10 Insanely Fun 125cc Dirt Bikes For Beginner Off-Road Riders!
So What is The Best 125cc Dirt Bike Out There?
Updated August 27, 2018
125cc dirt bikes might be small in displacement but they’re big in fun. Don’t be put off by their small engines because when it comes to proper off-road riding, less is definitely more. A talented dirt bike rider can chew up trails a lot faster and with a bigger smile on their face on board one of these 125cc dirt bikes than most regular riders can on a 450! And that’s not a lie. If you’ve ever wanted to get into the fun world of off-road motorcycle riding then your best bet is to start off on a trusty 125, which are the best beginner dirt bikes out there. Luckily, we’ve put together a top list of some of our favorite 125cc dirt bikes on sale to help you on your way. But we get to that, why ride a dirt bike at all?
What’s The Big Deal With Dirt Bikes?
If you’re on the fence about getting involved in off-road riding, then you should probably check out our in-depth dirt bike survival guide for proper inspiration but in short: riding an off-road motorcycle will make you a much better road and track rider. If you’re looking to improve your performance then swapping your road bike for a dirt bike is a great start. There’s a good reason while professional racers train on the rough stuff, but don’t take our word for it, try it for yourself. But what if you’re not about improving your game? Well, it’s good for your body because it’s quite labor intensive, and it’s just damn good fun too. So, now that’s out of the way…what should you buy?
2-Stroke Or 4-Stroke?
The age old debate about whether to choose a 2 or 4-stroke dirt bike is never going to draw to a satisfactory conclusion, and while both have strengths and weaknesses you should probably consider what kind of rider you are and what sort of ride experience you want before settling into one camp or the other. You see, 2-strokes are simpler, tougher, more powerful motorcycles but they’re generally a little harder to handle and of course, you’ve got to mix your fuel with oil. 4-strokes, on the other hand, are smoother to ride and offer an easier entry for beginners, but they require more skilled maintenance, and generally cost more in the long run. Another thing to consider is the future: 2-strokes are being phased out…or rather, they’ve been trying to phase them out for years. 4-strokes burn cleaner, and most manufacturers don’t even have a 2-stroke option in their line-ups these days. There’s plenty of debate to be had about the 2-stroke/4-stroke issue…so log on to those forums and join the argument.
Which Manufacturers Make 125cc Dirt Bikes?
In the USA, there’s not as many as you’d think, with most of the big manufacturers focusing on smaller capacity sub-100cc models, or jumping straight to the 250cc segment instead. Luckily, most of the big known brands keep at least one 125cc dirt bike on their books, but even then that doesn’t give you to much choice. Specialist brands are also worth looking into, although they can be more expensive, but you get what you pay for. With that in mind, taking a punt on a no-name Chinese brand might be a good idea if you’re looking for something to thrash around on without committing to something proper and expensive. Maybe. Still, we recommend going with the tried and tested names like Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, KTM, and Husqvarna, whilst keeping more specialist names like Sherco and Beta Motorcycles in mind too.
There are plenty of beginner dirt bikes out there worth considering, but here are out 10 favorites if you’re looking for straightforward, no-nonsense fun from names you can trust, with easy access to parts and servicing. Some of these are street-legal, some of them aren’t, but they’re all a blast to ride off-road!
10 Awesome 125cc Dirt Bikes For Beginner Dirt Riders!
#10. The Honda CRF125F (Big Wheel)
A Honda is always a safe gamble, and their CRF125F is one of the best 125cc dirt bikes on the market for beginners. Depending on your height, you’re either going to want the standard version or their Big Wheel model, which comes with larger diameter wheels, a longer swingarm, and a taller saddle height. Like most of the 125cc dirt bikes on this list, it’s small, simple, reliable, and highly effective. Powered by a potent 124.9cc single-cylinder, air-cooled engine mated to a manual four-speed gearbox, the CRF125F is guaranteed to put a smile on any riders face as they ride along the trails and start off in the world of off-road riding.
Armed with a front disc brake, rear Pro-link suspension and both a kick-starter and electric ignition, the CRF125F has got plenty going for it. It’s not too big or too small, but just right for a beginner rider. It does come with a more premium price tag than we’d like though. The Big Wheel model comes with an MSRP of $3,399, but if you can tolerate a smaller saddle height, you can get the regular sized version for an MSRP of $2,999.
#09. The Yamaha TT-R125LE
Yamaha offer a couple of cool 125cc dirt bikes but we thought we’d start off with their more beginner focused TT-R125LE model. This model is geared towards younger riders and beginners, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not fun. Powered by a torquey 124cc air-cooled single cylinder engine, which boasts excellent power right across the range, the TT-R125LE can spar with the best of them. Yamaha gave the TT-R125LE five gears for riders to play with which helps you to deliver that power exactly where and when you want it.
