12 Months From New 2019 Honda CB125F Review
Review Received 22 August 2020
The road tax renewal reminder for my little Honda dropped into my inbox the other day. "No way" I said "where did that inexpensive biking year go?"
I never intended purchasing a brand new bike but over 12 months ago I'd arranged with a local dealer whom I'd made many purchases off to view a nearly new example he'd just traded. Apart from the fact it was in garish yellow it had some nice useful extras, top box and decent screen.
At 8.30am as I was about to leave I got a call from said dealer, he sounded more stressed than usual! It turned out he'd gone home an hour early the night before and just as the other staff were locking up they had a walk in and "my bike" had been sold in error, purchased with a credit card. No problem I said, I'm sure there'll be another one.
I dropped in anyway and had a quick spin down the back lane the shop is based in before the new owner arrived! It was exactly what I wanted, great turning circle, reasonably comfortable and fitted my 6'4" OK. (Obviously my decision must have been influenced by all the tales of fun to be had on small capacity bikes that I'd followed on Bikes and Travels...)
Some really rough examples arrived in the shop over the next weeks (which should have rung alarm bells I guess). Eventually after some initial reluctance by the shop a deal was struck on a new bike taking back in part exchange an oldish Guzzi Breva 750 I'd purchased off the same dealer a couple of years previously.
I ordered a red one, it seemed to be the best out of the other options available at the time - black or garish yellow. I collected it a week later and on the way home thought "what have I done?" I was getting swallowed up by Saturday afternoon traffic! I was determined to clock up some miles in the first week and the more I did the better the bike felt. Approx 600 miles were clocked in the first week. In that time I added handguards which I had already, an SW Motech rack to which I bolted a spare top box I had and later I added a Givi screen I had which works surprisingly well on this tiddler (useless on faster bikes with too much turbulence).
I bought it mainly for commuting (a short commute) but ventured out of suburbia many times to clock some miles, mainly on back roads where surprisingly its lack of power didn't really hinder progress.
So, about the bike. You get a basic air cooled 5 speed with analogue speedo and rev counter, petrol gauge (sticks at full for up to 200 miles and then heads quickly south), gear indicator, basic switchgear, 18" tubeless tyres and combined (CBS) brakes with a front disc/rear drum and a 13l tank. A centre stand is standard equipment.
There are 3 pistons on the front caliper, the two outer ones are operated by the front lever and the centre one is operated by the rear brake pedal. If used as intended (ie both together) they bring the little bike (120kg approx + my 100kg approx...!) to a very quick stop. However I've never ridden a CBS bike before and individually either brake isn't great plus in low speed manoeuvres or very slow speed city centre traffic where I would normally use the rear brake only, I feel that dragging the front brake (via the rear brake pedal) can destabilise the bike. I guess disconnecting it might void my insurance so I'll just have to live with it.
The gear change is on the good side of OK but not what I would call Suzuki slick. With it's narrow tyres this bike can be chucked around mini roundabouts and tight corners but the basic suspension can get out of shape on "faster" bumpy roads. Some aftermarket exhaust manufacturers suggest this bike has only 8 bhp at the rear wheel in standard trim which is probably correct, or if you're a conspiracy theorist (not me) it's just a way of selling aftermarket exhausts and basking in the nearly 10bhp that the aftermarket equipped bike produces.
In terms of A to B travelling times my Enfield Bullet 500 is probably similar. It weighs nearly twice as much, has possibly twice as much power, a lot more grunt and better climbing ability but overall after a year with the Honda I'd choose the Honda every time.
The Honda redlines at 9k rpm and really requires 6k rpm to move briskly. Recently I've found that it does actually have a bit of torque so haven't been dropping gears as much as I did in the early days. Early on I fitted a front sprocket with one more tooth to up the gearing, prior to that it would pull 5th gear everywhere. Now I have an option to travel short distances on motorways if required but even so top speed isn't much over 60mph with 50mph being kinder to the engine and obviously not possible into hills or headwinds. Don't mention hills and headwinds in the same sentence!!
The speedo is the usual approx 5 to 8% optimistic but also a little sluggish when accelerating, although I haven't been done for speeding yet. In the first week I returned to the dealer because the idle speed appeared too fast according to the rev counter. It was hooked up to their laptop and it seems the rev counter is quite a bit optimistic. I never got around to getting that sorted and looking at some YouTube videos of dyno runs shows other similar bikes well past the redline before the rev limiter kicks in, so maybe mine is no exception?
The seat in size and shape is good, if a little thin on padding but after a few weeks I got used to it. Size wise it's the usual Honda one size fits all including my already mentioned 6'4" 33" inside leg. The headlight, initially I thought that's really good... for a 35w/35w setup... then when winter arrived and I thought that's not a great headlight!
