ADV Pulse

NEWSLETTER
Get ADV Pulse delivered by email
Sign up for ADV Pulse Weekly

Newsletter

Get ADV Pulse delivered by email
Sign up for ADV Pulse Weekly

Connect With Us

Follow On Facebook:

ADV NewsHonda Trail 125: Simple, Approachable, Fun, & Ready To Adventure?

Honda Trail 125: Simple, Approachable, Fun, & Ready To Adventure?

 Big Red's revived trail bike offers big fun in a simple, small & rugged package.

Published on 12.04.2020

All too often, we are enamored with the latest high-powered, rally-inspired machines that enable us to push our limits and go farther, harder, and faster than ever before. So it was a bit surprising to many when news of an all-new, utilitarian 125cc trail bike from Big Red garnered more excitement and praise than nearly any other adventure motorcycle introduced this year. But the introduction of the Honda Trail 125 was actually more of a revival than something completely new. 

Anyone who grew up in the 60s, 70s or 80s saw Honda CT90 and CT110 trail bikes everywhere: at the campsite, strapped on the back of RV’s, riding on dirt roads, at the town store… They were beloved for their simplicity, rugged design and go-anywhere capability. Over the course of nearly three decades, Honda sold over 725,000 units of their CT-series trail bikes just in the U.S. and many of us from a certain age bracket got their first motorcycle ride on one, either as a pilot or passenger.

Honda CT110 trail bike
The Honda CT110 Trail was produced from 1981-1986 in North America, but continued to live on in New Zealand and Australia where it was known as a “Postie Bike” due to its use as a mail delivery vehicle.

With its compact size, lightweight design, automatic clutch, and friendly appearance, the CT was an nonintimidating introduction to the world of motorcycling and epitomized the 1960s “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” advertising slogan. Yet its four-speed semi-automatic transmission, rugged build, side-mount foot pegs, and off-road-tuned suspension gave it a cool factor that set it apart from any scooter. It was a practical vehicle for traveling into the forest on hunting and fishing expeditions. But more often, it was brought along on the family camping trip, used for picking up supplies, gathering firewood, and for casual riding around camp – a bike that mom and the kids could enjoy too.

So with all those good vibes and fond memories associated with these iconic bikes, perhaps tumultuous 2020 was the perfect year to reintroduce the CT to America in the form of the Honda 125 Trail. To maximize nostalgia, Honda was smart to make its latest trail bike look true to its original form. In fact, sitting next to the early 1980s CT110, the new Honda Trail 125 could easily be mistaken for the same bike. Some of the similarities include the long upswept muffler with its heat shield cooling fins, the bulging airbox with high-mounted snorkel, the dual rear shocks, large rear utility rack, heel-toe shifter, and giant u-shaped handlebars. Even the small details like waffle hand grips, metal front fender, or the large diameter front wheel hub that looks like a drum brake, take you back to those golden days.

Honda CT110  and 125 Trail bikes
Honda did a great job of duplicating the look of the classic CT90/CT110 trail bikes.

ADVERTISEMENT

While there are a long list of similarities to the CT110, some ‘interesting’ features got omitted like the ‘Posi-Torque’ low-range gearing switch for crawling up steep terrain, or the ‘Swivel-Lock’ handlebar that let you turn the handlebars parallel to the front wheel to ensure they didn’t bang against the back of your vehicle during transport. But enough reminiscing about the past. What do we get in the here and now?

A New Chapter Begins

Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS

Underneath the classic cloak of the Honda Trail 125 is an all-new modern design. It sports the same 125cc single-cylinder, fuel-injected, air-cooled SOHC engine and 4-speed semi-automatic transmission found in the Honda Super Cub. Although, a longer intake and tuned exhaust give it more low- to mid-range power (8.8 horsepower and 8.1 ft-lbs of torque). Modern treatments include an LED headlight, digital display, LED turn signals, front-wheel ABS, disc brakes, and an electric start button (the kickstarter is still there thankfully!). A kickstand, plus a centerstand, give you multiple parking options on varied terrain, while an aluminum skid plate and pipe shield provide basic protection from trail hazards. Plus there is also a handy toolbox under the utility rack and a slot to add an optional charging port on the dash. 

Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS
Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS

The chassis consists of a 27mm telescopic fork with 4.3 inches of travel, while the rear is supported by twin shocks with 3.4 inches of travel, giving it a ground clearance of 6.5 inches. A set of 17″ wheels are shod with 80/90-17 IRC GP-5 dual sport tires and its wheelbase is a short 49.4 inches. Throwing a leg over the Trail 125 is made easy by a step-thru frame design and a seat height of just 31.5 inches. It’s relatively light too with a wet weight of just 259 pounds. Honda’s newest trail bike can carry 1.4 gallons of fuel under the seat and is said to have fuel economy of 100+ mpg, which should give it a range somewhere around 150 miles.

Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS
Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS

So going by the specs sheet there’s not a lot of bike, not a lot of power, and not a lot of tech, but that’s not the point. Or perhaps that is the point. The point is, how does it ride and is this a worthy successor to Honda’s classic CT line? Read on to find out!

First Impressions

Jumping on the CT125 for the first time, the pass-thru frame design makes throwing a leg over it a more leisurely task. I went for the kick start option and the motor fired up easily with a light push. It is not rare for a trail bike to sit for a few months in the garage, until its services are required, so having a kick start is a must if the battery goes flat. 

Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS

Heading out on the road, I had a number of strange sensations while acclimating myself to the diminutive machine. First, it was odd being able to touch my knees together with no front fuel tank in the way. Also, you need to give the throttle a serious twist to get the thing moving. Coming to a stop was also a bit strange with neutral at the bottom and the rest of the four gears up. Every time I’d come to a stop sign, it would take awhile to find first gear with the non-standard shift pattern and I often caught myself grabbing for a phantom clutch lever. And since it is a ‘semi’ automatic transmission, you do still need to let off the gas when you shift and a slow release of the shift lever after a downshift also ensures a smooth engagement of the next gear.

Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS

Speaking of shifting, on occasion my size Euro 47 boots did come in contact inadvertently with the heel-toe shift mechanism. This would cause the engine to suddenly rev up and lose power as my foot engaged the clutch slightly. Once I became aware of this, I was able to avoid it most of the time, but it did make me think that I could actually use that clutch slippage for other things. With a little practice, you can develop some basic foot-clutch control to pop wheelies — perfect for getting over small logs or to impress your friends at a stop light, if you are into that kind of thing.

On The Road

Cruising down the road, the ergos feel roomy for my size (6 foot 2 inches), even though I know I look like a gorilla riding a bicycle. The massively-padded seat offers plenty of cushion and the bars are well placed for long stints in the saddle. First through third gears are more shortly spaced, while fourth gear is more of an overdrive. The motor is relatively smooth for a small single and the power curve is pretty flat, so you don’t need to rev it to the moon before shifting.

Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS
Top speed for the CT125 on flat ground is about 55 mph.

Getting up to speed isn’t a problem as long as you are not on an incline. Acceleration isn’t bad compared to a car, but underwhelming for a motorcycle. Once you get on a set of s-turns, you can walk away from the Minivans and Prii though. Traction on asphalt is good from the IRC tires. The 17” wheels and light weight make the bike extremely flickable, almost bicycle like.

Changing lines mid-turn is no problem and the brake performance is more than adequate. On occasion when the hooligan urge kicked in, I was leaving long streaks of aluminum on the ground from the peg feelers scraping in the turns.  As a heavier rider (215 pounds), I take up more of the ground clearance in the suspension. None of the other lighter riders in our group seemed to be scraping while riding at the same speed. A little preload adjustment on the rear shocks would be nice, especially considering the wide range of loads this bike might carry.

Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS

Once on some steeper inclines, I was definitely reminded this is a 125cc engine. The bike never dropped below the speed limit but threatened to on a few occasions. Getting into a speed tuck on a long straightaway in fourth gear, I could have sworn I was going 80 mph, but a look down at the speedometer revealed just 55 mph. Well, it was the funnest 55 mph speed run I’ve done in a long time.

This is not a bike you’d want to take on the freeway, unless it’s rush hour and you are lane splitting, or perhaps a downhill section for one exit. But keep in mind, at least here in California, the minimum engine size for the freeway is 150cc. Overall, the Trail 125 was more enjoyable to ride when just casually cruising on the backroads, enjoying the sights, smelling the fresh air. It’s the bike in the garage you grab every time when you need to run some errands. 

