Honda TL 125

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS - Ar­ti­cle: John Hulme, Gilles Es­cuyer and Cyrille Barthe Pic­tures: Pas­cal Deliege, Honda and Sammy Miller (www.sam­

The smooth per­for­mance af­forded from the four-stroke 125cc, sin­gle cylin­der, air-cooled Honda TL tri­als ma­chine would make it an ideal ma­chine for the road rider to be in­tro­duced to the off-road world of mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als. Honda was one of the first Ja­panese man­u­fac­tur­ers to in­te­grate tri­als in its strate­gic de­vel­op­ment, just a lit­tle ear­lier than its com­peti­tors. It pro­duced the 125 Ba­iarusu in the au­tumn of 1972 and pre­sented it at the Tokyo mo­tor­cy­cle show as the fam­ily ma­chine. Bet­ter known un­der its an­gli­cised name of Bials – a con­trac­tion of ‘bike for tri­als’ – the first of­fer­ing was pro­duced prior to the ar­rival of Sammy Miller as fac­tory de­vel­op­ment chief in the be­gin­ning of 1974, and aimed more at gen­tle trail rid­ing than se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tions. The Honda TL125 had al­ready made its mark sev­eral years be­fore on the Ja­panese and North Amer­i­can mar­kets be­fore it ar­rived in Europe. The evo­lu­tion of the first

Bials model fin­ished later with the ti­tle Iha­tove. Here we have a look at the brief his­tory of the TL as we know it.

When the TL 125 ar­rived it came as a dis­ap­point­ment for the le­gions of four-stroke rid­ers who were look­ing for some­thing more com­pet­i­tive from the fac­tory and a ri­val to the dom­i­nance of the two-stroke Span­ish ar­mada, which dom­i­nated at the time. Three Ja­panese rid­ers (Nishiyama, Narita, and Man­zawa) were all en­tered in the 1973 Scot­tish Six Days Trial, along with another Honda rid­den by Peter Gaunt who had mod­i­fied a XL trail bike later to be sold as a Jef­feries Honda XL250. Honda in the tri­als world was ‘go’.

No Model K for Europe

All the Ja­panese man­u­fac­tur­ers imag­ined that there would be a mas­sive de­mand for tri­als mod­els around the Pacific Rim. Honda re­served the 125 Ba­iarusu for the home mar­ket and it sold un­der the Bials TL name on the Amer­i­can mar­ket — the frame num­bers started TL125-1000003 and the TL125E-1000001 re­spec­tively. The base colour was a metal­lic grey, which was dark on the frame and a lighter shade on

the tank and side pan­els. There was a sub­tle touch of colour on the tank with a small red tri­an­gle around the Honda logo — only Tahi­tian red in the USA, with the op­tion of sap­phire blue or pine green in Ja­pan — which was also found on the fuel tank and the let­ter­ing of the side panel.

The en­gine was a sin­gle cylin­der four-stroke with a chain-driven sin­gle over­head camshaft and a one-piece cylin­der head. The cylin­der ca­pac­ity mea­sured 122cc.

Taken from the SL125 — a trail ver­sion of the CB125S road model — it had an 8:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio and was fed by a 20mm Kei­hin car­bu­ret­tor which drew air from the SL fil­ter hous­ing. Power out­put was 8bhp @ 8,000rpm. Pass­ing through a five-speed gear­box it could be started in gear which was a nov­elty of the time.

The tri­als en­gine was around 30%, or 4 bhp, less pow­er­ful than the SL model but gave a max­i­mum torque of 0.83mkg at only 4,000rpm and not the 8,000rpm of the trail model. Pro­duc­tion was around 12,000 units.

In 1974 the Tl-K1 was re­leased in the USA from frame num­ber TL125-1100001 and TL125 1108749 in Canada, whilst the Ja­panese model re­mained un­changed; it had a purely cos­metic over­haul. In to­tal there were some 10,000 units, and the frame colour be­came bril­liant black. The fuel tank was avail­able in grey/blue whilst the TL125 on the side pan­els was bolder and the de­cal lost the ‘HM’ (Honda Mo­tor) which dated from the 60s for the ’73 design that had the Honda di­rectly con­nected to the wing mo­tif.

The TL Mod­els

The Bials-K2 ap­peared in Ja­pan in Au­gust 1974. It was rapidly dis­tin­guished from previous ver­sions by another colour change, which this time had the logo and pin­stripe out­lined in black. The new name ap­peared on the side pan­els with colour changes from yel­low to red or green. The front mud­guard and front wheel with a DID rim — the same brand was also fit­ted to the rear — were re­in­forced with a new design. The gear­box sprocket cover was larger and, on the other side, a new clutch cover with a raised boss al­lowed the fit­ting of a rev counter, if so de­sired, from the CB or XL mod­els.

