King of the Hill: 1974 Honda CR125M Elsinore

In 1973, offroad riding and motocross were hot, and the Honda CR125M Elsinore was the bike to have.

| November/December 2012

  • Honda CR125M Elsinore
    In 1973, there wasn’t much to be excited about in the 125cc class — except for the newest offroader from Honda.
    Photo By Nick Cedar
  • Elsinore Clutch
    Period testers were happy with the 125’s easy starting, light clutch, excellent acceleration and nimble handling.
    Photo By Nick Cedar
  • Honda CR125M Elsinore Engine
    Period dyno tests confirmed what riders soon learned: This 125 made a lot of power for its size, and it was all at the high end of the rpm range.
    Photo By Nick Cedar
  • Elsinore Handlebars
    The Elsinore had a good run, but times changed. The race through Lake Elsinore was stopped, and the name was no longer synonymous with motocross; the Elsinore name was dropped after 1982.
    Photo By Nick Cedar
  • Elsinore Showa Shocks
    Showa shocks have 4 inches of travel.
    Photo By Nick Cedar
  • Elsinore Expansion Chamber
    The OEM expansion chamber was an impossible find.
    Photo By Nick Cedar
  • Honda Elsinore Frame
    The frame was manufactured from high-strength chrome-moly tubing, with a large backbone tied to the steering head and the front downtube with carefully engineered gussets.
    Photo By Nick Cedar
  • Honda Elsinore Left Side
    At just 190 pounds wet, the Honda was light and fast.
    Photo By Nick Cedar
  • Peter Palko
    Owner Peter Palko found that, while it at first seemed that there wasn’t much to the little single-cylinder motocrosser, there were nuances and challenges to restoring the CR125M.
    Photo By Nick Cedar
  • Honda Elsinore Right Side
    Plastic fenders kept some of the mud off the rider.
    Photo By Nick Cedar

  • Honda CR125M Elsinore
  • Elsinore Clutch
  • Honda CR125M Elsinore Engine
  • Elsinore Handlebars
  • Elsinore Showa Shocks
  • Elsinore Expansion Chamber
  • Honda Elsinore Frame
  • Honda Elsinore Left Side
  • Peter Palko
  • Honda Elsinore Right Side

1974 Honda CR125M Elsinore 
Claimed power: 21.7hp @ 9,500rpm (claimed)
Top speed: 60mph
Engine: 123cc air-cooled 2-stroke single, 56mm x 50mm bore and stroke, 7.6:1 compression ratio
Weight (dry): 179lb (81.4kg)
Fuel capacity: 1.6gal (6ltr)
Price then/now: $740/$2,000-$4,000

In 1973, motocross was hot. Motorcycling as leisure was big business, and lots of kids lived within easy reach of places to go offroad riding, with lots of opportunity to explore almost in their own backyards.

With aspiring dirt riders pouring onto the trails, motocross and enduro organizers found little difficulty attracting competitors to their events. One of the most famous offroad races, immortalized in the movie On Any Sunday, was held every year through the Sixties and early Seventies in the Southern California desert town of Lake Elsinore, with part of the route going through the downtown streets. More than 1,500 riders regularly turned up.

But while it was easy to find a place to ride, it wasn’t so easy to find a really effective small-bore motocross bike in the 125cc range that would appeal to younger riders. Dirt Bike ticked off the choices in its September 1973 issue, starting with the Bultaco 125, which was screamingly fast, but frighteningly unreliable. “Learn to live with its mechanical suicide tendencies,” Dirt Bike editors said. “If it runs, nothing can keep up with it.” Dirt Bike’s editors were pretty much down on the category: They thought the Sachs- and Zundapp-engined specials on the market were heavy, had bad shocks and unreliable gearboxes; most of the Japanese 125cc bikes didn’t handle well; CZs were heavy; Husqvarnas couldn’t keep up with Bultacos and had unreliable gearboxes; and Hodakas were fun but didn’t win a lot of races. According to them, there wasn’t much to be excited about in the 125cc class — except for the newest offroader from Honda.



Honda makes a 2-stroke

Honda had built its brand and reputation on 4-stroke engines. But Honda wanted to be the pre-eminent motorcycle company in all types of motorcycling, and by the mid-Sixties, the only competitive offroad bikes were 2-strokes.

While management mused over this puzzle, Honda staff research engineer Soichiro Miyakoshi kept busy catching up on 2-stroke technology, obtaining bikes from rival makes and stripping them down. Hypothesizing that a good power-to-weight ratio was essential for motocross success, he headed a team that designed a feather-light 250cc 2-stroke prototype, which they sent out late in 1971 (with no name on the tank) to compete in Japanese motocross races.

donald
5/24/2018 1:36:41 PM

i have a pair what are they worth to you?


donald
5/24/2018 1:35:48 PM

i have a pair what are they worth to you ?


donald
5/24/2018 1:35:47 PM

i have a pair what are they worth to you?




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