VITAL REVIEW “Tested: 125 Pro Challenge Husqvarna CR125/144”
There was a time when two-strokes were dying. They went from a once prevalent design to disappearing by the tens of thousands…not unlike the American bison.
Once numbering in the millions, the grazing beasts were eventually killed off so quickly that, in the matter of just a few decades, only a few hundred remained before people realized that their extinction might be a bad thing…damn pioneers! However, after some serious conservation efforts the species was saved, but the population will never return to what its former numbers (feel free to shed a tear).
Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news for all of the premix die-hards out there, but two-strokes will also never return to their former glory (hey don’t shoot the messenger! I’m just telling it like it is). Still, in no way does this mean two-strokes are extinct. Just like the buffalo, the few two-strokes that do remain are far more cherished than in their heyday when they were roosting on the pro tour at the hands of the world’s fastest racers.
For this reason, when Husqvarna recently offered up the chance for VitalMX to enter one of the manufacturer’s CR125s into the MTA Two-Stroke Championships, we didn’t hesitate. After all, we’re premix fans just like you are, and the idea of 40 buzzing tiddlers on the line is about as rare nowadays as a buffalo stampede.
Husqvarna not only sponsored the Two-Stroke Championships, but also created the 125 Pro Challenge, where the winner of the 125 Pro Class would go home with a brand spanking new CR125.
We were basically allowed to do whatever we pleased to the machine. Husky includes a 144cc kit with the CR125, so going to the larger bore was a no brainer. From there it was a matter of getting the bike to perform to its true potential…and pimping it out!
Of course we wanted to win, so we called upon one our local fast dudes to help meet the challenge: Andrew Silverstein. Along with being a longtime Fox Racing supported rider, Andrew also comes with some serious amateur racing and Loretta Lynn’s credentials and is currently working towards earning enough points for his AMA Pro license.
If you haven’t already seen the video, here’s how Silverstein’s day went for the 125 Pro Challenge:
– Husqvarna 125 Pro Challenge with Andrew Silverstein – More Motocross Videos
Okay, so we didn’t get the “w”, but like Andrew said in his post-race interview, the bike won in his heart. Thanks to key support from a whole slew of companies, we were able to turn the stock CR125 from a tame beginner bike into a race-ready, pro-level 144cc WMD.
The 2013 Husqvarna CR125 is actually the oldest bike in the European brand’s lineup. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the little MX machine first rolling off the assembly line. While the bike has not been a big seller in the U.S. for quite sometime, Husky never stopped developing this motorcycle.
In stock trim, the CR125 has a potent power plant with solid handling characteristics. I have been able to ride several different iterations of the CR125 since the late 1990s, and I can say that the 2013 is undoubtedly the best handling version to date.
Cornering does not even require a second thought. Just point the bike where you want it to go and it obeys with no fuss. This can come as a surprise to someone who is riding the CR125 for the first time since it does feel a bit on the tall side. Braking is also a non-issue.
With a solid Brembo front brake, you not only stop on a dime, but the bike remains stable both in the front and rear. In the air, there is no question that this is probably one of the most flickable MX machines you could ever hope to ride although it certainly has a smaller cockpit than some of its two-stroke brethren.
Since Husky moved to the KYB forks (which are essentially the same as the highly regarded KYB SSS forks that Yamaha has used since 2006), the overall suspension action has improved dramatically. While the stock Sachs shock feels a bit under sprung for anyone over 160lbs., it is still an improvement from their older versions and Silverstein even reported that it was a bit on the stiff side for him.
To handle the suspension setup, we called upon the crew at Race Tech. Located right down the road from Husqvarna’s west coast headquarters, Race Tech actually works with the Italian made machines on a regular basis, and was able to get the forks and shock fairly well adjusted before the bike ever even hit the dirt.
Once we got the first ride out of the way, it was time to start dialing the suspension in. Over the course of a day, Silverstein went back and forth with the Race Tech aces to create the most balanced and properly sprung setup as possible. The initial settings compared to the finished product were drastically different.
Before the test day, there was very little rebound dampening in both the front and the rear, making for an unsettled and harsh ride. However, after Race Tech really got their hands into the project, they created what could only be described as an extremely plush ride; smooth fork and shock compression that allowed the suspension to settle into the stroke and soak up virtually all square-edged bumps; a key aspect at a track like Glen Helen where the Two-Stroke Championships were held.
It should be noted that this setup was specifically tailored to Silverstein, who tips the scales at barely over 160lbs and is about the same height as Tyrion Lannister (sorry Andrew, I couldn’t resist). This means the finished product for suspension was very much rider specific. Anyone fitting Silverstein’s dimensions and riding ability would be fine; pretty much everyone else, not so much (my 6’3, 190lbs frame doesn’t exactly fit the criteria).
In the engine department the changes were actually quite simple. The bike was originally broken in with its stock trim with the normal 125cc configuration. Once Andrew was comfortable with the bike, then the big guns were brought out with the 144cc piston and cylinder lubricated by some Motul 800 2T Factory Line premix. To kick the power up another notch, FMF supplied their new Factory Fatty pipe and Powercore II silencer designed specifically for the CR144. To get the beast breathing better, we used a DT1 air filter. Top it off with a Renthal chain and sprocket set (Andrew ran 13T/50T combination), and the original bike suddenly had a race ready power plant.
The CR125 on its own has plenty of power up top, but is a little difficult to keep on the pipe, easily dropping out of the powerband for anyone but an expert two-stroke rider. In other words, there is a lot of clutch fanning. In contrast, the CR144 as we had it, has plenty of lower end hit, builds through the mid, and keeps on climbing into the upper RPMs. At the hands of a pro, this machine could easily run with a 250 four-stroke.
You may have noticed the wheels on this bike. Good, because that’s what we were going for. Afterall, a pro bike just doesn’t look like a pro bike without some siiiik rims, right?! Warp 9 Racing hooked up this custom set for the Husky, with their CNC machined, red anodized hubs, black powder coated spokes, red nipples, black Warp 9 rims, and wave rotors. To say these are eye-catchers is an understatement. Add to the wheels some fresh Dunlop MX51 tires in the front and rear, and it’s a shame this Husky ever had to get dirty.
At the controls, Renthal supplied some Twinwall handlebars, grips, and a Gen2 IntelliLever for the clutch.
Last, and certainly not least, DeCal Works put together a custom set of graphics with their new T-11 base design. When the final pieces came together, we were blown away by the finished product. The stock Husqvarna CR125 is a good-looking machine on its own with sharp modern lines and a minimalist appearance, but throw a little work into it, and the bike can look like it is meant for the big leagues.
Thanks to all of the companies who chipped in support: