A colleague of mine has bought a brand new, shiny Yamaha YBR 125. Courtesy, me. How, ask ye? Here is how it happened. (If you don’t want to know and are more interested in my review, skip to the introduction section)
Le Colleague: I want to buy a new motorbike.
Le Me: So? What am I supposed to do?
Le Colleague: I want your expert opinion, you numbskull.
Le Me: Oh. What choices have ye?
Le Colleague: A Suzuki GS150.
Le Me: That’s an old man’s bike. Seriously?
Le Colleague: Well, I want something relatively modern. Honda has been selling the same crap for the last millennium.
He had a point. So I suggested a Yamaha – I’d seen a couple, had a brief ride on one and was favorably impressed by it. Actually, I fairly coerced him to buy one. I don’t like the GS150 he was planning to get – in my opinion, that is an overpriced piece of crap. The only benefits I see in a GS150 are durability and fuel economy. The styling is not my cup of tea, the brakes are from the horse and buggy age, the spares are hideously expensive and the local mechanics are a bit leery when it comes to repairs. Off we went to Akber Market, Karachi – and after a bit of convincing (read as browbeating) my colleague was the proud owner of a shiny new Yamaha. Since he’s a nice guy, he lets me ride it whenever I want to. After having ridden it for a few hundred kilometers, I can give an informed opinion on it.
The Yamaha YBR – a breath of fresh air in the stagnant local motorbike industry. It’s the first bike launched by Yamaha after their break up with local partners Dawood Yamaha Limited (who are still offering their own bikes that have nothing to do with the Yamaha lineup) and as first appearances go, it is unlike anything that Honda, Suzuki and the local manufacturers combined have ever offered. The styling is predominantly aimed at the younger generation and often gives an impression of being a larger bike than it actually is. The engine is a 125cc OHC affair that has about 10 BHP, the wheels are alloy rims instead of the usual spoke and rim affair, the brakes are a drum at the rear and a disc at the front, a 5 speed gearbox and the gear shift pattern is something usually found on sport bikes with a 1st – Neutral – 2nd – 3rd – 4th – 5th. There are a lot of other things too which are detailed later, but there is the sheer size of the damn thing. I thought my Honda was big. Hahaha – silly me.
Engine and Performance:
A 125cc OHC engine, with a 5 speed gearbox and a relatively high compression ratio of 10:1 means this thing is fast. True, we get the carby version instead of EFI but apparently the issue of misfueling at high revs was sorted out by the company and this particular sample was perfect in fuel delivery. Cold startups are not an issue either in our part of the country since the temperature remains relatively balmy. It has a starter motor too, so you don’t need to kick it to life which is an added convenience. I’ve managed a top speed of 120 kmph on it – which isn’t bad and I’m guessing it’ll go even higher, provided I get a road relatively traffic free and an insane amount of luck with it. Acceleration is pretty linear with low and medium revs being the strongest. At the higher revs (above 6000) it fizzes out and that makes the 10,000 rpm redline seem a bit silly and a maximum rev range of 11,000 rpm even sillier. Then again, this is a city bike at heart and not a sports bike, so the maximum torque arriving at relatively lower rpm isn’t an issue but a benefit – low end torque will help you accelerate on demand unlike a Honda CG125 which makes its max torque at 7-8,000 rpm while redlining at 10,000 rpm which you really have to push if you need some performance. You have to shift gears more often to keep the Yamaha at the lower rpms where it excels and that’s about it. With 5 gears to play with, you really don’t need the torque at stratospheric levels either.
That said – I prefer the screaming Honda to the purposeful Yamaha. That’s just me.
Acceleration figures are more or less standard – 0-60 kmph appears quickly (5-7 seconds) and 100 arrives quite a bit later (15-18 seconds) and if you’re really feeling the need for speed, you’ll see 120 kmph at the top.
The braking power is supplied by a disc up front and a drum brake at the rear. The disc brake is a single piston caliper (provenance unknown) which offers good feedback and reels in the bike with authority. The drum brake however, is more or less useless if not used in conjunction with the front – the feel is wooden at best and the decrease in velocity not very evident – plus it does have a nasty tendency to lock up suddenly if pressed hard. The reason for this is primarily the way the bike’s weight is distributed – unless you’re riding two up, the rear end doesn’t have much to press it down which makes the rest of the story easier to understand. On the plus side, no matter how fast you’re travelling, braking using both front and rear brakes will slow you down pretty quickly without any drama, which is a relief in the city, where idiotic drivers, pedestrians and bikers make this a very comforting. The front end does dive a bit when you use the front brake, but compared to the Suzuki and the Kawasaki’s of old, it’s very, very stable and firm. Very confidence inspiring and encourages you to go that wee bit faster and brake a wee bit later, safe in the knowledge that it will deliver when asked to perform. That said, it is better to invest in an aftermarket handlebar which is lower than the factory fitted one and will allow you to shift weight to the front when braking in a better manner so that you can get some additional grip on the front wheel. The initial bite is also stronger than the competition – i.e.; Honda – so you’ll have to be wary and use it with care lest you end up measuring the pavement with your body.
