Honda SL125 – A Dirt Bike On The Right Track


If you stand still long enough, someone somewhere will Chop, Bob Café Race or customize any bike you can possibly think of and probably some you can’t.

The recent trend to ‘dirt’ things up is producing some very usable looking bikes that look cool enough to separate you from the herd on the way to work and tough enough for dirt track duty.

But while we’re doing our best to give bikes the dirt make over, lets not forget what awesome inspiration the golden oldies from the 50’s and 60’s provided us with. You only have to look at the gorgeous lines of this 1952 AJS, all it needs to make it a full on Bobber is a set of road tires.

Honda SL125

It was this kind of inspiration that Honda drew on when they released their starter range of trail bikes. Admittedly, their very first efforts were quite literally push bikes with an engine but by the time the early 70’s arrived, to take advantage of America’s love of off-roading, Honda produced the SL125.

With an 18’’ rear tire and 21’’ upfront, the tiny 4-stroke was only in production from 1971 to 1973 but in that short time, like all cool bikes, developed a loyal following. Ok, the 12 horse power engine was never going to light up any drag strips, but it could rev to 9k and was lighter than a nightclub bouncer.

Featuring long travel suspension, high guards and an in-exhaust spark arrester, mandatory for off-roading in woodlands (in the USA at least), the diminutive trail bike was an instant success.

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Confession time, I actually owned one of these when I was 16, it was my very first bike and I loved it to death. Those 12 horses felt more like an entire herd of stallions and I’d ride that sucker on a 200 mile round trip every weekend. When the tires wore out I bought the biggest set of knobblies I could find, headed for the hills and had more fun than I thought was legally possible.


Obviously I’m looking back at my Honda SL125 with rose tinted binoculars but not everyone shared my enthusiasm. This is a quote from an American magazine called Dirt Bike, way back in the wonderfully un-politically correct days of the early 1970’s.

The title to the story kind of sets the tone for the rest of the article ‘’The SL125 Turtle Chaser- Honda’s Inoffensive Little FooFoo Bike. It’s probably the slowest full-sized dirt bike in existence, “said the magazine. “If you put a wrench on the engine twice a year, it will last forever and ever because it’s gutless. ‘’

Needless to say, you shouldn’t believe all you read, the Honda SL125 went straight to the top of the US best seller list.

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