Over the years, Honda's small-displacement four-stroke off-road bikes have grown to legendary status among riding enthusiasts from young to old, novice to experts. Enjoyed by beginners who learned to ride on the CRF80F, to world-class racers who have used the CRF100F to hone their racecraft, Honda's little four-strokes have racked up a reputation for being extremely fun and durable.
So if you're going to replace these legendary machines, you'd better offer something that's head-and-shoulders better. And that's exactly what Honda has done with the all-new CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel.
Subhead: A big difference
In 2013 the CRF110F replaced Honda's popular CRF70F within the brand's family of fun, entry-level automatic-clutch off-road bikes. Sized like the CRF70F yet offering a powerplant that is much more accommodating and enjoyable to use, the CRF110F immediately found favor with young riders. Now the new 2014 CRF125F enters the lineup with two wheel sizes to replace the CRF80F and CRF100F. The CRF125F sports a seat height identical to that of the CFR80F and just a pinch less wheelbase, while the CRF125F Big Wheel matches the seat height of the CRF100F, again with a slightly shorter wheelbase.
Featuring an all-new 125cc single-cylinder SOHC four-stroke engine, the CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel provide an increase in displacement over the previous 80cc and 99cc powerplants. But more important than the raw displacement figures is the state of engine tuning in the new CRF125 that targets riders who are still gaining basic motorcycling skills with a manual clutch.
This new engine has been specifically tuned to produce far more low-end grunt right off idle than the smaller predecessors. That extra boost in off-idle torque makes it much easier for newbies to learn how to take off from a standing start and also quickly become skilled at the many other nuances of manual clutch operation and manual gear shifts. As would be expected, there's also plenty of pull throughout the powerband, enough to make both bikes a wonderful means to go exploring out in the hills and valleys. In addition, a convenient electric starter also helps make life easier out on the trail. Add a new rolling chassis with a sturdy frame, upgraded suspension components front and rear, and styling just like Honda's CRF motocross bikes, and you have two stellar replacements for two legendary machines—bikes that meet the needs of a wide range of riders.
Subhead: Small-bike engineering brilliance
The engine developed for the CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel is tuned specifically to make these bikes even more suited to entry-level riders. First, note the bore and stroke dimensions of 52.4mm x 57.9mm used to arrive at the 124.9cc displacement. That bore size is actually smaller than the 53.0mm bore that combined with a piston stroke of 45.0mm to give the CRF100F its 99cc displacement. Given such dimensions, the CRF125 is a decidedly long-stoke engine, a configuration typically used to create torquey motors.
To further emphasize torque production at low engine-speeds, the 125 engine features a torque cam that's tuned for reduced valve overlap and less valve lift compared to the previous-generation engines. These changes improve the air-intake fill rate at low engine speeds for even better low-end pull, with peak torque arriving at a very accessible 4500 rpm. Thanks to these key engine design elements, the CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel offer dramatically more manageable engine characteristics at low-to-midrange speeds, with easy-to-reach power that greatly benefits beginning riders. In short, when Honda engineers came up with the idea of incorporating a larger engine in these two bikes, their focus was endowing the CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel with a better power curve than before, to create bikes that give beginners and novice riders an easy-going learning experience.
Even more additions to the CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel make these bikes especially accommodating riding partners. An electric starter allows for fast and easy starts—a big plus for newbies. The engine still retains a kickstart mechanism, and a newly configured kickstart lever is tucked in tightly to avoid the rider's right leg. Also, the drive-sprocket cover, which was integrated into the ACG cover of the 80 and 100, is now a separate piece to facilitate access when changing the countershaft sprocket. In addition, the new 125 engine is equipped with a reusable foam air filter similar to the style used on the CRF450R, one that increases the volume of intake air for better power. A new airbox design—oriented along the long axis of the bike—saves weight, increases airflow and also makes room for the compact battery needed for the electric starter, while also keeping seat height down to manageable levels. Thanks to the extra-wide powerband, a four-speed gearbox matches up well with the 125 engine, and the manual clutch is both durable and smooth to engage.
Subhead: An all-new rolling chassis
A brand-new steel diamond-backbone frame gives the CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel chassis an excellent balance of rigidity, strength and durability well suited to beginning riders. A bigger, 31mm telescopic fork—the 80 and 100 used 27mm forks—features stiffer springs and a 5.5-inch stroke for the CRF125F, with 5.9 inches of travel for the CRF125F Big Wheel. The new Pro-Link single-shock rear suspension incorporates a more sophisticated damper with a 32mm-diameter piston, and separate oil/gas pressurization chambers to reduce emulsification for more consistent damping action. This high-quality suspension means bump absorption, ride quality and tracking are much improved. A steel swingarm works through Honda's Pro-Link® system, and needle bearings have been used throughout to reduce friction and promote smooth rear-wheel travel. A 220mm front hydraulic disc brake gives both CRFs a whole new level of stopping power and consistency over the front drum brakes used previously, and the brake lever can be adjusted to fit various hand sizes. In back, the 95mm drum rear brake further aids stopping power.
Styled after the flagship Honda CRF450R and the championship-winning CRF250R, the CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel slot right between the CRF110F and CRF150F to offer more appropriately sized choices for up-and-coming riders who are learning the joys of off-road fun.