamaha keeping the 125 on the roster on the cheap. It’s too expensive to redesign and re-engineer but the YZ125 is also just too damn good to let it fade away. If the 2018 YZ125 is the same machine with bold new graphics, then fine by us.
So why the love for something that is not cutting edge and high tech? Three letters, F-U-N. On the track there is nothing but smiles when twisting the grip on a YZ125. The engine character of the YZ can best described as willing. As you would expect right on the bottom, no one is really home, but once on the pipe the mid-range pulls hard up to what seems like an endless top-end rush. Keep the revs up in the corner and abuse the clutch and the little YZ125 will rocket out of turns. Yes, it’s more work than a 250F, and that’s the point. You always feel like a hero, giving it everything in every section of the track.
“The YZ’s motor felt like it revved forever which worked perfect for a 125. It pulled nice in the mid too,” comments our super-fast tester See. “I would have liked the jetting to be crisper. But even with the jetting just slightly off, the bike’s motor still put a smile on my face!”
And the smiles keep coming in the handling department. Once again you feel like a badass tossing the YZ125 anywhere you feel like it. Inside or outside lines are easily attainable on the Yamaha, but it will take more finesse to catch the deep ruts at the apex. Railing long lines at the edge of the track are a blast and stoke your ego. Just bang it in, dig your knee into the tank, fan the clutch and keep the throttle open. You’ll feel like Damon Bradshaw (Google him, kiddos) every time.
“This bike is so light that you can turn, jump or change lines at any moment without worry,” testifies See. “But I will say after riding a 4-stroke for so long jumping can be slightly tricky the first few times. You are for sure going to have that front end a little high on that first jump. Even with that I still enjoyed every second of my goon-air!”
And when you do get whiskey over that first jump, you find that the suspension is a tad soft for larger riders. That’s to be expected as the YZ is really meant for up-and-comers, not for overweight vets such as myself or pro-level rippers like See. That softness does keep the tires connected to the dirt in the chop and overall it is a nicely balanced package.
Shifting through the gears was drama free, but the clutch did start to fade towards the end of one of See’s legendarily long motos. Considering the amount of abuse that is put through the left lever, some fade is to be expected. Gearing was also a bit off for us at Pala Raceway, as the distance between each cog just seemed a little long. Adding a tooth or two to the rear sprocket would be a quick fix. But on the flip side this would increase the amount of shifting, and there is already enough going on just keeping the bike on the pipe.
The brakes are excellent on the YZ, but with such a light machine how could they not be? The front is strong and slightly grabby on the initial bite, which is just how I like them. Feel from both ends is excellent.
At a full $1000 less than the full-on race-bred YZ250F, not much can match the YZ125 for value. It’s a blast to ride, easy to maintain and will still haul the mail for 90% of those looking to shred the MX track. Not only will you feel good riding it, you also get the sweet, sweet smell of 2-stroke exhaust. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some bean oil to burn.