Need A Little Motorbike? – Honda’s MSX 125 reviewed 5 Comments


In 2016 before our trip we decided to purchase a motorbike to take with us on our travels. We had considered one in the past but having a motorbike can make life easier, nipping to the shops, visiting cities and just blasting down country lanes to remote places all gets much easier. There are hundreds of different choices on the market from cheap Chinese 50cc mopeds to expensive Japanese sports bikes. On previous trips we had seen many motorhomes with motorbikes most of which where carried on a rack at the rear of the van or towed on a trailer and neither option appealed. We didn’t want the bike to be carried outside the van and towing a trailer is a hassle so it would have to fit into the garage of our Hymer B590 so size was important. Space is always a premium, we didn’t want to ditch anything already kept in the garage and there’s a lot already in there including 2 folding push bikes, 2 tables, 2 chairs, boogie board, 40 litres spare fresh water, 2×35 litre boxes that act as our washing machine, a full size electric clothes spinner, 2 dog baskets plus all the usual junk stuffed into the corners.

After much careful thinking, comparing and measuring the decision was made, We would get a Honda for there legendary reliability and the CRF 250 road bike appealed. We then went with the van to the local Honda dealer, walked in and they had the bike in stock, Great….. not quite, it looked massive, tape measure out again and several trips back and forth to the van, yep it would still fit BUT only just, even with nothing else in the garage, then the reality kicked in and we realised that it would have been a pain to get in and out every time and probably lose a knuckle each time too.

Honda’s diminutive MSX 125

Plan B was needed, Whilst looking through page after page of bike stuff on the internet I had also found out about the Honda MSX 125 which is basically the modern version of the “Monkey Bike” which is was a cool little motorbike from the 60s in a very small, very light weight package.

You may ask why not just get a small 50cc moped, well believe it or not they were all bigger and heavier than the MSX 125 and we fancied something a little different too. The dealer had a couple in so we had look, discussed the bike and climbed aboard, then put our money where our mouth was and coughed up the money, £2600 for a brand new one in black.

Initial thoughts:

  • It’s quite small.
  • It looks good.
  • Light weight.
  • Well put together machine with good build quality.
  • No storage space anywhere its that small.
  • A proper motorbike should be more fun than a moped.
  • Did we mention it’s really small.

A week later I picked it up from the shop but couldn’t use it for a few weeks as it was only registered to go on the road at the 1st of the following month.

In the mean time I did a full motorbike test and Joanne did her CBT, Many hours were also spent rearranging the vans garage over and over until everything fitted in easily, believe it or not we can get at anything without taking anything else out including the Honda and we even have a folding bike ramp and a double helmet box in there now too.

So a few specs about the bike

  • 125cc air cooled single cylinder engine
  • Electric fuel injection
  • Electric start (No kickstart)
  • 4 speed manual gearbox
  • Max speed 60mph (100kmh)
  • Bike weight = 102kg wet
  • Tyres sizes 120/70-12 front and 130/70-12 rear
  • Oil capacity 900ml
  • Length = 1,760 mm, Width = 755mm, Height = 1,010 mm
  • Wheelbase = 1,200 mm, Ground clearance = 160mm
  • Fuel capacity 5.5 litres (1.21 Imp gal)
  • Fuel consumption is 180mpg or 1.6L/100km
  • Max weight carrying capacity = 154 kg

Controls

The controls and switch gear are robust and all fall easily to hand, the digital display has a speedo, 2 trips, current time, fuel capacity, rev counter, indicators and can be set to display miles or kilometres easily. The lights are quite good and the front indicators also act as running lights and are always on, they just flash when actually indicating and like the rear indicators they are mounted on flexible stalks so they are robust too.

Handling

I am about 5’10” and find the handling is very good, in fact you don’t feel like your on a tiny bike at all until you see your self reflected in and window or something. The bikes is very light and easy to ride and even the shortest of riders could get there feet on the ground. The suspension is quite soft but makes for a comfortable ride with one on though if you hit a big pot hole in the road with a pillion on then the front can sometimes bottom out but there is enough travel to not affect the braking. Speaking of braking the rear brake was a little weak at first but after the brakes bed in they are fine and the bike stops very quickly with no dramas. The four speed manual gearbox is positive with no big clunky noises when shifting gears. As you would expect the clutch is also very light to operate. You can easily ride it for a few hours, you just near a few bum breaks. The tyres are OK once warmed up and in good weather and you can zip around confidently thinking your a TT racer without problems. When it comes to filtering through traffic the bike excels, being small, narrow and nimble, it enables you to cut through traffic like nothing else.

Performance

Well lets be honest it is only a 125cc engine so this is no super bike, It is however very willing offering approx 15-20mph (25-30km) in each gear even with its small wheels it is stable at its top speed of 60mph (100kmh) which is more than fast enough for our uses. It’s low weight also means the speed picks up well even with 2 adults on but you will loose it on the hills and with headwinds. Just change down a gear from it 4 speed gearbox and that’s soon remedied as the bike happily revs to 8200rpm before hitting the red line. We have nicknamed the bike Eor (after the little donkey) which is a little unfair but you ride it quite hard and it will get there, even over the Alps if needed. That little Honda 125cc engine likes to be ridden that way, use it’s rev range, changing down and giving it the beans just makes everything more fun though. The engine is fuel injected too rather than a carburettor so is always smooth with no spluttering and provides fantastic fuel economy.

