2005 125cc TWO-STROKE SHOOTOUT

By the Testing Staff of TransWorld Motocross

Another exciting year in the motocross world has come and gone, and with its passing has come the delivery of 2005′s newest and greatest technologies. With more bikes to choose from than ever, moto enthusiasts can find just about anything imaginable when it comes to their motocross performance needs. And although their presence at the track is becoming about as common as dinosaur sightings, we are pleased to announce that two-stroke 125s not only still exist, but they’re better than ever. Do they stack up to the elite fleet of 250cc four-strokes that have rumbled to the forefront of the class? We think that’s a tall order to fill, but we can report that manufacturers haven’t given up just yet!

For our 2005 shootout we solicited the offerings of the big five manufacturers-Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki and Yamaha. Of the five, only Yamaha entered the bout with a brand-new machine from the ground up, but the others have come out swinging with machines polished and refined from the year past. As with all of our shootouts, we assembled a testing crew consisting of four test riders of diverse abilities, as well as a mechanic from each of the five manufacturers, and headed out to the track for a full day of battle. In the pages to follow you’ll find rankings for each of the major categories of interest, as well as the rankings determined by four testers with varying skill levels, needs and preferences. Here’s how we scored the fight….

POWER

1> KTM125SX

2> Yamaha YZ125

3> Honda CR125R

4> Suzuki RM125

5> Kawasaki KX125

Power is, without a doubt, a key factor to winning races on a two-stroke 125, especially considering the fact that 99% of your competition will be aboard four-stroke 250s. How heavily, then, should the power category be weighed when determining a shootout winner? It’s important, for sure, but the fact remains that all of these motors, even if not the best in stock form, have great potential to be machined into fire-breathing maniacs. It’s for this reason that power alone isn’t indicative of Bike of the Year honors…

Once again Kawasaki delivered a KX125 that has a very fun and easy-to-ride motor. Far from winning any horsepower titles, however, anybody who plans to race competitively on the KX, especially against 250cc four-strokes, will have to pump some life into this motor. Snappy off the bottom, the Kawi begins falling short as you approach the top, making precise shifting key to keeping momentum in the sweet spot.

The Suzuki motor received only minor changes in ’05, but when geared properly, it remains one of the best and easiest motors to ride in the class. It features a nice, smooth hit right off the very bottom, but getting through the mid range can require a bit more finesse, depending on rider weight. We’ve found that adding a tooth to the rear sprocket helps to carry the RM’s power more efficiently to the top-end, which in itself is stout and has very nice overrev. Aside from only the KTM, the Suzuki motor is the strongest up top.

Motor changes were at the top of Honda’s list of improvements for ’05, and as a result, the new CR125R motor is the best it’s been in years. It packs an impressive, snappy punch down low that makes it much easier to ride and a blast out of corners. The mid-range pull, as it’s been for years, is very strong as well, but power falls off as the rpms begin to climb to the top. Although it isn’t the best 125cc motor in 2005, it’s by far the most improved.

The brand-new YZ125 motor is somewhat deceiving. While it didn’t measure as the stoutest during our dyno test, it actually feels among the most explosive and powerful on the track. Perhaps it receives some help from the extremely light new aluminum chassis, but either way, the YZ motor rips! The new engine has an even snappier feel than last year’s bike, it pulls strong through the middle, and top-end overrev is better than ever before. This mot is a blast to ride!

What more can be said about KTM’s two-stroke motors? They simply work better than all others. The new 125SX didn’t receive many changes over its predecessor, but it really didn’t need them. Although not the beefiest right off the bottom, it takes no time at all for the Katoom to blast off, leaving all other motors in the dust throughout the rest of the powerband. If horsepower is your only concern, the shootout ends here…

SUSPENSION

1> Honda CR125R

2> Suzuki RM125

3> Yamaha YZ125

4> Kawasaki KX125

5> KTM125SX

The suspension action of the four Japanese bikes is outstanding, and thus it takes some severe nitpicking to isolate a clear-cut winner. With the right spring rates and damping settings to facilitate an individual rider’s size and speed, every one of these machines can be made phenomenal in the suspension department. That said, however, we had to choose a winner.

