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Posted: 01/17/2011
By: Jerrod Kelly Photos by Adam Campbell Photography


Yamaha describes the new Raptor 125 sport quad as a game changer and we would have to agree. While Yamaha could have slapped a smaller engine inside the Raptor 250 and called it good, the ATV manufacturer chose to create a relatively all-new machine purposely designed for smaller riders ages 16 and up. Why? Because not every rider who has grown out of the 90cc ranks needs to move up to a 200cc+ model. And they shouldn’t be expected to do so because entry-level riders vary in size, strength, skills and capabilities. Yamaha saw a need for a step-up model — tweener, if you will — to specifically accommodate novice riders.

In manufacturing the Raptor 125, Yamaha also aimed its tuning-fork-tipped arrows at a couple of other targets. Yamaha wanted to dominate the lesser-known, entry-level ATV brands, or should we say “off brands.” This segment of the ATV market has typically been saturated with cheap quads that often lack dependable parts, service and dealer support. Yamaha also wanted to create a model that put buyers on its 125 instead of other competitive sport models often which were derived from utility quads and featured automatic transmissions and automatic clutches.

The Raptor 125 is definitely competitive for its size. It features a five-speed manual transmission, five-way preload adjustable suspension, disc brakes, performance tires and electric start. Really, this model is about offering true sport quad performance characteristics, especially for those riders who really want be in full control of their machine. Read on to get our take on the Raptor 125.

Entry-Level ATV Attributes:
When looking at an entry-level ATV, you need to look for a brand that not only fits your price range, but also will satisfy you with its performance, durability, dealer support and a few other key aspects. Yamaha also adds that buyers must also look for these features when considering a model and manufacturer:

  • Adheres to ATV industry safety standards
  • Promotes safety and education
  • Proper warnings and labels
  • EPA/CARB and CPSC regulation compliant
  • ANSI Compliant Machines

Our Impression
In keeping with our proven format — we present the review from three separate perspectives: 1) Beginning Riders ; 2) an Intermediate Riders ; 3) and an Expert Riders . We hope you find this format helpful…The Yamaha Raptor 125 Review for Beginning Riders. The Yamaha Raptor 125 Review for Intermediate Riders. The Yamaha Raptor 125 Review for Expert Riders.

Beginning Rider
Although some manufacturers and riders define entry-level ATVs a little differently, Yamaha is a firm believer that its Raptor 125 with five-speed manual transmission is ideal for novice riders. We agree with that almost every time. In certain instances, however, we think this style of machine and its transmission might still be too much for the first-time rider (read: no prior ATV or dirt bike experience). If that’s the case, then the market also offers "beginner ATVs" with either a foot-shift with auto clutch setup or an automatic tranny, both of which can simplify the riding experience for new riders. Or they could buy the affordable Raptor 125 and learn on it. Some riders just aren’t ready for a 250cc four-stroke nor can they afford one. At $3,399, the 125 is a good bargain. It is $1,200 less than the Raptor 250 and only $700 more than the miniature Raptor 90.

Beginners will appreciate the broad powerband created by the Raptor’s two-valve, air-cooled 124cc four-stroke, which is a derivative from engine in the TT-R125 dirt bike. A few small changes, a new carburetor and specific pipe resulted in different power for the quad. Keep in mind, our 6-foot, 200-pound test rider is much larger than the most riders who will buy the Raptor 125. Even so, we were impressed with the little Raptor’s ability to pull us around the track’s large sweeper. We just simply shifted into third gear and pinned it around the curve. For the tighter hairpins, we downshifted to second and revved the Raptor and were surprised with how well it yanked all our weight around the corner without skipping a beat. Although first gear is quick to expire, we liked the 125’s ability to lug a taller gear and its overall acceleration skills with us onboard. Yamaha used the Raptor 250’s three-chamber muffler, which it said boosted low- and midrange performance.

