Now the real fun begins…
By now, we’ll assume you’ve read the Part 1 of the Ankle Biters test, wherein we asked some newer riders to ride the Honda Grom, KawasakiZ125 Pro, Kymco K-Pipe 125, and SSR Motorsports Razkull 125. Their job was to give us feedback as to which bike makes the best learner for the absolute noob because it’s been awhile since any of the MO staff could call themselves one. Our riders had a lot of fun with the test, but as for us MOrons, we wanted a bit more excitement once we got a chance to throw a leg over the quartet.
Naturally, being the sporting set that we are, and considering we’ve already raced a Grom and K-Pipe twice around the clock already, we decided to have a battle royale between all four bikes to settle the score. A race was in order! Time and budgetary constraints dashed our wide-eyed dreams of taking all four to a go-kart track for a closed-circuit race, but with a combined 32 horsepower, this was one of the few times we could hold a race on four street-legal motorcycles without fear of breaking the speed limit!
Gentlemen, don your leathers.
An Uphill Battle
The premise for our race was simple: we’d race to the top of one of our favorite canyon roads, which conveniently has a cafe at its summit. The loser would buy lunch. Once we got rolling up the hill, however, we didn’t need very many miles to sort out where the four bikes stood. Not surprisingly, by virtue of having the most horsepower and torque, at 8.3 hp and 7.6 lb-ft, respectively, the Grom slowly but confidently pulled away from the rest, handling the gentle upward grade of the road better than the others. The Kawasaki came next, its 8.0 hp and 6.4 lb.-ft. keeping the Honda honest while firmly sitting in second. In third was the Razkull, its 7.7 hp and 6.9 lb.-ft. not enough to keep up, and in a very lonely last place was the Kymco, plagued by its meager 7.0 hp, 5.7 lb.-ft., and porky 247-pound curb weight.
With the race decided five miles into a 25-mile run, we scrapped the uphill portion and voted to have Tom pay for lunch – which we would have done anyway, regardless of who came in last. Since we had a lot of time to burn at full throttle before reaching the lunch spot, roughly 20 miles away, it gave us plenty of opportunities to think about the machines underneath us.
There’s no way around it, the Honda is an impressive motorcycle within this category. “It’s the segment’s O.G. and the one the rest are shooting for,” says Kevin. It’s streetfighter-inspired redesign looks slick, and charging up the mountain, the other bikes had difficulty keeping up with the Grom.
It’s 12-inch wheels gave it the agility to quickly dip into corners, but it and the other contenders with 12-inchers didn’t feel as stable as the Kymco with its 17-inch wheels. Its fuel injection is calibrated perfectly, giving smooth, linear inputs when you twist the throttle. It’s put together well, despite being manufactured in Thailand instead of Japan, and none of us could really find an angle to knock it for. Except the price. Tom agreed, saying the Grom, “Is the nicest bike here in terms of fit and finish, overall quality, and performance, but it’s also the most expensive. So, you’re paying for what you get.”
And there’s the rub. Is the Grom’s $3,200 price tag worth it? We’ll debate our point on this topic later on.
Kawasaki Z125 Pro
For the Kawasaki’s part, our notes all mention something about it being nearly the Honda’s equal. Fit and finish are at the same levels you’d expect from Kawasaki, with engine performance slightly disappointing compared to its Japanese rival (though both are made in Thailand). Whereas the Honda’s new clothes give it a more manga appeal, the mini Z is like the Mothra to the Honda’s Godzilla.
The Grom may make more power, but the Z is more agile. It’s pegs, placed relatively high and rearward, are clearly the raciest here, and if we were burning laps around the tight confines of a kart track, where peak power isn’t as important, instead of ripping up a wide and expansive mountain, it might even give the Honda a run for its money.
“It seems strange to me that Kawasaki had the Grom clearly in its sights when developing the Z125, and yet couldn’t build a bike that doesn’t surpass the Honda in any performance criteria,” Ed-in-Cheese Duke whined. “What happened to the company which always built the baddest motors?”
