Keeway RKR 125: Cross dresser

Let me state from the off – and without a hint of disparagement – the Keeway RKR is a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

Deliberately dressed to impress, its inspiration clearly hails from the pit lane, with those race-inspired lines reflecting a passion for the track subsumed into a road-going machine that will, without doubt, attract mostly new, young riders to the world of two-wheels, without scaring the pants off them.

Placing a 125cc engine in a streamlined shell might seem somewhat left field, but sit astride the bike and you will soon come to appreciate its nuances. Whereby we would normally equate speed with adrenalin, here we are dealing with pretence over substance, but it is none the worse for that. Ride this machine and you are in control of your own destiny, rather than allowing it to take you to uncomfortable levels of insanity. That is why the RKR will sit high on the register of ‘wannahaves’.

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So let’s cut straight to the chase. Stylish it most certainly is, and yes, you can mount it dressed in very expensive one-piece leathers and race boots, but try as you might, you still aren’t going to push it to more than 65mph before it peaks, but then that’s plenty fast enough for newbies to get a feel for the open road without any daft knee-down antics on switchbacks.

If, however, you are keen to learn serious roadcraft skills and experience a sensible level of performance on a race-inspired minnow, then this could well be the bike that will get the lifeblood flowing through your veins.

I am certainly no spring chicken, and neither do I require learner-legal plates, but that did not stop me from looking forward to trialling the RKR. What drew me to it was exactly those racing lines that I mentioned earlier.

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I wasn’t bothered that it wasn’t a powerhouse, and neither was I concerned about being a motorbiking elder statesman on what clearly is a younger person’s machine. Each to their own, I say. ‘Give every ride the potential to be exhilarating’, state Keeway. So let’s see.

Drawn in

Approaching the bike, it is impossible not to be drawn to its edgy, dynamic and modern look. As a result of the partnership with Italian manufacturer Benelli, its heart lies in the new single-cylinder, liquid-cooled 125cc engine.

Sat in a traditional steel tube trellis frame, it offers a maximum power of 9kW at 9500rpm, with torque of 10Nm at 7500rpm. As to the rubber, the 17-inch rims mount a 100/80 front and 130/70 rear Cordial tyre. Braking is courtesy of discs, which are 260mm in diameter at the front and 240mm (CBS) on the back.

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So, we have a tidy little bundle which I imagine will offer simple, yet precise handling. I begin by taking it for a spin along some of Lincolnshire’s back roads, with the deliberate twisty thrown in for good measure. That Benelli-inspired smooth power deployment becomes immediately noticeable, as does the positive gear shift. And as for the torque, it easily allows the bike to smooth out through the apex. Impressive stuff.

For all its machismo, it’s a playful, quirky bike that is a joy to ride. It ducks and dives and twitches and is certainly far from perfect, and yet it brings a smile to one’s face. For starters, that short-ish wheelbase almost threw me. With the balls of my feet planted on the pegs, the first serious touch of the front brake saw the bike nose-dive, catching me unawares and almost catapulting me forwards.

It certainly ain’t subtle, and neither is the suspension, which, although soft, I found to be a bit jarring on less polished bitumen. Hitting a section of dried mud and gravel presumably shed by a tractor, the Cordials felt suitably planted and tracked well for a sporty-styled tyre at the more affordable (budget) end of the market. With that top speed of a claimed 65mph, I maxed out a few times on straights and long, sweeping bends before settling back to a more modest, but pleasurable 55mph at 8000rpm.

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The simple display features an analogue rev counter, digital speedo, clock and gear indicator, the latter aid always a bonus in my book. Gear changes were constantly smooth and positive, and it was simplicity itself to power through bends and away from traffic lights.

Keeway bikes are imported by MotoGB. As to the build quality, well, the RKR is of Chinese origin, so it’s not going to be perfect, although it is finished off nicely enough. Available in three striking colourways of red, white or black, the bike weighs in at 142kg, boasts a fuel economy of 100mph, and shares the engine of its sister RKF 125 naked.

To buy or not to buy…

As to that all-important question of whether I would recommend one, I can happily answer in the positive. I had no end of people commenting on its stylish looks, and whilst those of you that watch the superb Netflix series ‘Sons of Anarchy’ may have seen Jax whack a youth round the head with his open face helmet, exclaiming: “Never sit on another man’s bike”, I was happy to allow friends and strangers to try it for size.

My daughter, for one, is keen to join the growing ranks of learner-legals on the road, and fell in love with the looks of the RKR, so I may find myself having to stretch the old purse strings to appease those puppy-dog eyes.

Anyway, I digress. Should you fancy a small capacity, nimble, naked bike in grown-up sports clothes, which is no fire-breather but a hoot to ride, is a bit of a poser, but is in no way intimidating, and you don’t mind being blasted off the road by the likes of a Suzuki GSX250R until, that is, you are in a position to up the ante with more dosh to play with, then this is a neat introduction to sports-style bikes. The RKR is great for a whole host of activities, from nipping down the shop, a short commute to work, heading for a local bike meet or a weekend bimble.

Yes, it is a bit of a toy, but you know what, it’s a fun one at a daft price and will keep you entertained until your attention span wanders to something bigger, faster and more lairy.

And as for all those quirky idiosyncrasies and that impudent spirit that morph into a sprightly little maverick at heart, it ticks most, if not all of the boxes for me, and that’s what makes it such a likeable rogue.

Specification: Keeway RKR 125

  • ENGINE: Single cylinder four-stroke with four valves
  • POWER: 9kW/9500rpm
  • TORQUE: 10Nm/7500rpm
  • FRAME: Arch bar Truck
  • REAR SUSPENSION: Single shock
  • BRAKES: Front and Rear discs, combined braking system
  • TYRES: Cordial, 100/80-17 (F), 130/70-17 (R)
  • SEAT HEIGHT: 790mm
  • FUEL CAPACITY: 15 litres
  • PRICE: £2,499 plus OTR


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