Other cool features include things like the addition of an automatic cam chain tensioner and an easy access, tool free air-filter – both helping to keep maintenance to the bare minimum. Another interesting touch is the fact that Yamaha have equipped it with a lightweight exhaust system that gets the stamp of approval from the United States Forestry Service, making it forest friendly. The TT-R125LE looks cool too, borrowing styling from the more race-oriented YZ series, marking it as firm member of the Yamaha family. Prices for the TT-R125LE start from $3,299.
#08. The Beta Motorcycles RR 125 2T
If you’re not looking for beginner 125cc dirt bikes but want something a little more specific then we can’t recommend the Beta Motorcycles RR 125 2T enough. As our first 2-stroke entry on the list, this one is quite the power house of fun. Equipped with a very competent 125cc liquid-cooled, single cylinder 2-stroke engine featuring a full menu of top notch aluminum and die-cast parts, and mated to a sophisticated six-speed manual gearbox, the Beta RR 125 2T is quite a technologically advanced machine.
To complement the awesome engine, Beta have built a quality frame from chrome molybdenum with a double cradle split, offering fantastic geometry and excellent weight distribution that nicely accommodates the small 125cc engine. To make things better, Beta Motors have equipped their RR 125 2T with Sachs suspension, and a very impressive in-house built exhaust system that optimizes the 2-stroke engine’s torque and power curves. While a beginner would excel on this Beta machine, we think it’s better suited to a rider who has a little more experience riding off-road. As for the price, they’re currently listed as TBD…!
#07. The Kawasaki KLX110
Yep, it’s not a 125cc machine, but unfortunately Kawasaki have dropped their 125cc dirt bike from their contemporary line up for the time being, so US customers either have a choice of either 110cc, 140cc, or 250cc dirt bikes instead. While it’s not really fair to allow Kawasaki a slot on the list, it’s probably more unfair not to include them, since they make such exceptionally good dirt bikes. Besides, the difference between a 110cc and 125cc is so laughably small that there’s barely a noticeable difference to the average rider. Fill a cup with 110 cubic centimeters of water, then fill another with 125…the difference is non-existent to the untrained eye, right?
Anyway, the Kawasaki KLX110 is an ideal beginner dirt bike for those in need of a lower saddle height and a little less power. The engine is a nice little 112cc air-cooled, 4-stroke unit that produces smooth power and features bulletproof reliability. Interestingly, it comes equipped with an automatic clutch, allowing for easy “no-stall” shifts through its four gears, without any clutch to worry about. Being a Kawasaki, it comes in that love or hate green color, but if you can handle that and have a spare $2,299 to play with, it’s a great choice for a beginner.
#06. The Suzuki DR-Z125L
Suzuki might not be the obvious choice for 125cc dirt bikes but they know a thing or two. While the DR-Z125L’s bigger brothers are more highly respected, the little 125 version is still a fantastic machine that can tear up the trails with the best of them. Powered by a steadfast 124cc single-cylinder motor that offers accessible speed and power, especially through the low and mid-range, mated to a trusty five-speed manual transmission, it might not be the fastest dirt bike out there, but it’s a great all-rounder. Equipped with large diameter wheels, a front disc brake, and telescopic forks, the DR-Z125L is simple but effective and is definitely a blast to ride.
With a saddle height of 32 inches and an overall wet weight of 196 lbs, the DR-Z125L is an excellent choice for new riders to cut their teeth on. The only real downside that we have with the DR-Z125L is the fact that it’s kick-start only. For most riders, that’s not a problem at all, but if you’re an absolute beginner, the kickstart can be quite intimidating. If you can handle that, and can stomach the “classic Suzuki” styling, then you can go and pick one of these up from the dealership for an MSRP of $3,249.
#05. The Yamaha YZ125
Our second Yamaha offering is a little more serious than the last one. This is the Yamaha YZ125 and it’s one of the most enduring dirt bikes out there. Having been part of Yamaha’s dirt-focused line up since the early 1970s, the YZ125 has always been a popular machine for beginner dirt riders and that’s largely to its simple no-nonsense nature and illustrious history of fun and reliability. While many other manufacturers have turned their backs on the humble small-capacity two-stroke, Yamaha have persevered and we’re glad that they have.
