2017 Kymco K-Pipe 125

Editor Score: 66.75%
Engine 12.0/20
Suspension/Handling 12.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 5.0/10
Brakes 6.0/10
Instruments/Controls3.0/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.25/10
Appearance/Quality 6.5/10
Desirability 6.0/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score66.75/100

In case you haven’t heard, the 125cc class of streetbikes is hot. The Honda Grom kicked off the latest craze, which was followed this year by Kawasaki’s Z125 Pro, as well as a few entries from China. However, all but one of the entries have teenie 12-inch wheels, making the bikes feel a little less than full-grown.

2014 Honda Grom Review

Honda Grom Gets Streetfighter Look for 2016

So, in steps Kymco with the 2017 K-Pipe 125 and a pair of 17-inch rims, and we’ve gotta wonder if the wheels will make a noticeable difference. Since customers looking at motorcycles in this category are extremely price-focused, the Kymco offers one significant advantage when compared to the Grom: a $1,999 MSRP versus $3,199 (and $2,999 for the Kawi).

2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro First Ride Review

Though the K-Pipe is labeled a 125, its single cylinder displaces 123.7cc. The rest of the mill is pretty pedestrian: air-cooled, carbureted, and SOHC with two valves. The transmission does deserve special note, though. First, the shift pattern has neutral at the bottom instead of between first and second gears, as is the case with all other motorcycles in the U.S., resulting in a N-1-2-3-4 shift pattern. Additionally, the shift lever throw is quite long, which translates into riders having to move their left foot twice as far to change gears as on most motorcycles.

Additionally, the K-Pipe, being designed as a beginner bike from a company known for its scooters, does not require that the rider modulate the clutch to start from first gear. At idle, the rider simply engages first gear without the clutch. When the time comes to pull away from a stop, simply roll on the throttle.

What you see is what you get: a basic, no-nonsense 125cc bike aimed at price-conscious riders for around-town use.

What you see is what you get: a basic, no-nonsense 125cc bike aimed at price-conscious riders for around-town use.

The tubular steel frame/swingarm and 31mm fork connect to a pair of 17-inch wheels. Suspension is non-adjustable, save for rear preload. Suspension travel is more than adequate in this class at 3.5-in. and 4-in. front and rear. The 31-inch seat height gives the K-Pipe a surprisingly roomy riding position, and its 247-lbs keeps it from being intimidating to new riders when standing at a stop. Braking comes from a 276mm disc and two-piston caliper up front and a drum in the rear.

The K-Pipe is cold-blooded even in warm weather, taking a while to warm up and stop struggling to idle. In fact, the first stop sign encountered when leaving home usually resulted in the engine stalling. With just 7.0 hp on tap (as tested on the MotoGP Werks dyno), the K-Pipe’s acceleration is best described as anemic, though the throttle response is well sorted. We suspect that a good carburetor tuner could remedy the cold-bloodedness and eek out a little more power, too.

The long shifter throw is easily adapted to, though the lack of feedback regarding gear changes is mystifying – particularly during downshifts. For those who think this is a mountain/molehill issue, Tom wrote of this experience in his notes: “I was downshifting from fourth to third, but with no indication I had actually moved the transmission, I downshifted again, this time into second, which caused the rear wheel to lock and almost sent me skidding down the road.” The gauge display does include a gear-position indicator if you find yourself in the same position as Tom, not knowing which gear you’re in.

A weak, spongy front brake was an issue with this K-Pipe, but our previous experience makes us think the problem was specific to this test unit.

A weak, spongy front brake was an issue with this K-Pipe, but our previous experience makes us think the problem was specific to this test unit.

The next biggest issue with the K-Pipe – other than its 12.5% power deficit compared to the Grom – is its front brake. When picking up the K-Pipe, Big Guns Editor, Tom Roderick, noted how the lever would pull all the way back to the grip with minimal effort. After ministering to the Kymco’s hydraulics for 45 minutes, the lever’s feel was upgraded to spongy. While we can’t completely rule out an extremely recalcitrant bubble somewhere in the system, this wasn’t Tom’s first barbecue, leaving us inclined to believe we may have gotten a flawed test unit. Troy’s 24-hour race experience supports this theory since the brakes were quite stout – although aftermarket pads and a braided steel line were used.

