2011 Yamaha Raptor 125: Pint-Sized Power!

Home Page Slide Show, Sport, Yamaha — on January 27, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Yamaha’s latest version of the Raptor sport quad is an all-new concept and product for the ATV market. A manual-shift 16-plus sport quad from a

2011 Yamaha Raptor 125

2011 Yamaha Raptor 125

major manufacturer with this low of an engine displacement is uncharted territory, at least for the major manufacturers.

The 2011 Raptor 125 is the fifth machine to wear the dinosaur moniker and could be the most enticing model to date. The Raptor 700R has the power. The Raptor 350 has the longevity. The Raptor 250 set the agility bar for this family. The smallest Raptor in the family targets the youth market. And two other relatives cater to 450cc and performance enthusiasts.

A closer inspection of the most diverse sport quad lineup in the industry shows one glaring void. Where’s the machine for riders who have mastered the Raptor 90, but aren’t ready for the Raptor 250 or 250R?  Yamaha has filled that hole with the fun-loving, entry-level Raptor 125.

Yamaha describes the Raptor 125 as a “step-up ATV” that will cater to both new and existing customers. It makes sense on the learning curve (riding experience) front, too, but even more so when you factor in the price difference between the Raptor 90 ($2,699) and Raptor 250 ($4,599). Affordability is huge, especially these days. And now the Raptor 125 ($3,399) gives Yamaha an attractive model at an affordable price.

The Raptor 125 also far exceeds off-brand ATVs at similar displacement levels. After all, Yamaha has its dealer and parts network, its heritage and proven brand to back it up. In fact, Yamaha went so far as to describe the Raptor 125 as a long-term model. Put simply, that means it won’t fall apart and leave you searching for parts and dealer support. Yamaha also offers a full line of accessories to make it even better.

Let’s take a closer look at the Raptor 125, a machine we tested on a custom track at the Ventura Raceway in Southern California.

The energetic engine can easily haul around a full-sized adult.

The energetic engine can easily haul around a full-sized adult.

2011 Yamaha Raptor 125: ENGINE

Yamaha said it wanted to maintain the fun factor that was established with the Raptor 250 and carry over its power-to-weight ratio and precise handling. The Raptor 125 uses a new two-valve 124cc air-cooled four-stroke based off of the Yamaha TT-R125 dirt bike powerplant and features the same bore (54mm), stroke (54mm) and compression ratio (10:1).

More than two years ago, Yamaha said its testing showed the TT-R engine was good in a quad frame, but said the power characteristics didn’t work for the ATV. That’s why the Raptor 125 wears its own carburetor (Mikuni 29mm BSR), exhaust and cam timing.

The engine easily fires via electric start. A sealed 428 series O-ring chain drives the rear wheels and can be adjusted using Yamaha’s trademark eccentric adjustment system. The stock gearing is 14/48 and offers the best balance of good low-end torque and the ability to pull heavier riders. And Yamaha was not overly concerned with building huge top-end numbers, though the Raptor’s maximum speed shouldn’t disappoint.

Yamaha characterizes a true sport ATV as having a manual transmission. In other words, the Raptor 125 doesn’t have a scooter engine. “[A manual transmission] allows you to have more control of the environment you’re in, to hold a gear longer, rev the engine, spin the tires and create a more exciting environment,” said Travis Hollins, Yamaha’s ATV and side-by-side product planning manager.

“A CVT doesn’t do that,” added Steve Butler, Yamaha’s testing manager. “With five speeds [the Raptor 125] gives you a gear for every situation. We wanted to get that broad power to better match with the Raptor ATV style.”

We really enjoyed the Raptor’s zip. While not overpowering, it was strong enough to literally pull around a full-size adult, and that’s saying something. First gear, though quick to rev out, was hearty and good for the 90-degree hairpin corners on the test track built by Yamaha. We spent most of our time in second and third gear and only hit fourth gear a few times. The little thumper loves to be revved and ridden hard, but could easily be lugged in third around almost the entire track.

We couldn’t test top speed on the tight test track where Yamaha’s media introduction was held, but we don’t think entry-level machines need big top-end numbers anyway. We’d rather have more torque and traction for exiting corners.

2011 Yamaha Raptor 125: CHASSIS/SUSPENSION

Because of its smaller engine, overall design and other setup changes, the 125 is 30 pounds lighter than the 250, but uses the same frame. The

Yamaha's eccentric chain adjustment keeps maintenance easy.

Yamaha's eccentric chain adjustment keeps maintenance easy.

machine, which is now the lightest adult quad in the industry, also uses the Raptor 250’s A-arms, swingarm and shocks.

According to Yamaha, the existing package offered the most fun and comfortable setup for the 125 and allows it to be ridden aggressively without fear of bottoming it out. The double A-arm front suspension supplies 7.5 inches of travel and has five-way preload adjustable shocks. The swingarm features a single shock, with threaded preload and 7.9 inches of wheel travel.

