It can be difficult for a moto-journalist to get hold of a 125cc motorcycle – in particular, those made in China. The companies that sell them tend to have pretty tight profit margins, with little room to support a press fleet. That results in a frustrating sparsity of reviews. Which, in turn, helps to perpetuate the concerns many people have about the quality of China-made machines. So, The Motorcycle Obsession has gone above and beyond: we simply bought one.
READ MORE: Check Out All of TMO’s Bike Reviews
Well, my wife bought one. And not actually because I wanted to review it on TMO. She’s recently started down her own motorcycling journey, inspired to take up riding as an inexpensive and fun alternative to traveling to university by train. I’d like to think my incessant enthusiasm for motorized two-wheelers may have also played a part.
A fan of classically styled bikes, Jenn used to collect stickers of Triumph Bonneville models as a little girl. So you can probably guess why she chose the Lexmoto Valiant. She’s done her own review of the bike, which you can check out by watching the video above (if, for some reason, you don’t see an embedded video, here’s the link), but suffice to say she’s pretty happy with it.
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From the perspective of a husband who can’t help but be excited to see his wife taking up riding, I’m pretty happy with it, too. The nature of the bike – being a 125cc machine – is helping her to build confidence in riding, while the aesthetic seems to make her want to get out and ride whenever she can. Indeed, she rides everywhere these days, and in all weather.
As such, stealing it away for the sake of review has been challenging but I’ve managed to clock up a fair few miles here and there, and overall I’ve been impressed. You hear a lot of horror stories about China-made bikes, but, so far (fingers crossed), those claims appear to be overblown.
The biggest selling point of the Valiant in my opinion is its look. The bike is put together well, with parts being basic – as you would expect from a bike costing only £2,000 – but not feeling excessively cheap. There’s less plastic than I was anticipating (metal fenders!) and you get the sense that with a reasonable cleaning regimen the bike will hold its good looks for more than just the two years Jenn plans to keep it.
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The bike’s not yet seen a winter, though, so impressions may change. Certainly it’s true that most of the bolts and fixings on the bike could easily have come from a hardware store. I’ll be sure to post a long-term review once the Valiant has suffered through the Long Dark of Britain.
One thing I particularly love about the Valiant is that it’s not tiny. Many 125 machines appear to be made for children, making a full-sized adult look ridiculous when perched on them. The Valiant’s not huge, but its proportions are far closer to what I’d describe as normal – not too far off the size of the modern classics it’s emulating.
Throw a leg over and the ergonomics are comfortable for both 6-foot-1 me and 5-foot-7 Jenn. Both feet easily touch the ground, and hands fall naturally to the ‘bars.
Engine and Transmission
The Valiant’s 125cc single-cylinder air-cooled engine is based on the stalwart Suzuki GS125 mill, which means it’s bulletproof from an engineering standpoint. Thanks to Euro IV regulation it’s fuel injected (not the case with previous Valiant model years), so it works like any other modern moto: turn the key, wait for the electronic whirring to stop, push the starter, and go. No need to learn how to kickstart a bike.
Lexmoto claims a peak 7.3 kW (or 9.9 hp) at 8,500 rpm. That’s only slightly more powerful than the smoking 1970s lawnmower my father insisted on using well into the 2000s, but it’s enough for urban scenarios. I found the throttle to be excessively tame, but keep in mind that my daily ride at the moment is a Harley-Davidson Street Bob; I’m spoiled. Jenn, meanwhile, says she was surprised at how powerful the Valiant is. Which is a statement to the bike’s value as a machine for those new to riding; it won’t scare the wahoozits out of you.
There’s no tachometer, which is a shame because I found the engine performs best when being wrung out a bit. You get a decent sense of where you are in the power curve with sound and feel, but visual aids would be helpful. Using the “ride it hard” technique I found it was possible to get out in front of most traffic off a stoplight. The bike reliably accelerates to 50 mph at roughly the same rate as a car. But if you hope to attain its fabled 65 mph top speed you’ll need a long straight and a good tailwind.
To that end, the bike is very much an urban/suburban machine. Though, of course. those with patience can go much, much further afield. A few summers ago I met a bloke who had ridden from Newcastle to Sicily and back on a Honda CBF125.
The Valiant’s five-speed transmission is a lot smoother than I would have imagined – on par with a Honda, I’d say. Jenn says she sometimes has trouble getting it back into first, but I’m not able to replicate the issue. First gear isn’t terribly useful anyway. It’s basically a “get going” gear, but most riders will be into second before leaving an intersection.
Ride Quality and Features
The suspension is relatively firm and budget, a situation exacerbated by Chinese tires that I’ll be swapping out soon. One of the benefits of a Chinese bike, however, is that the financial repercussions of screwing up mods aren’t as bad as elsewhere, so I’m half debating putting on different shocks and forks – just for japes. For her part, however, my wife is happy with things and feels the bike handles well. Certainly on better-paved roads I have no complaints.
As I said above, the ergonomics are comfortable for a proper-sized human. The padding in the seat is good for reasonably long journeys. Related to comfort, I have to admit I’m just a teensy bit sad the engine runs so smoothly; I was hoping for a little more of the chaotic thump that singles are known for.
Meanwhile, as per Euro IV requirements, the bike has a combined braking system that helps to ensure a rider is applying both the front and rear disc brakes when coming to a stop. I’m happy to report there are no issues in terms of braking power. Indeed, I’ve ridden far more expensive motorcycles with far less ability to avoid inanimate objects.
The combined braking system is probably the closest the bike comes to bells and whistles. The only other “fancy” thing the bike possesses is a gear indicator. Which, hey, is more than I could ever say about my Honda CBF600SA.
One of the best features, like with any 125, is the Valiant’s incredible fuel economy. I filled the bike’s 14-liter tank when it first arrived at TMO headquarters and it has not yet been opened again, despite Jenn having clocked close to 300 miles.
So far so good. Sure, there are things on this bike I would bitch about if it cost twice as much but by and large the Valiant appears to be a good-quality machine that offers new-bike reassurances (eg, a two-year warranty) for a used-bike price. I really like the look of it, and when wringing it the Valiant is actually quite a lot of fun.
More importantly, though, Jenn is having a lot of fun. Light and easy to maneuver, the Valiant is helping her build a confidence and ease with biking that it took me far longer to develop. I find myself envious of her motorcycling journey in that way – able to just have fun and enjoy riding around on a cool-looking bike. The Valiant has sparked a fire in her. She’s always happy to gear up and jump on the bike for no reason. And already she’s daydreaming of getting her full license and doing a road trip in the States.
I think that’s about the best endorsement a bike can have: it inspires you to want to ride far and be awesome. Which, of course, is something TMO can definitely get behind.
Jenn’s Gear in the Video