Bikes we love

What I want(ed): Yamaha YBR125 Custom

Not long into the motorcycle-obsession journey a person starts mentally cataloging which bike he or she wants. No doubt I’m quite common in this: when I run through those daydreams I find myself with a list of motorcycles. Indeed, part of the fun is constantly rearranging a particular bike’s place on that list.

I like organising things. Yeah, ladies: I know how to party.
You get what I mean. In the throes of motorcycle excitement you’re not going to set your mind on just one bike. Especially if, like me, you’re keen to take a staggered approach to motorcycling proficiency. Like a high school kid rating girls (1), I have my eye on machines of all sizes and styles. One of the first bikes to catch my fancy was a Yamaha YBR125 Custom.

I’m a practical fella. I didn’t always used to be. But one day, in my late 20s, I found myself driving the speed limit and realising that an honest assessment of limitations can actually help me accomplish goals. As such, I’m honest enough with myself to know I am not going to be awesome first time I get on a motorcycle. Sure, I may like the look and sound of an Exile Bar Hopper (2) but getting on one at this stage would almost certainly result in death, serious injury and/or unceasing ridicule from friends. Better to start small.

It doesn’t get much smaller than a 125. That’s the bike on which people are first trained in the UK (and in the US, if I’m not mistaken). Manageable and forgiving, a 125 is ideal for learning but has, too, all the power one really needs for getting around a European city.

“That’s what I’ll do,” I told myself. “I’ll get a 125, ride it until I’m totally confident, then move up.”

Because of the way UK licensing works, the 125 is a popular class, and there are a number of super-cheap options. But with low price comes questionable quality, and I’m not exactly renown for my mechanical ability. So, I found myself gravitating toward the Japanese big four. Price ruled out some bikes, and looks some others. Eventually, I settled on the YBR125 Custom.

Yamaha’s website says it’s got a “genuine American cruiser look.” That’s ambitious. To me, it’s got the neutral feel of a bike that doesn’t really say anything about the rider. It’s not a statement, which is exactly what I want from a utilitarian machine.

The bike is relatively affordable, has good reviews and is known to be reliable – probably all I’d need for getting around in Cardiff.

But I’ve decided I don’t want it. A 125 may be a tad small. In those reviews I’ve read, there is acknowledgment the bike doesn’t like hills. So, any attempt to take it beyond city limits might be less than enjoyable. I worry, too, that even within city confines it might not be happy on occasions I have a passenger.

I don’t know, though. Maybe I’m buying too much into the idea that big engines are always good. Maybe I don’t need anything bigger. And maybe, just maybe, if the price is right, I’ll end up getting one anyway.


(1) When I was in high school I would make complicated charts to help me determine which girl I wanted to ask to dances. I scored the girls based on body type, facial attractiveness, personality, and likelihood of saying yes. It should come as no surprise that none of my high school relationships lasted more than a month.

(2) I don’t really. All the Exile bikes look terribly silly and impractical to me. But I have a friend who drools over them.