Motocross is a rude sport. Last year we were thrilled and enthralled with the new Yamaha YZ125. It was the first major redesign for the YZ motor in almost two decades, and the bike got new bodywork and suspension thrown in. Now, the bike of the moment is the Husqvarna TC125. It not only received a complete motor and chassis redesign, but it incorporates technology that we haven’t seen on a 125 two-stroke—ever. Has it made us forget the Yamaha?
No. We’ve said many times that the YZ125 is the best-handling motocross bike ever built. It’s light, turns well and has excellent suspension. The new version has all that plus modern ergonomics. So, it’s only natural that we couldn’t wait to get the new Husky out on the track with the semi-new Yamaha.
THE STATE OF THE 125 UNION
First, let’s talk about preconceptions. Even though the Yamaha gained peak power last year, it didn’t reach the same level as any of the 2022 Austrian 125 two-strokes, meaning the KTM, GasGas and Husqvarna. And, even though the Yamaha was light at 203 pounds, it wasn’t as light as the Austrian bikes, which were 195 pounds apiece on the same scale. The Yamaha’s advantages were in suspension and stability.
This year, of course, the Yamaha is completely unchanged, so you could be forgiven if you thought the YZ was already falling behind the massively changed Husky. But, that’s not really what’s happening. First, in the weight department, the YZ has regained its edge. It’s now 3 pounds lighter than the 2023 Husqvarna TC125. Virtually all the Husky’s weight gain is in the electric starter and the battery. Is 3 pounds enough to notice on the track? Not really; both bikes are incredibly light.
A much more interesting comparison is in the horsepower department. Last year the Husky had a little more down low and a lot more on top. Now, whether by accident or design, the Husqvarna’s new power delivery has flipped upside down. The new TC125 has much more low-end power than the Yamaha, and on top the two bikes are virtually equal. On the track, that makes the Husqvarna easier to ride. When you fall off the powerband, it’s quick and simple to get the revs up and stay moving. The Yamaha starts off lazy, then catches up fast. It has a very hard-hitting powerband.
Another interesting comparison is seat height. The Yamaha got taller in the middle of the saddle last year. There are benefits to that increase in height; the Yamaha is very flat across the seat/tank junction, and the bike is comfortable for taller riders. Shorter riders, on the other hand, love the Husky’s seat height. It’s even lower than that of the KTM 125SX—a bike that is otherwise very similar to the new Husky.
In suspension and overall handling, the Yamaha is still king of the world, but by a much smaller margin than ever before. When the track gets really rough, the YZ is incredible. Between the suspension and the light weight, you feel like you can get away with anything. The Yamaha’s only shortcoming is that it’s a little stiff for riders in the 130-pound range, which is the bread and butter of the 125 class. The Husky is set up softer, at least with the recommended air pressure in the fork, and is plush on tracks with light chop. When it’s really rough, though, the Yamaha is more stable and consistent.
THE NEW DEAL
All that adds up to a very different conclusion than we expected. The new Husky, with its smooth power delivery, plush suspension setup, lower seat height and electric start, is much easier to ride for less experienced riders. It’s a perfect transition bike for a young rider moving up to the big bike world. The Yamaha is aimed at a more experienced rider. Intermediates and Pros can take advantage of the YZ’s suspension and will forgive the hard-hitting nature of the power.
We expect the Husky to continue to evolve with updates and modifications galore, whereas we don’t expect to see much change from Yamaha. If any bike is immune to trends and fads, this is it. For some riders, that’s part of the YZ125’s appeal.
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