Opinion: 125cc bikes can be cool too

There is a genuine case for pride of ownership here.

I write this fresh after having the unusual opportunity to have ridden 35km to work on the TVS Raider this morning and then completing the same commute back home on the superb new Aprilia RS 457. Guess which ride I enjoyed more?

To be fair, Mumbai’s harsh, horribly bumpy and ridiculously slippery concrete roads have steadily beaten down on my love of sporty motorcycles, but that’s a rant for another day. What I really want to talk about today is how far we’ve come with the idea of commuter machines.

If you’ve read or watched our comparison between the new Hero Xtreme 125R and the TVS Raider, you’re probably wondering why I was so enthusiastic in that story. After all, they’re just another couple of piddly little 125s that no enthusiast worth their salt would care about, right? Honestly, that thought process would be a mistake.

I get why people would think that way though. The very first motorcycle entrusted to me as a journalist was a 125cc commuter – and even then, as a completely bright-eyed newbie to the world of motorcycles – I still found the bike dull as a rock. The engine did not like being revved, the brakes were annoyingly weak, the suspension was awfully squishy and the design was so utilitarian that young me wanted no association whatsoever with the bike.

At the same time, I also get why bikes like this have sold in the millions – it’s the way things go in an emerging nation that places price, practicality and low running costs as the absolute priority. But we are no longer that nation and the bikes we get these days are a clear reflection of that.

The Raider blew our socks off when we first rode it in 2021 with its handsome style, perky performance, a great chassis and a cheeky exhaust note all wrapped up with some segment busting features. But the TVS also very smartly ensured that the bike was comfortable, gentle on fuel consumption and easy on the pocket. The formula was so good that the bike won multiple awards across the industry and it’s already TVS’s bestselling motorcycle.

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In this month’s comparison you’ll also see that Hero’s Xtreme 125R is really likeable too, and for similar reasons. And that’s precisely the point here – these are genuinely affable motorcycles. First of all, with true top speeds just north of 100kph they’re quick enough to keep your commutes interesting – I don’t think a Yamaha FZ is realistically much quicker. But then they also handle really well and have solid braking performance too.

And then there’s the cool style and the rich features list. These are not boring looking bikes and you’ll be happy to be seen on one, or simply look at it in your garage; there is a genuine case for pride of ownership here. Best of all is the fact that you can zip around town, have plenty of fun and still watch the fuel gauge drop at a glacial pace – that’s a great feeling!

I’m not saying that bikes like this are good enough to be the only motorcycle in your life. But I’m really growing to the idea of having your special motorcycles that you will use for the occasional ride on a carefully planned route, while having one of these cheerful little things to handle daily duties. Don’t knock it until you try it.

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