The suspension is more or less on par with the other bikes in its class, with a non-adjustable front end and a pre-load only rear end with 4 settings. It’s setup is rather soft – even riding one up isn’t uncomfortable and with two people, the softness is a bit daunting if you’re a spirited rider. Or if you weigh the equivalent of two people. In that case, you might have to invest in some stiffer springs and dampers for both ends or it does tend to buck and wobble under hard braking.
In the city, it is planted and sure-footed when upright but the lean angles are not generous – but that may be due to the fact that the bike is a bit top heavy. I feel a bit less confident on it when compared to the Honda CG125 Deluxe I own. Its also nearly as good as the the aforesaid Honda when it comes to quick wiggles – though the effort required is much more as you have to really muscle the handle bars and shift your weight in order to do so, because of its added height and weight. When all’s said and done, this is a bike meant for straight line speed as opposed to spirited twisties, in my humble opinion.
There are a host of features on this bike that aren’t found on the competition – allow me to elucidate.
Faux air scoops on the tank: These are more of a design fad and have no utility whatsoever. The fuel tank is already largest in class, adding these make it look larger than it is and also slow the bike down by adding weight and drag.
Starter Motor: A welcome addition – So far, only the Ravi Piaggio storm had one in the 125cc category. That bike didn’t go too well with the public though.
Euro 2 Compliant Catalytic Converter: As far as I’m aware, Yamaha is the only bike to offer a catalytic converter built into the muffler. The rest have this odd looking device fixed with the carb of the bike to ensure that they are Euro 2 compliant. This is definitely an improvement and the engine looks less cluttered than the competition.
Alloy Rims: Another first. Sure, the Habib Stryker too had alloys but that bike is very rare even in the used market and you can’t get a new one – I did check with Akbar Market dealers. The only new 125cc bike to offer Alloys are Yamaha – and these alloys are lighter than the hub-spoke-rim arrangement used on the rest of the bikes. This makes the bike lighter and quicker than the competition and yes – this isn’t a claim by me. These alloys reduce the rotating inertia – good thing for quick accelerating and braking.
Five speed gearbox: The five speed gearbox on the Yamaha is a 1-N-2-3-4-5 patterned one instead of the usual N-1-2-3-4-5 found on the competitors. The gearbox could’ve been better – finding neutral is a bit like finding Nemo. Sometimes, it shifts from 1st to neutral when you want to find 2nd gear and vice versa. Takes a bit getting used to, that’s all.
Rider controls have all been put on the left side – lights, indicators and horn. Fairly straightforward and nothing really out of the ordinary. The starter motor switch is on the right with the engine on/off switch. The instrument panel has been improved from the standard and features the speedometer, tachometer, a fuel gauge and gear position indicator. The front brake lever is non-adjustable, but the clutch lever is adjustable on both ends which makes it very easy to adjust the lever travel and engagement even when riding – though it isn’t really advisable to do so Gearshifts as stated earlier are of a different pattern and follow the sport bike pattern instead of the regular pattern which makes it a bit hard to shift for those of us used to the conventional setup and mis-shifts are common. Other than that, there’s not much difference with other motorbikes.
This bike is one of the best bikes currently available in the market, no doubt about it. In the hands of an expert, it is much more rewarding and for those who think it can’t beat the classic Hondas in a street race – beware. Don’t let the looks fool you at all, this thing is every bit as quick – in some areas even better and will make you look like a fool if you take it easy. It’s a relatively rare bike though, since it is expensive both in the price tag and the maintenance department – the prices for spares are really high and not everyone can fix it if it goes wrong (which it rarely does – but if it does, it does so with a vengeance).
The only grievance I have is the shoddy build quality. The nuts, bolts and plastics have a very cheap feel not in character with the rest of the bike and you’d be ill advised to take it to your nearest mechanic – they tend to damage the screws and bolts which are best described as ‘fragile’. In fact, the whole bike can be described as fragile – the bike my friend has is usually having annoying problems like indicators popping out of their anchors, the rims will get dented if you’re not paying attention and go hard over speed humps and potholes, the faux air scoops are plastic and one fall is all it takes to break them.The rear foot rests are held by metal tubing instead of aluminum or steel supports which also detracts from an otherwise quality product. Funny how skipping the little things brings down the whole package. Still, a 6 out of 10 is merited, which isn’t bad at all. I’d still recommend it wholeheartedly to the veteran but not the newbie – this is not a bike for newbies.