Old reliable gets a makeover


BIKETEST HONDA CB125:Honda has created the ultimate bike to beat the recession writes Tom Robert

FIRST THE bad news. I could be wrong, but there seems to be a recession going on out there.

Now the good news. Honda has launched the perfect machine to deal with it. No, not an electric cocktail shaker to stay at home and drink yourself senseless. I tried that over Christmas and just woke up with an electric hangover rather than the usual manual one.

No, I refer to the new CBF125, which I can report does pretty close to Honda's claimed 134mpg. That means it will be more than contributing its fair share to the fact that UK motorcycle sales were up 4 per cent in 2008. In Ireland, though they fell last year, makers such as BMW reported a four-fold increase in the past three years.

That's in the worst recession since the Depression, and after the worst summer since dinosaurs ruled the earth.

Even superbikes are selling well, as more and more people realise that they combine the performance of a Ferrari with the frugality of a diesel at a fraction of the price of either.

However, where the CBF will really score is with the ten million commuters worldwide who bought its predecessor, the trusty CG125, which was launched in 1975 and was still going strong until last year.

In those three decades, the bike itself went from bog standard to having disc front brakes, a bigger tank, better styling, saddle and mirrors and from a four to a five-speed gearbox, even if in the process it lost the innovative enclosed drive chain.

However, what it didn't lose were the two foundations of its ethos: it would run for thousands of miles on rusty coconut juice with zero maintenance and it was cheap as a bag of chips.

Mind you, you'd be kicking yourself the moment you saw a new CBF whizz past, for Honda has done a great job of making this look a proper motorbike, with a sleek tank, decent switchgear and instrumentation, a stepped seat and a fuel-injected engine which is so quiet that after I'd turned the starter, I actually had to bend down and listen to make sure it was running.

Climb aboard, and even for an unfeasibly tall chap like myself, the upright seating position is comfortable enough for an hour or two in the saddle to hold no fear.

Pull out into traffic, and it becomes immediately obvious that the bike is in its element, with that upright position and excellent mirrors making threading your way through traffic a doddle. Even with the wide handlebars designed for better low-speed handling, it's narrow enough to purr past gridlocked Porsches.

The clutch and gearbox are effortless, and the handling completely vice-free, as you'd expect from Honda.

Acceleration is adequate rather than breathtaking and at full chat the engine sounds exactly like the world's fastest sewing machine. When I say fastest, with my 100kgs on board, the most the CBF could manage was a shade over 100kph.Anyone of normal dimensions should be able to wind it up to the claimed top speed of 110kph.

But speed isn't what the CBF is about. Nor is it about setting your soul on fire when you see it in the drive.

What it's about is getting you efficiently and extremely econonomically from A to B every morning, and then back to A with enough left over to pay for a martini out of that electric cocktail shaker you got in the New Year sales.

Factfile CB125

Engine:124.7cc, single-cylinder four-stroke with two valves

Power:11.1bhp at 8,000rpm

Torque:8.3lb ft at 6,250rpm

Transmission:five-speed gearbox, chain final drive

Performance:top speed 65mph, fuel consumption 134mpg

Colours:black, sports red, silver metallic

Price:in Northern Ireland £1,999 on the road. The price in the Republic has yet to be released. For details contact Two Wheels, 01-460 2111.

(Test bike provided by Belfast Honda, belfasthonda.com)