In the 1970s, Japanese motorcycles were becoming a common sight on UK streets. Simple machines with excellent fuel efficiency, they were also much cheaper than the larger UK bikes or US imports. The CB125 entered the arena in 1972 as a basic commuter motorcycle that could also quicken your heartbeat! A single-cylinder, four-stroke bike, the CB125 had an overhead camshaft (OHC) engine with a 122 cc displacement (increased to 124 cc in 1976).
Honda designed this to be a rev-happy engine, with a 9500 rpm red line encouraging you to twist the throttle. For a small motorcycle in the 1970s, it performed brilliantly. Riders managed to cross 65 mph at top speed, while the bike could effortlessly cruise at 55 mph. A real beauty, the Honda CB125 engine could last forever, provided you kept a close eye on the oil levels. Most owners stuck to oil changes every 1000 km to keep everything in tip-top condition.
The Honda CB125 provided exciting performance to the average biker, yet managed to stay frugal. Part of the reason was that it was light with a kerb weight of less than 90 kgs. Depending on how it was ridden, a 1970s Honda CB125 could manage over 40 kilometres on a single litre of petrol. The 5-speed transmission also helped improve both control and mileage. With a torque of something like 18.5 bhp @ 9000 rpm, the Honda CB125 was a versatile motorcycle that could be used for commuting, work or just riding pleasure!
Honda did not make a lot of variants and most survivors bear CB125, CB125S and CB125J designations. Interestingly, the US-manufactured models (1976-89) all carry the Honda CB125S model designation. In any cases, the changes were minor, such as the upgrade of the electrical system from 6V to 12V in the 1980s. Also, from 1974-79 the CB125 came with disc brake as standard for the front wheel. Later models reverted back to the rather weak drum brakes, a strange decision for such a zippy motorcycle.
The last Honda CB125 rolled out of a US manufacturing plant in 1989 but its legacy lives on. Near-clones of the Honda B125 still zoom around some countries. It’s also an admired classic motorcycle with many loyal long-term owners. Simple to use and maintain, you can often spot this very efficient bike at used motorcycle sales. A Honda CB125 in good condition still attracts a lot of attention from collectors and bike restorers.