Slotted as a transitional motorcycle in Yamaha’s four-model TT-R four-stroke trailbike lineup, the 2021 Yamaha TT-R125LE suits growing youths and smaller adults. It will comfortably accommodate adults up to about 5’ 6” or so, and kids who have outgrown their 110s. The big change for most youngsters graduating from 110-class motorcycles is the manual clutch—only the Kawasaki KLX110R L has that feature.At 5’ 6”, I’m immediately comfortable on the Yamaha TT-R125LE. The 31.7-inch seat height, typical suspension sag, and my 30.5-inch inseam combine to allow me to be flat-footed in my Fly Racing FC5 boots. With the 1.6-gallon fuel tank filled, the 125 weighs less than 200 pounds, so there’s no intimidation factor. Of course, the smaller you are, the more daunting those numbers can be. Still, if you’ve outgrown a 110, the TT-R125LE is ready to welcome you.
The 2021 Yamaha TT-R125LE is equipped with an electric starter, and that’s a good thing. When it’s cold, pull up on the triple-clamp mounted choke knob, and the 125 will fire up with the push of a button. With the lean stock jetting—a holdover from the years when the TT-R125LE met California Green Sticker standards—warm-up is slow. DynoJet, JD Jetting, and others make a jetting kit that concentrates on performance rather than the paltry emissions put out by the air-cooled SOHC 124cc motor.Plan ahead on cold mornings. I tried kickstarting the air-cooled SOHC 124cc motor on a chilly evening. Although the choke knob is conveniently mounted, it’s a two-position design. Unfortunately, for the coldest starts, you have to hold the knob up to get the most fuel in. That’s not easy to do while you’re kicking, though not a problem for e-starting.It took me quite a few kicks before it would fire, and it wasn’t a fun experience. Once warm, kickstarting the motor is easy, though never as effortless as pushing that start button. Regardless, the sun is setting on the Carburetor Age, so we would like to see Yamaha follow Honda’s lead and get a fuel-injection system on the TT-R125LE—it’s well worth the $250 premium Honda charges.Riding the 2021 Yamaha TT-R125LE couldn’t be easier. The motor has smooth power from idle until it hits the rev limiter around 9000 rpm. Most of the power is in the midrange, though, so there’s no reason to wring its neck to get the most out of the engine. Still, even if you’re a gear high or low—not an uncommon situation for someone new to a clutch—the 125 won’t protest. The clutch pull is easy; the engagement range is a bit narrow, but not abrupt.The handling and suspension match the motor performance perfectly, so the TT-R125LE’s chassis is all about ease-of-use and comfort. The geometry is suited for stability, with a long 50-inch wheelbase and relaxed 28.7 degrees of rake. Don’t worry; at its height and weight, the TT-R still has plenty of agility in tight quarters.The suspension is soft, but not mushy. The fork is adjustable for spring preload, and the rear shock is fully adjustable—yes, rebound and compression damping, plus spring-preload. While that might seem like overkill, if you have a hotrod kid or significant other who starts jumping the TT-R125LE and blowing through the shock travel, you can crank up the compression damping as needed to forestall buying a YZ85 for a few months. The shock’s compression damping is adjusted at a very remote reservoir on the frame’s front downtube. A hand-adjustable collar on the bottom of the shock takes care of rebounding damping tuning.For most riders, though, the stock damping settings are fine, and they’ll never intentionally use up the suspension travel—about seven inches at each end. A wide range of rider weights means that you will want to adjust the spring-preload to make sure the ride height is balanced. While it is not something a novice rider will notice, it will make a difference in how easy the TT-R125LE is to ride successfully.With a 19-/16-inch wheel combination, you can take the TT-R125LE out on technical trails. Although the wheels won’t roll over obstacles quite as well as full-size hoops, they will get the job done in most instances—you’re not going to take a TT-R125LE rider to the Erzbergrodeo.Yamaha put long-wearing IRC Motocross iX-05H rubber on the 125, which is a good tire for hardpack. If you live in a loamy or sandy locale, consider a high-performance alternative such as a Dunlop Geomax MX33 or Pirelli Scorpion MX32 Mid Soft—they will make a difference on the trails.You might be surprised at where the 2021 TT-R125LE can be ridden. Challenging trails are entirely doable, and a skidplate helps protect the engine cases. As long as there isn’t a monster hillclimb, it will go anywhere. Even then, if you have the right rubber, it has the torque to conquer some formidable hills. However, anywhere horsepower is king, the TT-R125LE will be better off spectating.Braking is no-frills yet effective on the TT-R. There is a disc in the front, and a drum rear—both are well-suited to the task at hand.If you have a youngster, make sure teaching basic maintenance is part of the learning to ride process. Getting to the air filter requires no tools. Remove the right-side number plate that is secured with a Dzus fastener and two rubber grommets. Then pull off the airbox cover, which is held on by a rubber strap. Finally, a wing nut holds the air filter in place. It all takes a bit of dexterity, but is totally doable. The oil is checked via a dipstick, and changing the oil only requires removing a drain plug—there is no oil filter. A simple snail cam is used for chain adjustment.There are all sorts of aftermarket accessories for the 2021 Yamaha TT-R125LE. You can spend $260 on an FMF Mini PowerCore 4 muffler, or $499 on a Rekluse EXP 3.0 automatic clutch, for instance. The mini-thumper experts at BBR Motorsports will set you up with a high-performance cam ($160) or 150cc big bore kit ($400). If you want to stand out, Factory Effex has sticker kits starting at $70.The 2021 Yamaha TT-R125LE is a time-tested platform. It started at the turn of the century as a smaller-wheel TT-R125 model with all-drum brakes and kickstarting only. It has evolved into this larger, fully featured LE version, though with the same highly reliable powerplant and durable frame. While the TT-R125LE is due for a bit of modernization, it remains a highly credible trailbike for a young rider moving up or an older rider looking for a fun and easy-to-ride off-road motorcycle.Photography by Don WilliamsRIDING STYLE
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Ultimate Motorcycling’s weekly Podcast—Motos and Friends.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
This week’s Podcast is brought to you by Yamaha motorcycles. Discover how the YZF-R7 provides the perfect balance of rider comfort and true supersport performance by checking it out at YamahaMotorsports.com, or see it for yourself at your local dealer.
This week’s episode features Senior Editor Nic de Sena’s impressions of the beautiful new Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST that is loosely based around the original FXRT Sport Glide from the 1980s. Hailing from The Golden State, these cult-status performance machines became known as West Coast style, with sportier suspension, increased horsepower, and niceties including creature comforts such as a tidy fairing and sporty luggage.
In past episodes you might have heard us mention my best friend, Daniel Schoenewald, and in the second segment I chat with him about some of the really special machines in his 170 or so—and growing—motorcycle collection. He’s always said to me that he doesn’t consider himself the owner, merely the curator of the motorcycles for the next generation.
Yet Daniel is not just a collector, but I can attest a really skilled rider. His bikes are not trailer queens, they’re ridden, and they’re ridden pretty hard. Actually, we have had many, many memorable rides on pretty much all of the machines in the collection at one time or another.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!