The Ultimate 125cc Motorcycle Shootout

In our country, the 150cc and above is the performance segment. 100cc and below is the commuter segment. So what do you get in 125cc bike? Well a mixture of both. This segment has witnessed lot of changes with a spate a new launches and upgrades to previous contenders. The 125cc segment caters to commuters as well as college going youth. It offers the best of both worlds – a good looking bike with a decent performance. Industry experts also believe that this segment will see a lot of action in the years to come. As it is, the segment is growing at a healthy rate, when the sales in the basic 100cc segment are witnessing a dip. Diminishing price difference between these two segments, improved fuel economy from 125cc bikes and more variety offer 125cc bikes a more market share than the 100cc bikes. Most of the owners of 125cc bikes are young people who want performance and also need fuel economy.

In writing this article, I have looked into a large number of user reviews and articles on bike magazines and together with my opinion, I have tried to give a brief idea of 125cc bikes available in our market today. The bikes considered are the Yamaha Gladiator SS, Honda Shine,Stunner, Hero Honda Glamour, TVS Flame sr125, Bajaj XCD 125 and Suzuki Zeus. Most of these bikes, when compared to 150cc bikes have the common problem of small and narrow tyres and standard suspension and these may not offer the ride stability and comfort of 150cc bikes, but for their price they offer features and can be considered full price worthy.

Yamaha Gladiator SS

Unique Sales Proposition – Good looks & Performance. This is the bike which accounts for young people as its major share of owners. Yamaha India claims that they have made no less than 28 changes to the bike. This is surely the best looking bike of the lot i.e a refreshed look with adequate graphics and styling. The headlight cowl with a raised visor and its indicators and the retractable aluminium footrests, the exhaust muffler, the toe shift gear lever, all of them clearly give it a racing bike look. As per following the looks tradition of other bikes, as well the gladiator has a size like the 150cc bikes. The kerb weight is less around 128kg, making it easier to control.

Yamaha Gladiator SS 125

The engine is essentially the same, as in the old YBX 125 with just a few minor tweaking and a high flow air filter with new clutch. The maximum power is 11Ps@7500rmp and torque is 10.4Nm@6500rpm. The gearbox is 5-speed and the gear ratios are good and more suited toward city rides. The top speed as claimed is around 105-110km/hr. Braking is good and stability is good at higher speeds. The suspension is still spring type, and the seats are cushionable for the rider and the pillion but long rides may not be as good as 150cc bikes. Mileage is 55-60 in city and 70-73 in highway. Mixed mileage is 67kmpl. Price is affordable at around 53000.(showroom), making it one of the cheapest in the segment.

Pros: Good mileage and braking, Ride comfort and cushioned seats, Good styling and overall looks, Everything you need from a 125cc bike.

Cons: Suspension could be improved, In low end performance, much preferred for commuters, the bike is not upto mark; No digital display, still the analog looks good; Yamaha service.

Suzuki Zeus

USP – Mileage. Suzuki-the name tells it all, the GSX series, the great Hayabusa and now, the not so bad GS150R. In order to make a name in the 125cc segment, the Zeus was launched in 2006. And sadly, the bike has not done great sales and has nothing to attract customers, rather than offering all features of other bikes in the segment. The bike comes with alloy wheels and attractive graphics and other features like engine kill switch, tachometer and even a gear level indicator.

Suzuki Zeus 125

The engine produces a maximum power of 8.8PS@7000rpm and 10Nm@4000pm. The power is lowest in its class but the torque, which is available at low rpms, contribute immensely to city biking, making it a good performer in commuting in city. The gear box is 5 speed and smooth and gear ratios are better making it an ease to move around in traffic congestions. The suspension is still telescopic shock absorber and swing arm at front and rear and is not the best in its segment. The seat is plush and large and makes the rider and pillion comfortable. At high speeds, the stability is not good. The ex showroom price is Rs.52,578(Kerala). The mileage figures are similar to other bikes. 55-65 in city and 70plus in highways. Overall the Zeus in not bad but for its price, there are many other options.

Pros: Good mileage ;  Comfortable seats and ideal for riding in busy congested cities

Cons: No engine mapping difference from earlier models ; The power and torque are lowest ; Styling and graphics, when compared to other bikes is not up to the mark.

Honda Stunner

USP – Sporty and macho look, Honda engine, Performance. The stunner released last August, has become one of the best selling bikes in the segment. The bike is clearly the best and macho looking bike in the segment having a 150cc bike size. The seating position and split seat all give it a sporty looking bike appearance. The performance gives it the actual sporty bike tag. The bike has a fairing which matches well with its tank. There is no tachometer.