We rode many laps and really appreciated the machine’s lack of vibration. The machine is outfitted with a 29mm Mikuni that produced a smooth, light throttle pull. Short of saying it provided all-day comfort, we really liked the 125’s surprising ergonomics. Just looking at it, we thought our knees would be hitting the handlebars on every turn, but that simply wasn’t case.

The Raptor 125 has an actual working suspension with real travel and that’s enticing for anyone. Sure its preload is only adjustable, but some larger-bore sport quads don’t even offer that feature. The 125 has the same suspension as the Raptor 250, which means it has a double A-arm front setup with twin shocks and 7.5 inches travel. The rear swingarm is also from the Raptor 250 and includes a single shock with very forgiving 7.9 inches of travel. When you factor in the Raptor 125’s small, lightweight design, its suspension and ultra-low 28.1-inch seat height, you get a very nimble, low-to-the-ground quad that likes to be pushed. The triple disc braking setup also means the rider is always in control.

This is a great entry-level ATV that can entertain experienced riders and thrill novices. New buyers will be especially pleased with this lightweight quad’s overall package and will be much happier with it than learning on a no-name model with limited skills and zero credibility.

Intermediate Riders
For us, this level of rider is a very diverse group. You can be an intermediate who is new to ATV riding, but has oodles of experience on dirt bikes. You could have climbed the youth ranks aboard every sized ATV, 50cc to 70cc to 90cc and now need to take the next logical step. Don’t fret, the Raptor 125 will satisfy you if either of these riders is you. In fact, because of its engineering and 250 Raptor influences, the new 125 can accommodate intermediate riders, unless they’re excessively large, tall or a combination of both. The Raptor 125 has a surprisingly large chassis (for its class), comfortable ergonomics and peppy engine for a machine of its build, but even it can’t please everyone — keep that in mind.

Some of the key elements any intermediate rider will appreciate are the power-to-weight ratio, sporty Maxxis tires (19-inch and 18-inch front and rear, respectively), disc brakes and the machine’s lightweight and controllable configuration. The tires were well received by the ATV media who tested the Raptor 125 at the press intro in Southern California. They provided decent forward traction and performed especially well on the sweeper and tight corners. This quad is so lightweight it’s easy to throw it around in the air and on a track, which instantly makes it an ideal candidate for a play quad.

Trail riders will like the 125’s preload adjustable shocks, which come straight off the proven Raptor 250. This model also features the same removable flip-style parking brake as the other Yamaha sport machines. The other good thing about the Raptor 125 is that it is its own machine. We also like that it comes in Team Yamaha Blue or white and black. The latter is especially cool for this class of rider as two graphic packages give it the look of a custom quad, for either gender. Although it shares some parts with the Raptor 250, it has its own feel and features that create a unique experience. Its specific ergonomics, tires, lighter weight, seat height and look all work together to give the Raptor 125 an all-new feel and Yamaha an all-new entry-level ATV. One that can make practically anyone smile, at least until they grow out of it.

Expert Rider
Typically entry-level ATVs don’t offer an ultimate set up for expert riders. Like the Raptor 125, Yamaha’s Raptor 250 and Honda’s TRX250X, for example, offer some fun for expert riders, but they don’t completely satisfy them. We had a blast riding the Raptor 125 around Yamaha’s custom-built dirt track course, but even we would eventually want more horsepower, more suspension, more everything! With that said, the Raptor 125’s package will appeal to experts who want to control everything on their quad.

We sort of feel the Raptor 125 is like the 50cc dirt bike of the sport ATV market. While it’s very fun for an expert rider to play around on, and to perhaps own, it’s not the ideal choice. Though it’s surprisingly comfortable and accommodating, the 125 is definitely too small for a lot of experts, who are used to riding machines with more room, better ergonomics and bigger performance. Yamaha knows this, too, and that’s why it offers its other Raptor models (250, 250R, 350, 700R) and its race-oriented YFZ450 speedsters. And for those highly skilled riders who still want to own a 125, at least there’s a whole line of Yamaha accessories to make it even better.

Go to the 2011 Yamaha Raptor 125 Overview Page

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