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By: Jason Giacchino

November 2010 - Off The Pegs

Playing on Yamaha’s Latest Raptor

Playing on Yamaha’s Latest Raptor

If there is such a thing as ATV extremism, I could certainly be accused of partaking through a recent trip to the somewhat northern sand pits in an effort to test Yamaha’s new Raptor 125. This happened to be the exact location that only two months earlier served as the proving grounds for a big bore Honda 700XX (; one of the nastiest open class sport machines I’ve had the pleasure of carving dunes upon. Though the terrain in question was largely unchanged from my last visit, the roughly 600 cubic centimeters separating these two machines made the experience quite different.

Aside from the very dissimilar machines in question, the weather was equally conflicted. The Honda test was performed under a blazing sun where clouds of rolling dust left even onlookers with grit between their teeth. The Yamaha on the other hand was unloaded under ugly late fall northeastern skies with swirling leaves and the constant threat of freezing rain. There’s something quite unsettling about desert-like terrain when deep purple skies roll ominously above.

In a little over 7 weeks we went from fighting the desire to wear shorts and camelbacks out on the course to layering riding gear with long johns and hiding pricey jerseys beneath bulbous coats. Additionally, the abundant rain we’ve been getting coupled to gloomy skies means some odd transformations to the usually powdery sand as well. The gullies and low areas were slick with clumpy mud while the hills and dunes were crunchy and firm.

Fortunately, the little Raptor undid our collective grumpiness when it fired to smooth idling life thanks to a three-chamber muffler just like the one found on the Raptor 250. The engine on this little sportster may be immediately recognizable to Yamaha aficionados as the single cylinder that powers the TTR125 motorcycle. However, it isn’t a copy and paste transition so much as it is a starting point. The ATV gets a different carb and cam profiles (for increased torque), the Raptor 250’s exhaust system and a counterbalancer.

As the gray sand went streaking by while our test riders clicked the little Raptor up through the gears (5-speed, manual clutch), it became immediately apparent that the 124cc single is surprisingly adequate at hauling around riders much larger than it’s intended 16 and up target market. In fact, even our bigger guys couldn’t bog the little ATV off the line and once the RPM’s were built up, the machine was even more reluctant to loose its steam.

Being on the lighter side of the spectrum myself, I had no trouble treating the Raptor 125 like a miniaturized 450, ringing the gears out and committing to the corners at the last possible second. We’re talking serious lightness here, folks! This machine weighs 30 pounds less than the Raptor 250, and that thing feels impossibly light when coming off just about anything bigger.

That lightness makes for some incredible handling, but it’s the braking that really benefits. These are the same hydraulic disc stoppers (dual up front, single in the rear) that stop many of the bigger Raptors so it shouldn’t demand much mental capacity to imagine they are simply magic on the little 125.

Although full-sized adults taking a machine designed to fill in the gap between a 90cc beginner quad and a 250 intermediate machine onto a dedicated motocross track would certainly be pushing it, we were surprised how well the stock suspension absorbed stutter bumps and small pop-off  jumps. Of course, the ever-optimists, we’re already plotting on the Raptor 250’s piggyback reservoir equipped shocks, which, if properly tuned in, could very well make this ATV one of the most fun models at the track.

We packed up and got out of there just as the skies started to unleash their sleet pretty impressed with Yamaha’s new package. Beginners to the sport are going to love this thing ,and veterans could easily make a case of having to pick one up as the ultimate play quad, which is exactly what we like to do with our machines when we aren’t racing or working with them.

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