2011 Yamaha Raptor 125 ATV First Ride 0

11_yamaha_raptor125_frYamaha created the all-new Raptor 125 to service the gap between its current sport ATV offerings. Until now, riders had to choose between a machine designed for youth or a full-sized 250cc quad made for an adult. The 2011 Yamaha Raptor 125 is built for consumers of all sizes without prior motorsports experience who are looking for a high-quality, entry-level sport quad that’s simple to ride.

I first got acquainted with the Raptor at the Ventura Fairgrounds where the folks from Yamaha had built a special track for us to put it to the test. It had a mix of slow turns and a fast sweeper, and a couple small jumps as well. I was a little nervous, since this was my first time ever riding a sport quad and I was mixing it up within a group of experienced ATV riders. I just reminded myself that this quad was intended for beginners like me.

The Raptor's size is geared toward smaller riders, but even full-size adults can fit in the Yamaha's cockpit.

The Raptor’s size is geared toward smaller riders, but even full-size adults can fit in the Yamaha’s cockpit.

Even though the new Raptor was built with a beginner in mind, Yamaha didn’t cut any corners. It borrows technology from its big brother, the Raptor 250. Sitting on the 28.1-inch-high seat, it is immediately evident that this quad was designed for smaller riders. Yamaha took the Raptor 250 chassis and moved the handlebar 19mm down and 13mm back. I’m 5’5” and it felt like it was made for me personally. While riding I had plenty of leverage on the bar and could shift my weight around pretty easily. Most folks looked fairly comfortable on it with only really tall riders complaining that it was too small. My only complaint with the ergonomics was that the brake lever was a far reach for my small hand. It’s splitting hairs, but since the quad fits smaller riders, yet is going to entice new riders of all size, an adjustable lever would be a nice touch.

When I think of something being considered “entry level” I assume that after a rider gains some experience, they will outgrow that machine quickly. The suspension components on this quad throw that notion out the window.

It’s the suspension components that really make this machine capable of providing a fun riding experience for beginner and experienced riders alike. It employs the same long travel shocks of the 250. There are 7.5 inches of travel in the front pair which features five-way preload adjustment. The rear shock controls the two rear tires attached to a straight axle and swingarm with 7.9 inches of travel with threaded preload adjustment.

When I showed up to ride the Raptor 125 I had zero experience riding a sport quad. However within a few laps I was already getting comfortable through the corners and jumping. The suspension was plush enough that it could forgive my frequent mistakes and overconfidence. On the other end of the spectrum, it was also able to keep much more experienced riders entertained for hours on end.

The Raptor 125’s engine is derived from the same mill that powers one of my favorite motorcycles, Yamaha’s TT-R125. This is an engine capable of delivering reliable fun while being nearly indestructible. The engineers at Yamaha adapted the two-valve, single overhead cam engine with a 29mm Mikuni carburetor and square 54 x 54mm cylinder to have a broad powerband across the entire rpm range. Built to be resourceful but manageable, the 124cc air-cooled engine isn’t going to blow anyone away with outright power, but a five-speed transmission provides riders with the ability to use gear selection and clutching to spice up the delivery. Plus, young or inexperienced riders will benefit from a mild engine when learning to shift manually.

A manual five-speed transmission forces riders to learn how to shift and also helps give the 124cc engine a boost.

A manual five-speed transmission forces riders to learn how to shift and also helps give the 124cc engine a boost.

With a 2.4-gallon fuel capacity the fun should keep on going for hours. Another nice touch is the electric start. As opposed to other quads in its category the Raptor employs a five-speed manual transmission. This means that you can select a gear for many different types of terrain and riding environments.

It rolls on 19-inch front and 18-inch rear Maxxis tires with dual hydraulic front disc brakes and a single hydraulic rear disc brake slowing things down. Although the brakes are slightly downsized from the Raptor 250 in an effort to save weight, there is more than ample stopping power thanks to the Raptor’s claimed 299-pound curb weight (another benefit of being air-cooled).

The Raptor 125 is offered at $3399 in either Team Yamaha Blue/White or a White/Black model which comes with dual graphics kit. The graphic options come with black or pink for the ladies, and Yamaha offers a six-month warranty.

Our newbie tester was racing with the regular ATV riders in no time thanks to the Raptor's easy learning curve.

Our newbie tester was racing with the regular ATV riders in no time thanks to the Raptor’s easy learning curve.

All stats aside, what really matters is that it’s fun to ride, right? From a total rookie’s point of view, fun is definitely achievable on the Raptor 125. From the moment I hit the start button to when they had to pull me off at the end of the day, I had a silly smile plastered on my face. The engine delivers a broad powerband that is unintimidating to access. The suspension was plush and allowed me to work my way into jumping without ever being uncomfortable or feeling like I was out of control. It wasn’t long before I was trying to get the thing sideways in the corners and racing with some of the other riders.

The coolest thing was that, as much fun as this entry-level rider was having, the more experienced riders were having a blast as well. Overall, the Raptor 125 seems like the perfect package for anyone looking to get into the sport quad scene, and it will keep you smiling long past your “beginner” riding stage.

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