In The Dirt

Our first stretch of dirt was a graded road with some pretty severe washboarding. Watching a pickup truck pass at 15 mph I could tell they were feeling every ripple. To my surprise, the ride was extremely smooth on the Honda. I aimed for a few pot holes and could feel a subtle thud, but it felt perfectly suited for this type of road. 

These were also some pretty slick turns on the road with a thin layer of dust on top of hard packed dirt. The little Honda’s light weight design gave good confidence in the slippery sections, and with its tractable motor and low power output, rear wheel spin was definitely not a concern despite its road-biased tires.

Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS

Once we jumped onto a rougher trail, with rocks, water bars, and steep sections, I was able to push the bike’s limits more and test out the stand-up riding position. Ergos were a little cramped for my size, but other riders in the group in the 5’10” found it comfortable. Moving the bars a tad forward would probably help it though. 

As long as the trail is smooth, you can get going at a decent clip and easily get both wheels off the ground. Although, with only 3.4 inches in the rear and 4.3 inches up front, you don’t have a lot of suspension to play with on bigger bumps. Bottoming resistance is better than I expected, but if you ride it hard it will bottom hard. It has about ⅓ the travel of a motocross bike with a similar weight, so you can’t expect it to bomb through the whoops.

Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS
Just 125cc but who cares when you’ve got this much fun on tap!

With its small front wheel, you can’t go blasting straight through the rocks either. Any trail crud knocks it off course. The short wheelbase also makes it a little squirrely if you get going too fast. Luckily, it’s pretty light and small, so you can easily recover if things get a bit out of hand. In rocky sections, it’s better to slow down and find a clean line though. It’s not a dirt bike, it’s a ‘get there’ bike.

On a few steep sections, first gear offered ample torque to keep momentum up. If I was in too high of a gear, I sometimes slipped the clutch a bit with my heel to keep the revs in the meaty part of the powerband. Slowing down the bike on steep descents was not a problem with the excellent feel from the front and rear disc brakes. The ABS (non-switchable) is only on the front wheel and it works great on smoother terrain but you do need to use some caution on rocky or gravely terrain or you can get caught out.

Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS
Stand-up ergos were a bit too cramped for my 6’2″ frame, but moving the handlebars forward a tad should help make it more comfortable.

While I have no problems planting my feet with a 34-inch inseam, I could see how someone with short legs would appreciate how easy it is to touch the ground. Also, the step-thru frame allows you to slide forward off the front of the seat, allowing small-statured riders to walk through any treacherous sections with ease. Plus all the weight is on the bottom of the bike, so if you do drop it, small-statured persons can easily pick it back up. 

Honda 125 Trail dubbed the CT125 ABS

Getting the bike turned around on a trail was extremely simple too. Its light weight and short wheelbase allow you to lean it over on it’s side and give it a little gas to bring it around with ease. Ever wanted to try one-footed donuts on a motorcycle? This is the bike to try it on.

The Bottom Line

After a full day of riding on and off-road, and even a little fishing, all I can say is that my face was hurting from grinning so much. We can easily get caught up with the performance, technology and specs of our modern machines, but this bike reminds us of the essential enjoyment of just going for a ride. It also reminds us of simpler times, those leisure days of summer in our youth, and fills us with dreams of exploring the forest.

The Trail 125 puts the focus back on fun. Nothing about it is intimidating. Some might call it cute. It’s the perfect bike to introduce your family to the joys of casual motorcycling. It’s even a great ambassador for the sport — you’re much more likely to elicit a smile from hikers or equestrians on the trail on this bike. 

While its friendly appearance may be an asset, it’s also a capable trail bike that can get you where you want to go, albeit at a more mellow pace. And it is still a solidly-built, practical machine that can be used for a variety of utilitarian activities either in the outdoors or an urban environment.

But is it an Adventure Bike? It can be, as long as your adventures don’t require getting on the high-speed freeway network. Fuel range isn’t bad at about 150 miles, and you can strap on a one-gallon gas can to extend that to 250 miles when needed. The massive rear utility rack offers ample space to carry your camping gear, and perhaps hunting and fishing equipment too. 

While I haven’t had an opportunity to ride the CT110 and Trail 125 back-to-back, just sitting on the two bikes the new Trail 125 feels more stoutly built. It’s also has more power and torque, a modern engine with modern electronic components, and still retains the kick starter to bring it alive if it has been sitting for a long time. You don’t have the low-range gearing feature, but the extra power should help compensate for that on steep inclines. The ABS might be considered a burden on the trail, but for a bike that is usually ridden at a more casual pace and used by riders of varying skill sets, it might be more of an asset than you think. If you don’t like it, there’s probably a fuse for that.

