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  • tcoyles-gould

Small engine. Big smiles.

The perfect exploration tool

It all started with a discussion between friends months and months ago. The discussion was "When have you had the most fun on a bike?". The three of us agreed that it was usually on smaller capacity engines when mucking about together. We have all ridden mini-motos together and it's some of the most fun trying to extract all of the performance while banging shoulders and elbows with people you know.

So the seed was sewn and the idea of doing camping trips, of which we tend to do a lot, on all the same 125's begun to be put into motion. The obvious decision was of course the mighty, the prolific Honda CG125. They have remained relatively unchanged from their inception in 1976 up until they moved over to the CBF 125 in 2008. The engine is one of the most popular engines fitted to motorcycles after of course the C50/C70/C90 variant engines.

With the decision of the esteemed steed made it was high time to begin looking at making a purchase. I scoured high and low but could not find anything locally without spending a ridiculous amount of money. I.e. over £1000.

Then one boring Friday night late before bed, browsing gumtree looking for nothing in particular I spotted a 2005 bike with 10k miles on the clock for £550. The best part? It was only 10 miles away!

A quick email with a very cheeky offer of £450 to collect the follow morning and I went to sleep excited but hopeful. Around 10am I had the reply I was waiting for. Come and collect it for £450. RESULT!

It had been owned most recently by an older gentleman who had sadly passed away which meant after sitting for some time, my estimate is over a year judging by the tax disc and MOT, his widow had decided to sell.

At first the bike was very hesitant to start and nearly flattened the battery in the process. Annoyingly after 2004 they removed the kick-start and went to electric only, but no bother because fortunately the property I was buying from had a very steep driveway which would mean making bumping it a doddle. After a few goes it finally started to show signs of life. A couple more and the engine would run and tick over but the moment any throttle was applied it would die. Thankfully after it had been running it would now start on the battery but it took a good 5-10 minutes of sneaking up on the throttle to get the bike to rev up properly.

A pre-booked MOT was sorted and with as much gusto as can be managed from an 11hp push-rod engine, I sailed down the road giggling at the simplicity of the bike.

My first ride on the mighty CG 125

I had told the bike shop that if it needing less than £50 spent to get it through then just do the work and I would happily pick up the extra cost. I had gotten extremely nervous when the closing hours of the shop came close and I hadn't heard anything. A quick phone call, followed up with a visit and to my amazement, the bike didn't even have a single advisory with it's pass certificate. It was at this point I started to fall in love with this bike. I mean, how can a bike that has sat unloved for so long, run, ride and pass a test of worthiness all with minimal effort?

The whole point of course with the CG 125 is cheap, simple & reliable. It would be unfair to say this doesn't show in all respects. If you haven't experienced the sheer joy of riding them I will give you an example, there is, like many 4 stroke 125 commutes, no rev counter. There is also no side stand cut-out switch nor is there a fancy component attached to the rear wheel, more commonly known as a brake disc. In fact as recently as 2003 they were still sold in Europe with a front drum brake. Ground breaking it is not. Having said that I believe not many things will remain after a nuclear holocaust but if I were a betting man I would say the mighty Honda and cock-roaches would stand side by side in a post apocalyptic world.

The brakes, while having a disc up front aren't fantastic. They do stop you and you can lock the rear brake occasionally but they really are not in any capacity great. Merely adequate.

The suspension is often described as "bouncy" and my example is no different, it does however make for great fun when hitting speed-bumps. A quick pump of the suspension with well timed arm and leg bob makes for a stellar jump all things considered. Similar effects can be had when pumping the suspension and pulling hard on the bars even at over 50mph to get the front wheel ever so slightly waving in the air.

The engine. Well, it's wheezy, under-powered if you live in a hilly area, slow. Frankly, it is old technology. What this does however is make for a gay abandon of all mechanical sympathy and blatant disregard for the internals of the engine, think dropping a gear when already at high revs to get what little engine braking there is. Then throw the bike into a corner making sure you have the right gear already selected to pull you out of the other side. I must say that on a single track bumpy road, of which there are plenty near where I live, it makes for great fun blatting between 25-45mph clipping apexes where possible and changing the riding style between motocross and super bike. I.e.e stick a leg out and stay upright or hang as far off as possible and leave the bike up-right.

While doing all of the above and giving my best efforts to "give it stick" the engine will still happily return nigh on 90-100 miles per gallon.

One quirk I have noticed, and I'm not sure if it is an isolated incident is the choke turning itself on. It only ever presents itself while doing a "high speed" run. Clutch arm tucked in tight to the tank, chin on the clocks and feet on the rear foot rests. For reference 75mph is the best I have seen yet!

I am yet to find out if it is air resistance on the choke lever that flicks it on or another reason but full choke at flat chat on warm engines don't go well. It took a good few minutes of figuring out at the side of a road at 10pm at night to figure it out first time around.


It's for the reasons above, the simplicity, the reliability, the unreserved laugh out loud nature which has led me to choose to take the bike to Europe for a 10 day trip. No it won't be the best on any of the roads, but it will do them all. It won't cost a lot and it will be a note worthy trip, of that I am sure.

I have fallen head over heals for this bike and it will be staying with me for years to come. I can honestly say despite it's foibles, despite it not being revolutionary in any fashion the fact it just works. It does everything it says on the tin and parts are ridiculously cheap. Think £24 for a sprocket kit and gold chain!

It is wins my first 5 motorbike rating and if you can't understand why. Go out and buy one, thrash it as much as you dare and then do it some more and I guarantee you will return with a smile spread from ear to ear. If you do the above and you don't? You must be broken and at least you won't have lost money as they hold their money incredibly well.

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