Riding Moroccan Backroads on a Yamaha YBR 125

Discussion in 'Road Warriors' started by jeffyjeff, Apr 19, 2019.

  1. jeffyjeff

    jeffyjeff Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2013
    Oddometer:
    47
    Location:
    left of center
    Man, I haven’t been this excited about a freakin’ 125 since I was sixteen years old! That was 1970. I am retired to rural Khemisset Province, Morocco about 7 -8 months out of the year, and in the San Francisco Bay Area the rest of the time. I recently went to Casablanca with my wife’s cousin; we were checking out motos at several dealerships. Originally, I was interested in a Benelli VLX 150, a Kymco Like 125 scooter, or one of many Chinese Cub clones that are popular here. We dropped into the Yamaha dealer and I was surprised that the YBR 125 was available at a pretty steep discount. I had them write up a sales order on the spot. 22,000 Dirhams ($2,290) out the door. It’s a 2015 model, brand new with a 1 year warranty. I’m stoked, and having the time of my life bombing around the country roads of northern Morocco.
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    THE BIKE There are a number of reasons a bike like the YBR 125 makes a lot of sense here, cost is one. A 250 looks better on paper, but those available cost over 3 times what I paid for the YBR. Originally, I had my sights set on a Benelli VLX 150. They are popular and there is a dealer network; but they are not extensively marketed and the Benelli website doesn’t even list Morocco. I chose Yamaha, even though there are only four dealers in country, the nearest being 200 kilometers away in Casablanca. The YBR is sold pretty much worldwide. The internet is rife with reviews and videos from Pakistan, Great Britain, Europe, Central and South America. The websites re-moto.com and ride2world.com document circumnavigators who chose the YBR 125 for extended trips around the world. Ultimately, I’m banking on the YBR’s reputation and my mechanical abilities to keep the bike roadworthy. Time will tell if that was the right decision.
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    Probably the biggest reason for a small bike is that it doesn’t stand out around here. Fact is, the places I ride to and through are my local communities and local roads. It’s not like I’m riding through once, never to be seen again. The YBR looks and sounds a lot like the Chinese bikes that many locals ride out of economic necessity. I can ride through any town without raising an eyebrow. I’ve passed many Gendarme checkpoints without incident. That’s big for me. In this country, my Scandinavian heritage makes me stand out in a crowd. The anonymity that the YBR brings is welcome.
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    THE ROADS The country roads between towns are in good condition; many of the smaller local roads have patchy spots with degraded tarmac and surface dirt. Places like Dar Bel Amri, Moulay Idriss, and Rommani are my new local rides. It’s a different world over here; an environment where a vehicle may pass by every 5 or 10 minutes on average. On any given ride, I may round a curve to encounter a mule drawn wagon, a police checkpoint, or a herd of animals. Excepting the two times I have ridden to Casablanca, every single ride has had an encounter with a flock of sheep or a herd of cattle, most times forcing a complete stop until the roadway clears. These are picturesque, winding country roads through rolling hills; moderate speed is the rule, say 50-90 kilometers per hour. The capabilities of the little YBR125 exceed a performance level I consider to be reasonable under these riding conditions. You could ride a bigger bike here, but not faster than the YBR can go.
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    THE RIDE The YBR 125 is a clean little naked motorcycle; reminds me a bit of the CB100 my neighbor had when I was in high school. I’ve had it up to 110 kph (68 mph) It will cruise happily along at 90-100 kph. Performance meets expectations in gears 1 – 4. It rolls through the gears up to 100 pretty quickly. Acceleration diminishes once you hit fifth, but that’s the gear for cruising and good fuel economy. Fifth gear sees 80 kph (50 mph) @ 6500 rpm, 100 kph (62.5 mph) @ 8100 rpm. Theoretically, you could hit 120 kph (75 mph) before the 10,000 rpm redline; I’ve yet to try, but I expect that a good downhill grade or tailwind will be necessary. Maybe 10 or 20 thousand kilometers on the odometer will help.

    My YBR is really cold blooded. I need the choke to start it, even in mild weather if the engine is cold. I’ve tried a short warm-up period, but then the engine races along at about 4000 rpm. If I release the choke, the bike dies. I’ve found it best to use the choke to start it, allow 30 seconds or so for the lube oil to circulate, then hit the road and release the choke on the fly. The bike may stumble once, but after one kilometer, it performs normally.

    Fuel economy is superb, my third fill-up took place with 460 km on the trip meter, the bike took 10.6 liters. The tank holds 13 liters, giving me calculated range of 560 km (350 miles). The narrow Cheng Shen stock tires look comical in light of what you find on most bikes these days, and there is ample criticism on the net, but I have no gripes. The bike darts around effortlessly; one thing sure, when I return from my next trip to the states, I’ll have a 12V inflator pump and a tire plug kit in my luggage. I’m really happy with the way the bike handles. No experience with the tires on wet roads yet, however.
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    The fenders are more for style than substance. The front fender does little to protect the front of the engine and frame cradle from road debris, and the rear fender allows dirt and mud to build up on the front of the swing arm.

