Story By Kelly Yancey and the DR Staff
Photos By DR Staff
Wondering how Honda’s new CRF125F models stack up against the legendary Hondas of years past? Well, we recently went to the 2014 Honda trail bike introduction at the Hungry Valley OHV Park in Gorman, California and are now able to break down each these bikes’ key features. Part three of our Honda trail bike series: The 2014 CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel. Designed for the teenager or young adult who wants to enjoy a weekend out on the trail with the family, the 2014 CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel are all new in the Honda trail bike lineup. They share the same motor but the Big Wheel version has taller bars and a little more suspension travel on both ends, a 19-inch front tire and a 16-inch rear tire vs. a 17-inch front tire and a 14-inch rear tire of the 125F standard version. Ground clearance and seat height also differ from each bike so you can choose what is best suited for you.
Seat Height: 28.9 inches
Claimed Weight: 192 lbs. with full tank of fuel
Honda CRF125F (Big Wheel)
Seat Height: 30.9 inches
Claimed Weight: 194 lbs. with full tank of fuel
When Honda decided to end production of both the CRF80F and CRF100F, we were wondering what they had up their sleeve to replace those two trusty machines. Honda was looking to custom fit the 125cc trail bike market, and both the standard and Big Wheel 125F models do a great job of filling the gap in Honda’s lineup. It’s nice to have choices these days, so here are a few things we took away after testing both models:
- Motor. This particular motor design has been in Honda’s production for quite some time, but is newly introduced in their US market. The 125cc engine is smooth yet has an adequate amount of power to let young rider go up even the most technical terrain that non-experts will encounter. There is not a lot of hit off the bottom, which is good for the type of rider Honda targeted this bike for. It still has plenty of power up top; it just won’t get there in a hurry. Shifting the four-speed transmission is buttery smooth plus the gearing ratios (while different on both bikes) are great for even the tightest of trails. First gear is really low but second seems to work for a wide range of abilities on most terrain.
- Ergonomics. We had a range of test riders (from five feet to six feet tall) and all came back saying that both machines felt comfortable for them to ride. The Big Wheel version was better received with taller, experienced type riders and the standard 125F version was better for the shorter, less experienced riders. The bar bend on the Big Wheel was a little too high for our smallest test rider.
- Suspension. Both bikes use a 31mm Telescopic Fork but the Big Wheel has almost a half-inch more travel up front. The Pro-Link single shock takes care of the duties out back but, again, the Big Wheel does offer an inch more travel in the rear. What does this mean on the trail? Most of our test riders didn’t feel any noticeable difference in the fork but the bigger guys did like the extra travel in the rear. You will not be able to slam through huge sand whoops on either model but the suspension on both bikes does soak up small chop well and feels balanced front to back. The big thing to remember is that the suspension was made for comfort, not performance, and these are not motocross models.
- Handling. As you would think the Big Wheel does goes through sand much better than the standard CRF125F, but the standard model can cut some tighter lines on single track. Both bikes are easy to maneuver through any type of terrain and most of our test riders praised the stability of each bike in the rougher parts of the trail. Both machines nearly tip the scales at 200 lbs but as long as you’re not trying to carve tight lines at your local motocross track, both bikes work well out on the trail. Our petite test rider felt like it took more muscle than she had to stand the 125F up after a spill.
- Electric Start. Although we are comfortable kicking a bike over, the electric start was really handy as the heat of the day increased and each test rider felt fatigued. It’s nice to conserve energy so that most of that can go towards enjoying your ride and not kicking your bike on the side of the trail.
- Brakes. It’s nice to have the 220mm hydraulic disc brake up front when you’re working with 200 lbs of motorcycle. The power is great and is very controlled when applying pressure to the lever. On the contrary, the rear brakes faded somewhat under heavy abuse. Finding the right adjustment on the rear drum brakes is crucial so the rider does not drag the brake and overheat them.
Keep checking out www.dirtrider.com to see what we have to say about each of Honda’s new CRF-F trail bikes, and be sure to grab the November issue of Dirt Rider Magazine for more information on all of Honda’s trail bike line up.