Retro Rebuild Ready to Rip: ‘87 Honda CR125 7

This Honda CR125 was restored from a roached-out beater to a show-worthy machine that is meant to be ridden, not just looked at.

 

Retro bikes are cool for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it was your first bike. Sometimes a bike reminds you of a great racing season. Sometimes it’s a bike you’ve always wanted when it was new but you never got it. Sometimes it’s just plain ol’ nostalgia for simpler times. Whatever the reason may be, it is clear how popular retro bike builds are judging by the “Bike Builds” section of the Vital Forum. 

This 1987 Honda CR125 is actually not on the forum. It was brought to our attention by good old fashion word of mouth. The owner of this machine is John Voegtli and we heard about him from our resident mechanic Scot Gustafson. Scot would run into John at the track and was impressed that, not only did his retro bikes look great, they ran great too. 

So, we scheduled a day to meet up and give one of his bikes a go. Personally, I was super interested in riding a bike from 1987 since it is one year younger than me and I’ve never ridden a moto bike not from this century. They look totally different than modern machinery, and I was curious to see if they feel that different as well. 

Photo

Photo
Photo
Photo
Photo
Photo
Photo

On The Track

The short answer is yes, this bike felt completely different than a modern motocross bike. The first thing I noticed was the ergos. That super scooped out seat made the bike feel small and forces you to sit in one spot. This is good and bad. For turning, it really forces you to be forward and get a lot of weight on the front wheel. But when just standing in the attack position and going through rough sections or off jumps, the back of the seat kept reminding me it was there with repeated smacks in the butt. The seat is also way wider in the back compared to any bike I’ve ridden. I’m glad John had a not-stock seat cover that had some gripper material in the center. It helped me keep my position on the seat when I didn’t want to fall completely into the front pocket. 

With less suspension travel, the bike also felt small and low to the ground, much like the chassis feel of a CRF230F or TT-R230. Both those bikes are way heavier, but size-wise, it felt similar to me. John is a burly guy and the suspension is set up for his weight. That meant it was actually on the firm side for me and Pingree. It also just has a simpler feel than modern suspension. Where a modern bike feels like there are different parts of the stroke where the internals are doing different things (initial plushness, mid-stroke valving, progressive or linear bottom control), the CR125 felt like it had a somewhat springy, hollow-ish initial feel in the first half of the stroke, then a firm second half that was pretty solid. 

The motor was actually my favorite part of the Honda build. It definitely only makes power in the top end and you have to ring it out to keep moving at a good pace, but it was jetted really well and the throttle response was great. After riding a buddies 2003 CR125 that was refreshed, the ‘87 felt like it actually had better throttle pull and I had more control over the motor. Comparing the power to a modern YZ or KTM/Husky 125, it did take a little more work and it doesn’t have the “bottom-end” power that the new bikes have. 

Overall

I did use a Lit Pro to get some lap times on the ‘87 and on a 2020 CRF250R. I was about 15 seconds slower riding the vet track at Cahuilla on the CR125 and to be fair, I wasn’t hitting all the jumps. That being said, it was a whole different riding experience. When riding a retro bike like this one, it is way more about fun and just riding at a comfortable pace on a vet track, rather than trying to shave off seconds each lap. 

Lastly, I have to say that John did a great job with this build, mainly because nothing broke and there were no issues whatsoever. With older bikes, things are always more likely to act up or break down and we had smooth sailing the whole day. Huge props to Mr. Voegtli (mulletmoto on IG) for a great looking and riding retro build. 

If you want to see us ride more retro bikes or have a bike that you think we should swing a leg over, let us know. 

Photo

Photo
Photo
Photo
Photo

Photo

Photo

Photo
Photo
Photo

Photo


Create New Tag
7 comments
Show More Comment(s) / Leave a Comment