Learning to ride a motorcycle can be a slightly frustrating experience, as the type of bike you can use is restricted. However, that does not mean you have to choose a boring machine, as there are lots of great learner legal motorbikes on the market.
Before you choose your first motorcycle, you will need to familiarise yourself with the regulations and decide whether you are happy to purchase a used bike or are willing to splash out on a new one. Once you have done that, you can start to search for a 125 cc machine that is easy to ride, cheap to run and, of course, looks good.
When it comes to motorcycles, you cannot go wrong with a Honda, as the brand has a well-deserved reputation for reliability and value for money. The Japanese manufacturer has a number of good learner legal machines in its range, but two really stand out.
The first is the Honda CBF125, which is available for just £2,500 new. It has proved hugely popular with British bikers since its launch in 2009, and its combination of affordability, ride quality and stylish design have helped to make it the UK’s best-selling motorcycle.
It has the classic low seat and high handlebars set-up that is associated with comfort, and also comes with a small windshield to shelter you from the weather. Its 125 cc engine generates 8.3 kW of power, which is more than enough to cope with urban journeys.
If you would prefer a slightly sportier look, the Honda CBR125R could be your ideal first motorbike. It has the appearance of a much more powerful machine, but at 9.3 kW it is well within the limit for learners.
A new CBR125R will cost you £3,400, but for that you will get a bike with a lightweight steel frame, wide rear tyre for improved handling and an advanced digital instrument display. It also boasts stylish bodywork that is sure to turn heads as you cut through the traffic.
If performance is the most important factor in your choice, you should take a look at what the Yamaha YZF-R125 and KTM 125 Duke have to offer. Both utilise the full 11 kW of power permitted for learners and are a great introduction to riding if you see yourself on a 750 cc machine in a few years time.
Yamaha has designed the YZF-R125 to look like a supersport bike and its 125 cc engine uses some of the technology the manufacturer developed for the track. It also comes with a steel Deltabox frame, aluminium swingarm and telescopic forks that are of a much higher specification than you would expect on a motorcycle in this category. You will have to part with £4,420 to buy a new one, but it will be something you are happy to ride for several years after you have passed your test.
The KTM 125 Duke also boasts eye-catching looks, but they reflect the Austrian company’s off-road heritage rather than aping the style of a track bike. It is lightweight, easy to handle and benefits from a comfortable riding position, and new models have a competitive price tag of £3,795.
At the other end of the scale is the Suzuki Van Van, which is all about fun rather than speed. The 125 cc machine has a stylish retro look and is one of the easiest motorcycles on the market to ride on urban roads. At £3,135 new, it is a perfect choice for a first bike.