Running costs: I still can't get my head around these. This bike will cover a genuine 600km/375 miles on one tankful especially in summer but at least 500km’s otherwise. In winter the (my theory) colder air temperatures "upset" the fuelling or maybe Euro 4 just runs very lean as standard and the cool air temps require enrichment. Mpg in my ownership has varied from 110mpg commuting to 135mpg if I limit revs to 6k on longer runs.
I change the oil frequently, every 1k miles at least. It's only 0.8 of a litre and after the initial running in period have used fully synthetic bike oil. The OE (428) drive chain required constant adjustment so recently I replaced it and haven't had to adjust it since. The tyres are still OK but the rear is near 2mm now and the front is feathering a bit (maybe it's just my cornering style). I checked the valve clearances once so far, no adjustment needed but surprisingly there was mayonnaise in the valve cover. After winter I inspected the front caliper because the front brake didn't feel great. The pad pin was corroded but cleaning and greasing everything didn't improve the brake. Later on I ended up lubing the front brake lever pivot and amazingly the feel of the front brake returned to normal.
So what of the first year? I've covered more than expected given lock downs but total for the year on this 125 is only 5k miles. I have covered over 200 miles in one hit. Riding a smaller bike (I have bigger bikes) has I think made me a better rider. You have to ride smoothly on a small bike if you want to maintain speed and this seems to transfer to bigger bikes without actually riding them more quickly. Ride slower and arrive at the same time.
I haven't ridden any other 125's to compare the Honda with so for the moment I've nothing to compare it to.
The good points: Economy and styling! General small bike nimbleness and chuckability and so far general running costs.
The bad points: No kill switch or hazard flashers and standard Honda horn button in the "wrong" place. Poor engine and exhaust noise (my DL250 sounds much better). Poor quality chain as standard and general corrosion on the exhaust, swingarm and rear brake torque arm and shock absorber springs. The gearchange indicator is pointless really and reflects at night on the aftermarket screen I've fitted. I'd prefer a clock. On a personal note I'm not a fan of CBS brakes.
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Snod said :-
The clocks are an alien looking at you all the time. Cannot unsee.
Otherwise seems quite useful, twinshocks/centre stand/18" wheels are all good things for real world usage. I look forward to the update at 90K ;)
28/08/2020 05:58:15 UTC
nab301 said :-
Quote "I look forward to the update at 90K ;)"
If I'm still riding bikes when i'm nearly in my 80's I'll be happy to oblige... ( based on 5k miles per year!)
28/08/2020 07:05:36 UTC
Shepherd said :-
I'm glad someone else has something good to say about this bike - I love mine!
Admittedly it's my first bike at the ripe old age of (ahem) fifty something, but having passed my big boys test last month, I'm still in no hurry to trade up. I think it's the mpg that does it for a tight wad like me - it costs me about £15 a month for my 8 mile return commute. With a little bit of running around too, I still get change from £20 each month. Happy times.
Interesting what you say about the constant chain adjustment, I assumed this was normal for bikes, but maybe I should replace mine?
I'm 6'1" with a 34" inside leg, so not as tall as Nigel, just a little more spidery legged, but the bike fits me ok too. I found sticking an extra large (52l)top box on the back gave the bike a bigger look, without appearing top heavy. It does grab the wind though.
Not having had a bike before, I haven't noticed the horn being in the 'wrong'position. I thought my training bike (some weird 600cc Korean jobbie) was wrong. Hazards are something I'd like, just as away to say thank you when filtering along the A127 sometimes, which is surprisingly easy for a newish rider such as myself. I like the gear indicator, but yep, a clock would be useful.
(Crawling back under my rock now - I do like to lurk!)
28/08/2020 09:49:03 UTC
Marv said :-
"I think it's the mpg that does it for a tight wad like me"
You're not a tight wad, you just appreciate efficiency like the rest of us fans of 125s, haha!
Nice review Nigel. Didn't realise the CB125F has CBS. It still has a drum at the back, right? I take it the rear brake pedal has a mechanical and hydraulic actuation to work both the front piston and the rear drum? (Unless I misunderstand how it works?)
Shame about the exhaust rusting. The original exhaust on my CBF was nicely rusted when I bought it.
After a year of owning it the exhaust on my bike had either a baffle or the cat come loose, which made an annoying rattle. Honda wanted something like £450 for a replacement!
Found a genuine new one for sale on eBay for just over £100. The paint on it was slightly scuffed when it arrived (though none down to the metal) so I gave it a second coating of high temp paint before it went on.
There was a few spots of surface corrosion appearing recently, so I whipped of the exhaust, cleaned off the rust with a metal brush and gave it another coating of high temp paint.