    Overall, I’m really happy with the YBR 125. I’ve taken a bit of a gamble with the sparse dealer network in this country, but that’s a calculated risk. I bought the bike with measured expectations, and so far the little moto has impressed. Time will tell if I made a good choice, I expect to have this little machine for a long time. Jeff J.
    #1
  2. GarryPrater

    GarryPrater Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2017
    Oddometer:
    43
    Location:
    SC
    Smiles per mile is the best way to rate a motorcycle. Sounds like you got a great deal! Enjoyed reading your report.
    #2
  3. skysailor

    skysailor Rat Rider Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    4,858
    Location:
    Kenora, Canada
    Thanks for sharing that. Sounds like you're in biker heaven over there. Stay safe.
    #3
  4. jeffyjeff

    jeffyjeff Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2013
    Oddometer:
    47
    Location:
    left of center
    You could say that about rural roads here, where the bikes outnumber the cars. It's different in town. 30 years ago in Rabat, the traffic signal would change and 60 bikes would pass with maybe 6 cars bringing up the rear. Now days (in the city) the cars outnumber the bikes and they have taken away bike-only lanes on the boulevards. By far, most bikes here are 50cc; no license required. The YBR is considered a "big bike"
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  5. jeffyjeff

    jeffyjeff Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2013
    Oddometer:
    47
    Location:
    left of center
    UPDATE: Well it has been 26 months since I posted my YBR onto AdvRider, thought I would post an update. The bike stands right now with 6811 kilometers (4257 miles) on the odometer. In normal circumstance, I would consider that an embarrassment, but Covid19 is to blame for a serious dent in my riding schedule. I experienced home confinement (no opportunity to get out on the road), and Lockout; after I got back to the states, was unable to return due to closed international border. Now the situation has eased, and other than a wildly overgrown garden, there is nothing to prevent me from resuming local rides.

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    THE BIKE – My original post on the YBR’s performance seems a bit optimistic in hindsight. I recall a perceptible loss of performance on the return from my 1000 km service. Maybe it’s all in my head. More likely, I ride this little machine at or near its design limits that small factors that affect performance are noticeable; things like winter/summer fuel blend, temperature, humidity, and the like. Still takes about 10 km to get the bike warmed up, but once warm, it will reliably get up to about 96 kph, which corresponds to the 7800 rpm rated rpm (10.0 hp @ 7800 rpm). It will hit 100 kph (62.5 mph) hills and headwinds permitting, but frequently demands I get into a tuck to achieve that. Once up to that speed, it will maintain speed as long as road conditions permit. If a car passes, I can tuck into its slipstream and ride the draft up to 110 kph or higher. The bike will keep it up as long as I can stay in the draft.

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    TIRES I have changed my thinking on the OE Cheng Shen tires, and tend to agree with the internet pundits that do not care for them. I’ve experienced rear wheel lock up twice; both times at relatively low speed in town in sweltering hot weather. First time surprised me, but the second time I was aware that conditions were ripe for a skid, and it happened again despite an abundance of caution. Hoping to find something a little grippier from a Japanese, American, or European manufacturer.

    THE ROADS Dogs! What’s up with all these dogs? I leave the country for a year and when I come back it’s like there was a dog population explosion. Most dogs in this country are treated like…well, like dogs. Many are indifferent to a bike on the road, some cower away. But there those two percent that show their teeth and charge. Not fun. I hit a dog once. I was on a BMW R60/2 and the kamikaze dog attacked my right cylinder head. I remember the sound of his skull caving in as he knocked my right side header pipe out of position. Had to send the head off to Portland to get it repaired.

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    Riding in town or out on the highway, I’ve come round to the belief that small bikes don’t command much respect around here. The anonymity that the YBR brings is countered by a disrespect most drivers have toward two wheel vehicles. Many drivers consider small bikes inferior to an automobile, relegated to operation on the shoulder of the road. I heard a car horn and perceived a car bumper inches from my left shin. The driver was shouting profanity and making wild hand gestures to indicate his displeasure with my lane position. Happened in Khemisset and again in Tiflet. Larger bikes like HD or BMW GS command respect, but not so the likes of a Yamaha YBR. So the hothead in his rusted out Fiat is angered because I dare to ride in the proper lane of traffic.

    Bottom line is that I am a guest here. Moroccan norms and rules of the road, written and unwritten, rule the day. In the spirit of self preservation, I have decided to adopt a more “subservient” mindset when it comes to riding in the vicinity of other vehicles; especially in and about town, or out on the highway between towns. On the back roads that I ride most of the time, the YBR is in its element, and conflict with other motorists is not an issue.

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    Read up on the Yamaha YBR 125 and you will find they come in several flavors, a carbureted YBR (2005-06), a fuel injected version YBR 125 ED (2007-2016). Mine is different, the YBR 125 ESD, a 2015 carbureted model. The Pakistani YBR’s appear to be ESD models. Not much info about them that I have been able to uncover. Even the Haynes manual fails to recognize the ESD. It has several electrical connections to the carburetor, including what appears to be a throttle position sensor. Don’t know what any of that’s for, can’t find any info on it. So far it’s been trouble free; I drain the carburetor before extended storage periods.

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    #5
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