The story of how it all began, with the love of my life, my CG125 on the commuters journey.
Be warned, this is a long read.
Growing up, there was never not a bike around, they were in the living room/dining room/spare bedroom/garage.
There was always something somewhere, be it my dad’s track bike, a randomly placed Fireblade, boxes of bike bits, or mine and my brothers little 50cc dirt bikes or quads, you couldn’t do a lap of the house and garden without uncovering some form of bikes, and that was normality for me.
I would have been around 3 when I first rode a bike, a little Suzuki LT70 trike..
Given the fact that everyone I knew growing up also rode bikes, it was pretty inevitable that was the path I’d take..
Having a variety of bikes from Honda’s to KTM’s to Suzuki’s, everything was off road, and usually down the local harbor, were I’d almost always end up stuck somewhere or covered in mud.
From there, when I was almost 16 my dad was offered a 50cc Sukida Scooter from one of his mates- “you can have it if you can fix it”.
We spent weekends patching it up, gave it a new paint job, and made sure everything worked as it was supposed to, then when it was ready, got a fresh MOT and booked my CBT for the day of my 16th birthday.
That’s where my time on the road started. ..
I think pretty much within the first week the scooter met the gravel, I dropped it going over a speed bump in college, it broke down almost every other day, I’m 95% sure that I spend more time pushing the thing home than riding it, I hated it.
Even worse than the drops and the fact it was hugely unreliable, the college minivan then somehow didn’t see the only bike parked in the motorbike spaces, and reversed into it.
The mirrors were broken, so was the speedo, and the panels were even more tatty, about £50 later, and another dodgy re-spray and it was good to go- again.
It was a love/hate relationship, I tried to take it everywhere, but we always ended up walking home, which was do-able in the summer, but worsened with the winter approaching.
The final straw was breaking down further than I ever had before, you’d like I’d learn not to push it too far, but I never did.
Then came the half an hour wait for my dad to come and rescue us, in his Mercedes Sprinter Camper, the van was full, with no way to fit the scooter inside, so the double doors were opened, the front wheel placed into the van, and the rear wheel rolling along behind, the doors all strapped down, it was time for a slow journey home.
As we hit the first round about, I heard the crunch, then saw bits of my panels littering the road from the van mirror. I knew I needed something better than this, and that’s where it began.
Although I knew I wanted better, I didn’t know what was better, figuring out what I wanted was the hard part.
I’ve always loved the classics, so thought a BSA Bantam would be more than ideal, with around £1000 to spend in total it was a quick realisation that the BSA wasn’t going to be the bike for me.
A little bit of research told me that the reliability wouldn’t be great, and I wanted to do loads of miles and ride everywhere, everyday- I needed something less like my scooter in other words!
So it was a Japanese bike I was after, as I’d seen that they were lasting longer, covering more miles, and were cheaper on parts as well as maintenance, it was ideal.
Further research lead me to find out that a commuter type of bike would be most ideal for what I wanted, although most were hideously ugly. Going off reviews, I found that Honda 125’s were seemingly the most reliable, and had better build quality than some of the others.
Looking more and more into the Honda range of 125’s, two stood out to me, the CB125 and the CG125, although they were pretty similar to look at, the CG125 was slightly newer and there were many more of them about, so that was that, a CG125 was my next bike.
Collecting the bike
After what seemed like a lifetime of hunting on Ebay, I finally got a winning bid in one one, it was a 1996 CG125 Brazil, whatever that was.. It was in Wales, so couldn’t be that far away, and better than anything else, it was only £146!
Okay, it didn’t run, or do much else, but how hard can it be to fix it?
The bike was in Llanddewi Brefi, which actually turned out to be about 90 miles away, and being 16 at the time, I clearly wasn’t going to be driving to get it anytime soon, this was a job for my dad!
That was as soon as I told him that I’d bought it…
With collection of the bike planned, I don’t think I’d even thought about the work involved.
We got there, it was exactly as described, it kicked over, but did nothing else, the shocks were missing, and instead replaced with drilled pieces of wood, it was beautiful and all mine, there wasn’t much work it didn’t need, but none of that mattered.
As we started the journey home, I made a list of what I knew was missing..
And no doubt many other bits and pieces.
Looking more and more into the Cafe Racer idea, I needed a more suitable tank than the one from the CG125 Brazil model, and started looking for another tank, as well as a nice round headlight and a chrome mudguard.
