Motorcycles sure aren’t getting any simpler. With technology like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot detection trickling into the two-wheeled sector, consumers have more options than ever. On the other hand, very few riders fully utilize the latest industry innovations and others prefer to avoid such complexity.
Appealing to novice and experienced riders alike, the Honda Trail 125 and Yamaha TW200 present approachable alternatives to today’s high-tech models. Both diminutive dual-sports cling to air-cooled single-cylinder engines and minimal electronics, but the bLU cRU and Big Red take different paths to small-bike supremacy.
Honda’s CT/Trail line dates back to the 1961 CA100T/Trail 50, but the firm turned to its miniMOTO range for the modern-day revival. Sporting the same 125cc thumper as the ever-popular Grom, the 2022 Trail 125 captures all the charm and simplicity of yesteryear, but fuel injection adds convenience and ABS enhances safety.
Yamaha’s TW200 may not date back to the ‘60s, but the user-friendly trail bike has largely remained the same since its 1987 debut. The ‘Trail Way’ earned electric start and disc brakes in 2001, but it still favors a carburetor. That reluctance to adopt the latest tech hasn’t stopped the TW200 from getting more beginners on and off-road, though.
|2022 Honda Trail 125||2022 Yamaha TW200|
|Engine:||Air-cooled, SOHC, 125cc single||Air-cooled, SOHC, 196cc single|
|Bore and Stroke:||52.4mm x 57.9mm||67.0mm x 55.7mm|
|Performance:||8.8 hp/ 8.1 lb-ft||16 hp/ 11 lb-ft|
|Weight (wet):||259 pounds||278 pounds|
Tale of the Tape
The Trail 125 doesn’t just nip the Grom’s air-cooled, SOHC, 125cc single, it also borrows the underbone frame from its Super Cub relative. Settling into the 31.5-inch-high seat is even easier with that step-through frame, while the 259-pound curb weight makes the Trail easy to handle off the stand and on the go. A 27mm inverted fork provides 4.3 inches of travel at the front and twin rear shocks raise ground clearance to 6.5 inches and rear-wheel travel to 3.4 inches.
The Trail delivers nimble handling thanks to its 49.4-inch wheelbase and 27-degree rake, while the 1.4-gallon fuel tank and nearly 100-mpg rating keep the miniMOTO winding through the esses. Single-piston calipers bind a 220mm disc at the front and a 190mm rear rotor, but single-channel ABS only governs the front wheel. That configuration maintains safety on the pavement while enabling riders to break the rear wheel loose in the dirt.
Yamaha may equip the TW200 with a conventional dual-sport frame, but the 31.1-inch stand-over height still comes in lower than the Trail 125. A telescopic fork yields 6.3 inches of travel at the fore and the rear mono shock’s stroke totals 5.9 inches. Those suspenders lift the TW to a 10.4-inch ground clearance, which suits off-road adventures.
The Yamaha’s 52.2-inch wheelbase indeed measures longer than Honda’s miniMOTO, but its sharper 25.8-degree rake preserves snappy maneuvering. Similarly, the TW200’s 78-mpg rating may not match the Trail’s fuel-sipping benefits, but the larger 1.8-gallon tank levels the playing field. Yamaha sees Honda’s 200mm front disc brake, but can’t raise the stakes with a 110mm drum unit out back. The TW needs all that braking force too, outweighing the Trail 125 by 19 pounds (278-pound wet weight) and outpunching the Honda (8.8 horsepower and 8.1 lb-ft) with 16 horsepower and 11 lb-ft.
Down in the Dirt
Neither beginner-friendly bike boasts the traditional 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels found on bonafide off-road models, but they promote leisurely trail exploration with unique wheel and tire combinations. The Trail 125’s 17-inch hoops come shod in 80/90 semi-knob tires that prioritize handling while still overcoming obstacles. The TW200 takes a different route, spooning a wide 130/80 donut onto the 18-inch front wheel and a large 180/80 tire onto the 14-inch hoop. The oversized rubber provides extra traction on and off-road, increasing both safety and rider confidence.
The Yamaha and Honda may differ most in the transmission department, though. The TW200 defaults to a classic, clutch-operated five-speed gearbox, while the Trail opts for Honda’s four-speed semi-automatic transmission. The Automatic centrifugal clutch amplifies the miniMOTO’s ease of use, but the clutchless gear actuation also has its limitations. Traversing tough off-road terrain, obstacles, and inclines require deft clutch control, and the TW200 puts that control in the rider’s hand.
Taking to the trail is easier than ever with the Yamaha TW200 and Honda Trail 125, but the two models take very divergent paths. Big Red depends on a squat stance, stone-simple single-cylinder mill, and user-friendly transmission to attract newcomers and easy-going trail riders. The Yamaha shares some of the same traits, but amps up the off-road capability for those looking to take their skills to the next level.
At $3,999, the 2022 Honda Trail 125 offers an affordable and approachable entry into the dual-sport space. The 2022 Yamaha TW200 commands $800 more, with a $4,799 MSRP, but it justifies the price hike with extra performance and a full-size demeanor. Of course, the customer’s skill level and intended use will determine which model works best for them. Whether that's the Tail 125 or the ‘Trail Way’ we know that fun factor and simplicity will be at the top of the buyer’s priority list.