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Honda SH125 Mode Test Ride Review

Ride Date - 13 May 2016

By Ren Withnell

So my bike is in for it's first service and there's an hour or so to kill. The sales guy asks if I want to take another bike out. Hmmmmmmm...the new 1,000cc Africa Twin perhaps? Maybe the new NC750X or S? No, no I want to ride something different, something out of the ordinary and every day. Ah, how about the SH125? WHAT! A scooter? It's not even a funky sports scooter that would appeal to a youth, this is much more aimed at grannies who want to go shopping or dull unimaginative people who just need cheap reliable transport aren't they?. Surely it will be as dull as dishwater - it sounds right up my street.

Honda's SH125i side view outside the shop. A simple scooterIt's not ugly at all, neither is it super-cool or on-trend.

Before I place my tank bag under the seat I try to get my helmet in there. No, my full face AGV will not fit, this is designed for an open face lid. Disappointing already. I start the motor and it is as quiet as a sewing machine, that's actually a good thing in my book. With a momentary wobble while I adjust my brain to the new foot and seating position I set off into the traffic.

The space under the seat, large but not quite large enough for a full face lid
Not quite large enough, but still incredibly handy.

Ha! Cool. No gears to fuss over, no delicate feathering of the clutch just twist the grip and away we go. I have to adjust my brain once more to use the rear brake carefully as I keep on grabbing it like a clutch. That's one very effective rear brake as I nose dive into the clocks. Concentrate boy, this is not a regular motorcycle.

Right, good, we're off. The engine is remarkably sprightly, it feels more lively than the CB125F I tested recently. Getting up to 30mph is a cinch and once we're out on the open road 50 comes around easily too. Like most other 125s 60mph takes a while to reach although the engine is not screaming for mercy and the bike is stable and happy. 

I head into the countryside, curious about handling and fun factor. Having ridden motorcycles for so long the seating position with my feet close together in the footwell feels most peculiar and I wonder if I can move my weight around to man-handle the machine through the bends. After a short re-adjustment I'm happily whizzing along and cornering with confidence and a silly grin. I can tell that this shopping scooter, this dull commuter is not really designed to be ridden thus and yet it never tries to throw me off or steer me into a ditch. I'm having a blast.

The front brake and front wheel of Honda's scooterModern brakes and suspension all help to make this a good ride.

Of course back in town is where it really works best though. With no clutch or gears it is simplicity itself to ride. Stop-start, crawling along, short spurt to the next set of lights, carve the roundabout then brake hard for the pedestrian crossing, it is easier than breathing. The sit up and beg position is quite high which means I can see and be seen. With my legs inside the bike rather than alongside I am narrow and I feel a little less vulnerable too. 

This model has "ESP" which apparently stands for Enhanced Smart Power. ESP is a collection of technical wizardry to improve performance and economy. As a rider you won't be aware of anything other than the fact the engine stops when you're stopped, like many modern cars do. There's a switch on the bars to stop the bike doing this if it bothers you, but it really really should not. The motor restarts almost instantaneously the very moment you turn the throttle, no pause, no "kerthunk kerthunk" from the starter just immediate power within a quarter second. It's amazing and impressive it really is. How much fuel you'll save using this feature is debatable though.

ESP - Enhanced Smart Power allegedly.

There's 2 things that riding this scooter has given me. Firstly is an appreciation of how easy the modern scooter is to ride while remaining incredibly effective. Gone are the days of Mrs Miggins wobbling down the high street on her Vision Met-In, shopping bags on her handlebars, holding up the traffic with a plume of 2-stroke and doing 17mph. The SH125 will keep up with town traffic easily and cleanly then out of town a rider needn't fear being too slow for the highway. 

Secondly I've re-confirmed my belief that scooters are perfectly good motorcycles. If you said to me "Ren, we're off to ride around Scotland on SH125s, do you want to come with us?" I'd jump at the chance. The fun factor is there, there's a cheeky blob of performance, the handling is up to scratch and it would be a hoot to see the look on the "real" biker's faces when we all roll in to The Green Welly. 

