‘Valuable lesson for learners’
Japanese 125s offer a reliable ride but you’ll need to rummage around
You can buy all manner of roadworthy cars for under £500. It’s not so easy, if you’re a learner rider to find a 125 that’s actually roadworthy for that sort of money.
Ignoring a load of ropey old scooters, which aren’t much use anyway if you want to pass your test on a geared bike, you’re looking at Chinese bikes with British-sounding names like Herald, AJS, Keeway, or fake Japanese names ( Yamasaki is my personal favourite) and the rest. Avoid anything cheap and Chinese - it’s cheap for a reason. The Chinese are getting there with bikes, but they ain’t there yet.
Forget so-called ‘project bikes’ as well. Do you want to be riding or shut in the garage trying to get the damn thing to work?
Perennial favourites like the Honda CG125 are mostly out of reach as well, because everyone knows how tough they are, so everyone wants one. But you might get lucky. If you probe into the world of lesser-known Japanese bikes, you can strike gold.
Take the Yamaha SR125, this is a basic sort of custom-styled thing, but fast it isn’t: 65mph flat out is about your lot. But it’s air- cooled, robust and very economical to buy and run, and it’s within our £500 ceiling with a valid MOT.
Or another Yamaha – the YBR125. Sure, it has deeply unfashionable styling but it’s also air- cooled and simple to keep running and fix, and I’m looking at an ad for one with a long MOT, 36,000 miles and a price tag of £485, and another with 10,000 fewer miles for £470. In fact, there are quite a few up for grabs at £500 or less.
The alternatives are ancient 1980s and 1970s era learner bikes, and these are best left to the enthusiast. Get a Yamaha YBR125 and you won’t go wrong.