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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.

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 .
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
Peter Hawker said :-
Too true. I have a Honda 125 Innova scooter - stepthru motorbike really; footchange gears but automatic clutch. Brilliant.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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

01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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 !!!
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
Andy said :-
Ive just bought one, it needs an oil change, can someone tell me what grade of oil it takes please?
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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 :)
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
said :-
Ok cheers :)
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
said :-
Ok thanks for that so I gess the allen bolt caps are inspection caps
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
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
Garry said :-
Great reassuring read. Ta. I have just bought TWO off of eBay. One claims to be MoT ready. The other needs an exhaust and a few other bits! Stumbled on this while looking for a silencer ... LOL
14/10/2020 19:24:24 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You, erm... errr... might struggle with the silencer. Not a very common bike the CLR125 and the exhausts all rusted away. Click on the link for my, oh, what's the word, creation! Otherwise the motor is strong and the bike rides well. Keep an eye on the rear spokes too.
14/10/2020 20:34:16 UTC
Roy said :-
Just paid 200 for one I saw it online never heard of it but my trusty xt350 is tired and needs a rebuild so this angel came from the bike sky I love its look why did they not catch on perfect for shit roads and speed limit is 70 so why do we need any more power lol
28/11/2020 19:23:51 UTC
ROD said :-
Well done on your purchase for 200. As much as I like 125s and the look of the city fly, times do arise when you want more power. Try riding a motorway fully loaded with a pillion into a headwind and slightly uphill!
Ride the fly solo, and keep off the motorways where possible and I think you have a great bike.
28/11/2020 21:23:36 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Quite right Roy, in a world filled with speed cameras and expensive fuel there's a lot going for a 125 like this. Particularly if you have a few local green lanes to scramble across too. Enjoy the 125 and enjoy rebuilding the XT350 too.
29/11/2020 19:55:50 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Quite right Roy, in a world filled with speed cameras and expensive fuel there's a lot going for a 125 like this. Particularly if you have a few local green lanes to scramble across too. Enjoy the 125 and enjoy rebuilding the XT350 too.
29/11/2020 19:55:51 UTC
Les said :-
Will this bike run on the new E10 fuel

The model I am after is 2003
20/08/2021 09:34:47 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
I would almost certainly, so not quite completely, say that it will be Super Duper.
Have you got access to the owners handbook, it will certainly say inside, possibly?
10% E has been the norm in the EU for years. If you want to spoil it put the odd tank of Super through it but I wouldn't personally leave 10% in all winter if laid up without the Honda Pro Stabiliser added.
20/08/2021 12:55:58 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Another thought Les, E contains about a third less energy to Petrol, I seem to remember, so this would surely make engines run lean or weaker. So it may be worth keeping an eye on the plug/s if running 10%.
20/08/2021 13:06:55 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I fear the internet is not a reliable source of information Les. I personally think it would be fine but if you wish to be properly sure I'd go and ask your local Honda Motorcycle dealer.

The link below suggests the 2003 model should run off E10 - but still check for yourself and don't be afraid to myther the dealers.
20/08/2021 17:07:20 UTC
Gianmarco said :-
Hi, my dad gave me a new CLR back in 1999 when I was 16yo. She is still with me, after 49.000kms without major issues. Now it’s a safe queen, and I ended buying another one to use as a beater. The CLR is slow, but fuel consumptions are non existent and it is very reliable, she requires just oil change every 2.000kms. It’s easy to work on, but Honda runned out of spares some years ago, so it’s hard to keep it original.
I learned to drive on mine, and she is a keeper for me, but the gearbox misses a 6th gear and the output had to be 15hp, not 11.
Just a question: on tacho there is a “suggestion”for gears/speed, written in red, but with original transmission there is no way that works. Any idea about it?
Posted Image
06/12/2021 00:37:45 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Gianmarco, after 22 years it's already been a keeper.
I have run old Honda's before and trying to keep one original will become very expensive/difficult.
My only thought on the tacho/speedo markings is are you running standard sprockets front and rear or have they been changed over the years for a different ratio.
Where are you from friend.
06/12/2021 09:53:39 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
It's a good long while since I owned my CLR125 City Fly Gianmarco so I'm afraid I can't recall the suggested gear changes on the speedo. I recall enough though to realise these were likely to be MAXIMUM speed for each gear as opposed to a suggest speed at which to change. As Upt' said too, you may have different gearing on the chain.