Our test riders collectively agree that the Honda’s Showa legs, in stock form, are the plushest of them all. Compliant and well-balanced front to rear, the CR suspension is confidence-inspiring and earned the greatest trust as the day wore on and the track got rougher.

The Suzuki also received high suspension praise from most in the test group for many of the same reasons. Requiring slightly more to achieve that perfect balance, however, the RM was relegated to second.

For ’05, Yamaha totally redesigned the YZ125′s front forks. The new 48mm twin chamber units are a huge improvement over last year. Big hits and G-outs are now plushly tamed thanks to the YZ’s great mid-stroke control and bottoming resistance. The only complaint heard, ultimately holding the YZ back in the suspension category, is that the forks have a tendency to feel a bit harsh in small chop. The rear end works better than ever, and continues to be the YZ’s strongest suspension asset.

The Kawasaki’s fourth place ranking doesn’t really do it justice. In fact, the KX125′s suspension has always been one of our favorites, and this year would be no different if not for the concerns of faster and/or heavier riders. Complaints that the forks blow through the stroke on fast G-out hits and big bumps can be common on stock 125cc suspension, but the KX raises the biggest flag in this area. The shock, on the other hand, is plush and works well everywhere, especially in acceleration chop when tracking is key.

If you follow bike tests and shootouts regularly, than you already know that KTM has far from excelled in suspension and handling categories in the past. Unfortunately, even after some fork and shock updates for the new year, the story remains the same. The ’05 KTM125SX is the best-handling KTM we’ve ridden to date, but at the end of the day, when the track gets rough, the Katoom simply doesn’t instill as much rider confidence as the others in the class.

HANDLING

1> Honda CR125R

2> Yamaha YZ125

3> Suzuki RM125

4> Kawasaki KX125

5> KTM125SX

As you would imagine, the overall handling of a bike is largely dependant upon its suspension action, and thus the results for this category are generally quite similar. Add a chassis and all the dressings to the mix, however, and it is quite possible to see a shake up in the finishing order…

No, the KTM didn’t jump to the top of the handling charts. The change in order occurred elsewhere, but overall the KTM125SX is not a poor-handling machine. Noticeable improvements have been made over last year’s bike that have made it much more comfortable to ride. It tracks much straighter in rough sections, and headshake issues of the past are now more containable. It turns well and has a light overall feel, but when compared to the others in the class, it still falls a bit short.

Last year’s KX125 finished runner-up in our shootout thanks largely in part to its very stable, very predictable handling characteristics. It has a light, nimble feel in the air, and it corners with the best of them. Ergonomically, the bike is superb, as the majority of our testers felt right at home on the bike initially. The only real negative comments heard about the Kawi were with the front end. Some headshake was detected when at speed on rougher sections, and a couple riders felt that it was sprung too softly, making it slightly out of balance with the rear end. While these issues are controllable, however, we think the KX’s only major problem is that there are three other great-handling machines in the class.

The RM125 chassis is one of the best when it comes to tracking straight and putting power to the ground, so throttle finesse is not as critical on this bike. In addition, it has a very comfortable rider compartment that welcomes movement on the bike, so split-second adjustments are a snap. The only area that our test riders couldn’t see eye to eye on was cornering. Some feel that the Zook corners with ease, while a couple argued that it requires a tad more rider input to get it to stick in rutted corners.

Yamaha went with the traditional top tube frame design on their new aluminum chassis, and the result is a very stable, straight-as-an-arrow handler. The aluminum chassis accounts for almost half of the 10lb. overall weight reduction from last year’s bike, and the savings is more than noticeable on the track. With an extremely light, flickable feel, the YZ125 makes you feel like a hero as you place it anywhere your heart desires on the track. Cornering prowess has also been much improved, most noticeably in loamy, sandy corners; however, some have complained that it tends to push the front end in corners with less traction. Although finally equipped with a worthy motor, where the CR125R continues to shine is in the suspension and handling department. As it always has, the CR125R is a mchine that handles incredibly, inspiring complete rider confidence. Light, nimble and extremely predictable, the CR125R does everything, and does it all well.

