Yamaha TTR125 Review – Is It A Good Starter Bike?
What makes a great beginner bike? The Yamaha TTR125LE has long been known as a stepping stone dirt bike for kids and adults alike that are looking for a simple, easy to ride and maintain off-road motorcycle with a lower seat height.
In this post we’ll review every aspect of Yamaha’s TTR125LE (and the standard versions) and what makes it such a great beginner dirt bike for training new riders the basic controls and handling, as well as what can be done to improve the ride on a budget.
Seat Height/Wheel Size
The size of a dirt bike is one of the biggest factors to choosing the right dirt bike for you. Buy one too big and tall, and you’ll get frustrated that you can barely touch the ground when sitting on the bike, resulting in more falls and accidents when learning to ride. Buy one too small and you’ll be cramped and uncomfortable while riding the bike.
125L vs. 125
The TTR125 comes in two different sizes that can fit a variety of riders in height. The standard TTR125 comes with a 17″ front wheel and a 14″ rear wheel with a seat height of 30.5″. The TTR125L/125LE have a 19″ front wheel and 16″ rear wheel and have a seat height of 31.7″.
The standard TTR125, while being shorter in height and wheelbase, makes a great transition from smaller semi-automatic dirt bikes for kids. They get to learn how to use a clutch, but the seat height isn’t that much taller than a TTR90 or 110. The standard model comes with drum brakes on the front and rear.
The TTR125L and 125LE have an upgraded disc front brake over the standard version and the seat height is a little over an inch higher and a slightly longer wheelbase. These make for a dirt bike that is great for a quickly growing kid or teen, or even a small adult that want a mid-size bike for learning to ride on and won’t outgrew it right away.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when choosing the right dirt bike for a beginner is starting out on one that has too much power. You will either be scared of it you’ll be on the ground sooner or later and wondering what just happened. It takes time to learn throttle and clutch control, and started out on a docile bike that has a smooth and manageable power output is ideal for a first motorcycle.
The TTR125LE fits this description perfectly because it’s a simple, air-cooled 125cc engine with less than 10hp. It has enough power to have fun, but it’s not going to kill you.
The TTR125LE has good handling characteristics because of its low center of gravity and seat height, its short wheelbase and tight turning radius. The Yamaha may not be a standout in it’s class for handling, but it doesn’t lack anything worth noting.
The suspension and control layout are important to getting the handling as good as it can be for the right rider.
I personally don’t care for the stock handlebars and extra long clutch and brake levers, so swapping those out to get the right ergonomics is one of the first things I do.
The forks and shocks on a TTR125 are nothing to right home about. In fact, unless you’re a beginner rider or weight less than 100lbs, the suspension is less than adequate. We’ll cover this more later in this post.
The spring rate and valving is very basic and soft on the TTR125 and 125LE. If you are a new rider that isn’t aggressive, it will work just fine and you will enjoy not getting abused from stiff suspension.
As you might have noticed, I mentioned that the 125 and 125L/E models have a slightly different brake setup. The standard model has drum brakes front and back. These are adequate for beginner riders if they are dry, properly adjusted and not worn.
The 125L/E models have an upgraded front disc brake that gives a noticeable improvement in braking power. However, if it’s not properly adjusted, if the pads are worn or they are dirty with a foreign substance, such as oil, on them, the braking power greatly decreases.
Getting the TTR125 to run well is not too difficult, but the stock carburetor is one of its weak points. Depending on your climate, it may come a little lean from the factory and you may have to go richer/bigger a size or two on the pilot and main jets.
A lean running TTR125 will cause headaches. Here are a few symptoms of a lean condition:
- Hard starts when cold
- Bogging when big throttle transitions
- Popping on deceleration
- Engine runs hotter; causes more wear
Having the ‘magic button’, that is, electric start, is becoming the norm for dirt bikes. While kick-starting may not be difficult on the TTR125 if the jetting is tuned correctly, just touching a button with your thumb to start the bike is the highlight for a new rider that might get easily frustrated if they constantly have to kickstart the engine.
The standard TTR125 does not have electric start, nor does the TTR125L. Only the TTR125LE model has electric start, hence the ‘E’ designation on the model name.
First gear is so low that it’s almost unusable on this bike. This is actually a good thing if you’re a new rider. Having a really low/short first gear makes it easy to learn the clutch because you don’t have to slip it very much to get going.
Once you’re comfortable with using the clutch and don’t have issues stalling it when starting out or at low speeds, going one tooth larger on the front sprocket is a nice and easy mod to make the first few gears more spread out and usable.
We’ve already gone through some of the differences, but now we’ll just do a quick list of how the three models differ in options.
- 17/14″ wheel and tire size
- Drum brakes front and rear
- 30.5″ seat height
- Kick-start only
- 19/16″ wheel and tire size
- Front disc brake, drum rear
- 31.7″ seat height
- Kick-start only
- 19/16″ wheel and tire size
- Front disc brake, rear drum
- 31.7″ seat height
- Electric start with battery
The TTR125 hasn’t changed much from it’s original platform, plain and simple. Why? Because it works, it’s cheap, and why change something that works well for its intended use.
With that said, there have been some minor changes since its inception. We’ll go through the progression of this bike each year that something was updated or changed.
- 2000: First year; only 125 and 125L models available
- 2002: Updated rear hub
- 2003: added electric start model
Here’s a list of all the basic specs of the TTR125 models
- Engine: 124cc air-cooled 4-stroke
- Transmission: 5-speed
- Clutxh: Wet clutch, Manual
- Fuel system: 20mm Mikuni carburetor
- Seat Height: 30.5″ (125)/ 31.7″ (125L/LE)
- Weight: 172 (dry)
- Wheelbase: 50″
- Front wheel: 17″ (125)/19″ (125L/LE)
- Rear wheel: 14″ (125)/16″ (125L/LE)
- Ground Clearance: 10.4″ (125)/11.6″ (125L/LE)
- Fuel Capacity: 1.74 gallons (6.58 litres)
- Top Speed: ~ 45-50mph
These bikes are fun for both kids as well as adults because they’re smaller, easy to ride, and are lightweight and nimble compared to a full-size dirt bike. If you’re an adult and already own one, then you know how much fun it is to rip around on it.
But let’s face it, the TTR is lacking performance in almost every category, from suspension to power output. Even a simple carb swap makes a difference in power with proper jetting.