Honda CBF Stunner 125

The 124.7cc engine gives a good 11bhp@8000rpm and 11Nm@6500 torque. With its wide tyres and well-designed diamond frame chassis, the stunner feels stable and planted even at higher speeds. The gear ratios are good and you can even drive at 25km/hr at 5th speed making it a good option for city commuters. But the vibrations start kicking in from 75 km/hr. This is the only bike to have tubeless tyres in 125cc segment. But the engine, which is the same as on the shine is not as refined as the shine or even the Unicorn. It has a front disc brake and braking is stiff. The suspension is spring type and is not luxurious for long commuting. The mileage is not the best at 50-55(city) and 65(highway) and the mixed is 61kmpl, which is same as the Unicorn and is lesser than its competitors. But still this remains the #1 option for college students and young people in 125cc group. The price is a bit high at Rs.58537 (Disc,self,alloy) in Kerala.

Pros: The performance is the best in 125cc ; Good macho looks and design ; Good resale value.

Cons: Mileage not as high ; Seating is comparatively not comfortable ; Price is high as compared to the other models ; Back strain on long drive.

Also look out for the fuel injected version which sports just a 0.5bhp increase in power but great mileage around 70-72kmpl mixed. But the price is high at Rs 64000, and I suggest go for the Unicorn or the FZ 16 instead.

TVS Flame

USP – Digital Display, looks, Mileage. The flame, first launched in March 2008 ( I think ) ran into obstacles with the legal fight with Bajaj, where Bajaj claimed copyright for their dual spark technology. The Flame then was released again with a single spark vvti engine (?). Now the old model is going to be relaunched. The flame is great in terms of styling and looks. The side panel integrated turn signals is a novel inclusion in this segment and adds greatly to the visual appeal of the bike.

TVS Flame 125

The glove box on the fuel tank is a utility, which is very convenient but the 8litre fuel tank is not and makes frequent trips to the petrol pump a necessity. The 240 mm front disc brake is complemented with a chic triangular exhaust that is not only unique but also enhances performance and delivers a pleasing sound with low emissions. The rear end of the bike sports a dual lens tail lamp. The flame since its launch, hasn’t been able to keep its sales as popular as the apache series. The bike sports all the features of a typical 125cc bike plus a digital display with analog tacho, which is seen only in the XCD and in no other 125cc.

The 124.8cc engine churns out 10.5@8200 bhp and 10@6200Nm which is impressive figures for a 125cc bike. The Flame is a better city commuting tool than the Yamaha or the Honda. The gearbox is 4 speed and the much need overdrive 5th gear makes it a bit unsuitable for highway use. But the gear ratios are more tuned toward city use and the bike gives a good performance in the busy cities. The bike has a front disc brake The seat is good but the suspension is still the old type and makes long rides uncomfortable. Stability and balance is assured as the weight is 123kg. In the field of mileage this scores over others as the figures are 60plus (city), 70-75(highway) and overall is 69kmpl.

Pros: Mileage ; Digital display ; Good service

Cons: Not suited for highways ; Only 4 gears ; Suspension ; Bad resale value

Bajaj XCD 125

USP – Light weight, Price, Digital display. Bajaj proved to be successful in its endeavor to make a worth successor to the discover 125 as the sales charts have been on fire since the XCD was launched for commercial sale. The styling is all new and though the XCD appears small, the company has managed to make it look much better than the Discover 125. Up front, the low slung head-lamp shrouded by a black visor gives the little bike an aggressive yet low stance look. The tank shard and small tank does not exactly match but the graphics are good. The XCD has all features of a 150cc bike which are a digital display, alloy wheels, led lamps etc… The overall size and the thin tyres make it the smallest bike in the category. The back side is the worst among the 125cc bikes with just a small indicator-sized tail lamp. The bike is powered by a compact 125cc engine with DTS-Si technology. The dual spark plug technology combined with the new swirl technology enhances proper combustion of fuel and gives the bike a better low end punch.

Bajaj XCD 125 DTSi

The new engine manages 9.53PS of power at 7000, while the torque figures stand at 10.85Nm generated at 5000rpm. The overall weight of the bike is 113kg, the lightest in its class. The small size and easy maneuverability makes it ideal for city use. The seat is small and would be uncomfortable for 2 properly sized adults to travel for a long time. The 4 speed gearbox is meant more for the cities and for adequate highway use. But the mileage is where the XCD really shows its colors. Bajaj claims that the bike can run even at 15km/hr at top speed without serious knocking, which is really a boon for city commuters. The bike starts feeling strained after 60-65km/h and if there is an incline coming your way, be ready for an early downshift! The mileage is 65 in city and a great 82kmpl in highway and the mixed is 68.5kmpl. The other great thing is its price, which is in the range of 100cc bikes around Rs.44000. This has made it a great success among the people looking for a 100cc bike.

