To BeeWee or not to BeeWee

20:11, Aug 26 2012
Yamaha Bee Wee
Big lamps: Seasoned commuters will know how useful these are.
Yamaha Bee Wee
Simple clocks: They tell you everything you need to know.
Yamaha Bee Wee
Yamaha Bee Wee: It looks like one of Barbie’s scooters magnified to adult human size.

The name may rhyme rather childishly with "pee-wee" but there's not much else that's wrong with the rest of Yamaha's BeeWee YW125 scooter.

Made in Taiwan, the YW (I'll steadfastly decline to call it a BeeWee from now on) exhibits a more industrial sense of style than most urban runabouts and looks like it could be clad in a camo paint scheme and dropped from a helicopter as a support vehicle for our troops in Afghanistan.

It's certainly the more masculine of the two Yamaha 125cc four-stroke scooters on the New Zealand market, and the yin-bike to the yang of its Cynus NXC125 sibling.

Like most four-grand scooters on the market, the Cynus looks like one of Barbie's scooters magnified to adult human size, and lacks the more structurally-robust appearance of the YW. Tail-lights that look like the afterburners of an F-18 fighter jet, a stacked pair of bug-eyed headlights and exposed frame tubes all confirm the YW125's intention to become an urban mobility solution for the human equivalent of Action Man.

Yamaha deserves credit for injecting one of its pair of toy-like 125cc scooters with the testosterone that the rest of the middleweight scooter sector lacks.

However, there are some penalties to be paid for the more aggressive sense of style. The six-litre fuel reservoir of the YW holds more than a litre less petrol than the 7.1-litre tank of the Cynus, the rear suspension has less wheel travel and produces a choppier ride, the seat is less comfortable, and the front disc brake has a rotor of slightly smaller diameter. With the prices of both Yamaha 125s pegged at $4299, the decision between them will be decided by weighing up the extra comfort and practicality of the Cynus against the more distinctive design of the YW. For me, that's an easy decision to make; I'm male, and like to engage on an emotional level with my motor vehicles. I'll take the one-kilogram-heavier YW thanks, and will probably make similar noises to the sound effects of the war games that I played as a kid when I ride it.


Now you may think such childish reverberations within my helmet are the early signs of senility brought on by my advancing years, but it is genuinely hard not to experience a sense of playfulness when riding the YW125. I found myself extending trips to important meetings by taking side-tracks up some of Auckland's many volcanoes before arriving at my intended destination wearing a sheepish grin.

You can learn a lot about the priorities of life from the seat of this bike, and it is perhaps a better reliever of stress than any bottle of pills. A commute to work on a YW125 on the right day has got to be good for anyone's productivity and mental health.

Some of this is due to the character of the little Yamaha, which is enhanced by the use of an air-cooled single-cylinder engine that runs a 10.0:1 compression ratio, which makes it ready for a diet of 91 octane.

The single overhead camshaft architecture of the 4-valve top end gives the little single a wide band of torque that's perfectly suited to driving the CVT constantly variable automatic transmission. The performance that the air-cooled unit delivers is a match for many liquid-cooled 125cc scoots, but it comes with a thumping exhaust note and a slightly harsher nature that I find more endearing.

Vibration is generally well isolated, and the YW125 is never a buzzy little bee, even on the motorway. Ninety kmh is a sustainable cruising speed in the latter riding environment - perfect for Auckland's multi-lane network, but maybe a little slow for safe passage on less congested motorways in Wellington and Christchurch.

Around town, the YW125 has all the power it needs to see off the surrounding four-wheeled traffic from the lights. Urban speed limits are quickly achieved, and the accurate speedo helps keep things legal. Fuel consumption on test averaged 3.5 litres per 100km (81 miles per gallon), and the Yamaha will therefore require a refill every 170km or so.

A further reason to choose the YW over the Cynus is the fatter tyres fitted to the former. Both come with 12-inch wheels. However, the YW125 has the footprint of a proper motorcycle with its 120/70 front and 130/70 rear (Cynus: 110/70 front, 120/70 rear). Though this may create a bit more running cost expense at tyre replacement time, the extra grip is well worth paying for, especially when it comes to emergency stops where the linked disc/drum brake system of the Yamaha performs its duty well.

So what didn't I like about the YW125? The indicators sound like those of an early Morris Minor, and though the lockable underseat storage is supposedly sized to fit a single full-face helmet, it choked while trying to swallow my Arai Chaser. However, for those seeking a more distinctive-looking affordable middleweight that will cheer up any ride to work, the YW125 has much to recommend it.


Engine: 125cc air-cooled sohc 4-valve single stoked by electronic fuel injection; power and torque figures unavailable.

Transmission: CVT transmission, belt final drive.

Frame: tubular steel frame with engine mounted on rear swingarm, Unadjustable front forks and twin rear shocks.

Price: $4299.

Hot: About $700 cheaper than the Lambretta LN125 that offers similar performance; post-apocalypse looks will find favour with urban guerrillas; fat tyres enhance grip.

Not: The identically-priced Yamaha Cynus 125 offers more comfort, extra fuel range, and more underseat storage.