KTM RC125 ABS: First ride review

KTM RC125 ABS: First ride review

After the 125 Duke, it’s the faired sibling’s turn to get the 125cc motor. But does the orange baby RC have what it takes to go up against the Yamaha YZF R15 V 3.0?     

Manaal Mahatme

KTM RC125 ABS: First ride review

The idea of having a 125cc performance motorcycle is imprudent, especially in a country like India which firmly believes there’s no replacement for engine displacement. And the icing on the cake is a full-fairing. However, to the contrary, if you are starting out riding motorcycles, 125-150cc motorcycles are the perfect tool. With their manageable performance, these bikes will have you focus all your energies on learning the dynamics of riding instead of diverting that attention to managing power. And among the current crop, the only two that qualify for the ‘performance’ tag are the liquid-cooled Yamaha YZF-R15 V3.0 and the newly launched KTM RC 125.

For a better perspective, let’s go back in time a bit to understand how it all started for KTM. With the introduction of the 125 Duke, KTM ventured into the performance 125 segment. With a price tag of Rs 1.18 lakh, the pundits predicted doom for the baby Duke. However, within six months of its launch, the bike became the Austrian brand’s top-selling bike in the country, the success of which prompted KTM to launch the RC 125, the only 125cc supersport on sale in India.

The RC 125 looks just like the bigger RCs with their radically sharp styling. However, the baby racer gets two new paint schemes and a blacked-out trellis frame to distinguish it from the 200 and 390. Unlike the international model, India does not get the side-slung barrel from the RC 390. But let’s get to the heart of the matter – the engine.

Meat of the matter

The RC borrows the 124.6cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder motor from the 125 Duke. In typical KTM fashion, the engine is high-strung with all the power concentrated at the top of the rev range. The bigger KTMs have big numbers to compensate for that at lower revs, but it isn’t so on the 125.

Just like the 125 Duke, the RC 125 feels dull at low revs. It’s only after you hit the 6,000rpm mark that the RC comes to life. While this didn’t bother me on the highway or track, it’s a huge problem in the city’s chock-a-block traffic. It doesn’t respond as eagerly as you would like it to when you get on the gas. Gunning an engine with a compression ratio of 12.8:1 in the lower cogs is definitely not good for your legs. And as you’re contantly downshifting and pushing the engine to get a move on, it heats up pretty quickly. My RC 200 runs cooler than the 125. But one won’t just restrict her to the everyday hustle, right?

On my weekend jaunt to the biker’s haven outside Pune as well as at Bajaj’s Chakan test track, the RC impressed me with her enthusiasm, but the short first four gears had me hunt for the right cog to dart out of corners. I would either be a gear too low and hit the limiter, or be a gear to high and be out of the powerband. Though she is quick till 80kmph, the progress drops down a fair bit from there to the 100kmph mark. On the long straight at the track, she managed to get to 121kmph (speedo).

How does it all come together?

The chassis is sharp. The combination of the trellis frame, 43mm WP suspension that is set up rather stiff and the aggressive rake from the bigger RCs make it a solid track tool. It is predictable, and its agility will blow you away. The 200 and the 390 tend to get twitchy at the limit, but the 125’s low output means you barely scratch the surface of the chassis’ capabilities. However, the same can’t be said about its prowess in the city. The low-set clip-on handlebars with the rear-set footpegs coupled with the tall 835mm seat height is a perfect recipe for a wrist workout in the city traffic.

The 300mm/230mm disc setup on the 125 is borrowed from the RC 200. The braking is progressive and offers ample feedback, but the front brake could have done with a little more bite. However, you do get the safety net of single-channel ABS.

Ready to race?
The RC 125 offers top-drawer components including WP pogos, large Bybre discs, an info-packed instrument cluster and a liquid-cooled motor. Its taut chassis is barely utilised though, paired with that tiny 125cc motor, but is definitely overpriced for the package it offers.

So if you’re in the market for a KTM and can’t afford the 200, then the 125 definitely makes for a good deal. But if you want a piece of the orange pie, the 125 Duke definitely adds more bang for the buck, saving you about Rs 17,000. The Duke, being lighter than the RC by 12kg, is quicker too, although the RC gets to a higher top speed thanks to its aero-friendly fairing.

But if all you care about is a fairing, then the R15 definitely wins the battle hands down, at least on paper. The Yamaha costs Rs 1.40 lakh, packs in five extra horses, a slipper clutch, dual-channel ABS and also VVT that allows for improved bottom-end performance. This calls for a comparison test. Time to make that call to Yamaha.

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