Honda has been making 125cc motorbikes for years – primarily for customers who demand low cost practicality with something that has a sporting edge. The tradition continues to this day with current models such as Honda’s racy CBR125 model. In the UK, many classic bike enthusiasts favour the CB125 models which were made in the 1970s. Of these, it is probably the CB125 Supersport which is the rarest model. There are only about fifty or so still in existence and only a handful of these are in Europe. They seldom come up for sale and when they do you probably have to factor in shipping costs, because those that do will be in Japan.
Other models of the classic, and ever popular, Honda CB125 are more common that the Supersport. They were, in fact, made with a 122cc engine. The bikes’ engines were capable of running for several thousands of miles without demanding a great deal of maintenance, however they only had a top speed of about 65mph. Like other similar Honda designs, the CB125 boasted a four stroke engine. Manufactured through the 1970s, this design philosophy stretched right back to the early days of innovation at Honda. The manufacturer’s founder, Soichiro Honda, became frustrated with the noise, smell and unpleasant fumes that were emitted from his own and other’s post-war two stroke bikes. Thus, it was as far back as 1951 – in an effort to improve the conditions of overcrowded Japanese city streets – that Honda created its first four stroke motorcycle, the Dream E. However, it should be mentioned that this initial model had a 146cc engine.
By the end of the decade Honda was – for the first time in its history – entering newly developed 125cc motorbikes in the Isle of Mann TT races. Honda won the manufacturer’s trophy in the ultra lightweight class in 1959. It is from these initial successes that the Japanese manufacturer began to develop a reputation in Europe as a bike maker to be reckoned with. Interest in their bikes really took off in 1961, however, when Honda made four stroke models won both the 125 and 250cc classes at the TT. Indeed, in both classes no other manufacturer had bikes placed higher than sixth. Little wonder, therefore, that Honda’s 125 bikes have become sought after classics ever since.
By the 1980s Honda’s love affair with four stroke 125cc motorbikes was continuing to flourish. A of classic eighties bike design, the CM125 offered the rider high handlebars, megaphone silencers and a stepped seat. Not only this, but the design incorporated a popular teardrop shaped petrol tank and plenty of chrome plating. Classed as a cruising bike, the CM125 still offered a sporty feel that befitted its heritage. The machine’s five speed gearbox was most definitely racier than rival bikes that were marketed at the same time. Manufacturing of this bike ceased in 1986 but its popularity continued which, in turn, eventually led to Honda introducing a new 125.
Many classic bike enthusiasts have a soft spot for Honda 125cc models, probably because they learnt to ride on one. Manufactured from 1976 to 2008 the low cost CG125 is the favoured model of many training schools both in the UK and abroad. Whether it is the ease of the ride or perhaps for nothing other than nostalgia today’s models are probably going to be the classics of the future.