Although it’s technically a small adult quad, it’s very durable (don’t let the skinny waist fool you). Yamaha said a portion of its testing included adding the simulated weight of a rider and lifting a machine 30 feet in the air before dropping it. This frame and suspension testing, it says, is second to none and ensures its ATVs — especially one as small as the 125 — can withstand the rigors of off-road riding and large adult riders.

During our test day, the Raptor’s suspension withstood our 200-pound rider’s weight and absorbed every harsh hit, rutted corner and flat landing we could find. Although the track was a combination of a dirt track course and mini motocross park, it was ideal for this machine. Whether it was a wide sweeping corner, single jump or small kicker-type whoops, the shocks held up to our weight, riding style and the track conditions. We noticed the narrow 40-inch width a few times in the tight corners, but that width should be handy in a dense forest.

2011 Yamaha Raptor 125: Tires/Braking

2011 Yamaha Raptor 125

2011 Yamaha Raptor 125

In terms of handling, traction and control, the Raptor 125 is different than the Raptor 250, too. It has new tires and wheel sizes and tread patterns that Yamaha developed to achieve a desired result. “Instead of using the Raptor 250 tires,” explained Butler, “we wanted to reduce the rotational mass of the rear wheels to liven up the engine, allow for quicker revs and make sliding more fun.”

The front end wears 19- by 6-inch Maxxis tires that look very similar to another Maxxis rubber, the Razr Cross. The rear hubs have an all-new 18-inch tire with a custom tread pattern, too, but this design is special to the Raptor 125. The rear tire, which was designed to be universal for a wide variety of terrain, sits on an 8-inch wheel.

The 125’s disc brakes and calipers are smaller, too. This change was made because it contributed to the overall weight reduction, which also meant less stopping power up front was needed. Even so, the front brakes are strong (capable of stoppies) and reliable. This unit also includes the single-hand-operated flip-style parking brake seen on larger Raptor models.

One true test for the rear tires (in both traction and handling) was to power around the track’s huge sweeper. This blue-grooved corner was best approached pinned in third gear. The Raptor 125 didn’t disappoint. It just kept pulling and we never had to worry about over sliding or getting off the throttle to control the Yamaha. It was spot on! The short sidewall and 18-inch rear tire is a good fit for this machine. The only time we felt it was overmatched was when we pushed wide in a loamy corner. That’s when we’d hear the tires spin and the engine wail as the machine searched for more traction.

2011 Yamaha Raptor 125: Ergonomics/Miscellaneous

“Our target customer is typically a lower skill-level rider,” Hollins said, “and we wanted to be sure to build a cockpit/ergonomics package that was

2011 Yamaha Raptor 125

2011 Yamaha Raptor 125

more suited to that type of rider.”

Even though the 125 targets entry-level riders, it can accommodate both beginners and highly skilled vets — that’s no joke!

To improve the ergonomics, new handlebar positioning was used. After testing various handlebar heights and bends, the design crew decided to move the bars down 19mm and back 13 mm (around half an inch) compared to the Raptor 250. Combine that with the super-low 28.1-inch seat height (which is a half inch shorter than the 250) and the rider always feels as if he or she is in a sporty riding position and low to the ground.

This Raptor has its own look, one that includes a single 35-watt headlight in the front cowl and not the trademark Raptor nose and dual headlamp configuration. We’re OK with that and we like the fresh design. You can get the Raptor 125 in a Yamaha Blue plastic or opt for the customizable white-and-black plastic. The latter includes a dual graphic kit (masculine or feminine designs).

Of course this ATV is small and feels that way, but it offered surprising comfort for such an entry-level machine. Even heavy (230 pounds) and tall (6-foot 4-inch) riders came back with smiles on their faces. Typically, a small-bore sport ATV is fun for maybe an hour or so, but the Raptor 125 provided nearly all-day comfort. And its 2.4-gallon fuel tank seemed large enough for this ATV, too, and kept us on the track for hours at a time.

The 125cc ATV Craze

The Raptor 125 is the first of its kind for any major manufacturer and it would dominate any small-bore, off-brand machine that came before it. It’s an authentic sport quad with a huge fun factor, a usable suspension and solid five-speed manual transmission. Whether you’re a beginner or expert or a small rider with a fat wallet or a big rider with a tiny budget, the Raptor 125 can entertain and surprise you with its price and performance.

More importantly, with Yamaha’s 125 and 250 Raptors, the sport quad market has been given new life. Future generations can now grow on a machine and pick an entry-level quad that best suits them. However, the 125’s broad reach and appeal is a great thing for the struggling sport quad market. Now, many riders (even the more experienced ones) can enter the market within budget and still find just enough comfort and performance.

And the smile on their face will tell them the money was well spent.

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