’02 CR125 AUG 17

’02 CR125 AUG 17

When the very first CR125 came out in 1973, the DIRT BIKE headline called it a “20-horsepower feather.” Now it has more power and more weight, but the engineers have the same idea.

First things first. You can?t ride the Honda without being impressed with the super light handling. Yes, you can feel the weight reduction. Maybe it?s because the bike is slimmer in the middle, maybe it?s because the new frame has a steeper head angle. Maybe it?s because weight really does matter. Whatever. The Honda feels super light. That affects everything. It makes you want to go deeper into every turn, it gives you more courage in the whoops, it makes you fly farther off the jumps. To put the matter in perspective, the 2001 Honda already felt about 10 percent lighter than the average 125. The 2002 bike feels about five to 10 percent lighter than the 2001 CR.

In the turns, Honda could have easily messed things up. The steeper head-angle might well have made the bike knife under. It should have made the bike at least shake a little in the straights. It didn?t. The Honda still turns as well as ever and it still has about the same level of stability at speed. The overriding factor in handling is the fact that you can easily overpower the bike and force it to do anything you please.

Last year, we also rated Honda at the top of the suspension contest, with the condition that it was more of an expert-level package than a Yamaha or Suzuki. That might be true again. Both the rear and the front are stiffer this year. It?s one of the few production bikes that can be taken out to a supercross-style track with stock suspension. Okay, National-level riders might not think so, but when it comes to local pros of average weight on local tracks, the stock suspension package should be adequate. We performed most of our primary testing at Sunrise Cycle Park in the California high desert. It?s a fast track with a combination of pro-level triple jumps and smaller tabletops. As expected, most riders wanted to stiffen up both ends. But not that much. Pete Murray increased the low-speed compression damping two clicks (to position 11) in order to keep the rear end from sinking in G-outs between sets of jumps. Ron Lawson found he liked even stiffer settings; he didn?t jump as far as Pete and would often land on the gnarly stuff that Pete flew over. Ron ended up with the fork set on number six.

Even with stiffer settings, the CR never gets harsh on square-edge stuff. This is a far cry from the first year aluminum-frame Hondas that would have been harsh on a track constructed of decomposed marshmallows. Consider Honda?s Kayaba suspension package to be still a touch expert-oriented, but remarkably broad ranged. It?s good stuff.

The list of little things that are cool on the Honda is long. The ergos are pretty roomy?this year the seat is a little taller and the bars are a little farther forward, but overall the bike doesn?t feel big at all. The brakes are excellent?the new caliper has about the same power and feel as the larger one that it replaced. We were worried about heat buildup simply because of the smaller caliper size and the one-piece master cylinder/reservoir, but had no problem. It will be more of a test on the bigger bikes. The clutch action and shifter are both excellent.



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