Will it be as successful as it was in the past for Honda? It remains to be seen. Transportation has changed over the decades and more people live in the cities and suburbs, making the outdoors harder to reach. No doubt it will ignite feelings of nostalgia for many a middle-aged rider, and even attract a new generation of riders inspired  by these retro-style machines. A bike like this, that represents a long-gone era of freedom and carefree exploring in the outdoors, might be exactly what we need to transport us from our current world of stress and responsibility, even if just one weekend at a time. At $3,899 it’s easy to own too. In fact, looking at the classifieds, you might pay almost as much for a clean, low-mileage CT110 from the 1980s.

We’re eager to put more miles on our test unit and we’ll report back with additional details about its adventure capabilities soon. More information on the 2021 Honda Trail 125 can be found on the Honda website

GEAR WE USED

Honda Trail 125 Specs

ENGINE TYPE:Air-Cooled, 4-stroke, Single OHC
FUEL SYSTEM:Electronic FI (PGM-FI)
CAPACITY:125 cc
Ignition:Fully transistorized
BORE X STROKE:52.4mm x 57.9mm
COMPRESSION:9.3:1
HORSEPOWER:8.8 @ 7,000 RPM
TORQUE:8.1 ft-lbs @ 4,500 RPM
STARTING:Electric and Kick
CLUTCH:Wet multi-plate coil spring centrifugal
Stator Output:190 Watts
Final Drive:#420 Chain; 14T/39T
GEARS:Semi-automatic 4 speed
FUEL CAPACITY:1.4 gal (5.3L)
FRONT TIRE:80/90-17 
REAR TIRE:80/90-17
front BRAKE:Single 220mm hydraulic disc with ABS
Rear Brake:Single 190mm hydraulic disc
SEAT HEIGHT:31.5 in. (800mm)
LENGTH:77.2 in. (1960mm)
WIDTH:31.7 in. (805mm)
OVERALL HEIGHT:42.7 in. (1085mm)
Rake (Caster Angle):27°
Trail:3.1 in.
Front Suspension:27mm telescopic fork; 4.3 in. travel
Rear Suspension:Twin shock; 3.4 inches travel
GROUND CLEARANCE:6.5 in. (165mm)
WHEELBASE:49.4 in. (1255mm)
WEIGHT:259 pounds (117kg)
PRICE:$3,899 USD

Photos by Drew Ruiz

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Mexico, North Africa, Europe, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney
ADVERTISEMENT

Related Stories

Related Stories

Comments
 23

Leave a Reply

23 thoughts on “Honda Trail 125: Simple, Approachable, Fun, & Ready To Adventure?

  1. For about the same price (or maybe few hundred dollars more – depends on sale ( you can get Suzuki van van or klx230 which are actually highway worthy and look like junk – no idea why honda think somebody will buy this for so much money – 4 grand for this ? No way

    • I own one. And they are practically sold out and have waiting lists double digit deep at some dealerships. You may not understand why some one would want one but I knew why I wanted one: Fun and nostalgia.

      • I am with you Chris ! I learned to ride on a Trail 90 50 years ago . That began a lifelong love affair with motorcycles . I have owned & ridden everything from 100 cc to a 120 horsepower 6 cylinder street bike. Loved them all , but when I saw this one I knew it would be in my garage . Bought the first one to hit my small town dealer this week. Still grinning . Ride on !

    • Bewdy. One less buyer in the queue. We will take that one over here in Oz. Wait time for one over here is 6 – 12 months.

    • This bike and it’s brother, the Super Cub, represents more than a quarter/25% of all the bikes Honda has EVER sold.

      The Cub in it’s varying forms, is the most popular motor vehicle ever produced on the planet, ever…x2.
      110 million of them have sold.
      The 2nd most popular motor vehicle on the planet is the Toyota Corolla.
      They’ve sold 45 million.

      So maybe you can find a Chinese knockoff that is in your price range!

    • I’m with you. I would love to have one in my garage, but $4000 for a moped, nahhh. I just bought a KLX230 for about the same price. I would really love a Super Cub…maybe wait a year, and buy a nice used one for half the price.

