have a serious problem in motocross these days. The progression young riders make doesn’t make sense. Because of marketing, bike availability, what the pro’s ride and the classes available, many young riders hop from 85’s to 250f’s. Personally I went from an 80 (yes you read that right, an 80) to a 105 to a 125 to a 250f. This was back when 250f’s put out similar horsepower to 125’s, but had an easier to use power delivery. Nowadays hopping from an 85 to a 250f is a similar jump in power and weight to jumping from an 85 (80) to a 250 two stroke in the late 90’s or early 2000’s. This is a jump most would consider crazy. The 125 is the most important bike in motocross and below you will learn why.
This chart shows a comparison of size and power characteristics of 85’s, 125’s and 250f’s. As you can see, there is a huge gap from 85 to 125 and an even bigger gap from 85 to 250f.
|Wheel Size F/R||
|Power Delivery||Need to understand how to ride to go fast & do jumps||Need to understand how to ride to go fast & do jumps||Always available, especially for lighter rider|
|Handling||Small, Light||Lightweight, easier to control||Heavier, more rotating mass, harder to control|
The nice thing about starting at a 125 for a rider going from an 85 to a big bike is there is more power, but a 125 has a more similar power delivery to an 85. This gives a young rider the chance to get used to the increased power and size of a bigger bike, without going straight to the extra weight, power and handling characteristics unique to four strokes.
Why it is important for young and new riders to ride a 125
- Learn the fundamentals In order to ride a 125 effectively; you do need to know how to ride. This means carrying momentum, shifting at the right time, using your brakes properly and using your throttle and clutch properly and together.
- Injury prevention The fact that you need to somewhat understand how to ride to go fast and do big jumps on a 125 prevents unskilled riders from riding over their head and launching huge jumps all out of control. This is something I see many riders on faster bikes doing frequently and it’s scary to watch. In addition, when you do get out of control on a 125 the bike is lighter, handles better and has less rotating mass than bigger bikes, this makes it easier to save yourself from crashing.
- Confidence A 125 is easier to handle than bigger bikes. Between this and the likelihood that one will crash less than on bigger bikes, a 125 allows younger and new riders to gain confidence before making the jump to more power and more weight.
A Side Note: Affordability
Motocross is expensive. There’s no way around it. A 125 is the least expensive full size motocross bike to purchase either new or used. It is also the least expensive to rebuild. It is very simple for someone to rebuild in their garage in less than a couple of hours. This does make the sport more affordable, but it also gives a Dad and his kid some quality time wrenching on the bike that they may not get with a four stroke due to a fear of electronics, timing, valves and cams. The family bond created in motocross is just as important (especially to parents) as the riding itself.
The 125 is an entry-level bike, the bike someone can buy for the least amount of money. The bike someone thinking of getting into motocross should see and buy due to the price point. For this reason, 125’s need to be promoted more to help grow motocross and keep it alive. The fact that this bike is overlooked by many, jumping straight to the more expensive to purchase and maintain 250f has made the sport more expensive and the turnouts much lower than when 125’s were the most common bikes at local tracks. At some point it seems that entry-level riders looking to give motocross a try have been priced out.
I have seen this with myself and friends. You hear pros talk about it when they ride two strokes in videos like Transworld Premix. Two strokes are just plain fun to ride. Something about a two stroke just keeps me wanting to come back and do more laps. Lightweight. Flickable. Explosive power. Some of the most fun days I have had riding in the past few years have been when I had the chance to ride a 125 for the day. You may not be setting any personal lap time records, but man you sure do feel invincible. You’re pinned and the bike handles so well you can do no wrong. Could the slight loss of fun factor with the four stroke takeover be another reason motocross is having a hard time retaining riders?
I know some people read this and thought “people will question my dick size if I ride a 125” or “I’m too big for a 125”. Don’t worry. No one is going to judge you for riding a smaller bike and riding a 450 isn’t going to make anyone think you’re huge.
The truth is you’re probably not too big for a 125 and the “lack of power” isn’t going to hold you back – a friend and I (I weigh 180, he weighs 230) took old 125’s to a local track a couple of years back and only had one guy there going faster than us. This rider was a local pro who was racing the 450 nationals that year.
If you’re a young rider moving up from an 85 or a beginner you should absolutely spend a year or two riding a 125. Chances are it will have more power than you ever need and you will be a better rider in the long run for learning how to ride it.