A Serious Playbike
Photos by Stephen Clark
First things first, this is not some Chinese knock-off or corner cut foo-foo bike. It is pretty serious. It looks good and very similar to the larger Beta RR-S bikes. It has full sized wheels, 21-inch up front and 18-inch out back on aluminum wheels with quality Michelin enduro tires. The motor is an Itallian-made four-valve electric-start only six-speed unit. The frame is chrome-moly and you have to know what you are looking at to see some of the cost-down items. At $4999 it isn’t cheap but it sure isn’t expensive either when looking at prices and what you get. All taking into consideration that you can look past the displacement. Plus it is fully street-legal.
So who would ride a 125cc four-stroke? Maybe a younger rider fresh motorcycle driver’s license in hand. Smaller riders, female in particular who might be intimidated by larger displacements and possibly older folks who are roaming the country in a motorhome with a bike on the bumper. Not the biggest or hottest market segment but one nonetheless.
The big question and the most surprising part about this bike is: Does it have any power? Yes it does and it’s the best 125cc-four-stroke motor I have ever ridden. Largely because it has a four-valve head and a perfectly jetted Mikuni 26mm carb with a pumper on it. It starts right up and if it is cold there is a choke lever above the clutch lever. It purrs like a kitten and makes so little noise you can hardly tell it is running. Vibration is minimal. And it has some flywheel weight and torque to get and keep you going. Then it pulls smoothly and for a long time, we’d guess the power pulls till 10,000 or 11,000 RPM. Not bad for a playbike. It stays quiet and there is always some throttle response that is active. Most two-valve engines in this category (usually in smaller bikes) don’t respond as quickly nor do they rev as high. Credit the pumper carb and the extra valves helping the flow. This bike has more stalling resistance than most 250F motocross bikes and will chug along as if it were fuel injected. Yes, we were very surprised. So surprised we rode it up over 9000 ft. to see how it worked up there and it was very much unharmed.
The 125 has a seat height that is 36.0 inches. About 1.5-2.0-inches lower than the average seat height of most bikes. At 253 on the scale full of gas it isn’t light nor does it feel feathery like a 125cc two-stroke motocross bike or a small wheeled 125cc play bike is, but it isn’t heavy feeling at all. In fact the faster you get going the lighter the bike feels and it becomes very flickable yet has that great Beta stability while still staying very active on its wheels. The biggest thing you miss is the burst of power more experienced riders expect from their bikes. But that same lack of power keeps novice riders out of trouble in the first place. The bike is very thin and easy to move around on and handles just like a bigger bike, not sluggish in any way like most play bikes or even bikes that have been lowered.
The suspension seems set up for a rider in the 140 pound range on the rear shock and about 160 lb on the fork. So it is a little out of balance but not too much. The suspension save for the shock’s spring preload is non-adjustable which for the intended market is just fine. Lighter riders might want to drop a spring rate (there is just one fork spring on one side of the forks) on the front and heavier riders might go up a rate on the rear. For trail riding the valving is about right and if anything the rear can go through the stroke a little quick if the bike is jumped. The bike is plush and the front end actually resists bottoming pretty good. Aside from the unbalanced spring rates the suspension is really good and we would not feel going to more expensive suspension in this market would be worth it.
Our only other beef with the bike, and this was coming from experienced riders was that the brakes were a little weak in power and took a bigger than average pull. But remember that novice riders are not as precise and this could also be just fine. Over time and miles we are also finding that the brakes are getting better as they get worn in.
The smallish 1.6-gallon tank will get you well over 100-miles on the trail but in being pinned on the road (yes, you seem always wide open) can drop the mileage figure a bit. When we checked we were getting 50 MPG on average. The 125 will keep up with traffic on the roads, just steer clear of the interstates or places where going 65+ is needed.
Top speed with a 200 lb man was 66 MPH on flat ground but we got it going 67 MPH on a downhill single track too. The six-speed tranny is well spaced and the clutch will take some abuse. We know from riding double-up with two grown men when doing photos. We were slipping the clutch to get going up a hill and it never whimpered. The cooling fan kicks in and keeps the motor temp in check when needed. For trail riding we’d drop a tooth to the countershaft sprocket to make it that much easier on the motor and to have a lower first gear ratio on the really steep and rocky climbs. Not an issue for most but we took it on some serious trails.
This Beta is really surprising and we suspect we’ll keep it around and pump out a full test when we get some more miles on the bike. In fact the RR-S was pretty fun to scoot around on. Beta has some hop-up parts available soon through the BYOB (Build Your Own Beta) program and it might be fun to see what just a few more horsepower (or a 15-20% increase in power) might do. In reality one could put a skid plate, some better handlebars with handguards on them and ride just about anywhere short of steep sandy uphills and you’d be just fine. This is what entry level is supposed to be like.
Type: Italian built single cylinder, 4 valve 4-stroke, liquid cooled
Bore: 52 mm
Stroke: 58.6 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.2:1
Ignition: CDI (TCI) |
Spark Plug: NGK CR8E
Lubrication: Oil pump w/cartridge oil filter Oil Capacity 1000 cc
Carburetor: Mikuni 26 mm
Clutch: Wet multi-disc
Final Drive: Chain
Frame: Molybdenum steel/double cradle
Seat Height: 35”
Ground Clearance: 13” Footrest Height: 15.7”
Dry Weight: 219 lbs. dry
Fuel Tank Capacity: 1.6 US gallons
Front Suspension: 41 mm USD fork
Rear Suspension: Steel body shock w/adjustable spring preload
Front Wheel Travel: 10.3”
Rear Wheel Travel: 10.6”
Final Gearing: 14t front, 63t rear
Front Brake: 260mm rotor
Rear Brake: 220mm rotor
Front/Rear Rim: 21” (Front) 18” (Rear)
Front/Rear Tire: Michelin Enduro Competition (DOT Approved)
Warranty: 12 month Limited Warranty