2019 KTM RC 125 first ride review
When KTM launched the 125 Duke in India, it was a given that its fully-faired sibling will show up too. KTM India's silent goodbye to the RC 200 also created space for the KTM RC 125. Not that it replaces the more powerful RC 200 directly, but in a way it does, as effectively it is the entry-level sportsbike from KTM in India now.
TheRC 125 has been launched at a price of Rs 1.47 lakh ex-showroom which makes it an expensive proposition as an entry-level sportsbike, more so as a 125cc machine. Does it live up to its sticker price? We rode the RC 125 at Bajaj Auto's own test track near Pune to find out.
The RC 125's design is largely the same - let me rephrase that, the styling is exactly the same as we've seen on the RC 200 and older RC 390 both. But this time the paint schemes on offer are orange and white schemes.
The orange is vibrant while the white is low key. Overall paint quality is premium, also thanks to the choice of colors. Panel gaps are consistent and plastic bits are overlaid well.
Walking towards the motorcycle didn't feel very different than walking up to my own motorcycle though, which is an RC 390, and the 125 didn't feel different hopping onto it either. That said, one of the first things I noticed was the lack of adjustable brake and clutch levers. The dashboard is largely the same though as the instrument cluster is the same LCD screen we've seen since KTM's entry into the Indian market. Quality of the switchgear is excellent as well and is particularly impressive for what effectively is a 125cc motorcycle.
Performance and Rideability
The RC 125 is effectively the 125 Duke with a fairing and if you're familiar with the naked motorcycle, the good news is that you already know half the bike. The 125cc liquid-cooled engine churning out 14.5PS at 9,250rpm and 12Nm of torque at 8,000rpm which of course is the same as the 125 Duke. Sounds underwhelming? We'll get to that later. But first, the motor is refined and is happy to climb all the way up to the limiter.
Even with extra body panels, vibration does not creep into the handlebars or footpegs very easily, which impresses. Peak power is available in the upper echelons of the rev band, but with that said bottom end performance is adequate, though the RC 125 truly feels alive when you're transitioning from mid-revs to the top.
But here's the tricky part. My initial impression was that the bike is slow, all the way from the moment I released the clutch until I felt a buzz from the footpegs and clip-on handlebars. And a big reason behind this belief is that somewhere in your head you're thinking that the cycle parts sourced from the bigger 200s are a little too heavy for the puny 125cc mill to haul.
But barely moments later, banging a few gears up close to the engine's redline and putting all the ponies to use, I found that the RC 125 hits 100kmph with ease. What's even more impressive is the fact that power delivery is very linear and friendly. This might sound uncharacteristic for a KTM machine, but it is obvious the manufacturer has ensured the RC 125 will not scare inexperienced riders.
The RC 125 also sheds speeds easily, equipped with a 300mm single disc up front and a 230mm disc at the rear (the setup has impressed us on the KTM RC 200 already). Of course, this time around the brakes only have to manage a motorcycle with half the power and a lower top speed, so hauling the RC 125 down to a full stop from triple-digit speeds is no sweat. The 125 only gets single-channel ABS though, and I would have appreciated a dual channel system better given the better safety net.
Chassis and Suspension
The RC 125's chassis is a tubular trellis frame that offers ample feedback, courtesy which the bike felt surefooted while hunting for apexes. In fact, it does not feel unnerving at any point of time and also feels very agile. In fact, the feel and feedback had me get carried away at one point by carrying too much speed into a corner, though luckily for me I was riding on a closed circuit. The same mistake on a public road could have landed me into trouble. But effectively, that's how confident the RC 125 is you cannot put it down by calling it 'just' a 125, as it feels just as confident in terms of handling as its elder siblings.
The planted feel and stability through Bajaj's test track can also be credited to the RC 125's well-tuned suspension. The bike tips the scales at the 160kg kerb and is a few kilograms shy of the 390's weight which also aids is light and nimble feel. I have to mention, the RC 125's suspension setup and steering geometry are apt for track use, though a judgment on ride quality can only be made once we get the motorcycle for a full road test and ride it on public roads.
The KTM RC 125 is a good bike for inexperienced riders to cut their teeth in the exciting world of fully-faired sports bikes. It is a motorcycle that will help novices hone their cornering skills with its confident handling without scaring themselves. More importantly, you cannot underestimate the potential it holds, particularly on the handling front, as it comes from the stable of KTM, a manufacturer that is a force to reckon with in the sportbike world.
That said it is a 125cc motorcycle only and the resultant engine outputs might just be a little too meager for many riders, as a long term commitment, especially at its price point. In fact at its price of Rs 1.47 lakh ex-showroom the KTM RC 125 costs about Rs 8,000 more than the Yamaha YZF-R15 which is a more powerful motorcycle and a highly accomplished sportsbike as well. A lower price point for the RC 125 should thus help KTM tap into the bottom rung of the sportsbike market better.