A donor was found
That search then lead me to another CG125 that was for sale more locally to me, with it only being about an hour away, it had almost every part I was missing, and was only £100 as it was stolen/recovered, and could not go back on the road.
With the second CG125 in my possession, the build really started to take off and within days the donor bike was also stripped to nothing.
Everything that wasn’t needed was listed on Ebay, which recovered more than the total spend so far- even better!
Working on ideas
It took a couple of dry builds before I even had an idea of what I wanted to do, meaning the bike spent most of it’s time leaning against my garage wall as a rolling chassis.
I had found a seat I liked, and I knew I could improve upon it, but my frame ended about 7 inches after the seat..
Next came the hard part, there was no going back from here, I wanted to cut the frame down, bit by bit, the bike shrunk closer and closer to the dimensions needed, making it look worryingly small- could I even ride it?
With a rough configuration in place, and a variety of ideas in my head, it was time to make the commitment.
The rear of the frame now blanked off and welded, it was time to really prepare for the build, I was sure I could figure everything out along the way..
The planning and preparation
I very quickly developed an absolute hatred for sanding, sand paper, and anything of a similar texture, I’d spent so much time sat on the dining room floor, towel on my lap, bike part on the towel, sanding for hours on end.
Although I think it was worth it, just to get rid of the rattle can red that the frame had been painted.
I knew at this point what colours the bike would be, naturally gloss black felt like the right colour for the frame.
I really needed the right colour for the rest of the bike, to keep with the classic cafe racer appearance. With the decision finally being made, I had a custom colour mixed up, similar to a deep candy red.
I made the commitment, all of the red bits went off to a family friend to paint, and all the black bits stayed at home for me to give it a try
With half the bike away to be painted, it was was time to do something I hated more than sanding.. I had to polish everything that was chrome.
I spent weeks polishing bike parts on the coffee table while watching the music channel on the TV- it was the only thing that kept me sane.
Every time I thought I’d finished a part, my dad would come over, take one look and point out all of the bits that were still pitted, scratched, or just not as clean as the rest.
Eventually the polishing was finished, albeit to a mediocre standard.
It was time for the fun bit all over again, if I could remember where everything went..
Reassembling the bike
This was a challenge, the bike had now been spread out in a few boxes for maybe 3 months, there’s no chance I could remember how it went together
With everything laid out in front of me, it was time to replace all of the seals and bearings first, the bike was nearly 20 years old, it needed a bit of love
Slowly but surely, the bike went back together, first it was the frame and swing arm, the now polished up wheels went on next, it started to resemble a bike again.
As the days went on, the bike moved into the dining room, so that it could be more accessible for me to work on- it was too cold in the garage at night!
Every cable had been replaced, new nuts and bolts where most had been lost, it was almost as good as new
My bike started to look like a bike again, it had been apart for so long, and my 17th birthday was fast approaching, it was time to make sure it would be road worthy.
I eventually got the red bits back, they were hands down the most beautiful things I have seen in my life, the 3 layer candy paint looked amazing, taking on different colours and shines under each and every light.
It looked AMAZING. The moment I set my eyes upon it, it felt like one of those cartoon moments, where the pupils in their eyes become heart shaped- that was me.
When the bike started going back together, something just didn’t seem quite right, the tank was too plain without any badges/emblems/logos or stickers on the tank and panels..
That was soon resolved with some metallic silver pin striping on the tank, and some early 1980’s CG125 badges for the panels.
The panels looked great, but I still wasn’t quite sure on the tank, I needed a Honda logo, but one of the big classic ones with the wing.. Not just the word Honda written across each side of the tank.
I looked at round badges, rectangle badges, Goldwing badges, and every other variation of Honda logo- who knew there were so many?
Decision made, the most expensive one’s on Ebay (of course) at an eye watering £120, over £170 after P&P and import tax as they came from America- that’s more than I paid for either of the bikes!
They were believed to be off the American version of the early VFR750, whatever they were from, they were perfect for the job.
A little bit of polish, and I painted some black edges on the badges, they were ready to fit.
But they didn’t fit, in fact, they were nowhere near close to fitting, being a completely different shape to the tank- why didn’t I measure anything?!
Luckily my dad managed to save the day, he suggested blasting them in the oven until they were soft enough to re-shape, luckily it worked, a bit of double sided number plate tape, and they were on!
Now when moving the bike around between the house/garden/garage took work, I’d never been so careful with anything in my life, this bike was my pride and joy.