Twice Around The Clock On A Kymco K-Pipe 125

Another quality-control issue that cropped up on our K-Pipe test unit was a glitchy instrument cluster. On occasion, the lower half of the LCD display would only display intermittently. At other times, it would work just fine. New riders may appreciate the gear display offered, but in reality, the K-Pipe’s lack of power means that it will really only work in one gear with no overlap into others.

Although it has electric start, the K-Pipe also features a kickstarter for those times you want to remember the Bad Old Days.

Although it has electric start, the K-Pipe also features a kickstarter for those times you want to remember the Bad Old Days.

The K-Pipe riding experience is pretty much what one would expect from an inexpensive, price-point 125cc motorcycle. It feels practical and fuel efficient, delivering 65.4 mpg during a full day of wide-open throttling. Expect at least 15 mpg extra if riding it sanely (Kymco rates it at 70 mpg), which would calculate to a range of almost 100 miles from its 1.2 gallon(!) tank. At the speeds most riders are likely to spend time at during around-town jaunts, the handling is fine, but as Troy put it, “The tradeoff is a bit of flickability compared to 12-inch wheels at lower speeds.”

Pause for a moment to consider the term flickability and this class of motorcycle. In our descent from MO’s Secret Mountain Road Testing Facility, the K-Pipe topped out at an indicated 76 mph! Here the advantage of 17-inch wheels shines through with the bike feeling more stable than bikes fit with 12-inchers.

The Kymco K-Pipe is in its happy place jaunting around town with a newer rider in the saddle. Leathers optional.

The Kymco K-Pipe is in its happy place jaunting around town with a newer rider in the saddle. Leathers optional.

After spending some time with the 2017 Kymco K-Pipe 125, its primary appeals are its low $1,999 price and newbie-friendly clutchless start from first gear. Given its modest MSRP, we were a little disappointed by the quality-control issues we encountered. Still, if you’re looking for a low-priced, scooter-like 125cc motorcycle to tool around town on, the K-Pipe might be what you’re looking for in this category.

2017 Kymco K-Pipe 125
+ Highs

  • No clutch required to start from first gear
  • More full-sized feel than other 125s
  • Stable at high speeds compared to other 125s
– Sighs

  • Non-standard shifting pattern
  • Cold-blooded
  • Potential quality-control issues
2017 Kymco K-Pipe 125 Specifications
MSRP $1,999
Engine Type 123.7cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled, carbureted, SOHC, two-valve
Bore and Stroke 54mm x 54mm
Compression Ratio 8.6:1
Rear Wheel Horsepower 7.0 hp @ 6,900 rpm
Torque 5.7 lb-ft @ 5,900 rpm
Transmission 4-speed
Final Drive Chain
Front Suspension 31mm telescopic fork; 3.5 inches travel
Rear Suspension Single shock; 4.0 inches travel
Front Brake Single 276mm disc, dual-piston caliper
Rear Brake Drum
Front Tire 2.75-17
Rear Tire 3.50-17
Rake/Trail 27.0°/3.5 in
Wheelbase 50.8 in
Seat Height 31.0 in
Curb Weight 247 lbs.
Fuel Capacity 1.2 gal

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  • Douglas

    Pass….

  • Ulysses Araujo

    Soo… Cub-clone-like (horizontal) engine, cub clutchless shift pattern and change (at least first gear, do you MO guys test if changes to other gears have the same cub-like behavior? Namely, closing throttle engages the auto clutch). Sometimes these bikes could engage neutral from 4th (last) gear, actually nice at standstill. Seems to me it’s basically a cub in bike size.

    • Andre Capitao Melo

      Cubs have two clutches: one centrifugal, for starting the movement, and other actuated by the gear lever.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8YMANT-C0s

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVbqn0UQ1UA&t=198s

      • Ulysses Araujo

        Uh… I know? I was asking if besides the main clutch (which in this bike is probably cable actuated) there are other cues to the existence of the auto clutch?

