2022 Yamaha YZ125 Review
Jesse Ziegler | January 15, 2022
We do a few spins on Yamaha’s hot, revamped and thrilling YZ125 two-stroke engine.
By Jesse Ziegler | Photograph by Kit Palmer
I wrote a few stories about the YZ125. Some on Yamahas I bought and restored on the cheap, others on new blue bikes I tested as a magazine snob. Guess what? They are all the same. The YZ125 is awesome. It’s not like they’ve built a bad Yamaha YZ125 in the past 20 years, is it?
What we at Team Yamaha lacked was an attempt to modernize the eight-liter starter howler. Now that we’re way off here in 2022, it’s high time for that to happen. Hot off the heels of their 2022 YZ250 refresh (and what a joyful rebirth of Yamaha two-stroke smoothness that thing is), the new YZ125 is here and ready for its time to shine.
Last updated over 15 years ago, today’s YZ125 has an all-new engine. Virtually everything is new inside, including a carburetor fitted with an updated Keihin throttle position sensor. A new 3D map controlled CDI unit controls the spark. A new intake design and VForce4 carbon reed valve gateway bring the gusts.
Why all this new automotive activity? Well, Yamaha is under fire from competition in the upper rev range of the upper rev class here. They built their new YZ125 to pull harder and longer than ever to stay ahead of the pack. They’ve always had great bottom-to-mid feel, but now the world’s YZ125s are built to pull longer, too.
On the track, the YZ125 is just as fun as ever. And, while holding a 125 intro in the shadow of Glen Helen’s massive climbs and descents seems like a bold move, the reality is that the Yamaha is capable of being competitive on any track. I’m passionate about the bike’s new engine, and it retains enough low and mid to hide my missed shifts and skill holes somewhat. The updated six-speed gearbox’s transmission changes feel clean for a fresh bike and a ham-footed wannabe at the controls, and I didn’t feel the need to swap cogs or a monkey with this business.
Yamaha strives to make its MX two-strokes more competitive and more accessible for new riders. Their lower prices and simplicity are selling points at the dealership, for sure. Upgrading bikes for more riders is a smart move. The YZ250 does it with smoother power that doesn’t require a two-stroke specialist to master. And the YZ125 built in a wider power distribution to encourage more riders to consider it as well.
I abused the clutch (somewhat obvious that’s going to happen here), and it didn’t back off after my baking.
There’s not a massive improvement in engine balance like we’ve seen in the two-stroke updates from the Europeans, but the 125 harmonics are never really a rider fatigue issue, and the Bodywork refinement and ergonomics make the true feeling of two-stroke resonance quite pleasing.
Speaking of fun, you should hear this thing. Yamaha cut a few inches from the muffler and reshaped it a bit to be more compact, and the sound output is, well, spicy. She barks with determination. And while it’s not an intimidating tone, it does turn heads in the pits worthy of a wandering meme.
New stuff abounds, mirroring most of the 2022 YZ250 updates. New ergonomics through a new fuel tank, seat and radiator shroud system combined with rear body panels that better match the look and feel of the new YZ. Gone are the days of feeling vintage in a two-stroke Yamaha MXer. Like the YZ250, the saddle position and movement on the bike is comfortable and efficient, allowing precise body positioning for turns and easy adjustment when not.
Chassis components are also updated with new suspension refinements for the YZ125, improving an already excellent ride that is forgiving to riders up to around 175 pounds, max. I’m pushing 180 these days, and I was maxing out that bad rear shock spring for most of my test day. The Yamaha family of motocross bikes perform well in the suspension department at every level. They are still easy to install, forgiving and comfortable despite their performance advantage. The new YZ125 fits perfectly here.
Braking performance is powerful and controlled with an updated system (same as the YZ250) knocking on the door of Europe’s best performing parts. And in practice, the YZ125’s brakes are excellent. An improvement over the older generation? Probably, but I think the old YZ125 stopped pretty well too.
Interestingly, Yamaha has again split tire suppliers on its motocross brethren, with the new YZ125 getting a dose of Bridgestone X20 meat front and rear. I’ve always been happy with Bridgestone’s range of tires across the board and can’t wait to spend more time on these to see how they fare. Our test day was good with them at Glen Helen, although I wouldn’t mind a little more front-end bite.
If looks are your thing, the 2022 YZ125 will have your crank turning, and it comes in super brother style in a Monster Energy Yamaha Racing Edition with race team-inspired colors and graphics for a few hundred bucks. compared to the original MSRP ($6899 vs. $7099).
I’m a fan of all 125cc two-stroke motocross bikes. I like the purity of the ride and the BS-free experience and performance you’re responsible for. You’re not going to take a ride here; you control the whole journey. It is basic and essential. It’s powerful.
I’m here for 125 seconds, not just for me but for the health and future of the sport and the rising young stars of the racing circuit. A lot of young riders skipped the 125 stage. The new YZ125 proves that this is a terrible injustice to their motocross heritage.
Go ride a 125, I say. You’ll thank me later.NC
2022 Yamaha YZ125 Specifications
|MSRP:||$6899 / $7099 Monster Energy|
|Type of engine:||2-stroke, reed valve, YPVS, single|
|Bore x stroke:||54 x 54.5mm|
|Fuel delivery:||Hitachi Astemo Keihin PWK38S carburetor|
|Clutch:||Wet, cable operated|
|Framework:||Aluminum, semi-double cradle|
|Handlebar:||Aluminum, 2 position adjustment|
|Front suspension:||KYB Speed-Sensitive System (SSS), 48mm, USD fork, fully adjustable.|
|Rear suspension:||KYB single shock, linkage, fully adjustable.|
|Front wheel travel:||11.8 in.|
|Rear wheel travel:||12.4 in.|
|Front brake:||Single 270mm disc|
|Rear brake:||Single 240mm disc|
|Front tire:||80/100-21″ Bridgestone Battlecross X20F|
|Rear wheel:||100/90-19″ Bridgestone Battlecross X20|
|Seat height :||38.6 in.|
|Rake / Trail:||26° / 4.3 inches|
|Ground clearance :||14.4 in.|
|Fuel capacity:||1.8 gal.|
|Weight (empty, claimed):||209 pounds.|
Click here to read the 2022 Yamaha YZ125 review in the Cycle news Digital edition magazine.
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