Pros: Mileage ; Price ; Bajaj service

Cons: Styling and size ; Seat and comfort ; Common problem of Bajaj bikes, ie. Loose in control and engine problem after 1-1.5 year.

Look out for the new XCD 135, which has improved the cons of the XCD 125. This bike has also become a good success as it is more good looking than the Pulsar and has features like digital display, wide tyres, Led lamp, GRS suspension. There is only a meager 1bhp increase in power but the performance is way load better than the 125. This has 5 gears and good performance is promised in both highway and city. The suspension is good and makes long rides truly comfortable. The mileage is in the range of 65-70kmpl. People looking for 125cc bikes MUST consider this bike.

Hero Honda Glamour

USP – Hero Honda make. Hero Honda the #1 bike company in India makes the bikes for the masses. The role of 100cc and 125cc bikes in creating a stronghold for the company is very large. Hero Honda Glamour is a perfect blend between the higher end so called sporty bikes and lower end 100cc bikes. The Hero Honda Glamour has been around for a while. Launched almost four years back, it is doing reasonably well in the country’s two-wheeler segment. With sporty stickering on the sides and optimum overall size of the body, the bike looks quite appealing. The grooves in the tank are perfectly blended even for a 6 foot tall man to accommodate his knees with comfort. The headlamps have dummy air intakes and the huge fuel tank imparts a muscular look to the bike. The new visor and clear headlamps also stand out in design.This also has alloy wheels, disc brake, electric starter. But In the looks dept, this cannot score much over its competitors.

Hero Honda Glamour 125

The 125cc quantum core engine gives out 9bhp@7000 and 10.5Nm at a low 4000 thus giving a good low end performance and medium performance in all other ranges. The top speed is arount 94km/hr. As is the case with most Hero Hondas, the engine is butter smooth. Even when pushed hard, the vibrations are never an issue. The glamour still sports 4 gears and the 3rd and 4th gear performance is not in the league of other bikes. The bike comes with telescopic and swing arm suspension at front and rear respectively which is firm and is not best for long rides. Seating is good and the ride is comfortable. At 129kg, it is heavier than its competitors. And cornering is not that good. Like its competitors, it scores in the field of mileage which has been the USP of Hero Honda. The bike returns 62kmpl in city and a great 80 in highway making the average around 70kmpl. ( But in my area, many glamour users have reported just 55-60kmpl.)

Pros: Hero Honda make and good service ; Good mileage ; Good resale value

Cons: Firm suspension ; Absense of 5th gear ; Back strain on long drive.

Honda Shine

USP – Honda make, Mileage. It has been three years from the time Honda launched the Shine in India. This bike has done great sales and is considered the mini-Unicorn. A hefty and cleverly chiselled fuel tank comes with well-designed knee recesses and a familiar filler-cap in chrome. Accommodating 11 litres of fuel, this tank blends into boomerang-shaped side panels that lead backwards into a smooth brake-warning lamp. The looks are majestic and offer a big bike look to the bike. The Shine’s grab rail is straightforward and non-alloy. The looks are similar to the Unicorn and many a times, I have mistaken the Shine for the Unicorn. But the resemblance ends in the looks.

Honda Shine 125

In performance front, the differences are many. The 124.6cc engine has features like Multi mapping CDI and Tumble Flow Combustion Chamber and together constitutes the “optimax” engine. The engine develops around 10.3bhp at 7500 and 10.9 at 7000 rpm. The engine is smooth and without vibration in the low and mid end. This is among the highest in the lot. The gearbox is 4 speed and butter smooth. The short ratios combined with a fantastic low end punch means one can easily ride the bike in congested slow moving traffic without constant gear-changes, negotiating masses of vehicles at crawling speeds. The top speed is around 100km/hr. But in highways, the engine tends to become harsh and vibrations start kicking in from 65km onward, which is characteristic for most 125cc bikes. The rear suspension is a swing arm with hydraulic shock absorber, which helps riding over bad roads and riding with pillion, not much of worse ride. The light weight assists in busy cities. And in the area of mileage, the bike really shines. The mileage in city is wonderful at 70kmpl and upto 84kmpl on the highway taking the average to 76kmpl, which is the topper in its class. And the price is reasonable at Rs. 56200.

Pros: Good mileage ; Good Handling ; Service

Cons: Absense of 5th gear ; Vibrations ; Short gear ratios


So after all these considerations, which is the ideal 125cc bike. This is question which would cause some confusion. I know for a fact that majority of college students chose the Gladiator and Stunner, while most commuters prefer the Shine and Glamour. The Flame is a model which is slowly gaining acceptance and when the new double spark flame is released, it may cause even greater sales. The Suzuki Zeus is one model, which is not a much selling one and is not preferred. All these come in the same range. So, if I were given the amount and told to select a 125cc bike – the model which I like most is the Honda Stunner!