Suzuki's two new 125cc models share the same basic platform; the sportier fully-faired variant is the GSX-R125, the naked version the GSX-S125. They are both powered by an identical brand new 124.4cc engine that has a massive 62mm bore, helping Suzuki fit four large valves (intake are 24mm while the exhausts are 21mm) inside its double overhead camshaft head. The logic behind Suzuki's decision to go big on the bore is the fact that all 125cc bikes are capped at 15hp - therefore you may as well boost best mid-range and fuel economy as a selling point. On this score Suzuki is claiming the GSX models will do 122mpg, which isn't bad at all. But it doesn't stop there, Suzuki also saying that its GSX models are the best performing 125s on the market. How? Power-to-weight, with these latest models tipping the scales at just 134kg wet. Add to this ABS as standard, a twin beam aluminium chassis, LED lights and, on the GSX-R, a keyless ignition system, and the bikes look good value at less than £4,000. Yes, you can pick up a Chinese-built and branded 125 for half that price, but with the Suzukis (actually built in Indonesia) you will have a far better resale value once the time comes to progress.
Suzuki treated a few journalists to a day hammering the GSX-R125 around Silverstone's Stowe circuit, which was an absolute blast. To be honest judging a 15hp four-stroke single in isolation is tricky as they all feel the same, but the GSX-R's lump was pleasingly vibe-free, seems to have a strong mid-range and had no gearbox issues. I really liked the way the rev limiter didn't slam in but instead allowed you to rev the bike to an indicated 13,000rpm before gently curbing the rise, and amazingly after spending all day on its limiter it still recorded over 70mpg. Chassis-wise the handling is good enough to allow you to get your knee down should you so wish, and the suspension was impressively lacking in that terrible bouncy sensation you get with cheap units. But what I really liked was the fact the GSX-R felt really big and roomy to ride. I'm over six foot tall and, although I look a bit stupid on the bike, I wasn't cramped or uncomfortable.
Built for the city
The GSX-S125 is everything the GSX-R125 is, but minus its fairing and with a set of bars fitted that lift your hands 100mm higher on the bike. On the public highway the GSX-S is really well suited to blasting around back roads at 60-70mph and city riding. The more upright seating position and wider bars make it really nimble at low speed and simple to U-turn or nip through gaps and, although you do sacrifice a bit of wind protection without the fairing, as top speed is only just over 70mph that's no real problem. As with the GSX-R125 the riding position is comfortable, the suspension impressively plush and the brakes effective. As an urban commuter, even for more experienced riders, the GSX-S125 would certainly fit the bill; at £3,699 with virtually zero running costs it's very cheap transport indeed.
These two 125s from Suzuki have been a while coming when you look at when the likes of Honda and Yamaha released their own sporty 125s, but they have been worth the wait. The feeling of quality of GSX-R and GSX-S models is impressive, and I also like the fact they are a few hundred quid cheaper than their rivals' machines. They aren't perfect, though: the front brake lever's long travel was irritating and I'd like to see some connectivity to a smartphone to appeal to younger riders (KTM and Aprilia both have this function), but all in all Suzuki has done an excellent job with its 125s. I just hope that younger riders will be tempted to give them, and two wheels in general, a go rather than instantly opt for four wheels.
2017 SUZUKI GSX-R125 & GSX-S125
Engine: 124.4cc DOHC single, water-cooled, 4v
Power (hp): 15@10,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 8.48(!)@8,000rpm
Top speed: 80mph (est.)
Weight: 134kg (wet)
Price: £3,999 (GSX-S125 £3,699) MotoGP Rep £100 extra on both models.