Testing a GP Honda RS125 Two-Stoke – The Blind Date I’ll Not Forget

Testing a GP Honda RS125 Two-Stoke - Vicki Gray

Testing a GP Honda RS125 Two-Stoke – Vicki Gray

It is exciting to say, that I have now officially ridden an authentic GP Bike! A Honda RS125 two-stroke, 1996.  All arranged by friend Dave Hughes here in Ontario. It’s not one of Dave’s own bikes but a loaner from a friend just to see how it and I get along. A blind date you could say. We were able to use John Dempsey’s paddock facilities for staging and setup of the bike. So Dave and I met at Shannonville.

Due to delays in registration I missed two of the track morning sessions yet was able to get out there just before lunch in my masters Vintage GP class. It was a ride of just 13 minutes (as was each session that day).  This was the first time I’d ever been on the Shannonville track. Admittedly my track “frame of mind” was rusty, as I hadn’t been on the circuit since last August 2006. On top of that was the added attempt of trying out a two-stroke motorcycle. Similar to my off-road Dutch Husqvarna, a 2-stroke, captivating-ly different. And as I later discovered, addictive!

After a few laps I started to understand the Shannonville Pro Track lines as I aimed to keep the wee Honda RS125 in its maximum power band. I had to watch its temperature gauge as if it went above 60 degrees I had to come into the pits. I continued to struggle at getting a feel for the gear range; its power-band. Equally challenging, the bike’s braking, without using the engine (as in my former Husqvarna 250 two-stroke off-road bike) and its equipped one front disc brake. The bike was beautifully light. That of course, took little to get to use to.

And yes, the Honda 125RS had to be pushed to start and if you didn’t keep it idling yourself, it stalled (also out on the track when in the wrong power).  With all this in my rusty-skills-basket- my lap times were slow. When I came in to the paddock, I wasn’t displaying much “fun” factor as, in my case there were too many things settling around in my mind.  Plus I had “sit” challenges which kept me sliding, mostly forward, on the bike. When my rear was against the back of the seat all fit and manoeuvred well. To fix this we folded up John’s rain suit and using race tape, attached it to the tank acting as a big cushion preventing me from sliding forward (the beer belly effect). I observed already that the classic, vintage and truly experienced riders think much differently than “modern machinery” riders. A mindset that’s always about altering the motorcycle to the person. This was something I’d come to understand during my first racing year in 1998.

Out I went again, this time better.  My fake “beer belly” kept me in the seat and I started to get a feel for managing the two-stroke methods. Learning, and then some, I said to myself- that’s what it’s all about. I think I had a total of five on-track  sessions. I stole some laps in the novice sessions taking advantage of all the time I could get on the Honda RS125. I felt the novice class riders would have more patience for my starter lap times than the others (all were practicing for the regional competition this weekend).  Most the bikes around me were new model 600’s.

The defining moment occurred while entering one particular corner and my speed was as high if not higher than the particular 600’s in the corner with me – but I was on a two-stroke 125cc! Now that was a great feeling. I’ve always understood the higher corner speed abilities of lighter bikes;  in fact on a 125cc and a 250cc you truly learn the skills of high-speed cornering.   
With more experience on the bike, I could very easily had given the “big bikes” a run. Especially on Shannonville as from what I could see, it’s not a real fast track it’s about cornering speed, entrance and exit skills.

Another habit requiring adjusting in my case was to get on full throttle before the exit of a corner. No wheel spin as there’s just not enough horsepower or torque. I was working with about 60hp. I hadn’t even taken this into account as I’d been so conditioned with Supersport 600 racing tactics where available brake horsepower was 161 (my former Ten Kate race-bike).  What a confident feeling, once it sunk in.

Last session resulted in my true progression. It was evident I was evolving and more relaxed – my smiles were definitely bigger! Though I was still slow  compared to others, I was still satisfied. Again, my last track practise was zero in the past 24 months. Yet in the form of a true racer, I did not leave the track empty handed and passed a few riders in some great spots giving my a boost to my ole self esteem.

Most certainly I loved the ride sensation of the GP Honda RS125 2-stroke! What a kick and so different from all I’ve experienced or know.
So Dave, my question now is- may I have some more?

Special note of thanks to Michelle Duff  for putting all this in play.


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