WHAT MAKES A GREAT LEARNER BIKE?
TEST 1 — OFF THE LINE
We lined up for our first test – emergency braking. But as we waited for the instructor’s signal someone blipped their throttle, igniting a furious flurry of revs and we were now doing an acceleration test instead. The instructor dropped her hand and we all screeched forward. The Yamaha blitzed it with its racy YZF-R125 motor. It packs the biggest punch at 14.79bhp and 9.15ftlb of torque, while the heavy Kawasaki is just behind it with 13.8bhp and 8.48ftlbs torque. The little PCX came in third with the old air-cooled CB tailing behind.
TEST 2 – EMERGENCY BRAKE
After a stern telling off we lined up once again Ð this time with restrained wrists, and childish grins hidden beneath helmets. We moved off together, quivering fingers hanging over clutch and brake levers. Once we were all at a steady 25mph the signal was given and the CB125F and PCXÕS tyres screeched. Neither of the Hondas have ABS, but the PCX features combined brakes that help keep it balanced under hard braking. The CB with its dated rear drum brake and twin piston caliper up front took the longest to stop, followed by the PCX. It was a close call between the Yamaha and Kawasaki, with Team Green just about taking the win. The MT-125 was incredibly close behind and demanded a rematch. But everyone else was already lining up for the next race. WINNER: Kawasaki J125
TEST 3 – SLOW RACE
If weõre not allowed a proper race, weõll have a slow race instead. Our instructor had been saying how important lowspeed clutch and brake control is for learners, anyway. The slow race very quickly Ð or slowly Ð turned into a trials bike-style test of balance and control. With elbows nudging rib cages, boots and weight. A learner wonõt want a big heavy bike, they want light machines with smooth clutches and low seat heights, because mastering low-speed manoeuvres is the most important aspect of a new riderõs training. So, for most, the Hondas will be the better learner bikes.ó kicking knee caps and more than a little cheating we set off, last one to the finish line is the winner. The two scoots were easiest to control, and despite the Kawasakiõs physical size and weight, it was the most well balanced, earning its second win of the day. WINNER: Kawasaki J125
TEST 4 – FIGURE OF EIGHT
Low-speed control spelled bad news for the MT-125. It was embarrassingly eliminated during stage one. It’s the highest revving of the bunch and the 810mm seat height made it harder to balance compared to the lighter and lower CB125F and PCX. The Kwak was out next, it’s the largest, heaviest and longest making it pretty hard to turn in tight slow arcs. The CB125F has the lowest mass at 128kg, a low seat and easy-going motor, making it a doddle to flick round the two cones. Without clutch control to balance at super low speed the PCX couldn’t tighten up its circles and was no match for the CB125F.
At the start of the day everyone made a beeline for the Yamaha, but suddenly nobody wanted go near it. With the worst steering lock of the bunch there was no way it would make the U-turn. Even at full lock it sent me headfirst into the cones on stage one. The Kawasaki was next to hit the orange cones of shame, leaving the PCX and CB125 to battle it out. With surgical precision and low-speed finesse Liam took the win on the mighty PCX. The Burgman is slightly more practical and is £300 cheaper than the Kawasaki. But the Kwak has a premium feel to it, something the Burgman noticeably lacks. It also has ABS and a little more poke making it more fun to ride. Kawasaki takes the win on style and performance, Suzuki nabs comfort and function. But on balance, we’d take the Kawasaki.
THE FACTS: Burgman 125
Price £3499 Engine 125cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder Power 12bhp @ 9000rpm Torque 8ftlb @ 6500rpm Kerb weight 159kg Tank size 10.5 litres Seat height 735mm