Cycle News

Cycle News 2023 Issue 49 December 12

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 94 of 99

CNIIARCHIVES P94 BY KIT PALMER D epending on how you look at it, 2024 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first production Yamaha YZ125 model. The bike made its debut in 1973 as a 1974 model for $819. But, in model years, the YZ125 will officially celebrate its 50th birthday beginning in a few weeks. No other dedicated moto - cross bike is as old as the YZ125, except for its bigger YZ250 brother, which also debuted in 1974. At the time of the YZ125's arrival, it had several class rivals, most notably the Honda CR125R, Kawasaki KX125, and Suzuki TM125 (the Suzuki RM125 didn't show up until 1975). It also had to compete with several non-Jap - anese brands, such as Husqvar- na, Montesa, Maico, Penton and DKW. Unfortunately, all these models (and all two-strokes, of course) have since been ridden off into the sunset—except for the YZ125. It is still in Yamaha's lineup, just as it was called back then—YZ125. So is the YZ250. Before the Yamaha YZ125, however, there was the Yamaha AT-1 MX125, which by 1974 had morphed into the MX125. Cycle News reviewed the first Yamaha YZ125 in late 1973/early 1974. The first sentence of the test went: "All that YZ is, really, is a breathed- on MX125 with a pretty tank and paint, but that's just fine by us." The YZ125 was a more seri - ous motocross version than the MX125. It was more expensive, as well. We said, "Take an MX125, stick on a bigger (28mm) carb, a different pipe, shorter rear shocks with different springs, Akront-type alloy wheel rims, and that red and silver (Yamaha of Japan racing colors are red and white) looks- like-Hakan's gas tank that straps on, and you have the external differences." Hakan refers to GP racer Sweden's Hakan Andersson, whose exotic works YZ was paint- ed silver and red, and how can we forget those leather straps that held the fuel tank in place? Internally, the YZ125 was somewhat souped up compared to the MX125. The YZ had a smaller flywheel, and Yamaha ditched the MX's "autolube" oil injection lubrication system in favor of premix. The YZ's hubs might have looked like the MX's, we said, but were fabricated from lighter magnesium. The YZ125 had to go up against the mighty Honda CR125M Elsinore when it was born. Not a great way to enter your life, but the YZ125 held its own against the CR. The YZ had its advantages. We said, "The Yamaha, we feel, is easier to ride fast consistently. It isn't as peaky as the Elsinore and has more low-end pull. The YZ's reed-valve induction can claim credit for some of the down-low help. You don't have to be as exact with shifting points on the YZ125 as with the Elsinore. A shift at the wrong time won't lose you as much ground. You won't have to shift as much, either. "The wider powerband is matched by a five (instead of the YEARS OF THE YZ125 50 The first production Yamaha YZ125 appeared 50 years ago with dual shocks and a strap-on fuel tank.

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