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Yamaha shows retro lightweight 125cc motorcycle that gets 220 mpg


November 30, 2011

The Yamaha Y125 concept

The Yamaha Y125 concept

Image Gallery (34 images)

Yamaha's press conference at the Tokyo Motor Show today was a genuine sign of the times. Four brand new world premiers were shown. The largest internal combustion engine amongst them was a 250cc model with fat tires designed to go anywhere - the SUV of motorcycles was the claim.

There was also a three-wheeled electric commuter, a fold-up electric pedal-assist bicycle and, wait for it, an 80 km/l (226 mpg Imperial or 188 U.S. miles/gallon) retro 125cc commuter that's somewhere between a bicycle and motorcycle - it weighs just 80 kg and it is beautiful.

Firstly, the I've always been a big fan of 125cc four-strokes - it happened about 30 plus years ago when I was testing a 125cc Kawasaki for a motorcycle magazine and at the end of a week of valve-bouncing and lane-splitting, found I'd managed close to 100mpg for the daily commute. It was around the time of the first energy crisis and I figured that I'd found the answer.

If a high-revving, OHC four-stroke could achieve close to a 100 mpg when being shamelessly mistreated, what sort of economy could it deliver if it were tuned for economy, ridden gently and placed in a suitably lightweight frame?

Yamaha's Y125 appears to answer that question. Modeled on Yamaha's first motorcycle, the YA-1, the Yamaha Y125 is a modern interpretation of that motorcycle. Though the YA-1 was itself a copy of the German DKW RT125 and was powered by a two-stroke engine, I am certain readers will agree the Yamaha concept has faithfully updated the YA-1.

The YA-1 weighed around 140 kilograms and produced 5.6 bhp @ 5000 rpm for what was at the time, a highly competitive motorcycle not just on the road, but on the racetrack.

The big difference with the Y125 is in the fuel consumption. Yamaha claims the bike uses its "world" 125cc four-stroke motor, though the engine certainly seems to have been lightened and polished and beautified, and heaven knows what they've done with the internals.

The Y125 uses what is by today's standards, close to a bicycle frame with sophisticated lightweight suspension and similarly, the brakes are also featherweight. The end result is a bike that tips the scales at 80 kg - just a tad more than half the original YA-1's total.

At this stage, it's a concept but who knows what might happen simply because it's such an enticing bike that takes everything back to basics. Sure, the lights are LED and the rear wheel is driven by a belt rather than a chain, but nothing seems like rocket science - it's just a very traditional basic design updated with modern day computer design and material science, and it is an absolute celebration of the form of the original Yamaha.

The "world" motor Yamaha claims is used in the bike produces double the horsepower of the original YA-1, so the Y125 will never be embarrassed for acceleration or top speed on urban roads. The 80kg weight will ensure it is far quicker than your average scooter to ride, and the fuel consumption of 80 km/l (226 mpg Imperial or 188 U.S. miles/gallon) is testimony to what can be done when you really want to achieve economy in a two-wheeler.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon

I really LIKE this one!!!!


Thanks for bringing this machine to our attention. It\'s great that Yamaha decided to upgrade the classic RT125 design to next century design and components. Seems excellent for urban or neighborhood travel.


That Y125 is a stunner. Might even consider risking these old bones on a trip for errands into town on something as trick as this.


I haven\'t seen the \'world\' 125 engine, but can they really shave almost all the cooling fins off an air-cooled motor for all target markets? Even if it\'s only a 125 surely stationary operation (i.e. traffic) and hot climates would suggest not. Have they shaved them off for the looks of a concept? The left side has none and the few that are present are very short.


WOW I want one-or three! Please make this bike Yamaha-smart stylish and efficient-YES

You could make an electric or hybrid as well!


It is a really nice looking little motorcycle. Not sure about air-cooled but it\'s still pretty slick!


Finally! Hands up which guys have always wanted to do the right thing by switching to a more enviro friendly commute, but didn\'t want to look like an Asian girl. Thanks Yamaha for giving blokes a proper looking bike, that you can throw your leg over, without the weight and ridiculous horsepower that has become standard on motor bikes. Definitely on the right track.....but if youre going to do retro......do it well and expose more of the beautiful engineering......don\'t cover it with plastic futuristic shapes that you entrusted to a work experience kid. These flowing, cg\'d shapes are a dime a dozen on online design forums and anyone can make them. Ask the same kid to do a layout of a chromed carby assembly and he\'d struggle....cause that takes engineering design skill......not just clickin n draggin.


Yamaha should definitely produce this bike. It is perfect for both developing countries and developed countries that really encourage low fuel consumption forms of transport.

There are lots of people that wouldn\'t consider riding a bicycle (too slow in traffic/hard up hills and long distances) but would happily ride one of these and easily use less fuel than many motorcycles and cars.