It wasn’t about to get a scuff from squeezing through the front door when my dad wasn’t home any more, it was now destined to live in the dining room until the day it went on the road, no dirt, dust, or people bumping into it and moving it without my supervision!
With the bike nearing completion, my dad suggested taking it to a show, after all the work that went into it, people might like to see it.
I thought the idea was a bit stupid, no one cares about 125’s especially not one that some girl built without any real mechanical knowledge- would it even last on the road?
Eventually I caved and looked into some shows and competitions, what was there to lose?
I found a fairly local show, the West Wales Motorcycle Show, showcasing anything and everything classic and custom, they even had a section for smaller cc bikes which was perfect for me!
I sent an email, booked my place, and even got a free camping pitch for the weekend!
The only problem being, I wasn’t quite old enough to ride the bike yet, so it was another van journey for the little CG125 when the time came
With the final bit of fixing and finishing things off, it was time to take it to the show
The bike still not having been ridden!
The West Wales Custom and Classic Show
After a few terrifying hours in the van, watching my little bike judder between the straps behind me, we got there, and made sure it was safe.
I was instantly met by people who wanted to know what it was, it seemed like no one could quite figure it out, with many guessing it was a lot older than it really was- my idea really did work, it looked like a classic, but was fairly modern underneath.. although I’d have killed for an electric start.
Wheeling the bike into the hall, I was pretty sure that mine was smaller and not as interesting as anything else there, it was a cute little bike, but it was certainly nothing special when seen with this type of crowd.
The bike in its assigned space,number sticker on ready, and a picture board of its progress in front of it, it didn’t take long at all to attract some attention
“What is it?”
“You really did it yourself?”
“What’s the name of the colour?”
“How fast is it?”
“How did it cost under a grand?”
It didn’t take much human interaction before I disappeared to find the burger van, and left my dad to answer anyone’s questions about it!
Over the two days, the amount of attention the bike got was unreal, young people, old people, learners, experienced riders, professional and amateur builders, everyone came over, and everyone had questions and something to say
As well as everyone being so friendly, many people came over and told me that they had voted for my bike, the attention was hugely unexpected, it was just a little 125 after all!
The end of the second day neared, and they had started to announce winners in each category, meanwhile I’d escaped to find more food!
Eventually finding my way back to my bike to sit down and demolish my burger, I could just about hear the winners being announced, while being a safe distance away so that I didn’t have to force conversation with strangers- I’m shy!
Nearing the end of the show, I’d zoned in and out of listening to the winners, I was tired, a little bit bored and ready to head back home after 2 days of people looking at my bike.
At that point there couldn’t be many winners left, and then it happened. I thought I heard them say my name, then again, more clearly, she called me onto the stage
Filled with dread, pride, and embarrassment, I edged close to the stage ready to get whatever rosette it was, I’m sure I was bright red!
I had to go on the stage, I shook someones hand, don’t ask me who!
Next thing you know, I’ve got a giant shield thing in my hand, and people are taking photos!
Mortified would have been an understatement..
So it turns out that my little CG125 won Best in show!
The people had voted, and it seemed that they loved the little machine and the transformation it had been through over the past few months.
It didn’t stop there, it also took home;
Tired and embarrassed, the bike was loaded back onto the van, ready for me to eventually get to ride it.
Time to hit the road
Already having a CBT from riding my scooter, I didn’t actually have to do another to switch to my 125, although I probably could have done with a little further training.
All insured and ready to go, it was time for my first ride, I figured around the block would be the ideal first go.
Having not started the bike myself yet, the first time I tried it viciously kicked back up, hitting me in the shin and giving me an instant bruise, it wasn’t going well.
Trying again, it did the same again, and again, and again..
Eventually, the bike was started, and I think I had figured out the knack of the kick start, clicked it into first, let out the clutch oh so smoothly, with a gentle amount of revs, then I hit the biting point, and stalled.
I HATE IT
I just couldn’t get the hang of it, how was I supposed to spend the next 2 years until my test on this thing if I couldn’t even pull off.
At this point lets call it attempt 104, with the bike flooding , me shouting and swearing at it, having a temper tantrum and likely me nearly dropping it several times between then and now.
The bike was started, I didn’t bruise my shin any further, and I managed to pull of smoothly and safely, out of the street, turned left, turned left again, then straight for a while, left again, then stopped at a stop line
I stalled, panic set in, I didn’t know what to do, there was a car behind me, and no traffic coming, there was the perfect gap for me to pull out, if I hadn’t stalled.