That is a delightful image of your CLR and a harbour, excellent.
06/12/2021 16:23:54 UTC
Alwyn said :-
I’ve just got hold of a CLR. I love it! My neighbour asked me how she could arrange to scrap her bike and I said WHAT?! I’ll take it. So after a bit of paperwork she’s mine (the CLR, not the neighbour).
I’ve put a new carb in, new front pads, new cush drive, found an awful temporary front mudguard, ordered rear wheel bearings, cleaned it for HOURS, and now proudly got an MOT.
Is anyone up for a Sunday morning jaunt, all CLRs together? I’m London based but maybe we could fix something up.
09/01/2022 22:21:44 UTC
Alwyn said :-
Ps I can just about hit those red markings on the speedo. They are red line, so a limit, not a target. (But you gotta do it once).
Posted Image
09/01/2022 22:23:06 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Looks mighty fine Alwyn, well done sir. I'm afraid I no longer own my CLR 125 so I can't join you for a CLR day trip, but I have a CBF125... Well, the remains of one at least.
10/01/2022 22:33:07 UTC
Bogger said :-
CBF125. AKA trigger.

11/01/2022 07:33:36 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'll have you know Bogger that the CBF125 retains most of it's original parts!
11/01/2022 14:50:19 UTC
Dave said :-
I’m going to look at one in half hour you guys have made my mind up I’m going to buy!!??
Posted Image
18/03/2023 14:27:49 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Good luck Dave, and charge your phone battery.
18/03/2023 18:25:53 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
HA! Trust you to notice that Upt'.
20/03/2023 20:04:08 UTC
Type25dude said :-
I bought one recently in NI. Grey with red mudguard. I had to change the indicators as one was broken, but when I connect both front indicators only the right side works and it buzzes. If I disconnect the right side, the left works. Will try a new relay to see if that works. Other than that the bike seems to run fine and I expect it to (city)fly through the mot once the indicators are sorted. It's a 2000 model, but I think this will be it's first mot. 11000 on the clock. Haven't got driving it yet bar a short run up and down to check it was working but am bursting to get out on it. First bike in 20 years, last one was a cg, dull, dull, dull, before that a dt 80 which I still miss, fab bike. Check out feragia kokkina on the clr 125.
09/04/2023 22:13:49 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
That thing with the indicators is somewhat confusing. Judging by the "buzzing" when the right side is on I'm wondering if someone's attempted to fit indicator buzzers (to remind you to switch them off) and somehow got it all wrong. I'm sure you'll work it out.

Enjoy the bike, they're a lot of fun.
12/04/2023 08:49:53 UTC
Type25dude said :-
The indicators appears to be wired up wrongly, now sorted. The throttle cable was kinked, causing it to rev when the handlebars were moved to either side, now fixed. It failed the initial mot and has now passed once a few things were done. It doesn’t appear to have been mot’d before, so must have been in a shed for the last 20 years. Only has 11,500 on it. A large dent on the tank might explain why it was off the road.
Overall impressions are it’s a gutsy little bike, not desperately fast, but will pull well. It’s happy at 55 and gets there reasonably quickly, but there’s not much beyond that. It’s comfortable, though a bit buzzy, exhaust has a good sound. I noticed a bit of fork oil on the way back from mot, so needs the fork seals doing, thankfully it wasn’t obvious earlier. All in all a decent bike, big for a 125. I noticed a bit of front wheel wobble at slow speeds when turning, not sure what that’s about, hoping it’s just the new tyre and will wear off. I’m still getting used to it so can’t comment on the handling as I haven’t pushed it too much, but all seems good so far.
Posted Image
25/07/2023 12:35:47 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Regarding the wobble Type25dude - check your wheel spokes. If memory serves I had to have my rear wheel respoked at some point on my CLR125 and once on my CD200 Benly too. The spokes move a tiny teeny bit each time the wheel goes around and eventually with miles (or age in your case) they can come loose. You'll know because the whole rim will move. I would expect that to be found on an MOT but I suppose some inspectors might not shake the wheels hard enough to notice.

Again the headstock bearings and wheel bearings should be tested on an MOT but if in doubt check for yourself.
27/07/2023 18:35:53 UTC
type25dude said :-
Thanks for that, will check as better safe then sorry. I see a similar one for sale in NI on gumtree with 3-4000 miles on it for 1750. Still, I can only drive one.
28/07/2023 10:33:42 UTC
nab301 said :-
Don't forget the basics with handling problems , (incorrect) tyre pressures can make a big difference even on small capacity bikes as I found out a while back , I spent all day bimbling around some back roads with friends only to realise towards the end of the day that the strange front end feeling I had all day was caused by a slow puncture in the rear tyre.....
31/07/2023 14:27:48 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Doh! Yes of course nab301 sometimes it's just the simplest of things. Thanks
31/07/2023 18:16:16 UTC

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