American motorcycle riders tend to think of anything under about 500cc as a “small bike.” I used to think like that myself.
My first bike was a Honda CB-350 (actual displacement: 325cc). I purchased the bike in 1972, and I put a lot of miles on it. I think they had the red line on the tachometer at 9,500 rpm, but it would cheerfully pull past that. If you kept the revs up, it was a fast little bike. As in, “little bike.” We couldn’t help it. That’s the way it was. That was just about the first generation of very high-tech Japanese motorcycles. Before the 1960s, all motorcycles were engineered along the lines of 1930s English bikes, and anything under 500cc was slow, slow, slow. Those were low revving, torquey motors made for putting around on bad roads. Honda changed all of that single-handedly in the early 1960s.
We soon learned the words, “thermal efficiency.” Whereas it never seemed to occur to the English to create an engine of less than 500cc with more than one cylinder, Honda started turning out racing bikes that seemed like science fiction. Two-cylinder 50cc; four-cylinder 250cc in V-4 configuration. Where the English could barely create engines with two valves per cylinder that would function properly, Honda innovated four valves per cylinder. Overhead cams; double overhead cams; 12,500 rpm red lines. The sky was the limit all of a sudden. By the late 1960s those Honda 350s, then the model called the “Super Hawk,” were as fast as English 650s.
I liked my small bike, but I did move up with my second bike. In 1982 I got a Yamaha 650 Seca. That was a great bike. Light and easy handling; very powerful engine (60hp); very comfortable for any purpose at all, with flat, shortish bars and slightly rear-set foot-pegs. I used it for commuting, canyon bashing, and road trips around California. A “general purpose” bike if ever there was one. Great at everything.
The whole scene is completely different in Thailand. Here anything over about 150cc is considered a big bike. We would consider this Nova Sonic 125cc as kind of a joke in America, like a toy or something. I can tell you though, between about twenty mph and fifty-five mph or so, this thing would be a rocket. One up, and the rider not too fat, let’s be fair, it’s a pretty small engine.
I had one of the predecessor models in this line, a Honda Nova Dash, made almost fifteen years ago. That was a water cooled two stroke displacing only 100cc. It took a moment to get it rolling, but passing through fifteen or twenty mph with the revs up near the red line it would get up to fifty-five mph so quickly that it was frightening. Well, mostly the sound was frightening, that little two stroke, wound all the way up, was a real screamer. It sounded like it was actually exploding. I don’t know what changes had been made in the engine, but my Dash went through a tank of gas in no time flat. With the revs up, that thing was moving gasoline like crazy.
I’m ready to guarantee, this Nova Sonic 125cc is no toy either. This one has also been modified. As with my Dash, when people go out of their way to install after market brakes, suspension, rear-set foot pegs, and God knows whatever else, you can bet that they’ve spent a few dollars on the engine as well. It’s a nice-looking bike too.
You wouldn’t want to ride it four hundred miles in one day, like I used to do with my Seca. You wouldn’t find any suitable roads for a trip like that anyway. But as a daily driver, and charging around any handy mountain roads on the weekend, this bike would hold your attention.