Don't let the size fool you....
Don't let the size fool you. Even with its small frame and engine, we were able to ride the Raptor 125 like a full-size machine.
Every day I can look into the ATVR email inbox or go to the forums on
and find someone who is having problems with their discount ATV. By "discount ATV" I mean the ones advertised at your major chain auto parts stores and club warehouse stores or even sold off of a trailer on a street corner near you. Sure, these machines seem like a steal, but in the long run they turn into a major headache because of their poor quality and lack of product support once you leave wherever you purchased them from. The only "warranties" people get with these seem to be "50/50," meaning 50 feet or 50 seconds from purchase and that is it. Machines like these are what turn people off from the sport of ATV riding because they now have a bad taste in their mouths about the quality of ATVs.
But what's a guy to do? Many of these consumers are just being introduced into the motorsports market and want an inexpensive machine that offers sporty looks and true performance at a decent price. This is where Yamaha comes into the picture with the debut of its new entry-level sport ATV, the Raptor 125.
The people at the blue powerhouse have employees dedicated to researching the latest trends in the ATV market and paid great attention to the demands for a quality starter ATV. To give the public what they felt is the best machine to put their hard-earned money toward, the engineers at Yamaha decided to begin with the chassis setup from the hugely popular Raptor 250. While the chassis is compact and a perfect size for younger riders, many adults can easily throw a leg over it and still feel comfortable. Utilizing the same setup for the Raptor 125 seemed to be the most logical choice considering the target consumer. Subtle changes to the handlebar, controls and seat from the Raptor 250 specifically accommodate younger riders age 16 and up since this was designed as a starter machine.
Not only is the chassis capable of accommodating riders of various sizes, but it also features a proven suspension package that makes it handle like a true sport ATV. This is done through the dual A-arm setup in the front that offers 7.5 inches of travel and 7.9 inches at the rear swingarm. To ensure maximum traction is achieved and that riders can take full advantage of the handling capabilities, the Raptor 125 is outfitted with low-profile 18-inch rear and 19-inch front Maxxis tires. To ensure riders can stop no matter how hard or easy they ride the 125, Yamaha has outfitted it with triple hydraulic disc brakes that supply consistent stopping power in any conditions.
Since we've gone over the suspension and chassis of the Raptor 125, it's time to discuss the powerplant in this little monster. The air-cooled, two-valve, SOHC, 124cc engine is based off of Yamaha's proven TT-R125 and features a single-axis counterbalancer to reduce vibration at crucial points for an enjoyable ride. The 29mm Mikuni carburetor was chosen to provide excellent fuel delivery and throttle response across the board, but another advantage of the carburetor is a very light throttle pull for rider comfort. A DC-CDI ignition system designed specifically for the Raptor 125 engine also helps to maximize power output, and a three-chamber muffler similar to that of the Raptor 250 is light, quiet and proven to boost low-end power. To get the power from the piston to the rear wheels, a five-speed gearbox with manual clutch gives the flexibility to attack any terrain. This combination of components makes for a solid package that will suit the needs of riders who are just starting in the sport while remaining strong enough for when they gain more experience.
Visually the Raptor 125 is as sporty as any of its big brothers in Yamaha's sport ATV category with sharp and sleek body lines and a very unique look. The Raptor 125 comes in two color variations that offer three distinct looks for the owner. The first is the traditional Team Yamaha blue/white fenders while the second is white with the option of running two different graphics kits. One kit being a skull-pattern graphics kit leaning more toward boys while the other is a sharp-looking pink tribal pattern. No matter which you choose, you're sure to get what you like.
With as many features as the Raptor 125 has to offer, you'd be hard pressed to find a cheap mass-produced Chinese or Taiwanese knock-off that can come close to being comparable. Coming from a leading manufacturer in the ATV industry means there is a service, parts and aftermarket outlet for those who buy this machine, unlike those other alternatives. What also separates the Raptor 125 from the countless backyard vendors is the $3,399 MSRP, but you need to take into consideration all the above-mentioned benefits.
