Honda won six 125 National Championships in the ’80s
with Johnny O’Mara, Ron Lechien, Micky Dymond, George
Holland and Mike Kiedrowski. That wasn’t so unusual; in
that period, Honda won almost everything. Doug Henry
and Steve Lamson squeaked out three more titles for
Honda in the ’90s, but soon the winds were blowing motocross towards the four-stroke, and that eventually doomed
1974, 1975: Although the actual number is unclear, most
experts say that the 1974 Honda 125 Elsinore was produced in greater numbers than any other motocross bike
before or since. In ’ 75, the top of the tank was painted red
rather than green, but it was essentially the same bike. The
first Suzuki RM125 came out in 1975 with long-travel suspension. Yamaha came out with the Monoshock, and just
like that the Elsinore became yesterday’s news.
1976–1978: Honda tried to catch up by redesigning the
CR125’s rear suspension and giving it a red paint job, but
it wasn’t enough. Suzuki came out with another all-new
125 in 1976, and Yamaha changed the YZ every year.
Oddly enough, the Honda was still common at local tracks
but in heavily modified form. There were so many ’ 74 models still running that they became fodder for a new industry
of builders and parts-makers.
1979: Honda came back in a big way. The 1979 CR125R
was so new that no parts would interchange with the origi-
nal ones. The motor output shaft moved to the right, and
the bike was given a 23-inch front wheel. The bike was
a radical remake, but its performance wasn’t as good as
Honda fans had hoped for.
1980: Honda normalized some of the outlandish features
of the previous year, and the bike took its place side by
side with the Suzuki and Yamaha for dominance in the 125
class. The 1980 CR125R got a plastic tank and a 21-inch
front wheel. Kawasaki came out with single-shock suspen-
sion that year, but the motor wasn’t competitive at first.
That would change.
1981: When Honda came out with the ’ 81 CR125, it
stunned everyone. It looked just like a works bike. It had
single-shock suspension and a liquid-cooled motor. The
Suzuki and Yamaha had the same features that year, mak-
ing it a revolutionary season for the 125 class as a whole.
In the end, it was the Suzuki RM125 that was judged the
best 125 of the year.
got it right in
1983. The bike
was all new
and very fast.
Johnny O’Mara’s 1980 Mugen was ahead of the works bikes
of its day. It preceeded the 1981 Honda CR125R which was
like a bike from space. That was a big year for the 125 class,
with new bikes from everyone.
The 1990 Honda CR125 got
a new case-reed motor that
would last a very long time.
The 1992 Honda CR125R.
Remember the ATAC valve? It remained on the 125 from 1984
LIFE AND TIMES OF THE CR125