At this rate my exhaust will eventually have more layers of paint than a Rolls Royce!!
29/08/2020 09:42:20 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Snod - yeah! I see what you mean.
Shepherd - My CBF125 (the forerunner to the CB125F, confusing?) has the indicators above the horn, the later CB500X has them like your bike, horn above the indicators. After a couple of weeks of honking when you are trying to turn you adjust fine either which way and logically the later horn above indicators does actually make sense.
Marv - yeah we need nab301 to explain how the mechanical lever system of the rear brake gains hydraulic pressure to the front? My CBF125 exhaust also rattled for years and years and years. I suspect the cat eventually disintegrated out the rear. I only replaced the exhaust when the rust mites were winning the fight at 73,500 miles and 9 years old. Tell me if the heat resistant paint works because I've tried several brands with poor results.
29/08/2020 11:18:50 UTC
Womble said :-
A nice looking bike and a good review nab301. I started reading ren's ramblings on this site a couple of years ago now, after coming across it doing a goooooogle search on a Cbf125. I was so impressed with how the bike did whatever was asked of it in spite of ren's carefully maintenance! (only joking ren ;) That I went out and bought one last year, and must admit really enjoy riding it so thank you ren. Think the deciding factor in getting a 125cc was France's introduction of an 80 kph speed limit. That and the fact that here in rural France we are lucky to have 100s of kilometers of tiny lanes to explore right on our door step. I've enjoyed the little Honda so much that I recently sold my much loved Guzzi California as it was not getting ridden. What always amazes me about the little Honda is it seems to suit so many different size people as testified above. And I find it so comfortable that I always seem to ride it further than I intended. I'm now thinking of looking for a suitable 250 to 500 for two up riding and sell my other bikes. Small bikes are the future for me.
29/08/2020 11:25:52 UTC
nab301 said :-
It's nice to know there's a few other closet 125 Honda owners out there too!
@ Sheperd , a 52L top box on a 125 !! Post up a photo please! On the chain , bigger bikes have "o" ring chains which rarely need adjustment ( assuming you lubricate them regularly) . If you can lift your current chain more than half a tooth off the rear sprocket at its very rearmost point when tensioned correctly I would consider replacing it. My old chain was nearly 2 links longer than the replacement. I didn't bother with sprockets because of the low mileage .
@ Marv , yes, hydraulic mechanical rear drum brake, in the photo the lower rod pulls forward like a conventional drum brake but there's a sort of "floating " linkage at the top I think controlled by the spring at the top which delays forward movement to the secondary master cylinder. This only operates later in the stroke of the rear brake pedal. So you have an independent hydraulic circuit for the middle piston of the 3 piston front caliper.
@ Womble , I'm Southern Ireland based and we have the same 80km/h limits on secondary roads and talk of reducing motorway speed limits .
I've written else where about a test ride on a CB500X so I would recommend on the basis of that test ride having a look at one , they seem to be a great bike , Ren can fill you in on the two up bits!
29/08/2020 06:17:38 UTC
nab301 said :-
Secondary front brake master cylinder
29/08/2020 06:19:19 UTC
nab301 said :-
To avoid confusion, the bright coloured spring facing vertically in the photo operates the rear brake light , the dark coloured horizontally facing spring with the rubber sleeve is part of the cbs linkage...
29/08/2020 06:24:07 UTC
Borsuk said :-
I am surprised there is no kill switch, even cheap Chinese bikes have kill switches. Does it have a sensor that kills the engine if the bike detects that it has crashed.
29/08/2020 07:03:03 UTC
nab301 said :-
There is a tip over sensor listed in the Haynes manual.
29/08/2020 09:35:06 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
It's my belief that almost all fool retention motor bicycles have a "tilt switch" to use the colloquial. Carburetors usually don't work on their sides whereas injection will, leaving an engine running after a tumble. This creates obvious dangers to the rider, third parties and the engine itself.
While the Spitfire was a magnificent plane Messerschmitts had fuel injection. This allowed it to pull negative G dives and turns whereas the float bowl wouldn't work as a float bowl on the Merlin. This was somehow fixed in later versions.
30/08/2020 06:48:31 UTC
Mark Noel said :-
Later Merlin engines were mounted on a gyro-stabilised gimbal so that the engine always remained upright and would continue to run when the aircraft was inverted.
30/08/2020 09:25:23 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
And how could that possibly work? Sounds as if it's from the same source as the "eating carrots gives you better eyesight" which was devised to hide the fact that Britain had invented radar.
What they did have was a mod to the carburettor designed by a certain Beatrice Shilling, a very talented engineer (who also raced Norton motorcycles with some success). This was merely a plate with a small hole that stopped the fuel flooding the carb when inverted.