As it stood, with the long ribbons of road to climb, the Honda eventually pulled a gap the Kawi couldn’t claw back. Once we got to the top and had a good lookaround at the bike, Kevin liked its double five-spoke wheels, while Tom thought the Kawi looked visually complete with the under engine cowl. The Z125’s fuel tank, however, features shrouds that jut out, which could inhibit leg room for some riders. It’s selling point of course, is its $200 cheaper price tag than the Grom.
SSR Razkull 125 and Kymco K-Pipe 125
Coming in a solid third place up the hill, the Razkull couldn’t keep the Grom or Z in sight for very long, but it clearly outpaced the Kymco, which came a distant last. Basically, whoever was riding either of the Chinese-made bikes were at the tail end of the group while they putt-putted their way to the top.
Carburetors come fitted on the SSR and Kymco, helping to drive down the price, and the lack of fuel injection makes cold starts much more difficult. Once warm and with throttles twisted to the stop, there’s really no telling which bike is fuel-injected or not. Also, unlike the fuel-injected Kawasaki, with its jerky on/off throttle application, neither the SSR or K-Pipe had such issues, although the carbureted bikes are, of course, unable to automatically adjust to variations in altitude.
Otherwise, the Razkull’s and K-Pipe’s deficiencies were greatly exposed going up the hill. They lack power – severely in the Kymco’s case – and they both weigh the most at 247 lbs. However, this number is slightly misleading, as Tom explains in the table below:
Because these bikes produce such miniscule amounts of power, weight is a huge factor in each bike’s performance. I have a 30-pound weight disadvantage against the other editors, and it showed every time I was riding uphill or even on a flat surface. So, it should be pointed out that where the Kymco and SSR appear to weigh the same, the difference in curb weight discluding each bike’s fuel capacity is huge. The Kymco carries the least amount fuel among all the bikes and the SSR the most. Factoring in fuel capacities we see that the SSR weighs only five pounds more than the Honda, instead of 16, while the Kymco remains weighing substantially more than the rest. The Kymco’s larger-diameter wheels account for some weight increase, but 12 pounds more than the next heaviest bike? Where’s all that weight coming from?
|Curb Weight||Fuel Capacity||Weight of Fuel||Curb Weight Without Fuel|
|Honda||231 lbs||1.45 gal||8.9 lbs||222 lbs|
|Kawasaki||226 lbs||2.0 gal||12.4 lbs||214 lbs|
|Kymco||247 lbs||1.2 gal||7.4 lbs||239 lbs|
|SSR||247 lbs||3.17 gal||19.7 lbs||227 lbs|
So as we can see, the Razkull’s portly weight is largely due to the touring-like fuel capacity it holds, which helps explain its lonely standing on the way up the mountain.
When the bikes are pointed downhill, things become very different. And considering how anti-climactic our uphill race was, we were hoping the way down would renew our child-like hooligan spirits. The short answer? Yes, yes it did.
It’s All Downhill From Here
Yep, the uphill portion was pretty boring, with the four players sorting themselves out very quickly. Coming down the mountain, however, was an entirely different story, and we didn’t know what to expect.
Among the surprises was how much of an equalizer weight and gravity play. Where the Honda would leave the others for dust going up, the quartet were surprisingly close coming down. The Honda would leap away at the start, but the advantage of long, open pavement that helped it form a gap going up gave the others the runway to claw the Honda back coming down.
The Kawasaki and SSR were better able to stay with the Honda, that is until the Z125 was forced to bow out once hitting its 67 mph speed governor (the Honda felt like it topped out around 71 mph, but it wasn’t clearly as governed as the Kawasaki). Until that point the Kawi could gain a little bit of ground on the brakes and with its superior agility. The Razkull, for its part, doesn’t have no pesky limiter – or if it does, we weren’t able to reach it – allowing it to roll as quickly as we dared on its 12-inch wheels. We saw an indicated 76 mph on the SSR the few times we were brave enough to look down. By that point, its rider was closing the gap quickly to the Honda, and if Tom, the heaviest of the four testers was aboard, that gap would close even quicker.
