First Ride: KTM RC 125

Being handed the keys to KTM’s RC 125 came as a surprise to me one morning and resulted in a stolen day off.

I was excited; this KTM looked kick-ass awesome – and with a full 15 horse power, it’s the first 125 this year I’ve tested which might prove to be better and more useable than my partner Nicole’s own 2011 YZ 125 – that was certainly going to represent an apt comparison.

First impressions upon walking around it revealed a beautiful, solidly built 125 with distinctive styling, a trellis frame, with upside-down forks fitted to a set of beautifully made triple clamps with cut-out louvres to add to that lightweight sports look from the cockpit. There’s also a good-looking underslung exhaust and a useful dash incorporating modern features including a fuel gauge and clock, as well as a captivating overall look with that big snout and the aggressive LED headlights and styled pillion seat.

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Starting was instant and purposeful, and an initial ride into town hammers home the fact that being at the top of the best-selling 125 tree is a competitive place to be right now; and this translates into superb motorcycles for us lucky riders. Weighing in at 135kg dry, the handling is light, easy and flick-able in my opinion. The plush USD forks and shock along with the ABS brakes provide strong, progressive action, particularly the radially mounted front – you’ll hardly need to touch the back brake when riding normally.

The bike is perfect for real world riding including those cold damp mornings, or in the hands of an inexperienced rider, too.

At six feet tall, I’m happy and at home sitting in the surprisingly spacious saddle where there’s room to move; and in comparison to a 2013 CBR600 there’s as much – if not more – room with comfort being on the same level. The KTM’s seat itself was also quite supportive during my mid-range rides.

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Adventure dawns

My stolen day off dawned and as with any righteous bike rider, I was instantly drawn to get on, get out and ride! I decided that a local journey over the Lincolnshire Wolds to Wickenby Airfield would provide me with some good feedback if I were to give the bike a good test of its sporting credentials through the bends on the way.

On inserting the ignition key to start the bike up, the ignition barrel lights up and never has finding the hole to pop the key in been so easy – nice feature, KTM; riders will miss it on every bike that doesn’t have this feature after this one.

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Beyond the clear clocks and satisfyingly crisp exhaust note, the mirrors need a big mention too. They are not a last minute afterthought – and judging by some of the new bikes I’ve ridden recently, all manufacturers should check these fellas out.

What excites me is the crucial all-round visibility they give you on real roads – particularly useful for young, new or old riders like me; so voila, just five seconds fiddling with the adjustment on the KTM sees me with a clear view behind and no elbows! Moreover, the mirrors are integrated into the rest of the motorcycle’s design, giving it sleek, angular looks; they also fold-in, meaning on this sleek pocket rocket, the garden gate manoeuvre is a breeze. Thank you KTM for making my life easy; also for fitting some good-quality tyres to the RC 125, meaning the bike’s sporting potential can be explored to the max in most road conditions.

The finer details

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The motor sure sounds good, and it revs very freely. This particular test bike had six miles on the clock when it arrived and because of this KTM gave it to us with the rev limiter capped for running it in.

This meant I couldn’t rev it beyond about 8000rpm without a red light flashing, and it also meant I couldn’t compare it to our own personal well used YZF, which was a real shame because I felt quite limited by the lack of being able to do big throttle openings in order to make a comparison. The bike certainly offers good low range drive and accessible power, paired with a very slick gearbox and light clutch – great on a 125 where you’re likely to be changing gear a lot. I hope we’ll have another opportunity soon to have a fully run-in version for a longer period so I can compare them.

Wickenby Airfield at 7.30am was quiet; the café was shut when I arrived cold, but happy. I warmed up looking at the planes and taking a couple of snaps before riding back to the main road. If and when you’re lucky enough to own one of these bikes, you’ll be looking forward to it being run-in after the first 670 miles, so you can really get revving and riding it.

Later that same day, in the afternoon, I met up with my partner so we could ride both the KTM and the YZF to Woodhall Spa. Stopping on the way for a hot chocolate, we admired the bikes as they stood parked opposite us and enjoyed picking out the best parts of their characters, comparing their looks and styling. My conclusion was that the snout on the KTM made it look longer and also gave it a more urban presence than the YZF.

All pros, no cons

The KTM RC 125 is the same physical size as its bigger sports bike sibling, the KTM RC 390; this makes it the perfect starting point for young and new riders alike who want the sports bike experience, with magnificently easy-to-access handling and performance.

Alternatively, it would suit a commuter rider who simply wants a full fat feature list that includes the safety consideration of full ABS and the all-important full 15hp 125 engine, along with decent Michelin Pilot Street radial tyres that a top-of-the-range 125cc sports bike like this offers customers straight off the showroom floor.

The KTM RC 125 is up there alongside the YZF 125 – a superb accolade. And in its orange livery it’s one of the most distinctive and advanced sports 125 packages out there right now at one hell of a competitive price. Potential buyers need to race to the nearest KTM dealer for a test ride now because you’ll like this one!


  • ENGINE: 124.7cc single cylinder, 4-stroke, 4-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled
  • POWER: 15bhp
  • FRONT SUSPENSION: USD forks, 125mm wheel travel
  • REAR SUSPENSION: Monoshock, preload only, 150mm wheel travel
  • FRONT BRAKE: 300 mm disc, 2-pot caliper, ABS
  • REAR BRAKE: 230mm disc, 1-pot caliper, no ABS
  • SEAT HEIGHT: 820mm
  • WET WEIGHT: 135kg
  • FUEL TANK CAPACITY: 10 litres
  • O2W Rating: 8 Stars


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