It became known as "Miss Shilling's orifice".........
30/08/2020 09:54:07 UTC
Shepherd said :-
Piccie of my 52litre box fitted.
I got it around the same time as passing my DAS, and the guys at work assumed I'd got myself a bigger bike. I think it does give the bike 'more presence.'
30/08/2020 03:21:17 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Ian - I think we have to accept we'll never know if Mark is being a genuine genius or a facetious sarcastic genius / plonker. I think I'm getting a vague understanding of his warped humour, which worries me.
Miss Shilling on the other hand strikes me as a smart lady who created a simple, effective and dirt cheap solution while the rest of them were likely fitting Merlin engines in gimbals then wondering why they won't fit in the Spitfire.
30/08/2020 04:25:26 UTC
nab301 said :-
I think my top box is 30 odd litre , I had visions of a 52l top box looking a lot bigger!!
30/08/2020 04:26:41 UTC
Bogger said :-
I like reviews of the smaller bikes. I think it's the David VS Goliath thing I enjoy the most. Also the amazing fuel economy you get from a 125cc bike/scooter.
30/08/2020 05:28:03 UTC
Keith m said :-
Nice review. Still tempted to buy another 125 for my commute to work.. If the press is to believed 125s are flying out of showrooms at the moment as people try to avoid public transport. I wonder how many will be for sale in the spring as people realise it’s not quite so much fun in cold wet of winter.
31/08/2020 11:36:59 UTC
Badger said :-
My cbf 125 had a lot of corrosion problems, especially the swing arm area.
Honda replaced a good few parts free, but it most certainly needs to be kept in check if you own one. Great bikes though, excellent value new.
03/09/2020 02:30:50 UTC
DaveS said :-
Which handguards did you add? Where can you buy that? I've been looking for it for so long ...
14/09/2020 11:28:55 UTC
nab301 said :-
I used barkbusters I ourchased from a local SW Motech dealer (BB storm universal)
14/09/2020 02:28:23 UTC
nab301 said :-
That should read Purchased.....
14/09/2020 02:29:30 UTC
Ash P said :-
I have a Yamaha YS125. The combined breaking system consists of a cable connecting the rear brake lever to the front brake lever. Press on the rear brake lever which pulls the cable which pulls on the front brake lever. In practice doesn’t seem to do a lot.
22/09/2020 08:56:01 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I can only imagine mechanically linked brake systems could very easily be set up quite wrong.
With a hydraulically linked system there will be a method of getting approximately the right amount of force to the front and rear brakes, much like a car. This could be through a valve in the system or more commonly the size, type and design of the brakes themselves. This too is possible with mechanical systems but what if the cable is mis-adjusted or stretched?
Ash P - You said "In practice doesn’t seem to do a lot". I suspect this was likely Yamaha's intention, just enough to pass the regulations.
23/09/2020 08:11:14 UTC
ROD said :-
I feel that the linked brakes on 125s are a token fit to comply with legislation. The linked brakes on my 125 have little difference to conventional brakes compared to the BMW linked brakes.
23/09/2020 11:21:23 UTC
Marv said :-
Anyone else see the specs for the new 2021 CB125F?
Looks like a nice little step forwards in a few areas. 11KG lighter and a more economical engine. LED headlight + a digital dash (with gear indicator) though weirdly the digi dash looks like it is missing a rev counter. Plus a few other decent technical improvements.
I've never thought that the CB125F was that much of a step over the CBF125 (perhaps wrongly) but the 2021 bike looks quite appealing with some nice upgrades in a few areas. Not that I'd get rid of my CBF125 for one. I guess they'll be people who will cry that it's becoming too technical/digital and a 125 should be kept simple. Which is also a valid argument.
23/09/2020 01:40:23 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
ROD - I have no actual evidence but I suspect you're correct.
Marv - 188MGP!!! ARGH! Where do I sign - take my money! Long stroke over square motor, cool. Lighter, cool. Slightly more power and torque, cool. Oh be still my beating heart. Combined alternator/starter too. Live MPG display, oh my lord. Who needs a rev counter anyhoo?
The CB125F follows the line that started with the CG125, through the CBF125. It was never meant to be at the cutting edge, pushing the boundaries or shaking the world. Think of this range more like the C90 but looking like a small motorcycle rather than a scoot. The primary market here in the UK for these are the learners, commuters and delivery riders, but these are small beans. In reality they're aimed at India, Thailand and other eastern countries where sales could potentially far FAR outstrip European sales. As such I expect, like the CBF, there will be versions with carburettors and/or CDI and/or no CBS and/or simplified electricals.
23/09/2020 02:31:41 UTC
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