The problem then becomes the flightiness of the little wheels. Trading stability for agility is the sacrifice you make with 12-inch wheels, and maintaining speeds above 70 mph for any length of time makes the Honda and SSR nervous, which is probably the reason the Kawasaki is governed to 67 mph…
Of course, the big benefactor here is the Kymco and its 17-inch wheels. It, too, doesn’t have a limiter, and though it took a long stretch of road for it to gain speed, Tom used its extra weight, in combination with the stability from the 17s, to catch – and pass – the rest of us with a lot less drama. “With seemingly no governor on the K-Pipe I saw a downhill speed of 76 mph. Coupled with its larger wheels, the K-Pipe redeemed itself during the downhill portion of our race,” he noted.
While fun, the Kymco is still tragically plagued by a soft and spongy front brake – a pretty important thing when you’re hauling butt downhill. We also weren’t fans of the semi-automatic transmission with an unorthodox shift pattern (neutral at the bottom, four up) that requires long throws. “Worst transmission of the lot,” Tom says, adding “no feeling to signify you’ve shifted gears.”
The clutch lever, which isn’t needed at a stop, is equally puzzling, with Kevin adding, “I’m confused why there is a clutch lever. Seems pointless considering it’s not needed to get the bike rolling.” The going gets worse for the Kymco, as, apart from that weird transmission, there’s a “digital joke” of an instrument cluster, Tom says, with numbers that flash and morph into letters on occasion.
Surprising us the most was the SSR. It might cost a fraction of the price of its fuel-injected counterparts, but it sure doesn’t look, feel, or perform like it. Our testers noted the impressive fit and finish of the Razkull, with no unsightly gaps or exposed wires. Plus it simply looks attractive with its red trellis frame, seat cowl, high-mount muffler, and overall aesthetic ripped from Bologna, Italy.
“The SSR mini-Monster is a blatant ripoff of Ducati, but who cares,” says Tom. “The Razkull looks great, and stands out among the other two homogenous Japanese bikes. More than that, the Razkull isn’t just a looker, either. At least when it comes to hauling butt downhill. Like the Kymco, it claws back and overtakes the Honda when given enough room to take advantage of its greater weight and lack of a speed governor.
It’s a surprisingly good handler, too, though let down by its footpegs that are closer to the pavement than the other three. Other than that, the Razkull brakes into the corner as well as the Honda or Kawi, turns in with equal confidence, and feels just as stable as the other two on its side. With more peak torque than the Kawasaki, it even feels slightly more punchy than the Z on corner exit, to boot.
What’ll It Be, Boys?
Ultimately, the race downhill came down to which of the editors had bigger balls and was willing to put it on the line. With the exception of the Kawasaki, whose fun peaked at 67 mph, the other three battled it out like a Wrestlemania pay-per-view special, each dishing out a hit as it took its turn at the front. Tom “Big Guns” Roderick, for example, felt like a boat anchor on any bike he rode uphill, except the Honda, while downhill he felt invincible on the Kymco – the same bike he bemoaned on the way up.
Still, there’s no question which bike brings up the rear in this test. The K-Pipe 125 is simply lacking in too many areas: power, brakes and transmission the biggest among them. It does redeem itself slightly as having a generous amount of space for its rider, while also being the most stable at higher speeds. Its minimalistic styling appealed to some, but calling it attractive is pushing it. At $2000, the price point is attractive, but it’s the inferior buy for riders looking for performance.
Ranking the other three is a bit more challenging, as the MO scorecard has them very evenly matched. Like we mentioned in Part 1 of this ankle biters story, the Grom is the most well-rounded and best performing bike here, with the Kawasaki coming in a close second. However, the Razkull is a very close third.
If you have the $3,200 to spend, then you can’t go wrong with the Honda. “The Grom is the complete package, so it shouldn’t be surprised that package has the highest price,” says Kevin. “Five years from now, I’d bet the Grom would still be entertaining kids big and small with reassuring reliability.”