Up and down Norways Fjords is no problem.

Fun factor

Blasting along country lanes is great fun even with such a little engine. We have zipped up and down some great mountain roads/passes including the Transfagarasan in Romania, around Norwegian Fjords and all over the French Alps, each time with a great big smile on our faces and not just because of the locations, the bike is great fun to ride whether in the countryside or the city. People alway want to stop and talk when they see such a tiny bike. It must be the fact that your see it from a distance and think “hey that looks like a descent motorbike” they walk over only to realise it doesn’t get any bigger the closer you get to it. We have been stopped everywhere form Paris to Rome as the locals look past the big Ducatis and BMWs just to talk to us about our bike. Getting around cities to visit the sites is a lot more fun on two wheels than driving your precious motorhome through kamikaze traffic. If you cannot beat the manic motorbikes in cities then simply become one.

The MSX has also been our main mode of transport too when we are in the UK as the van gets  parked up for a rest. Even when it’s cold you get a smile on your face nipping to the supermarket so it definitely has the fun factor.

The Transfagarasan Highway

Great fun up and down the Transfagarasan highway on the Honda MSX 125

Reliability

We choose a Honda because they are renowned for being very reliable, we didn’t fancy tempting fate and riding many miles/kilometres out for the day in a foreign country and then breaking down. The bike however does however come with a complete 2 year warranty and also breakdown cover all provided by Honda so it offers great peace of mind.

We have covered about 6000 miles (10000km) on the bike now and it has always started first time and we’ve never had any trouble what so ever, nothing has come loose and the bike has no rattles or squeaks. Someone even reversed into it once and knocked it flying and the only damage was a slightly bent mirror arm which was easily bent back into shape.

Minor bad points

  • The suspension is a little soft so definitely avoid any large pot holes with a pillion on so the forks don’t bottom out but to be honest this would be a problem on any small bike.
  • It’s a tiny bike so don’t expect to for travel hours on end with out a break, mainly because the seat is a little hard but you can easily spend a good few hours in the saddle.
  • Storage space, well there is none other than a couple of tiny voids under the seat but with a little bit of clever packing you can get the tool kit, a cigarette lighter, a full puncture repair kit, phone cables and other small odds and sods under there.
  • The tyres are good in the dry but not brilliant in the wet as they are quite a hard compound but after market ones are cheap if you wish to change them.
  • Well like I said it’s very small but 2 adults do fit. However I cannot have our very large helmet box on at the same time as it pushes us too far forward. (it is a huge 50L box)

Modifications made.

  • Removed the seat strap as it’s uncomfortable under your behind.
  • Fitted a rear luggage rack (£35) and a removable helmet box. (£25)
  • Fitted a TomTom Rider GPS which we already owned to the handlebars which is brilliant.
  • Fitted a cigar lighter socket under the seat to power our GPS/charge stuff up whilst out and about.
  • When we got home after our 2016 trip I removed the rear mudguard as it is a little on the large side and just made a new numberplate/light bracket from a piece of aluminium. The bikes even shorter now at just 1600mm. (Aftermarket tail tidy brackets are available for about £50)

Our Bumble verdict:

It’s not the cheapest small bike on the market but it definitely must be the most fun, it offers fantastic fuel economy, Honda reliability and very low weight all add up to a great purchase, if you fancy a small motorbike then walk past the scooters and get a proper miniature motorbike, you won’t regret it.

Greek coastline is a blast on the Honda MSX 125


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5 thoughts on “Need A Little Motorbike? – Honda’s MSX 125 reviewed

  • Robert Ellis

    Glad you are both enjoying you’re travels ,Keep going ,keep enjoying & Good Luck to both of you & not forgeting MAC n TOSH ,Safe journey wherever you go ,LUV PoPs & woof woof Mac n Tosh xxxx💖❤️

  • Dave Thrussell

    Hi guys. Just an observation – and I don’t know if Joanne rides the bike abroad – but the uk CBT doesn’t allow you to ride a 125 in Europe. We looked into it when we got our scooter to go on the back of our motorhome and Robyn ended up doing her full bike test to be able to ride abroad. It seems that insurance companies will tell you you are covered but it would be interesting to see their response if you did need to claim. Cheers, Dave

    • Bumble Crew Post author

      Hi Dave, I’ll be honest I cannot remember the rules so thanks for pointing it out, Joanne’s only had a go a couple of times on quiet roads and prefers watching the world go by sat on the back, leaving me and “EOR” doing the donkey work 😉

  • Alan & Barbara

    I’d like to second everything Craig has said regarding the Honda Msx125 it does everything we asked of it on our journey around Europe this year.
    We have a Hymer 624sl and believe it or not we can fit the Msx125 plus a full size mountain bike and my wife’s hybrid bike along with everything else needed for an extended trip.
    You can’t help grinning every time you use it, and it does turn heads when people see you buzzing around.
    Gives you the freedom to explore hard to reach areas not accessible with the Motorhome 👍👍