Trail blazing on a budget bike

Sub £1000 doesn’t get you a lot in the second-hand off road bike market, especially in the 125cc bracket. We got hold of this slightly ropey Honda XLR 125.


With over 25k miles on the clock this 125 is a bit over used. But once you factor in the era of Honda reliability, we felt it would probably be fine… It’s especially perfect for Gill who needs to just get some experience riding, as compared to the KLX 125 she had previously, the XLR is taller and feels more like a real bike to ride.


This bike has been ridden by youth since it rolled off the production line in 1998. The old Honda is showing some signs of its abuse over the years, the highlights are; the badly sticker-bombed side panel to cover up previous crash damage, the odd spring missing from the carb, rounded off bolts and bits of panel damage here and there. In terms of any serious faults the XLR is alright, nothing a much needed good service wouldn’t sort out.


From factory, however, the XLR did have some interesting quirks. Starting with the engine, this bike was available in 1998 but the engine can trace its origins back to the 1970s. It’s a bit of a rattily old lump. The claimed 11bhp in 1998 has probably suffered some erosion by now but I didn’t quite expect an epic battle to reach 50mph. Another amazing quirk is the headlight, possibly the worst headlight I have ever experienced. A dim glow on the front mudguard on low beam; and a dim glow in the trees on high beam with the added benefit of the tell light on the dash being brighter than the actual headlight.

Once I got myself adjusted to the low top speed and the awful headlight the XLR started to grow on me. This lightweight and nimble feel from a wide handlebar equipped little bike makes for an excellent single track road hack. It was merely a matter of adjusting my commuting route to match the bike. Despite one black ice related lay down in the road; one minute I was cruising along thinking about how cold it was, the next I was in shower sparks watching the bike slide up the road. The XLR survived commuting well, now all we need is to give it a good service, maybe try and clean up the tired looking plastics. Oh, and buy a head torch.



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