THE VERDICT

1> Yamaha YZ125

2> Honda CR125R

3> Suzuki RM125

4> KTM125SX

5> Kawasaki KX125

As with every shootout, making a final decision can be somewhat difficult, as all of these bikes are awesome and have great potential to become even better. When it came time to crown the Bike of the Year honors, though, we saw an extremely tight race between two phenomenal bikes-the Yamaha YZ125 and the Honda CR125R.

Many have felt for years that with more motor, the Honda CR125R would be dominant in its class thanks to its amazingly plush and predictable handling characteristics. For 2005, critics finally got their wish, as the CR was blessed with a much-improved powerplant to go along with the rest of the excellent package. In the end, however, the Red Rider fell slightly short of Yamaha’s explosive new tiddler class weapon.

That’s right, after scrutinizing each of the shootout categories, including the individual opinions of each of our test riders, the new YZ was awarded as the most complete 125cc package for 2005. Light, nimble, powerful, stable and predictable, the 2005 YZ125 is our bike of choice for two-stroke 125s. Is it the best 125 for race applications? No. Most of us at TWMX would still prefer a four-stroke 250, but compared to two-strokes only, the new YZ reigns supreme.

RAW

POWER

Raw power is probably more critical in the 125cc two-stroke class than in any other, which is exactly why we decided to perform a head-to-head duel between each bike on the TransWorld Motocross Dyno Jet 1250 dynamometer. Keep in mind, though, that while the findings of our dyno are certainly interesting, they don’t necessarily reflect the real on-track ability of each bike. We dyno-tested all five bikes on a mild, 73-degree day, all within 30 minutes of each other, to ensure consistent results. When all was said and done, the KTM125SX, like its big brother, came out on top of the overall horsepower chart.

FIT AND FINISH e best of them. Ergonomically, the bike is superb, as the majority of our testers felt right at home on the bike initially. The only real negative comments heard about the Kawi were with the front end. Some headshake was detected when at speed on rougher sections, and a couple riders felt that it was sprung too softly, making it slightly out of balance with the rear end. While these issues are controllable, however, we think the KX’s only major problem is that there are three other great-handling machines in the class.

The RM125 chassis is one of the best when it comes to tracking straight and putting power to the ground, so throttle finesse is not as critical on this bike. In addition, it has a very comfortable rider compartment that welcomes movement on the bike, so split-second adjustments are a snap. The only area that our test riders couldn’t see eye to eye on was cornering. Some feel that the Zook corners with ease, while a couple argued that it requires a tad more rider input to get it to stick in rutted corners.

Yamaha went with the traditional top tube frame design on their new aluminum chassis, and the result is a very stable, straight-as-an-arrow handler. The aluminum chassis accounts for almost half of the 10lb. overall weight reduction from last year’s bike, and the savings is more than noticeable on the track. With an extremely light, flickable feel, the YZ125 makes you feel like a hero as you place it anywhere your heart desires on the track. Cornering prowess has also been much improved, most noticeably in loamy, sandy corners; however, some have complained that it tends to push the front end in corners with less traction. Although finally equipped with a worthy motor, where the CR125R continues to shine is in the suspension and handling department. As it always has, the CR125R is a mchine that handles incredibly, inspiring complete rider confidence. Light, nimble and extremely predictable, the CR125R does everything, and does it all well.

THE VERDICT

1> Yamaha YZ125

2> Honda CR125R

3> Suzuki RM125

4> KTM125SX

5> Kawasaki KX125

As with every shootout, making a final decision can be somewhat difficult, as all of these bikes are awesome and have great potential to become even better. When it came time to crown the Bike of the Year honors, though, we saw an extremely tight race between two phenomenal bikes-the Yamaha YZ125 and the Honda CR125R.

Many have felt for years that with more motor, the Honda CR125R would be dominant in its class thanks to its amazingly plush and predictable handling characteristics. For 2005, critics finally got their wish, as the CR was blessed with a much-improved powerplant to go along with the rest of the excellent package. In the end, however, the Red Rider fell slightly short of Yamaha’s explosive new tiddler class weapon.

That’s right, after scrutinizing each of the shootout categories, including the individual opinions of each of our test riders, the new YZ was awarded as the most complete 125cc package for 2005. Light, nimble, powerful, stable and predictable, the 2005 YZ125 is our bike of choice for two-stroke 125s. Is it the best 125 for race applications? No. Most of us at TWMX would still prefer a four-stroke 250, but compared to two-strokes only, the new YZ reigns supreme.