The current iteration of the YZ125 boasts a solid 125cc liquid-cooled, 2-stroke, reed-valve inducted single-cylinder engine, quality suspension from KYB, Nissin brakes with wave rotors, Pro Taper fat bars, Dunlop Geomax MX52 tires, Excel rims, and plenty of other tasty upgrades too. The bike handles amazingly well and it lives up to the hype. There’s a good reason why the YZ125 has been on Yamaha’s books for so long: it’s just a great machine that’s hard to find fault with. If you’re looking for a small capacity 125cc dirt bike from Yamaha but want something a little more upmarket than the TT-R125LE, then this is what you need. Prices start from $6,499 – expensive, but worth it.
#04. The Sherco 125 SE
Sherco are one of those brands that make incredible products but often get ignored. If we’re talking about dirt bikes, and specifically 125cc dirt bikes, then Sherco rank very highly. Since the company specializes in dirt bikes and only dirt bikes, you can rest assured that their motorcycles are of the finest quality. Usually, Sherco focus on 250cc engines and up, but this is their first 125cc machine and it’s incredible. The small 2-stroke motor is compact and powerful, designed be cool running, and offer the biggest bang for your buck.
Equipped with two selectable engine maps that affect the maximum power output, the Sherco is one of the more advanced motorcycles on this list. It also boasts WP Xplorer front forks, a WP 46 rear shock absorber, Brembo brakes, a powerful ignition system, a Selle Dalla Valle gripper seat cover, water resistant electrics, and a lightweight exhaust system. As far as 125cc dirt bikes go, the Sherco 125 SE isn’t the most conventional choice, but in some respects it pays to be different. Talking of which, if you want to get your hands on one of these awesome motorcycles you’ll have to get in touch with your nearest dealer for a quote!
#03. The Sherco 125 SE Six Days
But before we move on from Sherco completely, we want to introduce you to their awesome 125 SE Six Days model. It’s a lot like the racing model listed above, but this one is more focused on proper endure riding – which is what most dirt bike riders are really looking for. The engine specs and overall performance are more or less the same, but the Six Days has been engineered for more real life use. Both models might seem to be watered down versions of their 250cc brothers – like you often find with the regular manufacturers – but in fact both were specifically designed from the ground up.
This enduro focused model comes with some nice differences from the racing unit, such as the addition of a solid rear disc brake, a WP Xplorer front fork with spring preload adjustment, new handlebars, new rims from Excel, an upgraded silencer with a carbon end cap, black anodized parts, and a different gripper seat cover. As for the price…well, again, you’re going to have to ask Sherco for the details!
#02. The Husqvarna TC 125
Husqvarna make exceptional off-road motorcycles, but unfortunately many riders think that their bikes are reserved for professionals only – but that’s not true. While they offer some great bikes in their line-up, we recommend the TC 125 to both beginners and experienced off-road riders alike because it offers simple and fun ergonomics, but also provides professional levels of power and torque should you feel the need to take your riding up a notch.
Built around a technically brilliant 125cc single cylinder 2-stroke engine that can deliver more power than you’ll need in an unbelievably smooth way, with power delivered through the gearbox via a sophisticated Magura hydraulic clutch. The engine is held in place by a lightweight chrome molybdenum frame, twinned with fully-adjustable inverted WP AER 48 front forks with a single rear shock. The braking duties are handled by Brembo units at the front and back. Since we’re talking about a competition spec machine, Husqvarna have no shortage of aftermarket options to help you customize this ride into whatever you need it to be. The Husqvarna TC 125 is one of the coolest 125cc dirt bikes on the market, and only one is superior in our opinion. As for the price, you can pick one of these up for $6,999!
#01. The KTM 125 SX
In essence, the KTM 125 SX is pretty much the same as the Husqvarna TC 125. Since KTM own Husqvarna, the two brands share a lot of components and parts. However, there are some differences that give KTM the edge over the Husqvarna. Firstly, the KTM is ever so slightly lighter, has a slightly longer wheelbase, comes with a larger fuel tank, and boasts Brembo hydraulics rather than Magura. Is it enough to make a massive difference? Probably not. That being said, the biggest difference between the two is that one wears the KTM logo, while the other doesn’t. And that goes a long way.
You see, KTM have been winning off-road competitions for years, and very few brands can live up to KTM’s name. KTM are also the world’s fastest growing motorcycle manufacturer, and they have an impeccable record for dealership support, parts supply, and customer service – and that goes along way. You could argue that Husqvarna technically have the same operation by association…but it’s KTM that’s winning all those titles. At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a reliable 125cc dirt bike that can satisfy both beginners and advanced riders alike, that offers exceptional value for money, and won’t bore you to death, then the KTM 125 SX is the wise rider’s choice. Oh, by the way, the KTM actually comes in cheaper than the Husqvarna with an MSRP of $6,899! A hundred dollars cheaper…