Honda XR 125L

The might but ugly XR 125

My small introduction to the dual-sport world

I was set on to use the Honda CB110 as my 2015 Philippine tour motorcycle, it’s light, cheap and parts are readily available however lacks on one thing… off road capability.

Everything changed when I saw this dual-sport motorcycle, it immediately caught my attention because it looked very similar to those motorcycles used by budget adventure riders who I follow online. After sitting on it and realizing that I can reach the ground with both of my feet, (even if I’m tip toe-ing a bit)… I decided to research more about it.

Turns out that it’s marketed as a farm bike in South America, some might be turned off by this, but not me. I thought it was great asset, why? If something is being marketed as a farm work-horse then it must be good at hauling and navigating very challenging terrains, as one might see on a farm.. So I thought this will be perfect for my 2015 PH tour (Plus! I get to look like a budget adventure rider).

Taken after tackling the rugged terrains of Polilio island

Taken after tackling the rugged terrains of Polilio island

Quality

It’s a Honda and it’s made in China. I have to admit, I had my reservations knowing it came from there. The market has been flooded with cheap Chinese motorcycles that aren’t exactly known for their reliability. Even after owning it a couple of months I still feel the same about it. The welding is not top-notch and after just 3 months of owning it, one by one the bulbs started to get busted. The joints are showing signs of rust, it was just really disappointing to look at. But everything changed… I have traveled more than 18,000 kms on it, 7,200 kms of which was from the 2015 PH tour.

Not even once did the engine failed, I was riding with loads of more than 30kgs on my rear and the sub-frame didn’t have any problems, 9 hours of riding which had just one 15 minute rest and the engine didn’t even overheat, dropped it countless times on different terrains and it’s still solidly intact. I must say, it’s one hell of a motorcycle.

Performance

The XR 125 has a lot of low-end power, it can get you moving easy even with really heavy loads. Low and mid-range is where it shines, forget about the top end as it has nothing spectacular to offer. Although some might not believe me but I have managed to go as fast as 120kph on this, but that was on a very long stretch of road and it took a really long time to get there and you can really feel the engine struggling, so I wouldn’t recommend doing it.

Handling on the street is really good but not great, avoid getting a larger front wheel as it affects the steering greatly. I’m no off-road guru but from my experience, it has handles pretty well and has enough power to get me through really tough terrains. One thing that it excel’s on would be fuel economy, I’m averaging around 30-40 kpl on it. The 12-liter tank with its 2.5-liter reserve will guarantee to get you far, though you might want to monitor your trip meter as this does not have a fuel gauge.

Style

It looks ugly, the headlight with its soft protruding features just doesn’t fit well with its rugged character. Compared to it’s Yamaha counterpart the XTZ 125, the XR looks like its shy often quiet cousin.

This will get you to hell and back... intact.

This will get you to hell and back… intact.

Affordability

For a 125 that’s not an under-bone I would have it’s price is pretty reasonable. I got it for 82,000 php which at that time is the cheapest dual-sport motorcycle from a known brand. The parts are quite cheap as well, although during the first year of owning it some of the parts are a bit hard to find, like the interior rubber of the front tire and some other consumables. Luckily I found a shop called Metro Cycles in Cubao, Quezon City that stocks some of these parts. The owner, Victor Ty, even listens to the needs of the riders and tries to find ways to get the parts and they ship too!

Availability

From what I know, some are still available today. But I think they are just trying to deplete the remaining stocks as it’s being replaced by the newer Honda XR150. It might be a challenge to find one now, also you might want to think twice because some stores sell the XR 150 about 2,000 PHP cheaper than the XR 125.

Recommendation

This is a long term review and I would have to say that the Honda XR 125 is a very capable machine for the budget motorcycle traveler. It’s affordable, sturdy, kind of ugly and rugged. It’s a machine that would go through hell and back with you… intact. I loved it so much that I decided to retire it and turn it into a custom scrambler called Wander One. (You can read about it here)

For Honda XR 125 Parts
Honda Metro Cycle’s Inc.
639 EDSA Cubao, Quezon City
912-5375/912-3358

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