After seeing Yamaha’s new YZ125 win Dirt Rider’s 2005 125cc shootout (Dec. ’04) by a comfortable margin, we felt it had raised the bar for 125cc two-strokes. Yet to be an undisputed champion, you must first best all of the competition, and the late-arriving Honda CR125R was missing from our comparison. To be honest, the CR125R has been so lackluster during the past few years that we hardly considered it a threat. Honda claimed it was fast for ’05, but we’d heard “Wolf!” one time too many.To our surprise, the CR125R actually did get a much-needed kick in the engine butt. After testing at several different tracks, we were amazed at the red 125, and its on-track antics convinced our test staff the bike might have been capable of winning our 125cc shootout. That said, we were off to the track again to test the CR125R head-to-head with the almighty YZ125.
Neither the YZ125 nor the CR125R can claim to have the best 125cc motocross motor; the KTM has that edge. But the YZ’s motor is a close second. However, the CR and YZ have some similarities. The Honda has decent bottom-end power; it comes on smoothly and very tractably, as does the Yamaha. The Honda requires a bit more clutch than the Yamie, but the two are very close. Once the revs are up, from the midrange all the way through the top-end the CR pulls hard with a small surge of usable overrev. The YZ has the same characteristics but revs out a tad more slowly and further, getting the job done with a little less effort. The YZ also requires less shifting than the CR. Carburetion on both bikes is crisp and clean, but the Honda is a bit more finicky than the YZ, as it still loads up a bit when being lugged around the track.
After a few laps of blasting the CR through square-edged bumps, we had no choice but to compare the CR’s suspension to the class-winning YZ125′s. The CR’s suspension is very progressive, and it could be the best for some of our heavier riders. It doesn’t blow through the stroke as quickly as the suspension on the YZ. However, the CR doesn’t offer the same comfort when bottomed on harsh landings. The YZ has a bit more cushion and absorbs square-edged bumps with less energy required from the rider. All of our testers were amazed at how similar the two bikes were in the rough, but the YZ came out on top after a tough fight thanks to better bottoming resistance. Our testers felt they could get away with more on the Yamaha while pushing harder.
Over the last few years, just about the only compliment the CR received addressed its incredible handling. The CR has always been at the top of the podium in this department, and the ’05 is no different. Its front tire stays planted, and once you pick the line you want, the CR stays put. The YZ does the same, but the blue machine feels lighter, so making changes to your line is easier as it feels more flickable. Both bikes are settled in corners, though the CR sits a little higher than the YZ, and the red bike definitely doesn’t push or get vague whereas the YZ sometimes can. The CR offers more feedback. Both bikes have very comfortable ergonomics; but the CR is much roomier, and the ergonomics on the Honda were clearly preferred by our taller test riders.
A Close Second
If the Honda CR125R had been in our 2005 shootout, it would have finished a very close second place to the Yamaha YZ125. The CR is for real now. It lost by a very small margin when stacked against the YZ. The KTM was the runner-up in our final shootout results, but the CR would have bumped it to third. Although the CR doesn’t beat the KTM in the motor department, it easily tops it in most other categories. In the end, the YZ reigns over the CR because of its better engine character and usability along with a lighter overall feel. The Honda has an advantage in comfort and is not far behind in suspension and handling; the Yamaha is simply easier to ride fast with less effort. It’s great to discover how competitive the YZ125 and CR125R are—and nice to finally see the Honda back from the dead and on the podium it once owned.