Buy­ers’ guide

Tractable, stylish in the GPZ fam­ily way, and tough enough for a hard-worked stro­ker

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Welcome - WORDS ALAN SEE­LEY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BAUER AR­CHIVE

The Kawasaki AR125 in re­stricted and even un­re­stricted form

POWER-CAP­PING LEARNER laws that came into force in the UK in 1982 could have meant dis­as­ter for new riders, and even for the UK mo­tor­cy­cle busi­ness.

Luck­ily cer­tain mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers, un­der­stand­ing the im­por­tance of the Bri­tish mar­ket, had a ready re­sponse to the 12bhp 125cc learner limit. That meant mak­ing 12bhp liq­uid-cooled 125cc two-stroke sin­gles as fun and stylish as they could be. Yamaha made it to mar­ket first with the 1982 RD and DT125LCS but Kawasaki weren’t far be­hind with the 1983 AR125.

Ca­pa­ble of top­ping 78mph in the hands of a ded­i­cated, prone rider – per­haps with a hint of a fol­low­ing wind – the re­stricted AR125S im­ported to our shores were as good as the com­pe­ti­tion. So the full-house 20bhp models (sold along­side the re­stricted bikes) cer­tainly de­liv­ered more, but the sti­fled UK learner bikes did well work­ing with what they had.

Much of the en­gine’s flex­i­bil­ity was down to Kawasaki’s com­bined ro­tary and reed valve in­duc­tion sys­tem (or RRIS as Kawasaki’s acro­nym des­ig­nated it). This al­lowed much of the avail­able power to be de­liv­ered across the rev range. Reed valves in the left side of the crank­case took care of low-speed run­ning and once fully open, it was the busi­ness of the ro­tary valve to control in­duc­tion. Where the use of a ro­tary valve nor­mally meant mount­ing the carb on the side of the en­gine thereby mak­ing it wider, the AR’S Mikuni VM24SS was mounted slightly off­set to the left of the back of the bar­rel. The in­let tract went through the crankcases.

The re­sult was a de­cent spread of power from 4000rpm, through the peak power point at 8500rpm with an over-rev to the red­line 2000rpm beyond that. That made the AR more tractable than the Yamaha LC. You could even be fooled into be­liev­ing the

AR had more than its 12 re­stricted ponies.

Then there was the vis­ual ap­peal. The AR125 looked a lot like Kawasaki’s GPZ big-bike of­fer­ings and also boasted some of their tech. The cast gold and sil­ver al­loy wheels looked the busi­ness. Even if the rear brake was merely a drum, the front at least was a hy­draulic disc with a sin­gle-pis­ton slid­ing caliper. The bikini fair­ing added loads of grown-up ku­dos too, even if it did turn with the ’bars in a man­ner dis­con­cert­ing to any­one more fa­mil­iar with a frame-mounted fair­ing.

At the back was a ba­sic ver­sion of Kawasaki’s Uni-trak monoshock sys­tem. With ev­ery­thing in the en­gine bay fin­ished in black – even the Mikuni carb on early models – the AR had a stealthy air.

Through spec­i­fy­ing a 12-volt elec­tri­cal sys­tem, Kawasaki was able to fit a halo­gen head­light to the AR and adult so­phis­ti­ca­tion also ex­tended to the clocks in their black-plas­tic moulded bin­na­cle with a speedo, rev counter and tem­per­a­ture gauge, plus a full com­ple­ment of id­iot lights. A lock­able flap on the tail unit of­fered just enough space for 10 Ben­son.

Of course in the fickle word of style, the AR wasn’t seen as the hot ticket for long among fash­ion con­scious youth. Dur­ing the AR’S eight-year pro­duc­tion run there were many new con­tenders for the 125 crown; the Suzuki RG125, Honda MBX, NS and NSR125, Yamaha TZR125, Gil­era RV and, in the AR’S last year, the Ca­giva Mito.

One po­ten­tially dis­cour­ag­ing as­pect of the AR to some sec­tions of UK youth was the dif­fi­culty in der­e­stric­tion. Can­di­dates for change to un­leash full power in­clude the disc valve, bar­rel, jets and ex­haust. In other words a good deal more trou­ble than it’s worth. En­joy it for what it is. If it’s slower than you re­mem­ber, that’s prob­a­bly just down to your greater con­tri­bu­tion to a less favourable power-to-weight ra­tio to­day.

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