RAW

POWER

Raw power is probably more critical in the 125cc two-stroke class than in any other, which is exactly why we decided to perform a head-to-head duel between each bike on the TransWorld Motocross Dyno Jet 1250 dynamometer. Keep in mind, though, that while the findings of our dyno are certainly interesting, they don’t necessarily reflect the real on-track ability of each bike. We dyno-tested all five bikes on a mild, 73-degree day, all within 30 minutes of each other, to ensure consistent results. When all was said and done, the KTM125SX, like its big brother, came out on top of the overall horsepower chart.

FIT AND FINISH

1> Honda CR125R

2> Yamaha YZ125

3> Suzuki RM125

4> Kawasaki KX125

5> KTM125SX

Did you already read the 250cc Shootout that started on page 98? If so, feel free to continue on to Rider Opinions-the fit and finish category for the tiddlers is nearly identical…

At first glance of the group of five bikes that make up our 2005 125cc two-stroke shootout, most are quick to praise at least four of the five manufacturers for installing high-quality aluminum handlebars on their bikes. The KX125 is the only one in the group still equipped with outdated steel bars, so if you go green in 2005, we recommend changing them ASAP. Not only will aluminum bars improve your bike’s look, they’ll also greatly improve the overall feel.

The KTM feels light and nimble and is equipped with a number of bitchin’ components in stock form. From the hydraulic clutch to the adjustable triple clamps, KTM does offer some great features. Unfortunately, there are just as many weird, quirky characteristics that limit the Katoom, like 13mm sprocket bolts and inferior fasteners. Many feel that the seat foam on the KTM is still way too firm, and the wider-than-normal radiator shrouds make sliding up on the seat during aggressive corners more difficult.

We already grilled the guys at Kawi for the lack of aluminum bars, so there’s really no reason to mention the outdated Hannah bend on the steel units. The only other negative comment heard about the green machine is that braking tends to get soft as a moto wears on. On a positive note, the ergonomics are outstanding, the new gripper seat works great, and all of the hardware on the bike is top quality.

The ergonomics on the new RM are as comfortable as ever. Braking action is top-notch, and thanks to their high-quality yellow plastic, the Zook looks fresh and new well into a season. The only real beef we have with the Suzuki engineers is with their choice of fasteners. Quality of the RM’s nuts and bolts simply don’t stack up to the likes of the Honda.

Like past Yamahas, the 2005 YZ125 is as bulletproof as a motocross bike can possibly come. With high-quality components and hardware, Yamaha engineers most definitely had durability in mind. The only thing holding the YZ back, in most opinions, is the look that the bike adopts after just a few motos. In other words, the Yami tends to show the most wear and look the most beat up in the shortest amount of time. Functionally, however, it’s got the durability of a tank.

The fit and finish of the CR is second to none, and truly sets the bar that all other manufacturers should strive for. When it comes to the overall construction, including the quality of the controls and fasteners, the Honda comes out on top. Ergonomically, the CR is very rider friendly and helps to instill confidence through comfort.

ERIKA CONTRERAS

Skill Level: Beginner

Age: 17

Years Riding: 6

Height/Weight: 5’8″/125 lbs.

Bikes Recently Raced/Ridden:

’04 RM125, RM-Z250

1> Suzuki RM125

2> Yamaha YZ125

3> KTM 125SX

4> Honda CR125R

5> Kawasaki KX125

The RM125 is the easiest bike for me to ride. In addition to being very smooth, the power’s also very forgiving because there is a lot of it throughout the entire rpm range. It handles great, it’s comfortable and it makes me feel the most confident.

I also enjoyed riding the Yamaha. It has the lightest feel of all of the bikes, and like the RM has a lot of power everywhere. My only issue with it is that it feels a bit too stiff for my weight and speed.

The KTM motor is a rocket! It shifts very easily, and when the track was smooth it was really fun to ride. Once it got rougher, though, I definitely had less control of this bike. The suspension felt stiffer and harsher, and the bike became a handful.

The CR125R can use a little more power up top, but the bottom and the mid feel really nice. It rides pretty smooth and stable, but there was something with the overall feel that I didn’t agr

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