The pressure was building, I furiously kick the kick start again, it jolts forward, it was in gear, I pull the clutch in, give it a hand full of revs, and scream it across the road, down through the lane, and turned right into my street.
“DAAAAAAD I CAN’T DO GEARS”
“I HATE IT”
“I DON’T WANT IT”
After another explanation of gears, clutches, and kick starts, I tried again, and again, and again.
I can’t say I was one of those people who clicked instantly, there was no duck to water type of connection between me and the bike, it just didn’t come naturally
I couldn’t even stop outside the house without revving the bike until the red line to get my dad to come to the front door, I couldn’t get it onto the center stand on my own, no matter how many times I tried with all my anger and strength.. I just didn’t get on with it at all.
It was back to the drawing board, something had to change..
Thankfully my dad saved the day with this one, he took off the center stand, cut it down, altered it, made a bracket, and it now became a side stand, I could stop where ever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to.
It’s maiden voyage was set to Barry Island, where I could lean it over onto it’s side stand instead of hoping someone stronger or more skilled than me was around to help.
I was in love, I took back all the bad words I said to the bike, I loved all of it, even the kick start that always kicked back
I got the hand of gears once the stress had gone away, and everything was smooth sailing now, the bike was good, and i enjoyed every second of it.
The first big journey
I was so confident and happy with it that I signed up to a Welsh biker forum- the days before Facebook groups, and found there was a 125 friendly ride out soon.
Having only been riding the CG125 for about a month, I thought this was a great way to learn and find some new places to go.
It turns out I was the only 125 going, although there wouldn’t be any motorway so I figures, it would be okay.
I met a few people not too far away in Cowbridge, this was only 20 miles from me, I knew my way, so it was time to see what the little CG could do.
Plodding along behind everyone, the next stopping point was somewhere in the Brecon Beacons, my bum was numb, my ears felt funny, but I was having so much fun, everyone was careful and considerate around the tiny little bike, and everyone commented on how cool it was.
Elan Valley was next, I didn’t have a clue where this was, but having just had food and a drink at the cafe we stopped at, I was more than happy to carry on plodding along despite having some wind burn on my face from having my visor open the whole way.
After some interesting roads round the Elan Valley reservoir, and a few scary moments from not getting my braking quite right or when I scraped my foot pegs the first few times there was another stop at the top, everyone ate and drank again, most of the group left, but a few were riding further.
“We’re going to Aberystwyth along the mountain road from here, you coming?”
Of course, I knew it was a beach, and I could see the top of the mountain from here so couldn’t be more than 10 minutes away.
After a grueling 40-something miles, we got there, in hindsight I should have checked how much further away it was..
My legs ached, my back hurt, my bum was dead, my ears felt horrible, my wrists were cramped up, it was time for an ice cream and a good leg stretch.
The sun still high in the sky, it was probably a good idea to head home, with google maps predicting it taking 4 hours, it would be dark when I got back.
Eventually getting home, I dumped the bike outside the front door, climbed up the stairs, and went straight to bed.
Maybe that ride wasn’t the greatest idea as a first proper ride out, but I certainly made some life long friends that day, and the experience really shaped my future on bikes, I was now more sure than ever that to be around bikes and to be riding bikes was all I wanted to do.
The next 2 years on 2 wheels
Since the big ride out, I became a more confident and capable rider, I met loads of new people, went to loads of different rides and events.
There ended up being a group of us riding 125’s locally, we would meet up, make lots of noise, go to McDonalds, the next few beaches, the next city, anywhere our £5 fuel money we would scrape together would take us.
We would start and end the nights in the same was, everyone met at Barry Island, and departed from there every night, we rode, talked, crashed, and everything in between.
We got into our fair share of trouble with the Police, section 59 orders, points, fines, of course I was the idiot that eventually lost my licence and couldn’t ride for a month until I had it back!
A few friends stopped riding, a few got cars, and some of us fell out with each other, then we all started booking our tests.
Having ridden the bike every single day, in every type of weather condition, it had easily covered 100,000 miles now.
My MOD 1 was done, and my MOD 2 was booked, the CG ready for it’s retirement, selling it was never an option.
It was looking increasingly worse for wear, the paint had rubbed, I’d dropped it several times and had a low speed slide, the panels has some cracks, and the tank and seat were damaged.
I’d gone through countless bulbs, spent a small fortune on tyres, servicing, and other consumables in it’s time, had multiple number plates where I’d snap or lose them taking the bike places I shouldn’t.