Now if only a mass market version were made and it didn\'t cost $20,000 in Australia we\'d be set. I\'ve looked at plenty of fuel efficient, light commuters but they are almost always too expensive. I bought a \'99 Honda ST1100 for $3,500. It isn\'t the world\'s most fuel efficient, but it is big and powerful and cheap. I checked out the commuter bikes and you have to start at $4,000 and go up from there. Too much for a glorified pedal bike. Maybe I\'m just grumpy, but...


I don\'t own a motorcycle mainly because I\'m not all that good at driving one but since the weight of this bike is just 80kg it makes me think that it would be pretty easy to handle and it has very good power. If they did produce it and the price were right, I\'d seriously think of getting one.

Dana Lawton

Now if it had a set of pedals to go with it as well......

A wide ratio 6, 7 or even 8 speed gear box.

A deep, extra low first, and a flat road, no head wind, lay flat along the tank over drive......

Mr Stiffy

@ Dave222

Spot on comment. +1

John Munoz

Want, want, want, want. But wait a second, 80kg = 176 lbs for basically a bike with a tiny motor on it. Seems a little heavy to me, checking goldenmotor.com they sell a 1hp electric bike that weighs 27kg including motor + battery.


Wicked concept alright. Production bikes never look like their free-thinking design studies, for functional, compliance and conservatism reasons.

E.g. the muffler looks super cool and allows the floating seat (although the pillion extension looks precarious) but would superheat the engine and the passenger\'s right foot :)

Agree with Grunchy that 80kg/176lbs is not as \"featherweight\" as its described, but its in a different league to a 1hp electric with small battery hence small range.

This 125cc 4-stroke will be 8-10hp and the gallon or so tank will go for ever if the range claim is true.

Would have to be injected if so, because the true \"world\" 125, the Honda and Honda-clone Cub/CT125 still being made in the millions worldwide, is rated at about 120mpg at 30mph.

I\'m biased but an interesting comparison would be the FX Bikes street legal Dual model at 57kg / 125 lbs which uses the CT-based engine range. http://www.fxbikes.com Only 1 seat tho :)

Mike Hodgkinson

Remember the mopeds? 100+ MPG but had about a one pint gas tank. Lets see a 100+ MPG bike with at least a two gallon / four liter fuel capacity.

What good is higher efficiency if the tank is so small you can\'t run further between fill-ups?!

Gregg Eshelman

DEfinately a step in the right direction; could still be improved with hybrid electric motor in the rear hub, 300mpg? Imposible? It is an opinion:) I would definately consider buying one with right price after so many years of not riding.Very sensible.

b. ozar

what a beautiful motorcycle! I love it! Too many modern bikes hide their engines under easily broken, expensive to replace plastic. How refreshing to see such a classic motorcycle design aesthetic.


Clean simple design, yet masculine. I want one and I image a lot of other people in the USA would like to get there hands on one as well especially in congested cities. So long as it\'s not more than $3K I see this being a best seller. I hope Yamaha doesn\'t get greedy and charge more as you can tell by the simplicty of the design that it shouldn\'t cost much, otherwise the price will condemn demand.

When I saw this my first thought was why didn\'t I think of that, which has proven as a marker in the past that product will do well.

Matt Fletcher

Cute but a bad design for urban commuters. Its wheels are too large, no place for a briefcase or bag, no protection from the elements, no protection of clothing from dirt and oil and heat from the drive train.

Scooters are better in every way as urban vehicles providing a sitting down operating position which works better who wear anything other than jeans and a t-shirt to work or school. Scooter designs also make it easy to add a rain cape that attaches to the front of the scooter and provides full protection to the rider(s) - and yes with a scooter, one or more passengers can be accommodated.

With good design the form should enhance the functionality and that is not at all the case with the design shown.


I want one right now as 90% of my current riding is commuting without exceeding 60kph... It would be great to replace my 60mpg Honda 500 with this - If Yamaha decides to build it, I will order one instantly!


Brilliant in both design/styling and construction - light enough to be really easy to handle, and simple to maintain. As a former motorbike and bicycle commuter, this concept has tremendous appeal. Why lug round up to 200 kg of mechanical/electrical complexity for a 15 minute commute at 50 - 80 km/h, when 80 kg will get you to work and back again just as fast. Reminds me of my dad\'s old BSA Bantam 125. And thanks Gizmag for posting good quality pictures.


they should do away with the electric starter and just put a kicker on it. A 125 would be ridiculously easy to kick start, plus it would reduce cost, weight, and complexity.