        • Andre Capitao Melo

          “Highs:
          No clutch required to start from first gear”

    • Sean Lynch

      It’s not a rotary gearbox, it’s actually a 4-down pattern with neutral at the top. You can cycle through the whole pattern at idle, though. NHTSA mandated a pattern change, so Kymco USA applied a “shift correction kit”, which replaced the original shift pedal with a bellcrank apparatus to reverse the pattern. My kit is still in the box, it shifts much better with the direct setup.

      Not quite a Cub clutch either. Its a 3-shoe centrifugal mechanism in lieu of the ramps and roller weights the Cub clutches had. Still works decent, but the shifter lacks the declutching mechanism that the Cubs had on their shift mechanism.

  • kenneth_moore

    It appears “Krack Pipe” is the right name for it. If you’re going to waste money on junk like this, you might as well buy a Chinese 125 from Pep Boys and save a few hundred bucks. After a few weeks they’re both going to wind up in the same place: under a pile of crap in a corner of the garage.

    • BDan75

      I don’t know about this bike, but I’ve heard mostly positive things about Kymco scooters.

      • Jon Jones

        They are a cut above.

    • Not so fast Moore! We flogged one for about 29 hours (a 24 hr sprint race plus five hours of practice) and it never missed a beat. Slow and steady it was.

      • kenneth_moore

        Ok, maybe that was too harsh. But, when I read about the spongy brake, the failing instrument panel, and the goofy shift pattern, it didn’t really come off like a good investment vs. a Kawi or Honda.

        I hereby retract the “Krack Pipe” crack.

      • Sean Lynch

        I ran my 2016 K-Pipe (with the original uncorrected 4-down shift pattern) in the 2017 Lake Erie Loop. Covered 672 (odometer corrected) miles in 22 hours and 50 minutes, stopping only for fuel-ups, a quick lunch at the Windsor Tim Hortons and a quick dinner on the New York State Thruway. Also had a 1.5 hour delay getting through Canadian Customs. Bike ran like a watch despite being pinned the whole time. I did have to change the oil twice when I got home to flush all the residual gunk out of the block.

        The engine’s essentially a Lifan 1P54FMI. Harder to tweak than the 120cc 1P52FMI that the SSR has, but there is room for porting improvement in the exhaust side of the head.

  • Old MOron

    ” In our descent from MO’s Secret Mountain Road Testing Facility, the K-Pipe topped out at an indicated 76 mph!”

    This is why I read MO. Looking forward to the shootout.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Honda has sold bazillions of CB125s over many many years. Bring it back 🙂

    • Starmag

      Can I have the ’75 version in blue? Soichiro would approve.

      • Craig Hoffman

        It all started for me on a similar bike (’74 Honda XL100). Note the T-shirt, tennis shoes, Sears Tuffskin jeans and blue metalflake helmet with no visor. My parents let me out of the house like this?

        Actually quite grateful my parents let me mow lawns, shovel snow and buy that orange Honda with my own money as a kid. Set me up for a lifetime of MC related joy (which still includes doing wheelies), and imbued me with a strong work ethic. Thanks Mom & Dad and Mr. Honda 🙂

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/918d6612122b551237239562ccb58a111994af16423a5b996450a680c01385ce.jpg

    • Kenneth

      That would be a product worth keeping – and, be a true value, even if more costly, initially.

  • Kenneth

    I can’t see the value equalling “8.0/10” for a machine that’s designed so poorly in so many respects – at almost ANY price. On the other hand, T.S. would have probably rated it’s value at 9 (as he did for one of the equally-poor CSC bikes).

  • ‘Mike Smith

    How long till you see one with “C””R””A””C” decals in front of the K-pipe?

  • Vrooom

    I like the 17″ wheels. Give me a six speed transmission, and sort out the electronic display problems. I’ll take care of the brakes, and we’ve got a deal for a fun little play bike. Could it maintain 55-60 on a flat stretch of road I ask the editors.

  • TheMarvelous1310

    I do like the idea of an affordable small bike for the learners and/or cheap enthusiasts, even if I’m too heavy for it at 300ish pounds. Still, I do wish they’d give one some more juice, at least in the double digits.