We’ve had plenty of stories exalting the the unique, slightly intangible, pure joy that you get riding a 125 two-stroke, There’s nothing like letting a little bike sing, never getting off the gas, just railing every turn, flicking the bike around at will like a hero. But that is usually in the context of motocross, not off-road. And, while no one is winning pro level races on 125s in MX any more, off-road is even more dominated by either big-bore two strokes or four-stroke machines. But don’t tell that to Sherco. Or, we could tell them but they would build the 125 SE-R anyway and we are really glad they did.

This is a whole new bike for Sherco this year and here is a quick rundown of the most unique features.

Sherco 125 SE-R
Sherco 125 SE-RCourtesy of Sherco
Sherco 125 SE-R
Sherco 125 SE-RCourtesy of Sherco
Sherco 125 SE-R
Sherco 125 SE-RCourtesy of Sherco
Sherco 125 SE-R
Sherco 125 SE-RCourtesy of Sherco

Frame

Rather than just using the same frame that the other engine displacements use, the 125 gets own half-perimeter chrome-molybdenum piece. It uses pretty much the same geometry but is just a tiny bit smaller and has a head angle that is reduced by 0.9 degrees. This results in an overall 15mm shorter wheel base than all the other models. When talking to the Sherco guys about why they did this, they basically said they wanted to double down on agility and nimble handling. Since 125s aren’t used for crazy high speed, therefore don’t need to be too concerned with high-speed stability, the thought process is why not make it even more quick to turn and slice through the woods. And that’s just what it does. Combined with it’s low weight and overall lack of reciprocating mass, the 125 SE-R is as nimble as any bike that we’ve ridden, ever. Just a a little nudge with your knee and the bike will be leaned over. Whipping the bars back and forth through tight trees took similarly tiny effort and even if we got a little squirrely and had to make a quick correction, it responded immediately. The ride feels in complete control of this bike at all times.

SE-R frame
The frame is shorter and the steering angle is a little steeper than the rest of the bikes resulting in a 15mm shorter wheelbase.Courtesy of Sherco

Engine

Since this is an all new motor for Sherco, they put a lot of cool new features. The first is that it has an electronically controlled, drum valve exhaust valve system. Instead of the standard power valve that is mechanically driven and is a sliding door essentially. the Sherco’s design is a rotating drum that, according to them, has better sealing, more precise actuation, less prone to sticking, and is electronically controlled by the ECU. In practical terms, this translates into smoother, broader spread of usable power, which is exactly what you need from a 125 off-road machine. On the testing loop, when we rolled on the throttle it was apparent that it was a 125, but it deffinitly wasn’t as mellow as some other 125 off-road bikes that we’ve tested in the recent years. And the best part was that the power was extremely linear – we weren’t falling on our faces then having to clutch it to get back to the meat. You still have to use the clutch more than any other bike in the range but it wasn’t as necessary as we initially thought.

drum valve system
Here is a close up of the drum valve system.Courtesy of Sherco
drum valve system expanded view
An expanded view of the drum valve system that is said to be more precise and smoother operating.Courtesy of Sherco
engine starter
The starter is tucked under the engine.Courtesy of Sherco

Fork

All Sherco models use WP suspension but the 125 is the first to use the Xplor fork. This is the same fork that is on KTM’s EXC-F models and is WP’s latest off-road offering. The main benefit of this fork is it’s adjustability. The clicker settings operate similar to a cone valve system and each click makes a big difference, but this is not a cone valve fork. Combined with the shorter chassis and steeper head angle, the Xplor fork feels like its velcro’d to the trail. It is clear that the stock settings are on the soft side, but for the super tight, very technical loop we tested on, they were spot on. Since were were ring all six bikes in a very small window (because of photos and a group of about 20 editors) we didn’t really have time to play with clickers or adjust anything. If we had more time, we would have stiffened the fork a few clicks, not because it was doing anything wrong, but to see if it would keep the comfortable ride while perhaps letting us charge a little harder.

Attention To Detail

Going back to the chassis, it was explained that they tested different engine mounts on the 125 to see how they would affect the ride characteristics of the SE-R. They settled on a “C” shaped top mount that they said had enough flex to not stress the engine on big, hard landings. Sherco engineers also put the starter at the bottom of the engine, which they claim is the first time this has been done and we can’t say we remember any bikes in recent history to have this starter placement. The 125’s motor was specifically designed to have better cooling than their past bikes with the water sleeve having a ribbed internal shape for more surface area and a special water chamber under the exhaust valve.

SE-R cutaway
This cutaway shows the internal ribbing of the water sleeve and water chamber under the power valve.Courtesy of Sherco

Small Bike = Huge Fun

We tested the 125 SE-R right after riding the 450 SE-R and to be honest, we had a lot more fun on the one two five than on the fo-fiddy on the rocky, tight ‘special test’ loop. We wish we could import the French terrain that we rode the bikes in because it made us immediately understand why the bikes are the way they are. They put a premium on light, quick turning, easy handling, and agility and this 125 does that better than any of the other models. We can be fairly certain that our lap on the 125 wasn’t the fastest, but it was most likely very close and we definitely used the least amount of energy. We are hesitant to say you can lug this bike, but you sort of can, which is very surprising. Obviously you aren’t going to win any drag races or hill climbs, but when going up the loose, silty, rocky uphills we didn’t have to ring its neck and it made good traction the whole way.

Lofting the front wheel isn’t as easy as on it’s bigger brothers. That being said, a deliberate flick of the clutch gets the job done.
Lofting the front wheel isn’t as easy as on it’s bigger brothers. That being said, a deliberate flick of the clutch gets the job done.Courtesy of Sherco

The way we see it, with more bikes comes more options and more options hopefully means more riders. The European market is seeing a resurgence in the 125 off-road class and we might be as well with the new GNCC/National Enduro class here in the states. We don’t know what the price point is yet but we are hoping is is appealing to new riders. We are also hoping to get more Shercos in the US to put through the rigors of our American-style testing.

What's Hot

  • Innovative designs, not just a smaller 250/300
  • Intuitive, almost effortless handling and maneuverability
  • Broad power that didn't need too much clutch work (for a 125)

What's Not

  • Not going to win any drag races
  • Deep sand might be a bummer
  • Stability at speed? Need more open trails to test this
2018 Sherco 125 SE-R Specs
MSRP $NA
Claimed Seat Height 37.4 in.
Claimed Ground Clearance 13.98 in.
Fuel Capacity 2.75 gal.
Claimed Weight NA
A nice stock feature – carbon fiber end pipe.
A nice stock feature – carbon fiber end pipe.Courtesy of Sherco
The tank is a big 2.75 gallons yet the bike still feels narrow and slim.
The tank is a big 2.75 gallons yet the bike still feels narrow and slim.Courtesy of Sherco
Stock hand guards are a must.
Stock hand guards are a must.Courtesy of Sherco
The 125 SE-R is so easy to put anywhere you want.
The 125 SE-R is so easy to put anywhere you want.Courtesy of Sherco