Nice to see the comments from people at various part of the world. In India these types of vehicles are very common and used for daily commute. Every company makes these kind of bikes in India which are very cheap to operate. The engine variations are like 100CC, 110cc, 125cc, 150cc, 160cc, 180cc, 200cc, 225cc etc, and power range is from 8 BHP to 25 BHP.

I use Bajaj Pulsar 150cc bike, which has power of 14 BHP and its mileage is 55 Km per Litre at the speed of 70-80 Km Per Hour, which is quite good performance., although weight of my bike is 135 Kg.

Jay Temkar

@Carson, they already make a vehicle that satisfies all your commuter luxury needs, it\'s called a scooter! Leave this retro design alone. I agree with others on getting rid of more plastic like everything except the fenders. Just put a little chrome cover on the air intake and give the battery a plain box. I agree with @rudedog4 on getting rid of the electric starter and going with kickstart. No sweat to kick over a 125cc engine! How about we simplify it further and get rid of the rear suspension and go with a REAL leather seat with springs. Build in a small rack in the back so rider can sling a pair of saddle bags on it and/or buy an optional buddy seat that attaches real easy. That muffler has got to go. Put something more sweeping and further back. Keep the price decent and you will have gobs of customers, including me!

Will, the tink

i don\'t like how motorcycles kill you and how scooters make motorists laugh at your or kill you. but i want one of those so bad. yeah i COULD get the same thing from a scooter but that looks lame and i could look cooler on a chopper or a sports bike, but this looks like riding a bike without all that pesky peddling. will the tink makes all the points to make for making it affordable and making me a customer as well.


Beautiful bike, the only things i hope are added are a leather seat and a kick-start. Anything else would change the bike too much and it is already awesome. Also is the 80kg dry weight or wet weight and how much can the tank hold? Thanks Please don\'t let this just be a concept bike; i want one!

Ariel Gonzalez

Unless this also has some special \'not getting blown off the road\' tech I think it will not do well in slightly windy climates.

Billy Davis

lose the whitewalls. raised white letters might work. ?

Michael Taylor

They oughta put in a supercapacitor for regen braking and acceleration.

Gary Richardson

nice. question: emissions controls?

yes, after watching THAT Mythbusters episode, high MPGs isn\'t enough. I want a scrubber on that lil\' bastard.

@Mr. Stiffy:

if that wheel isn\'t too far off 600c road wheel, it would be easily assisted electrically with just about any of the hub motor bicycle kits already around.

@B. W. Davis. No more so than a person on a bicycle, and this would be for urban/surface street use. It wouldn\'t be on many streets a bicycle couldn\'t be on anyway.

C. Walker Walker

The 125cc cycle is popular in Asia but not North America. The Kawasaki Eliminator has been dropped. There is a small but growing demand for high mileage motorcycles. Urban use of electric bikes will grow as prices drop and range increases. Liquid cooled, streamlined 250cc motorcycles are at the front of high mileage touring/commuting at 150 mpg US. Full body reinforced fairings and lap belts can improve safety for both scooters and motorcycles. The best lightweight urban vehicle for 30 mph traffic is the streamlined motorized mountain bike. A 50cc 4 cycle with emissions equipment or an electric motor with supercapacitors would weight 50 lbs and cost under $1500 USD. Mileage should be 500 mpg US. The Yamaha Y125 does turn alot of older heads.


1 Imperial gallon = 1.20095042 US gallons,how could the US mileage per gallon be less?


I have seen some electric retros similar to this, but this beats them for finish and trustworthyness! How I'd love to put some batteries, an e-motor midship and a set of pedals onto this as a donor! oh yeah!!!

Walt Stawicki

Absolutely gorgeous! Where do I place my deposit?

David Calhoun

Now, bring it in at under $1,000 USD


please make this same concept bike 49-99c.c.s,lose the electric starter,keep the rims and tires, utilize a fully automatic transmission of some kind,forget bicycle pedals,it would then still qualify as a moped in the state of michigan,and i would eat ramen noodles for a year to afford one! go yamaha!


I've been wondering how long it would take to realize power and speed is great, but not for everyone.

I want to see this as a Reverse Trike with a seat or basket for delivery up front. Another retro concept perfect for inner city work, a simple quick way for people needing to travel across town. An efficient taxi service. Even better in 3rd world countries where weather is warm year around.

Great job Yamaha, beautifully done.


Allert Jacobs of the Netherlands achieved 221 mpg USA with his Honda 125 by adding a streamlined body.The bike weighed 43 percent more or 88 lbs, for a total of 363 pounds,but still almost doubled the fuel economy.Why not build some partial streamliners like Allerts design,giving us a little added safety and a big boost im range,at a cost anybody could afford.I have no doubt this engine in a partial streamliner would achieve close to 300 mpg USA.Come on Yamaha,be the first to give us a high mileage streamlined motorcycle we can buy right off the showroom floor.

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