After selling off my 1987 RX100, I was on the lookout for a good and appropriate motorcycle for my daily commute. I was looking for a bike that – was stylish, adequately powerful (for the occasional out-of-town rides), low maintenance, had good build quality and relatively cheap to buy. Fuel consumption was taken for granted, since most commuters sold in India are relatively frugal anyway.
I always liked the Gladiator and its predecessor, the Fazer, even with the bug eyes. It always received good reviews from testers in different magazines but never tasted the kind of sales success that its competitors experienced.
Now that I own one, I’m left asking why? Just why is Yamaha Gladiator SS125 not the best seller in the class? Is it production constraints? Is it ‘unawareness’ on the part of consumers? I really don’t know.
I began by reading all available materials on the net and magazines. I also asked around people (especially mechanics) for opinion and saw a few Fazer/Gladiators, some of which were four – five year olds, running perfectly fine. Even the paint looked good for the all those years. So I went straight to the showroom and booked one. After a wait of around 3 weeks, I finally took delivery of a fabulous red and black SS125 on the 22nd September, 2010. What a bike! It looks too good for the 52Ks I paid for.
Let me begin with the heart of the bike. Yamaha tells you to stop commuting and start sport biking. Let us see. The perfectly square engine (54X54 bore n stroke) is refined with a very steady and smooth power delivery. It is mostly silent but gives out a very pleasant grunt when the throttle is opened. It has all but 11PS of power and 10.4 Nm of torque. You’ll never feel it inadequate in town. I tried a few Traffic light GPs and won. 🙂
Power and torque is spread evenly across the rev-range, so riding is mostly enjoyable at any speed. I haven’t tried out the top speed since it’s still in the ‘running-in’ period but I got to 80 quite comfortably. Top speed is inconsequential for a commuter but I believe its somewhere around 108 kmph according to various testers, which is commendable. The gearbox, with a toe-shifter, was initially a little stiff but now with mileage it has eased and has become a joy to use. It is slick, like all Yamahas, and slots into each of the 5 gears with a reassuring click. The clutch action is also very light and perfectly complements the gearbox.
The build quality of Yamaha Gladiator SS125 is superb and the paint is terrific. There are very nice touches everywhere. The exhaust pipe has a nice finish called ‘Machine gun type muffler’ by the company. There are the bar-end weights and then there’s the racy engine cowl. The headlamp fairing is supposedly wind-tunnel tested with a horizontal slit. I personally don’t care but it looks good. The footrests are also made of aluminium, which is considered premium in any class. Disc brake and Electric start are standard equipments. So also is the tachometer. All these things add to the value of the bike. I couldn’t care less for digital displays and so the ‘all analog’ display of the SS125 works for me. In fact it looks very catchy at night.
It handles amazingly well (again, since it is a Yammie). I recently took my bike for a longish ride into the hills and came away smiling wide. This bike is made for the twisties. Directional changes happen at the speed of thought. It’s simply effortless. The tyres are MRF zappers and offer amazing grip. The bike is lighter than the outgoing model with a 125 kg kerbweight.
The brakes does the job well and stops the bikes surely and gradually. The suspension is conventional and offers just the right amount of suppleness. The seats are broad and very comfortable and even a couple of hours ride doesn’t result in any body aches. Even pillions felt comfortable as the seat is very accommodating.
Now, what’s a commuter bike review without a mileage test? I had mentioned earlier that it was not one of my considerations, but test I did and came away satisfied. I got around 55 kmpl with normal riding. This is not at all class leading figures but is right on the mark and works for me. Once the engine is properly broken in, mileage is bound to improve. With a lighter hand on the gas, I think 60-65 kmpl is not a huge ask.
So, are there any negatives on the bike after all, it too is built to a budget? I’m fully satisfied with it but there are weaknesses if you look hard enough. For example the headlamp spread and focus could’ve been better. It is still okay but a better and a more powerful full DC lamp would have been welcome. The fuel filler cap is old-fashioned and the horn, a little weak. But these miniscule compromises shouldn’t be deal breakers because the core values of the bike are rock-solid and it has proven itself admirably over the years. Yes, we can start sport biking!
The bottom-line: Yamaha Gladiator SS125 is the best (sporty) commuter bike money can buy in the country. Period.