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Review of the Honda CLR 125 City Fly - By Ren Withnell

Honda CLR 125 City Fly

At the time I bought this bike I had a Honda NTV 600 Revere and I'd just sold the SLR 650. My mate had bought his City Fly from brand new and put 10,000 miles on it then his back got the better of him and he started to use his car. It sat in his shed for a couple for years then it came up in conversation.

I'm tighter than cramp. Most of my work takes me around the Bolton, Bury, Wigan and Chorley area and using a 600cc bike to make journeys in mostly 30 and 40 zones seemed pointless. The NTV was using fuel at around 50 to 55mpg and my mate told me his 125 would easily do 100mpg. What with tyres costing well in excess of £70 each and the spiraling cost of fuel I struck a deal. For the princely sum of £450 I became the proud owner of a 10,000 mile and 5 year old 125.

Having been stuck in a shed for 2 years the bike took surprisingly little to coax it into life. The first and most obvious item to replace was the battery, dead as a dodo as you'd expect having not been used to so long. It was nice to be able to buy a battery without breaking the bank...the first of many savings. I changed the oil, the little motor only takes a litre which means another saving. Full choke, push the button, sputter sputter cough cough pop bang dum dum dum dum dum...it was up and runnng. The motor sounded just fine, no rattles, well nothing more than you'd expect. I suited up and went for my first ride. She felt fine, light, comfortable and snickety snick, clickety click on the gearbox. The only problem seemed to be a cough on full throttle, maybe that will need to be looked at. I felt really pleased with my new purchase and looked forward to saving so much cash. In case you were wondering what the cough on full throttle was...petrol. It cleared up perfectly when I filled her up for the first time. 2 year old petrol ain't the best.

And save I have. If the bike's ridden as carefully as possible she can return 120mpg. That over twice as much as the NTV, which means I can cut my fuel bills by 50%. Ridden really hard that will drop to 90mpg and generally she returns 100 to 105mpg. Smashing! Tyres are cheaper too. I use the original Pirelli MT 60's as they work well, grip well and last around 9,000 miles for the rear and 20,000 miles for the front. In terms of milage alone that's twice as much as the NTV and other bigger bikes. They are not much cheaper though, the front being £55ish and rear £60ish. The chain and sprocket kit is half the price and if looked after I got 16,000 miles from the original one. Running a 125 is considerably cheaper than running a big bike. I can ignore the jibes from the other bikers...can you?

It's also a huge amount of fun to ride. It's dressed up like a crosser but really it's a road bike. It's so very light and easy to ride after a larger bike. The gearbox is PERFECT. It works exactly as a gearbox should do, snick-click up, click-snick down, easy to find neutral and the clutch is feather light. I suspect my clutch is a tiny bit warped. Crawling it traffic the limited power surges up and down making it somewhat jerky. I don't think this is common to all the CLR's, I think mine must have gotten a little hot one day. For the most part I never even notice it. Of course there's not a lot of power. It's as powerful and as quick as any other 125, and after the NTV and the SLR and now against my Fazer 600 it is very slow. But it's soooooooo muuuuuuuuch fuuuuuun! Riding over the tops I'm the fastest man alive, I'm at full bore, head down and absolutely flying! I'm Rossi, I'm Fogarty and I'm on the quickest bike ever...then I spot a copper with his radar and I panick...until I see the speedo is buried, nailed and right around at...55mph. I can carve the corners, waving my leg out supermotard style, duck and dive through the traffic like I'm on a pushbike and race cars at the traffic lights. Then after that I can potter along at 30 with thoughts of fluffy clouds in my head and car drivers think I'm on a fifty and forgive my lethargic pace. I know it's a road bike dressed like a crosser, but I do take it iff road from time to time. Nothing serious you understand, just farm tracks and country lanes.

I've had the bike just over a year now and put 13,000 more miles on her. In that time I've done all the normal repair and maintenance you'd expect. Chain and sprokets, brake pads, rear shoes and oil changes. I change the oil every 1,200 miles, it takes just under a litre per change. The front brake is brilliant. It's a Grimeca, a poor mans version of Brembo, and it's ten times the Brembo that was fitted on the SLR650. There are 2 small pistons in the caliper and they are made of some weird metal that doesn't suffer rust and cleans up very very easily. It's actually easier to completely remove the caliper to change the pads and give it all a good clean than try to do it in situ. It's so easy to bleed. The rear brake, like most motorcycle drum brakes, suffers from the actuating pin sticking in the brake plate. With the aid of my trusty paddock stand it only takes half an hour to remove the wheel, clean the pin and plate and have it all working perfectly again. I've not touched the motor. Not checked the tappits or camchain or timing. If it's not broken I'm not going to fix it. Put oil in it and ride it.

