2011 Yamaha Raptor 125 Review

Sporty little Raptor aimed at new riders

Story by Jeff M. Vanasdal, Photography by Adam Campbell, Video by Michael Nardi, Sep. 21, 2010

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Yamaha is known for being innovative and willing to introduce something completely new to the ATV world. With the Raptor 250, Yamaha opened up opportunities for riders new to sport ATVs and proved to be a huge success. Now Yamaha has taken another step in luring new riders to the sport with the all-new Raptor 125.

The Raptor 125 was designed to be the perfect machine to make the transition from moving up from a 90cc ATV. Yamaha felt that the jump from 90cc to 250cc was significant and decided to do what no other major manufacturer had tried – build a true entry-level sport quad. Not only did Yamaha design the Raptor 125 for those wanting to make an easier transition from a 90cc machine, Yamaha also noticed that the majority of the ATV’s in the range of 90cc-250cc were being built with questionable quality by off-shore companies.

While there are some import ATVs that have good parts availability, often times it’s difficult to find parts if and when something breaks. If a part does break on one of these imports the consumer may be stuck with little more than a push toy. Yamaha wanted to make a product for this segment that not only has the quality we’ve come to expect from a major manufacturer, but also the dealer network and parts availability the consumer needs.

2011 Yamaha Raptor 125

Ever since we got word of the new 2011 Yamaha Raptor 125, we’ve been counting down the days until we got to throw a leg over the new machine. Fortunately, Yamaha answered the call by asking us to come out to the west coast to put the new Raptor through its paces.

Be sure to check out our HD video review of the Raptor 125 here.

Yamaha’s custom-built track was the perfect place to showcase the newest Raptor.

Ventura, Calif. is where we would get the chance to check out and ride the all-new Yamaha Raptor 125. Set right on the beach, Yamaha built a custom track at the Ventura Fairgrounds. This is the home of the Ventura Raceway that is known for hosting a variety of racing events, including sprint car and flat track nationals.  The custom track Yamaha had prepared for us featured long sweeping corners, tight berms, a few table tops, and a whoop section. Once we got settled in at the track we got geared up and readied ourselves for a fantastic day of riding.

Right off the bat the first thing you notice is that the Raptor 125 looks fantastic.  Modeled after its big brother, the Raptor 250, it is easy to see the similarities in looks. Although the 125 has slightly different styling you can definitely tell the Raptor 125 belongs to the Raptor legacy. Aggressive plastic lines are matched by a very stylish headlight. These two characteristics make the Raptor 125 look more like a full-size ATV. In addition to the standard Yamaha Team Blue color scheme Yamaha also offers a white Raptor 125 with two graphic kits to choose from; a skull and flames kit, as well as pink graphics to meet both boys and girls likings.

Because the Raptor 125 is so light, it’s ridiculously easy to flick around.

To our surprise the Raptor 125 has excellent power for a 125cc machine. Although it doesn’t have as much power as the 250, it will still get you around the track faster than you’d expect. Even for some of the heavier riders weighing in at over 200 lbs The Raptor 125 didn’t seem to lag in the engine department!

Some of this performance can be attributed to a 30-pound weight reduction compared to the Raptor 250. This improves the power-to-weight ratio, making for excellent acceleration and impressive handling.  The Yamaha Raptor 125 shares the same engine as the Yamaha TTR125 dirt bike, but it has some modifications to make the engine better suited for an ATV.  A different exhaust system, carburetor and cams are all ATV-specific.

We found the Raptor 125 to have very light steering, which was emphasized by the tight track we were ripping up. With little effort you can kick the back end loose around corners giving that feeling of riding a bigger bike. Try doing that on one of the knock off brand ATVs! Even in the air the Raptor 125 is easy to control. As you can see from some of the photos we could easily whip the Raptor 125 over even the smallest jumps.

Though it’s not a powerhouse, catching a little air is no trouble for the peppy little Raptor 125.

While out on the track we never experienced any bottoming out of the shocks. The shocks and A-arms that Yamaha chose to use were taken directly from the Raptor 250. The front five-way adjustable shocks boast 7.5" of front wheel travel that gives the rider a very plush ride. As Yamaha put it “You will run out of motor before you ever run out of suspension on this ATV.” Yamaha wanted this machine to be well suited for any weight of rider. The shocks do a very nice job soaking up bumps and they did a great job going over whooped out sections.

Adjustable suspension and quality Maxxis tires help keep the Raptor’s handling spot on.

Yamaha and Maxxis collaborated to come up with the tires that are fitted to the Raptor 125. Measuring 19 x 6-10 in the front and 18 x 9-8 tires in the rear these tire sizes where chosen to help improve cornering and to provide excellent traction. While riding the 125 we never had any problems with the tires not hooking up and they allowed us to break the rear end loose when we wanted to.

Over the last couple of years we have spent a lot of time on the Yamaha Raptor 250. We’ve logged many miles in the woods and countless laps on the motocross track, in addition to building up a Project Raptor 250 for an ATV.com exclusive giveaway. Needless to say we were curious to find out how the Raptor 125 would compare to its bigger brother.

Overall we feel the Raptor 125 not only does a successful job of filling the void of high quality ATVs in between 90cc and 250cc, but it also makes for a great ATV for a beginner rider. One thing we would like to see in the future is the option to choose piggyback reservoirs on the shocks like the new 2011 Raptor 250. We feel that having that option would take the littlest Raptor to the next level. It would also be an advantage to those interested in getting into racing. Classes are already in place for motocross and cross country racing and the Raptor 125 seems like it would be a natural fit for the young racer.

With its attractive price tag ($3,399), light weight and five-speed transmission, the Raptor 125 looks to us like a great introductory model to anyone wanting to get into the sport ATV world. Having the support of a major manufacturer and a vast dealer network sets this machine apart from the crowd.

Don’t be put off by the smallish engine. There is no way you won’t have a blast taming his Raptor.

Related Reading
Yamaha Raptor 125 High-Definition Video
2011 Yamaha ATV Lineup Unveiled

2009 Yamaha Raptor 250 Review
Yamaha Raptor 250 Project - Overview

 
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