Which puts the Kawasaki in a strange place. At only two Benjamins less than the Honda, you’d have to bleed Green or truly have sportbike intentions in your future if that’s the one you want. It flicks quickly, and its pegs are the last to drag out of the four. But with a slightly less powerful engine than the Honda, the Zee doesn’t quite measure up to its obvious rival.
That leaves the SSR Razkull. Sure it’s carbureted, has low pegs, and a limited dealer network. But is that really a dealbreaker? Not for Tom, who writes, “Pegs can be moved, and being a carbureted bike works in the Razkull’s favor as well as against it. EFI is definitely preferable, but the SSR costs a lot less money and either the bike’s owner, or a mechanic with carburetor knowledge could make the Razkull run a lot better than it does. Even as-is, the SSR proved to be very competitive in the power department against the two Japanese bikes.”
Tom continues with stories about how Chinese bikes have had dirt kicked in their faces for years because of questionable quality, “but I think the Razkull proves this albatross can be overcome,” he says. “If it were my money, I’d buy the Razkull.”
It’s a conclusion the rest of us came to as well. Sure the Honda is objectively the best bike here, but the fact the SSR comes oh-so-close in many performance aspects, looks killer, and is even affordable on a MOsalary makes it the most attractive in our eyes. Not to mention you won’t see too many other Razkulls on the road, whereas we see Groms all the time.
So there it is. In a bit of a bombshell, we’re picking the Razkull 125. For the price, it simply can’t be beat.
Battle of the 125cc Ankle Biters part 2 Scorecard
|Total Objective Scores||84.7%||84.1%||85.3%||92.4%|
|Quality, Fit & Finish||82.5%||82.5%||63.1%||81.3%|
|John’s Subjective Scores||80.4%||78.8%||60.8%||79.2%|
|Kevin’s Subjective Scores||84.4%||84.0%||64.8%||79.6%|
|Tom’s Subjective Scores||81.9%||80.6%||60.8%||80.6%|
|Troy’s Subjective Scores||81.5%||81.3%||59.2%||81.7%|
Battle of the 125cc Ankle Biters part 2 Specifications
|Engine Type||124.9cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled, EFI, SOHC, two-valve||125cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled, EFI, SOHC, two-valve||123.7cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled, carbureted, SOHC, two-valve||125cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled, carbureted, SOHC, two-valve|
|Bore and Stroke||52.4mm x 57.9mm||56.0 x 50.6mm||54mm x 54mm||52.4mm x 55.5mm|
|Compression Ratio||9.3:1||9.8:1||8.6:1||9.0 : 1|
|Rear Wheel Horsepower||8.3 hp @ 6,400 rpm||8.0 hp @ 7,700 rpm||7.0 hp @ 6,900 rpm||7.7 hp @ 6,600 rpm|
|Torque||7.6 lb-ft @ 5,300 RPM||6.4 lb-ft @ 5,900 rpm||5.7 lb-ft @ 5,900 rpm||6.9 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm|
|Front Suspension||31mm inverted fork;
3.9 inches travel
|31mm telescopic fork;
3.9 inches travel
|31mm telescopic fork;
3.5 inches travel
|Inverted telescopic fork;
4.7 in. travel
|Rear Suspension||Single shock;
4.1 inches travel
4.1 inches travel
4.0 inches travel
4.0 inches travel
|Front Brake||Single 220mm disc, dual-piston caliper||Single 200mm petal-style disc, dual-piston caliper||Single 276mm disc, dual-piston caliper||Single 220mm disc, two-piston caliper.|
|Rear Brake||Single 190mm disc, single piston caliper||Single 184mm petal-style disc, single piston caliper||Drum||Single 190mm disc, single-piston caliper|
|Rake/Trail||25.0º/3.2 in||26.0°/2.7 in||27.0°/3.5 in||26.0°/3.0 in|
|Wheelbase||47.2 in||46.3 in||50.8 in||47.7 in|
|Seat Height||30.0 in||31.7 in||31.0 in||29.5 in|
|Curb Weight||231 lbs||226 lbs.||247 lbs.||247 lbs.|
|Fuel Capacity||1.45 gal||2.0 gal||1.2 gal||3.17 gal|