I must admit I prefer a "real" motorcycle in terms of style. That is merely a preference due to my motorcycling history and deeply ingrained bias from my peers that scooter riders are either Mods, old ladies, nerds or people incapable of riding with gears. This is stupid and nonsensical prejudice on my behalf and I really need to get over it. It doesn't matter what you ride as long as you're riding. The SH125 is a scooter, it is also a very capable 125cc motorcycle.

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Reader's Comments

said :-
Hi Ren,

I concur with your review as I have had an SH125 for 2 years now since new. It is remarkably stable to ride at 60mph plus and the economy is over 100mpg. The fairing is great when it is cold and particularly when it is wet so I have to say for commuting even with short stretches of motorway it makes more sense, dare I say it, than a motorcycle. The one thing you have to watch is that if stopping from 60mph suddenly you don't quite have the same stopping power. If I had to niggle I'd say I find the seat not quite right for me at 6ft tall although my son is very comfy as pillion on the wide seat with the top box to lean against. The other thing is the tank range being only about 140 miles although I carry an excellent fuel friend in the helmet area. If your riding at max on the motorway the fuel level drops quickly and you have to watch not to be caught out between service stations. I tried a forza 125 which is smoother and a little faster with a better tank range but the air roar put me off and it didn't seem worth the extra money.
By the way if you remember, I decided not to take the SH to Brussels from the W. Midlands. I bought a TDM 900 going cheapish and that made a nice touring companion having a bit of oomph and presence. I was glad to be on the TDM going round the M25, by far the worst bit of the trip, it wouldn't have been enjoyable on a scooter. The SH is nippy, economical, dependable and just a little cheeky - it's been one of my best buys!

08/07/2016 20:37:19 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi David. Much as it pains me to say it there are many advantages to scoots. The leg protection being the biggest in my opinion. If the rain is tippling down your boots won't stay totally dry but they kop for a lot less spray. I imagine even the cheapest boots wouldn't get wet enough to leak. Also if you have a spill you're legs are less likely to be trapped by the bike.

The engine is hidden too. While this makes working on it a faff it also keeps it a lot cleaner and less likely to get electrical gremlins.

Right that's it, I'm getting an SH125 and an Intergra 750. Scoots and travels??
09/07/2016 18:22:15 UTC
Michael said :-

The scooter you tested was the SH Mode, not the SH125i, that's the white one in the showroom window.
The 2016 SH125i has the combined breaking, ABS, front and back 240 mm disk brakes, different rear suspension and some other small differences.

I must say you make very nice and correct reviews, well done.
24/09/2016 20:20:57 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You know what Michael...having had a quick look on the Honda website I believe you are quite correct and I've made an error. I shall correct this. I bow down to your superior wisdom on this matter! Cheers.

I can only write reviews as I see them. I'm glad you approve but I'm sure not everyone does.
25/09/2016 07:45:43 UTC
Michael said :-

I only noticed the difference sinds I bought a Honda SH 125i to go to work a few weeks back, so no really I don't have the superieur intelligence.
The salesman wanted to sell me the Mode he had in the showroom, but I preferred the SH125i.

And once again I loved your review, keep up the good work, drive safe and have fun.
25/09/2016 18:24:24 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
So do you have the 125i now? What are you using it for...how many miles are you doing and so on and so on. It's one thing to test ride a bike for an hour it's another thing to live with one, own one and use it day in day out. Tell me about it?
26/09/2016 07:22:09 UTC
Tim from Jersey. said :-

I had an old Honda 90 wheeled it into the local Honda dealers with a puncture for repair, and was offered £500 for it in exchange against a new Honda SH125 which was already reduced because there was an off season discount offer. It was a no brainer so I asked for a top box to please be fitted and called back to collect it new, registered and in gleaming dark blue a couple of days later.

After five really abusive years and 9,000 miles it is a pleasure to confirm the only thing that has failed is the battery which I purchased and self fitted which took all of fifteen minutes. It has also never been serviced.