The build quality is OK, down on the original Hondas but acceptable. The bike lives outside and the chrome wheels are rusting badly. Everything else is fading and flaking but no faster than any other bike I've put miles onto. The linkage on the rear shock has squeaked ever since I bought it. I've oiled it...WD40'd it...cleaned it and all that but I'm not going to strip it because it works fine and it worries me not. The rear rack is actually plastic. Using the bike for work I put a rather large top-box on there and it was fine till one day the box was hanging off to one side. I'd broken the rack. I guess 4 litres of milk, 3 litres of Vimto and several tins of soup might overstress an item rated at 5 kilos. I've bodged a solution.

I love this bike. It takes me everywhere I need to go and want to go for half the price of anything else. They're quite rare so I guess I'll struggle to find another one when this one finally dies. I will however be getting another 125. Speed is how fast it FEELs not the number on the speedo. Fun is measured in smiles per hour not miles per hour. And cost is measured in cold hard savings.

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Reader's Comments

Willy Mueller Germany said :-

Nice story, I fully agree with you. Bought that bike 2000 for only 2000 euros new. Drive it inbetween a Bonneville T-100, BMW R100 R , and with all 3 bikes I have the same feeling. The rust on the wheels is horrible, nothing to do about that. rest is ok. reliable bike, sometimes I go 200 miles a day around Bavarian Areas. Best greetings willi .
Peter Hawker said :-
Too true. I have a Honda 125 Innova scooter - stepthru motorbike really; footchange gears but automatic clutch. Brilliant.
Tim said :-
I have had my CLR 125 for around 4 months now and find its a great little bike that handles well and has just enough go in it for town and dual carriageway use here in London.

My average MPG is around 80 on my short commute
of around 3 miles each way to work and other general riding not usually further than 10 miles in distance.

I have taken on a longer run but not got passed the 90 mpg mark as yet but will keep trying!

Recommended 125cc and the best one i have had so far

Rich said :-
What a great site, i love the Cityfly, its a superb bike, picked it up for the measly sum of £450 4 or 5 years ago, it had a few scratches on the tank and no MOT but the bike had only done 10,000 miles. A bit of polishing and a ride to the MOT station and me and my new pride and joy where out on the road. It got my through my bike test and i now use it for touring. Over the years i have added a few things to it including A Givi pannier rack adapted from a CBF500, a givi topbox,reserve fuel bottle, garmin Sat Nav, heated vest, front screen and will be adding spot lights, the generator happily runs my lights, heated vest and sat nav year in year out. Took it up to Scotland last year fully loaded, over 800 miles and on the last day road home the 400+ miles in one day through all kinds of crap weather, climbed off fresh as a daisy, i wouldn't be so fresh if i did that on my Transalp i can tell you . Total cost of fuel for the whole trip about £40. This bike will do anything, On road, off road, Motorways (holds 65mph fully loaded) had it round the TT track last year, great fun, not tried it 2 up touring yet though but i'm going to have a go one day and i bet it'll do just fine. At the moment she's in my garage having a clutch change and a spruce up as i'll be off up Scotland on her again as soon as the weather gets better.Going to fit some driving lamps on her too as my only gripe about the bike is the headlamp isn't too good, thats the only thing i can fault it on. Bikes have come and gone in my garage over the years but i'll never get rid of the CLR until it crumbles between my legs. What a bike !!!
Andy said :-
Ive just bought one, it needs an oil change, can someone tell me what grade of oil it takes please?
Ren - The Ed said :-
Andy, it'll take 10w-40 if you're in the UK. Don't put really cheap rubbish in, spend a few quid. That said it really does NOT need fully synthetic performance oil. Go for the mid price oils.
Rich said :-
It runs beautifully on Silkolene Super 4 engine oil, changed every 1000 to 1500 miles, tried a few different oils over the years but this seems to be the stuff it likes best and makes everything super smooth
Tom H said :-
Hi, just seen that your in bolton :) me and my dad have a CLR 125 each and are yet to actually see another Cityfly, yet there could be one just down the road from us.

Both of them have been stripped to the frame and rebuilt (a 2002 green and a 2004 black one) and we came across the same problem as you with the exhaust, one of them was bodged with a coke can with about 10 jubile clips and the other had split down the middle. Luckily I've managed to source one mint one and another one not so bad for a total of £100 including down pipe and both covers. Also had to deal with the shock linkage bearings and will be definitely using your idea of protecting them.