  2. I had a Honda S90 for my first motorcycle. Saw one again so many years later and it looked so tiny. This 125 looks like the perfect bike for just heading to the store or for a jaunt through the country. Very nice.

  3. Pingback: Honda Trail 125: Simple, Approachable, Fun, & Ready to Adventure? - ADVENTURE & OVERLAND MOTORCYCLE TRAVEL

  4. “THAT PHOTOGRAPH” ——-The photo of the Scooter / Motorcycle with it’s front wheel out in mid air hanging out over a rocky cliff whilst parked on the center stand ——— Totally DANGEROUS—— TELL ME “HOW DO YOU GET IT OFF THE STAND WITHOUT GOING OVER THE CLIFF”——- This particular scooter / Motorcycle has been manufactured for people who are non riders —-This vehicle is their introduction into a great experience with millions of wonderful friendly fellow riders. ——— Now to answer the QUESTION—- HOW DO YOU GET IT OFF THE CENTER STAND BY YOURSELF?——-1. Secure rear rack to a large nearby tree using the long length of heavy duty ROPE that you will always carry!!!!!——– NO / NO / NO / NO! Do not remove the RACK from the bike —— You want to save the whole unit so you can ride it back home after having a wonderful day.—– 2. Stage TWO Place your back pack on the ground on the opposite side of the bike to the OPERATION lever on the side stand ——- Standing on the same side as the back pack —–grasp handle bars with one hand and with the other hand grab the handle on the bike.frame.——– Now-gently lay the bike over on it’s side as you would with a horse!——- Now drag the bike ———– [ not the horse TOO HEAVY FOR YOU ] a safe distance away from the cliff—— Once in your SAFETY ZONE lift up the bike and put it on the stand where you should have parked it the first time ——-No one lesson for new riders!—— Read and UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING YOU CAN FIND ON “SIGHT FIXATION” It may stop you from going over that cliff. or under the wheels of an 18 wheeler.———- Only ride to the conditions ——–Your vision should govern your SPEED.——

    I’M LUCKY — I don’t live in the USA where every one is in a hurry to take out a law suit against you for anything.—— If some one tries to replicate that photo then there is the chance of a law suit!

    HAPPY AND SAFE XMAS EVERYONE!!! Cheers Wes.

  5. Remind’s me of my trial 90 from when a kid. It had changeable rear sprockets. A small one for road, a large one for trail use. A small removeable chain link made it easy to change sprockets. In to the original adam’s family show? Uncle fester rode one on one of their shows. If it’s anything like the original trail 90 I really recommend it. doug

  6. Apparently many here don’t understand little bikes .

    My very first Motocycle 50 + years ago was a 1962 Honda C100 Cub ~ 50CC’s of fun and unbreakable even by a kid .

    Small bikes are easy riders for beginners and older riders along with anyone who lives in town .

    As mentioned : 55 MPH means easy freeway riding, just go when there’s traffic not speeding along .

    I ride my 1970 CT90K2 on L.A.’s crowded freeways all the time .

    Too bad the decided to use a hydraulic rear brake, that was $ wasted that could & should have been used for the two speed sub tranny ~ the sub tranny means this bike climbs like a goat and cannot be stalled out, it’ll flip over backwards if the going gets too steep .

    I’m still waiting for my local Honda Dealer to get some in, once I get a test ride in and its as good as my old CT90 I’ll pay cash for one .

    Yes, I still ride full size bikes too, so you on the ACH .

    -Nate

    • Totally agree. Small bikes are MUCH fun! Replaced my dual sports DR350 five years ago and got me a 4 stroke trial bike . Just couldn’t stop grinning! It seems fun increases as bikes become lighter. Obstacles I avoided on the DR I now take twice because it’s so easy and funny.
      The whole third world is using 125cc. Go to Malaysia and see all the bikers on their 125s. They have the fun of their lives.

ADVERTISEMENT

Watch: 2021 Yamaha Tenere 700 Tested

A revolution is happening in the Adventure Motorcycle category. Riders have b...

New ‘Motorcycle-Only’ Trail System Opens in New Mexico

New Mexico, known for its lofty mountains, sprawling caverns, white sand desert...

Helinox Swivel camping chair

Helinox Swivel Chair: All-New Compact Camp Chair With a Spin

The 'light is right' mantra is something we all strive to live by as adventure ...