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I bought my second ever motorcycle, a Honda CM125, just over one year ago. I had my heart set on one of these machines, mainly due to the relative street cred this learner legal bikes offers the novice (and of course bystanders). Obviously, one or two other people think the same way, hence the high values they command. After searching through the pages of my local Auto Trader for some time, and a couple of unsuccessful attempts (they’d been sold within a couple of hours of publication), I at last found the bike which I had been looking for. Was it all worth it? Well, read on. It stood there gleaming in the mid afternoon sun, a C reg model in pretty much perfect condition with only 8000 miles on the clock. It was love at first sight and so I paid over the odds (£700). I wobbled the seventy miles home; even my mother had to admit that it was a pretty looking thing upon my arrival. I clocked up 7000 miles in the year that I owned her and she never let me down. She did on average 80 miles to the gallon, so you can get 200 miles out of a full tank, including reserve. The worst ever figure being 70 and the best 90mpg, although I am sure you could get 100mpg if you really piddled along. Oil consumption was negligible and I changed this every 1250 miles as per the Haynes manual; there was never any need for topping up. Every 1000 miles or so the air filter needs cleaning which is a simple operation, even to such a mechanical philistine as myself. Routine maintenance such as chain adjustment is also quite straightforward, which is just as well really as this needed doing quite often. The final drive chain needed replacing at 13000 miles, although I could have got away with removing a link but at £15 it wasn’t worth the hassle. The rear sprocket also needed replacing at 15000 miles, although I left this to the dealer who bought it from me. The front tyre was new when I bought the bike and both Metzelers still had plenty of life in them when I sold
her. The front tyre had only cost £30 but I imagine the rear would be fairly expensive to replace. Both front and rear brakes are drums and need the shoes replacing every 5 to 7000 miles depending on how you ride. The front brake has a tendency to seize during the winter months but dismantling and cleaning this up is a fairly simple operation. The front could really do with a disc as you have to squeeze hard to stop and even harder in those small every day occurrences that crop up (like cars pulling out of junctions directly in front of you at 30 yards). Still, the rear brake is good and resulted in me failing my part two test the first time after doing a 180 degree turn for my emergency stop! The only problem that I ever encountered with my CM was with the electrics. For some reason, never quite fully understood, the lights began to cut out on full beam but were fine on dip. A new bulb made no difference. So, knowing even less about electrics than I do about mechanics, I took the bike to an auto-electrician....after much testing and fiddling they solved the problem. For a while, then the lights began to cut out on dip but were fine on full beam. In retrospect, this was probably something to do with the switch. However, apart from this, the lights are quite good for the type of speeds attainable on a CM125 and rarely blow bulbs. Handling was rather strange, as on all custom bikes, but okay provided corners were taken at sensible speeds (ie 30mph) and in the upright position! Straight line stability was good at most speeds, probably down to the fork rake and relatively long wheelbase for a 125. There wasn’t enough power to enjoy either fast A roads or motorways, but hugely expensive cars were put in their proper place in towns. Anyway, I had no problem getting around the cones on my part one and passed that first time, which wasn’t bad as I’m pretty useless at that sort of thing generally. The riding position is comfortable although I fo
und the seat a bit too low for my 6’2" stature. The seat itself was very comfortable - I’ve endured two 300 mile trips in one go without any aches or pains (although I’m young and agile) - and never split (the seat that is, not me) as some of the early models I’ve seen have tended to do. The rack on the back is also exceptionally useful and whilst the bike is capable of carrying quite large loads, two up makes the going very difficult, especially up hills and the handling becomes very weird if you insist on cornering at anything approaching a fast speed. The only major expense ever necessary was that of replacing the exhaust at 15000 miles. Both split at exactly the same place and time, just after the seam welded between the silencers and pipes. This is common on CM125s (and CBs), due to moisture collecting in the silencer. A cheap solution would be to just replace the silencers but no aftermarket company does any pattern silencers (as they do for the CM250 at £60 a pair). A complete new exhaust system cost me £130. Beware, the gasket on the balancer pipe is an essential unless you want to sound like a tractor. The finish and quality was not so good as the original exhaust and one dealer tried to charge me £290 for the same thing....shop around! The finish on the bike stayed very good despite the machine being left outside and being ridden through all weathers. The only places rust cropped up were under the tank and in the usual places such as the kickstart and underside of the frame, although this was minor. Incidentally, there is both a side and main stand on these bikes, the latter being very sturdy and useful for maintenance purposes. The engine, a four stroke twin, is rather complex for such a small machine but never gave me many problems. It is nice and smooth at low speeds but one has to rev it hard to get any semblance of performance out of it and vibrations start to occur over 50mph, together with a strained whin
e. The bike is thus well suited to traffic speeds in and around town but not to motorways, where a long upward stretch can reduce top speed to 50mph and a real excess of vibration. The gearbox is clunky but decisive and there is a useful neutral indicator light on one of the clocks (together with indicator and main beam lights) to save the novice those embarrassing kangaroo hops when stationary. At about 12000 miles the bike started to jump out of gear and get false neutrals occasionally, but this was just the valve clearances which needed adjusting (Well... ED). I got a friend to help me with this but it isn’t too difficult if you’ve got a Haynes manual handy. All the finish on the cylinder heads and engine castings was beginning to wear off towards the end of my ownership. If you have the time and patience, you can strip this off completely with fine emery paper and polish it up with good results. I had a go on the casing to the rear wheel drum but it took ages and I wasn’t planing on keeping the vehicle much longer. All in all, the Honda CM125 is a good bike (learner or not) since it is reliable, economical and has a big bike feel to it. The styling is a matter of taste but I liked it and the finish is better than average. My only complaints are the low seat height and lack of power, although the latter is no bad thing for someone new to motorcycling. I have just sold the bike to a dealer for £800 which would have given me a profit of £100 had it not been for the exhaust. However, this bike owes me nothing and I owe it a lot for never letting me down, being extremely economical and all the fun it has given me. I also never fell off it which, given my lack of experience, says a lot about the bike’s stability and general road worthiness.