The new KTM RC 125 is targeted at a segment of riders who have just got into motorcycling, more likely with a brand new driver's licence. For the millennial motorcycle rider, the brand, performance, styling and statement all hold equal importance, or so it seems. And that is the target audience KTM wants to woo with the strikingly stylish KTM RC 125. It looks great, has the presence of its bigger siblings and will certainly endear itself to the college-going young adult.
Also Read: KTM 125 Duke First Ride Review
The RC 125 however isn't just about looks alone. In fact, it shares almost every single component with its bigger, and more performance-oriented siblings - the KTM RC 200 and the KTM RC 390; except, of course, the 125 cc engine. And so, it's positioned as a beginner's sportbike, offering an entry into the KTM RC family, but with easy accessibility and a level of performance that will not be intimidating to young riders. But does it have what it takes to attract the millennial motorcyclist? We spent a few laps around Bajaj Auto's test track in Chakan, on the outskirts of Pune to try to get a sense of what the RC 125 offers.
Design and Features
If it's one thing the KTM RC 125 has in spades, it is presence. Any angle you look at it, it oozes stylish elegance and quality, and it has a level of fit and finish that immediately endears you to the bike. It's edgy, sporty, and definitely a headturner. The bodywork is shared with the RC 200 and RC 390, but it now gets new body graphics with bold decals on the fuel tank, and on the fairing. It's available in a choice of two attractive colours - white and orange. And each shade looks striking in its own way.
On the features list, the RC 125 gets a LCD panel which offers all necessary readings like rev counter, speedometer, odometer and a click. Suspension is sourced from WP, and braking duties are handled by 300 mm disc on the front wheel and a 200 mm disc on the rear wheel, with single-channel ABS. The trellis frame is the same as the bigger RC siblings, as is the aluminium swingarm. In fact, the RC 125 shares everything with its bigger family members, the only difference being, of course, the 125 cc engine, which is shared with the KTM 125 Duke.
Performance and Handling
The 125 cc engine puts out modest figures - 14.3 bhp of maximum power at 9,250 rpm, and 12 Nm of peak torque at 8,000 rpm. The engine will rev through the gears effortlessly and you will only realise it's time to upshift when the rev limiter kicks in, reminding you that there's only so much performance on tap. Out on the back straight of Chakan, we saw a speedo indicated top speed of 124 kmph, before it was time to brake and dip into the last corner. Out in the real world though, anything above 100 kmph will take time and a long stretch of road to achieve. Eighty to ninety kilometres an hour is the RC 125's sweet spot, and it doesn't have aggressive performance and acceleration which will be welcomed by young riders with their first set of wheels.
The next series of corners on the Chakan test track immediately confirmed the baby RC's genes. Handling is what it excels in, and during the first lap, I was left struggling to find the correct gear to carry enough speed through the successive left-right corners before the straight to the bowl at the far end of the track. After a couple of laps, it began to dawn on me, that this may be based on the KTM 125 Duke, but it's still a different bike. Part of that difference is due to the 12 kg weight difference.
Even though the RC remains planted and stable around corners, it still doesn't have that lively performance the 125 Duke had entertained me with. The suspension and chassis are up to the task to take on corners even more aggressively, but the engine loses out on steam, and that is a bit of a disappointment. The MRF REVZ tyres offer decent grip, even under hard braking, but they aren't as grippy as, say, a pair of Pirellis or Metzelers would have been. But that's not the point. The MRF tyres will definitely offer more life, and no beginner will scrape knees around a racetrack on the RC125.
The KTM RC 125 makes a very strong case as an entry-level sportbike. It's got the looks to make heads turn, and will be the perfect companion to make a statement in college. It's got great dynamics to make a young adult get comfortable with a sport bike, and most of all where the RC 125 scores is in its styling, easy accessibility and unintimidating performance. And after about a year's ownership of the RC 125, you could think of graduating to something with more performance, perhaps within the same family -like the KTM RC 200 or even the KTM RC 390.
But there's a price to be paid for those edgy, stylish looks and sharp handling. At ₹ 1.47 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), It's a full ₹ 17,000 more expensive than the KTM 125 Duke, and if it comes down to bragging rights about output and performance, the 155 cc Yamaha YZF-R15 Version 3.0 is still ₹ 7,000 less expensive than the RC 125. And the Yamaha offers at least around 5 bhp more power and a slightly better top speed as well.
For marginally less performance, superb road manners, is it worth the extra moolah? Now, that's a difficult question with no straight answer, particularly when you look at its target customer. But then, it's equally difficult to understand the millennial motorcycle rider. But we'll tell you this. If you have the budget, and you've just got your driver's licence, the KTM RC 125 could be just right for you, with proper full-faired sportbike looks.
Photos: Pawan Dagia