2018 125cc two-stroke motocross test | Bike Reviews
We let loose three ADB motocross test riders on the 2018 Yamaha YZ125, Husqvarna TC125 and KTM 125SX on a test track to see what's what.
BYLINE WORDS // GEOFF BRAICO
PHOTOS // MITCH LEES
I felt like a little kid when I got the email from Mr Editor Mitch Lees informing me that the 125 motocross shoot-out was going ahead. Due to their low maintenance costs and all-round fun factor, it seems they are making a comeback and I for one, along with fellow ADB tester Wes Mills have big places reserved in our hearts and souls for 125cc smokers.
The Husky hasn’t received a whole heap of changes from the 2017 model. Apart from the new-look, all-white plastics and a few minor internal changes, they remain relatively unchanged. That is not really a bad thing as the 2017 was pretty solid.
The motor is very strong, especially for a 125, and Husky claims it puts out close to 40hp standard. That’s crazy!
As powerful as they claim it be, it’s not a snappy motor at all. It’s actually quite smooth and mellow. There is not real ‘powerband’ hit on the little white machine and, at first, you kind of get the feeling it’s lacking bottom end.
However, you come to realise that having that mellow power curve is actually a good thing as it gets good traction, it puts power to the ground really nicely.
The suspension on the Husky is WP at both ends with the WP AER 48 air fork taking caring of the front. I believe we had it set around 124-128psi and that felt pretty good. It’s plush yet takes on the big bumps no problem. For me and my lard arse, the bike feels soft but it’s still very predictable and manageable. It’s much more suited to a young kid coming off an 85 or a lighter guy like Millsy. We cranked the rear spring up for me and that helped a lot but it’s still sprung quite light.
The bikes come out with quite a rich setting in the Mikuni TMX38 and, as a result, the low-range power wasn’t as clean as it could have been. It wasn’t overly noticeable due to the track been pretty fast but on the slower stuff, you could feel it bogging in the slower corners.
The oldest model in our test, the Yamaha has had basically the same motor for 10 years. It seems that Yamaha has taken the attitude, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” for its 125 and 250 two-strokes and, incredibly, it’s working.
The YZ125 received a facelift for 2018 and it could not have come at a better time. Yamaha Australia has pushed through an upgrade and it is a great step forward.
Obviously, the first thing you notice is the blue anodised wheels that are a Yamaha thing across the 2018 range.
The Australian distributor is the only one to offer buyers a free “race kit” with the YZ125 and it comes with a trick-looking GYTR HGS pipe and muffler, a GYTR Holeshot button, VForce 3 reed block and a 49-tooth GYTR alloy rear sprocket. The HGS pipe has that raw metal finish that looks as factory as it gets. The muffler is short and sounds awesome!
Out on the track, I was quite surprised by how strong the old-school motor is. Obviously, it’s not as powerful as the new- age Euro motors but it is damn close. The race kit really gives the bike a lift and gives it a fresh feel out on the track. The bottom-end power is a lot snappier than the Kato or Husky and both Wes and I liked it. Josh found it a bit of struggle. Early on in the muddy conditions, the snap of the Yamaha was a bit hard to manage but as the track dried, the motor really came into its own.
The YZ is fitted with KYB suspension and it was by far the firmest bike there. It soaked up the big jumps and the big G-outs with ease and didn’t get any tyre rub marks under the guards like the Euro bikes did. The spring-cartridge fork is a solid package and Wesley was all about them.
I was surprised by the feel of the cable clutch. Personally, I prefer the feel of a hydraulic clutch but on the YZ, the cable felt consistent and I didn’t have to adjust it at all, even after giving a good half-hour workout.
The 2018 125SX was our favourite in the looks department by everyone at the track, with its orange frame getting it over the line for ‘factory’ looks. The KTM actually feels faster than the Husky, but only by the tiniest of margins. This would be because of the different airboxes.
The Kato has an alloy subframe with a separate plastic airbox, while the Husky has a carbon polyamide unit incorporating the filter housing which needs a couple of carefully placed holes to get the air flowing. As I said, there isn’t much in it, but you do notice it, mostly under acceleration.
Front suspension is the same WP AER 48 as on the TC but there is a slight difference in feel between the two bikes in the rear end. The Kato’s subframe doesn’t flex as much as the Husky’s carbon unit and that gives the orange bike a firmer feel. Josh preferred the rear end of the Husky while I, being heavier, preferred the Kato one.
This had to be one of the best days of testing I have done. Being on a 125 brought back so many memories of my Junior days and, with the weather and track being so damn good, you couldn’t help but be hyped up all day. All three of these small-bores are different and there isn’t much separating them.
Huge props to KTM, Yamaha and Husky for keeping the 125cc two-stroke dream alive, you guys are putting smiles on people’s faces at the track and that’s always a good thing. Two-strokes are coming back baby. All we need now is for the other brands to get back on the bandwagon and we can have a 125 MX reunion shootout.
Second and third opinions
I’m going to have to say that the Husky 125 was my favourite. It is pretty hard to fault that bike, the counter-balance shaft makes the bike so easy to ride faster and harder for longer.
For me, the AER 48 fork is a vast improvement over the 4CS. I preferred the feel of the Husky’s rear suspension over the KTM. The Husky’s power delivery was very similar to the Kato but better than the YZ.
I struggled with the aggressiveness of the YZ and it was only when the track started to dry out that I started to get comfortable. Also, the Husky features such as the brakes, hydraulic clutch, lock-on grips and super firm seat make this bike an all-round solid package.
If you are racing to win, I would say a 250F would be the bike but, for me, racing is more about fun than winning and a 125 is such a rewarding and awesomely fun bike to ride in comparison to a four-stroke. For sure, the 125 takes more skill to ride fast but that’s the reason why it’s so rewarding to ride.
Well let’s see. The KTM was the fastest, the Husky had the best ergos and the YZ had the best fork. I’m a huge 125cc fan, with a massive soft spot for feeding them handfuls of throttle and, honestly, I think everyone does.
My favourite was the Yamaha and only by a bee’s dick. I’ve owned three YZ125s over the years, one KTM 125 and a KTM 150. So, I feel straight away very comfortable.
Yamaha hasn’t done much to the YZ over the last 10 years but, for 2018, it changed to a HGS pipe and it sounds so crisp and worked amazing. You still can’t beat the KYB fork. That’s why the YZ was my favourite. I really love the handling and the fork. It was the slowest by a tiny mark but, if you’re worrying about power don’t buy a 125.
Awesomeness: All three, are you kidding me?