People love trends. Clothes, accessories, fashion all come and go, but some do stay, or maybe come by again now and then. Fad? You know the saying, “If you love ’em, let ’em go, if they come back, then its true love”. After a weekend being together with KTN’s GP125 CAFE RACER, I can certainly say that this category of biking is definitely a trend, not a fad!
I confess that i spend a lot of time on high performance race replica bikes, so slinging my leg over a cafe racer made me feel clueless. Clueless about how the ride, the engine, the feel, everything would be!Even more so that KTN is a fairly unknown brand, I really dont know what to expect and evaluate. But at the end of the test, a surprising turn out it came to be!
KTN is China manufacturer that sells a few models, mainly scrambler and motard style bike in Malaysia under the below 250cc category. I have seen a few on the roads and their designs seems fresh and up to date. The Gp125 is one of their newest offereing, with nice details such as inverted front forks, “Y” spoked wheels and single seat cover to give the bike a modern look, yet chrome twin rear shocks, non faired bodywork and a blacked-out exposed air cooled engine, combines a classic outlook, making it a unique looking motorcycle. A tubular handlebar with a single chrome speedo meter, chrome round headlight adds to the air of classic-ness. This particular tested model has been customised straight from the dealer, with extra fat 4 inch width(17 inches diameter front and rear) tyres, flat custom-ed leather seats and handlebars re-angled downwards for a more sporty hand positioning. This bike is clearly distinctive from all other two wheelers on the street and everywhere I stop, I get so many stares and questions. Felt like a bike celebrity!
The engine is pretty small at 125cc, but surprisingly its equiped with a hydraulic clutch. Not many, surely rarely a small displacement bike gets a hydraulic setup, usually a cable driven system is utilised due to the lightness of a small engine. We’ll talk more on that during the ride segment. Both front and rear brakes are single disc, giving a modern look and functionality. The colour and decals looks ok, slightly bland and not at all flashy, such is the trend of cafe racers to look subdued to maintain a classic outlook, I guess. The blacked out wheels and engine with a sprinkling of chrome here and there complete a reto look that is pleasing to the eye and at the same time, unique. I have to say I like it!
Now we go to the riding part. Thumb the starter, and the silencer-less single shotgun muffler booms a loud, motor-boat like slow thumping. Its loud but not intrusive, only noticeable. Blip the throttle and the exhaust snarls, sounding like a hot rod! Revving the engine reveals a healthy sounding power unit, no loose or irritating clunking, and the response to throttle action is crisp and smooth. So now I’m sat on the Gp125, the position is very neutral. The seat is oh-so-comfy, the bars gives a good sporty crouch, and the feet are very nicely placed and angled, plus being low means you can flat foot on the ground at stops. It feels immediately at home.
Releasing the clutch( the lever and master cyclinder is a Racing Boy unit) revealed a really light and easy to modulate set-up with good feel throughout, clunk it into 1st gear( slightly stiff but precise and short throw) and away we go! Initially, I felt a feeling of front heaviness! Why? The fat 4 inch tyres probably is the cause,making it roll around side to side with a slight heavy feel. Nothing major, I got used to it pretty quickly, and over the course of the test I actually appreciated them due to their superior bump absorption and damping. Super comfy ride is the result of these tyres, but in corners you do need to use a little more strength to turn the bike and holding a gradual lean takes a little more effort. For me though, the comfort factor outweighs this trait, and then again, this isn’t a race bike. It does corner fairly well at moderate speeds, just take it easy like it was created for, to be a cafe racer. The rear shocks can take semi aggressive cornering maneuvers, and you can adjust the stiffness to your liking, but again they’re made for comfort. The chasis did’nt flex and neither did the bike wallow in any type of cornering situations. In fast corners or slow ones, as long as you’re not in racer boy mode it should tolerate and entertain winding roads nicely.
Weaving in and out of city traffic, the bike feels extremely light and nimble, plus the the narrowness made it feel extra agile. The absence of a fairing greatly increase your confidence to almost telepathically dart in and out through rush hour traffic at quite a bit of speed. I felt good being in traffic because the slimness of the bike coupled with the well angled bars made turning a cinch. In parking lots you’ll also notice the generous amount of steering lock gets you doing u-turns effortlessly.
The engine’s pretty flexible. It will pull form any gear and low rpm quite well. The torque gives good roll on capability, just don’t expect dragster stump pulling power here. In a lot of cases I just left the tranny in a higher gear and it will pull and chug along with no baulking or stuttering, only that it will move at a sedate pace. Over takings do take a bit of down shifting, mostly by one gear, so the ride is fairly gear shift free and this results in a relaxed and frantic free cruise. It feels like an automatic sometimes, you just need to wind on the throttle and it will move along and reach whatever speed you wish to get to steadily and without drama. One word; RELAXED!
The tranny, as I mentioned, is quite good. Geared short and not particularly close ratio-ed, the spread is great for cruising. There’s only five gears and I feel thats all you need. Every gear will pull nicely, but changing up will drop quite a few revs, you can feel it especially going up hill. Brakes are adequate, feel is there and you can lock them up, but don’t expect much, just that you can stop the bike when you need to. The bite will come at the end of the travel, and to get to that end requires a bit of squeezing, with a slight wooden feeling overall. Its okay, again,this isn’t a race bike, and this setup makes it feel predictable and relaxed. Instrumentation,with all the usual signals, are are easy to read at any angle, the single white faced clock highly readable in bright sunny days or dark rainy nights , but sorely missing is a fuel gauge! There’s a petcock under the fuel tank for reserve, and that’s it for your fuel estimation. A tacho meter is also not present, but I didn’t miss it, on this bike I was just concerned at the cruising speed. Indicators are well spaced and easy to modulate. well within reach of even short fingered riders.
I really like the riding ergos. So comfy, yet feel racy enough. The tank, with rubber attachments at the knee area, gives a custom look whilee gripping your knees nicely and giving them a stable position. The seat is so lavish its almost sofa like, and even after extended rides you butt still feels good, along with giving your spine a straight non-contorting posture. The combination of plush and fatty tires cancel out any harsh pavement surfaces, giving a pleasant ride, yet at the same the time the angled bars give you a lowered and focused forward head/shoulder position. Simply makes you feel fast and hoolaganistic. The custom under bar rear-view mirrors looks the part, really unique but requires you to lower your head to see what is behind. It does takes a bit of time and orientation, and although it provides visual feedback, its just enough to see whats behind. More for show than function(they can be adjusted in a myriad of angle combinations), but they look really trick.Attitude? The GP125 has it in spades, yet at the same time it exudes a gentlemanly demeanor that is flattering to the rider. Certainly no rempit image here!
Fuel consumption is frugal, I remember RM10(+-5litres) got me about 120km easily with a moderately aggressive right hand. Cruising speed I’d say is probably around 85-90 km/h, and I managed to get 115km/h on a busy highway. No doubt I think it will pull 120km/h++ on a clear road. I feel that for cruising at higher speeds its not so comfortable due to it being sans fairing, and quite a bit of vibration do seep in at speeds 105km/h and above.
All in all, from RM5800++(RM7500 as tested with customisations) will give you a very satisfying buy. Why? Super comfy ergos with flat feet on the ground at stops, wallet saving fuel economy, unique feel and ride, and most of all, when you pass by reflective car windows you’ll see James Dean/ Steve McQueen as your reflection. Priceless…