As a rank outsider for a biker, I can't help but wonder how some of my colleagues look at the 125cc segment with disdain. Most of their comments regarding 125cc bikes being nothing better than commuters are valid. After all, 125cc bikes with 10-11 bhp can't be termed 'enthusiastic', but am seeing signs that manufacturers are slowly starting to treat it with a bit of interest.
I'd be honest to say that Honda actually were the first to look at the 125cc segment with a certain level of respect. While the Shine may have been nothing more than a point A to point B bike, the Stunner in a sense does far more than that. It looks good, has Honda's fantastic build quality and seems to ride and handle quite well too if I'm to go by what K & K (Kartik and Kyle as they are called) seem to suggest. In fact, as they say about the 125 FI, I can only imagine the improvement is substantial enough. Substantial enough for it to be sold in Europe and be awarded the best learner's bike by MCN, the renowned British biking magazine.
I also like Bajaj's attempt with the Pulsar 135 LS. Okay, it isn't a proper 125, but you get the drift. As a non-150cc motorcycle it can keep up with the Pulsar 150 thanks to Bajaj's idea of getting rid of the unnecessary bits (it weighs just 129 kg!). It looks nice too, so you don't get clubbed along with the other 125cc owners. But am not sure if this is just enough.
In most parts of the developed world, 125cc bikes are considered as learner's bikes, but with power ranging from 15-20 bhp for 'learners' and up to 35 bhp for the pros. And even some more. If Indian manufacturers can somehow develop light weight bikes with 15-18 bhp (and fuel injection too) that still meet the emission norms, price it in the range of Rs 55,000-65,000 with a nice quarter or half fairing like the Stunner or even a Supermoto, the 125cc segment can get some serious enthusiast takers. It really can become a proper stepping stone to performance bikes unlike some of the rather compromised 150 and 160cc bikes. The real question is who will bite the bait and take the lead.