So we could reach our own opinion on the new sport machine and its capabilities, Yamaha invited ATVR along with other media outlets to the Ventura County Fairgrounds Raceway in Ventura, California, to throw a leg over the Raptor 125 on a custom-made scaled-down motocross track. This track featured a few small tabletop jumps, whoop section, tight hairpin turns and even a fast high-speed sweeping turn where we could really hang it out. The weather was perfect and the track was perfect, so I quickly geared up and picked out my machine. After making sure all of the controls were to my liking, I turned the key to the on position and pressed the electric start button that brought the machine to life.
I let the engine warm up for a few minutes, then clicked into first gear and made my way onto the track. Standing at over six feet tall and weighing in over 200 pounds I make the Raptor 125 look like a toy, but while getting around the track I felt extremely comfortable. The only time I ever felt cramped was when taking extremely tight right-hand turns, which has to do with my body positioning and the throttle placement. The compactness of the Raptor 125 makes the machine very light, which is noticeable in jumping as I was able to throw the quad around off of jumps and set up for corners in midair coming off of a jump with ease. As much as I like the handling of the Raptor 250 (and I've had plenty of seat time on one), it was no surprise for me that I took so quickly to the nimble 125.
The one thing about this machine that I was pleasantly surprised with was the power output of the 124cc engine. While it was far from being able to yank my arms out of their sockets when I stabbed the throttle, it had plenty of power to pull me around the track without sounding like it was really struggling. The only time I would feel the little Raptor struggle is when I miscalculated my speed into a corner and expected too much out of it. A quick downshift of the transmission and the situation was instantly remedied as the engine revved again and had the wheels spinning. The carburetion from the 29mm Mikuni seemed perfect; there were no hiccups anywhere in the powerband and it definitely had a very light throttle pull so my thumb never felt overworked.
As the day wore on and everyone continued to burn lap after lap on the tight course, the corners became very packed in and developed a blue groove. This is where the Maxxis tires proved themselves as great for every condition. In the early part of the day the track was very tacky and traction came with no problem, yet as the day wore on and the surface dried out, the tires had no problem getting traction and keeping the machine moving forward. Even in the long sweeping corner at one end of the track I could pin the throttle in third gear and confidently power-slide through the entire thing with ease. Overall this machine was not only winning me over but it appeared to win over everyone else in the group. I even sat back to watch Yamaha factory racer Dustin Nelson burn off multiple laps making this machine seem as fast as his race-prepped YFZ450R.
As I had a full day to spend aboard the Raptor 125, I feel this machine has lived up to every one of my expectations in the way of performance, handling and comfort. Yamaha took a bold step to make a machine that would compete with inexpensive mass-produced ATVs and restore the public's faith in entry-level products. While the Raptor 125 outshines all others in this segment, the MSRP of this machine may still seem high for consumers who are gun-shy buying into a machine for a new hobby. If you happen to be one of those consumers who are on the fence about getting an ATV from your local corner vendor or going into your nearest Yamaha dealer, I highly suggest the latter of the two choices. You'll receive a much higher-quality product that will last much longer, has a parts network that can keep your machine running for years and is made by a company that takes the time to produce a product worthy of your hard-earned dollars.
Spec Chart: 2011 Yamaha Raptor 125
Retail Price: $3,399
Type: 4-stroke, SOHC, 2-valve single
Fuel system: Mikuni 29mm BSR carb
Drive system: 428 sealed O-ring chain, eccentric adjustment, 2x4
Transmission: 5-speed, wet multiplate clutch
Front: Independent dual A-arms with five-way preload-adjustable shocks/7.5 in.
Front: Maxxis AT19x6-10/dual hydraulic discs
Rear: Maxxis AT18x9-8/hydraulic disc
Ground clearance: 3.3 in.
Length/width/height: 63.4/40.0/39.8 in.
Lighting: Single headlight and brake light
Colors: Team Yamaha blue/white; white with choice of graphics
|2011 Yamaha Raptor 125
||Plenty of fun power, good handling, product
||High price for target market.
||A fun bike for all skill levels of riders from a
||reputable company to back the product.