Apart from that there brill bikes, coming from a CG 125 everything about the bike is better but still has the advantages of a being a 125 - cheap to run, lightweight and a lot of fun getting as much as you can out of the engine.
tom said :-
hi im thinking of buying 1 for £850 with 8,000 and in mint condition is there anything to look out for? im just a learner i had thought off doing my bike test but like you guys say its dirt cheap
Ren - The Ed said :-

If the motor sounds like a little sewing machine and everything looks good, I'd say £850 is a fair price, quite good actually. If you're in any doubt find a mate who knows about bikes for a second opinion. Do all the usual things, check the log book, keys and if you can afford it maybe a HPI check to see if it's been stolen, has credit against it or been written off.

Otherwise they're a great machine :)
said :-
Ok cheers :)
said :-
This might sound silly but do they use gear oil and if so dose it go in crank case on the kick stand side? As there's a 6mm allen bolt in top also 10 allen bolt cap in the side:/ any help I would appreciate
Ren - The Ed said :-
The engine is filled with 10w-40 oil similar to a car. You check the level with the plastic dipstick. The bike should be upright and the dipstick is NOT screwed in while checking the level. I used to sit on the bike upright on a level surface and reach down to check the dipstick.

It's NOT a 2 stroke so no 2 stroke oil in the petrol or anywhere else.

The engine and gearbox are combined together, so use 10w-40 oil not gear oil. There's no other oil for the engine or gearbox.
said :-
Ok thanks for that so I gess the allen bolt caps are inspection caps
Ren - The Ed said :-
Aha, yes. The big one allows you to get a socket on the crank to turn it, the smaller one accesses the timing marks. This is to allow setting the tappets.
Dave dunn said :-
I've had my 2000 reg Honda clr now for 6 months. It's the best 125 I've owned, and I've owned a few!
Runs like a dream! Acceleration is the best leaving cars and other bikes at the lights. I've had 63mph out of mine and that's enough for me, I can't see the point in buying a super bike and only legally doin the same road speed! Plus the cost.
I've been told these bikes are excellent when riding in winter even on snow I'm yet to find out but will let you know soon enough.
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Dave. The CLR is a cracking bike ain't it. I ran mine up to about 45,000 miles before too many things started to go wrong and another 125 came up at the right price. I do miss the CLR though.

I don't know about them being "excellent" on the snow. I'm sure they're better than most bikes but I can't imagine it will be easy. I'd love to hear how you get on though.
dave bradders said :-
Brought a cityfly back in july 2015, 25000 on clock guy spent over a grand on it but sure he was took for a mug. I paid 430 for it new tyres but a few problems, pitted stantions (one leaking), loss of power, out of shape back wheel and electrical fault on headlamp, replacet stantions but still keeps leaking so going to get genuine honda seals got a rear wheel for a tenner fixed light not look at loss of power as only just started riding its like a natural limiter at the mo, but I do love its ride position, its starts on the button, gear change is crisp, and seem rare compared to many other 125, future classic I think, definitely keeping mine evn if take full bike test next year. Ps based in West Midlands
10/01/2016 16:49:02 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hey Dave, thanks for that. I too had to have the rear wheel rebuilt on my CLR 125. I guess it's a bit of a weak point but not a major hassle. I don't know what would be causing the power to be low. Perhaps something in the air filter? I'd start with a damn thorough service including checking the tappets.

They are a great bike and I don't understand why they never sold many in the UK. Perhaps it's a style thing as it's not quite an off roader nor is it quite a road bike. I think being halfway in between is what makes it so unique.
10/01/2016 18:39:31 UTC
Mr Smith said :-
Honda clr truly is a wonderful bike. I've owned mine now for 3 months and have nothing bad to say about it. She does great in the city and even handels okay offroad. Only thing is that i think mine has some sort of restrictor somewhere, because it cant go beyond 50mph.
08/08/2016 12:08:15 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Mr Smith. While the CLR will never be a fast bike I'd expect it to get over 50mph. I don't know where in the world you are but a standard CLR125 in learner legal restricted form here in the UK should do more.

I'd start with a jolly good service including setting the tappets and work from there.
10/08/2016 10:33:58 UTC
Liam said :-
I am looking to purchase a clr 125 , any ideas of locating a good one, I am based in West Sussex.
19/08/2016 07:37:16 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Liam. I'm afraid I don't have any magic tips for finding any motorcycles! All I can suggest is the Autotrader, Ebay and asking around the local bike shops.
20/08/2016 09:03:45 UTC

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