Sold as the 1975 model in North America the frame num­bers were from TL125S-1200001. The TL-K2 was only of­fered in the grey/red op­tion; the grey/green was only for the Ja­panese mar­ket. It was with the 1976 model that the lit­tle Honda fi­nally ar­rived in Europe and Aus­tralia un­der the des­ig­na­tion TL125 S — frame num­ber from TL125S-1000417.

The Bials model ar­rived in July 1975 and was fin­ished with a black frame, with the body­work in grey/bril­liant or­ange or grey metal/blue metal — the sec­ond op­tion was only avail­able on the Bials — as well as mono­chrome mark­ings on the side pan­els. There was also a new Showa front fork fit­ted. The TL-S had an in­crease in ca­pac­ity of 2cc thanks to a 0.5mm in­crease in bore size, tak­ing it all the way out to 124cc, and it was fit­ted with the much im­proved two-piece cylin­der head.

If the Ja­panese and Amer­i­can mod­els dif­fered it was only in the

smallest de­tails such as the heat shield on the ex­haust or the place­ment of the kill but­ton, but the Euro­pean and Aus­tralian model had more changes. The frame was closer to that of the XL-K and is not the same as other TL mod­els. The prin­ci­pal dif­fer­ences are in the rear sub frame where the up­per tubes have a dif­fer­ent cur­va­ture, and on the long seat loop which was shorter on the US model for weight sav­ing and used to mount the full light­ing kit in­clud­ing indi­ca­tors and tool box. This had been dis­placed from its usual po­si­tion by a larger air box from the trail CT model. The frame was also larger in the seat area and bet­ter re­in­forced at the sus­pen­sion mount­ing points.

The plas­tics changed, with a ce­ramic white colour be­ing ap­plied to the mud­guards; the rear was a nar­rower sec­tion from the XL-K which brought the side pan­els closer to the frame, and the ex­haust sys­tem now had a con­ven­tional rear si­lencer.

Re­turn in 1981

We can once again find a large num­ber of mi­nor changes to the look of the ma­chine such as the fuel tank design, the chain case and the head­lamp from the orig­i­nal XL which was black not chrome, etc. If you want to make a cat­a­logue cor­rect restora­tion it may not al­ways be wise to raid the stocks of Ja­panese and US mod­els.

Pro­duced un­til 1978 the TL125 se­ries had a break of sev­eral years be­fore a brief re­turn in 1981 in Ja­pan and a few Euro­pean coun­tries, apart from France, un­der the name of Iha­tove, af­ter the le­gendary trial run by orig­i­nal Honda from 1973 Man­zawa. The pretty lit­tle trail bike was bap­tised TL-SB and was based on the TL-S, and it was im­proved with an elec­tronic ig­ni­tion and air forks, new gas filled rear sus­pen­sion units and some other small de­tails. This model was in the cat­a­logue from 1982 and there was a pro­duc­tion run of another 10,000 units. In 1983 the TL-D and later TL- J were given a makeover, with a frame iden­ti­cal to the TLR 200; in­clud­ing new sus­pen­sion and a tank seat unit it most cer­tainly was not of the same her­itage.

Look­ing for Honda TL 125 In­for­ma­tion

There is a mine of in­for­ma­tion on the Ja­panese blog of Taka (http://, an English site hosted by Jarno Kaila (www.kaila. net/tl125), with­out for­get­ting www.on­ly­

The colour changes for the fuel tank from the top: 1960s logo, post ‘73 with a yel­low wing on a red or blue base, or white on a green base were the colour op­tions from the first TL to the TLS

The ma­chine was pro­moted as a back-to-na­ture ma­chine, typ­i­fied in this brochure shot of the TL K1. The ‘Bials’ model was the first of­fer­ing and pro­duced prior to the ar­rival of Sammy Miller as fac­tory de­vel­op­ment chief in the be­gin­ning of 1974.

1974: The North Amer­i­canonly TL-K1 shows cos­metic evo­lu­tion from the first TL

1976: The TL 125S model is shown in de­tail.

1976: TL 125S: The Ja­panese and Amer­i­can mod­els re­mained sim­i­lar; the Euro­pean and Aus­tralian mod­els had a dif­fer­ent frame, es­pe­cially the rear loop. All were fit­ted with the 124cc en­gine.

Another brochure shot from the USA of the TL 125 and TL 250 mod­els.

1981: The Iha­tove TLS-B is the best fin­ished, with elec­tronic ig­ni­tion, air fork and gas filled rear sus­pen­sion units.

The TL 125 and TL 250 mod­els.

These su­perb ex­am­ples of the Honda tri­als ma­chines can be found in the Honda Col­lec­tion based at the Motegi Twin Ring Race Cir­cuit in Ja­pan.

This model, re­leased in 1983, was not the same breed as the orig­i­nal TL 125.

Also in the col­lec­tion at the Motegi Twin Ring Race Cir­cuit.

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