Hate me if you like, but you see I have two other big bikes and to be honest this little Honda Scooter thingy was all about light cheap transport and a little more protection for my aged legs. Then I noticed that the heavy weights were getting used less and less and in an overcrowded island in which is expensive to park a car, the little Honda was as Ren said a hoot to ride, quick with one person aboard and incredibly stable helped by the gyro effect of the large wheels.

On Jersey motorcycles attract no parking charges. I realised the other day that it was about time the rear tyre was renewed, and I actually bothered to check the oil level which needed about half a coffee cup of oil. I shall get it serviced in the next couple of months re the tyre, and the orange light that glows bright on the dash is starting to make me feel guilty. A friend purchased the next Honda model up with the same styling but the 300cc version. Jesus it is quick and just as quiet. Anyways as an epilogue, my sun bleached Honda is the most reliable easy to drive and live with two wheeled transport I have ever owned and I have had a few bikes in my time. The review is spot on except to get 100 mpg is optomistic unless you drive it like a granny. I get 90 to a tank before I refuel. If you buy one second/third or fourth hand, I suggest it has an excellent service history not thrashed like mine with none but still going strong.

21/01/2017 21:59:21 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Oh Tim! Why do you treat your wonderful SH125 so poorly? It's the scoot I feel sorry for, such cruelty. I should report you to the anti-scooter-cruelty lobby. It's a testament to Honda's little engine that it has survived your abuse.

I can't imagine a better vehicle to use on such an island as Jersey. To be frank I can't see any reason to own anything bigger, it's not like you have endless miles to travel. Keep the big bikes in the shed or sell them, you only need the SH125.

So you live in Jersey huh? Fancy putting Sharon and I up so we can have a nice cheap holiday? Hehe.
22/01/2017 18:48:11 UTC
Irvine said :-
Yes I had one too and it was great but needed more power. The Sh300 is so quick it's obscene in the hands of a nutter like me. Nearly killed me a few times till I sold it. Should have kept the 125 it was fine for the boring stuff going to town for my job in the finance business. Now that is boring.
21/04/2017 18:53:12 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I've never ridden the 300 but I imagine it will be quite nippy! There is a solution for motorcycles and scooters that are too fast Irvine. Don't turn the throttle quite so hard!

Remember you don't work in town in the finance business, you work in the city as a trader or stockbroker. Sell the story!
22/04/2017 06:36:44 UTC
Carl said :-
I have an sh300 that I bought new last July and have ridden 2300 miles.i also have a vision 110 that I bought new 4 years ago and have ridden 3500 miles.the 110 is a super little bike for local running,I get around 130mpg.the 2016 on sh300 is quite different.i am 5'9" and found the seat height just manageable so concentration when stopping or manoeuvring was essential to avoid a spill.the pull to 50 mph is amazing,going on to legal speed limits easily.the comfort,handling and braking superb.i get 90/95 mpg on A roads and a little less at motorway speeds.i have the honda screen cut down about 2" , hand guards and a 50ltr lightweight top box.i have ridden BMW r series for 20 odd years prior to the scooters and found the sh300 to be an excellent replacement.i am 63 years old.hope someone finds this informative.
01/06/2017 18:07:49 UTC
Jeannine said :-
And I have just bought a brand new Honda SH300i (in stunnning red!) as an upgrade from a Peugeot 125. The Honda is superb - comfort, acceleration, power etc. Have a 35litre top box and a screen (not the tall Honda one). I'm only 5'6" and the seat height (805mm) is just okay for me. The large wheels make is really stable. Love it!

10/08/2017 18:15:01 UTC
Jeannine said :-
NB The red looks different in diferent light as it's a Pearl finish....!
10/08/2017 18:17:20 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Cheers Jeannine! Now the 300cc in red - that's a sexy scoot right there. I'm not sure I'd be man enough to have ridden the full on 300 version, bet it goes like stink.
14/08/2017 15:20:52 UTC

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