I had added and removed heated grips a few times though a few winters, changed the bars from big upright ones, flat bars, dropped bars, and eventually to clip-ons.
I ditched the indicators, and tried to make it look more minimalist- and failed.
The bike was constantly changing and evolving, it was so dependable and was such a solid machine, I felt like I could really do anything on it and with it.
It was tired, a little tatty and a little run down, but I had planned this big restoration for it, it would be as good as new again once I’d passed my test, and I’d take it out from time to time, and really look after it
It deserved it after all the neglect and work it put it through over the part 2 and a half years by the time my test date came
The end of an era
But as always, all good things must come to an end, and so did my time on my CG125..
It was cut short on April 30th 2016 by a taxi driver on the wrong side of the road, just 4 days before my MOD 2 text was due to take place.
The bike in bits all over the floor, and my arm now jelly, I knew the bike wasn’t okay.
As I waited for the ambulance, having a look at my bike, it needed a minimum of wheels and forks, I just hoped the frame hadn’t been damaged, stopping it’s chances of ever being back on the road again.
My new helmet ruined, my new jacket scuffed, I was gutted.
After a 10 hour A&E wait- I had to crash on a bank holiday, didn’t I?!
I was taken for X-Rays and asked to assess the pain, it didn’t hurt if I didn’t move it, but I remember saying it felt as if there were no bones in my arm
After the first X-Ray, they already knew it was broken, and as my local A&E is a University hospital, I gave my consent for a student to use me as a live test subject, she nervously told me, I was her first cast..
After being given some gas and air- which was disgusting, but no other forms of pain relief, it was time for her to straighten my arm, a firm yank, and it wasn’t straight, and another, and another, 4th time lucky, the cast went on, I was put back into the waiting room for what seemed like forever.
Around 3AM a doctor called me in again, the decision had been made that I needed surgery to reconstruct the bones and put them back where they’re supposed to be, which made sense, seeing as my arm hurt substantially more since being straightened
Assuming I was coming back in a week or so for surgery, I started getting ready to go, already planning a McDonalds Chicken Nugget Happy Meal on the way home- I was starving!
I assumed wrongly, I had to stay in over night and have surgery the next day, meaning I couldn’t have my McDonalds, or anything else for that matter.
The next morning I called the training school, explained what had happened and that I needed to change my test date, but with it only being 4 days away, they wouldn’t change the date, nor give me back any of the money I’d paid in full for it, only offering a 10% discount when I was back on 2 wheels
The reality started to set in, I wasn’t going to be cleaning and storing the CG next week, neither would I be riding the SV650 I had recently finished building.
I eventually had surgery on the date of my test, May 4th and was allowed to go home the day after, I finally got to eat my McDonalds, although there was nothing positive to look to anymore.
Arriving home and arranging the collection of the bike by my insurance was hard hitting, the taxi driver had already admitted fault, and it was time to see if the bike could go back on the road.
A few weeks went on, I had a valuation on the bike, and a verdict.
They deemed it damaged beyond economical repair, and declared it a Category C insurance write off, meaning it could be ridden again, with a fair bit of work being needed.
They paid me out the agreed valuation of £2,500, a lot more than I was anticipating for the bike, and returned it the following week
However they had lost the key for it, and claimed that they never received it, although the inspection report said the bike still started and ran.
My cast still on, luckily my friends would all take it in turns driving me around, or I’d sneak a little go on one of their bikes until eventually it was removed
My arm was so skinny and sickly looking, I soon earned the nick name of super noodle, my test was now re-booked
My MOD 2, now with a much nicer training school was booked for 28th July, I was only excited, no nerves at all.
The test date came quickly, with a first time pass and a clean sheet, it was time to move up to my SV650
The CG125 in 2019
The bike hasn’t been restored to it’s former glory, although it will be 100% fixed up again, I just don’t have a clue as to when.
I think I’ve been putting it off, as the bike means so much to me, I don’t want to start it and lose interest, or to start it and not finish it to the same standard.
I have many many terrible excuses for not fixing it yet.
It’s still in my garage, it still starts, runs, and rides- albeit a little wonky.
It’s a good bike and deserves to be back on the road, even if only for sunny Sunday spins.
I keep meaning to fix it up, life gets in the way, I keep buying more bikes, but it’ll get there one day.
For now, it’s still my favorite pile of scrap.
And some more close up photos..
Ride sensibly, and have fun!