1972-honda-sl125_1More capable for off-road use than the CL series of the 1960’s and early 1970’s, Honda launched the SL series about 1970 with 100, 125, 175 and 350 cc machines. Street legal machines, they served as great dependable dirt bikes, but also transportation for tens of thousands of riders.

Offering CL72’s and CL77’s, the 250 and 305 Scrambler models of the mid-1960s, Honda and other Japanese makers brought us somewhat heavy dirt bikes that were lightly modified high pipe versions of their street models. But these bikes caught on and made thousands of off-road enthusiasts. With the SL model line, chassis and engines became a bit more appropriate for off-road riding. The two-stroke CR250 and CR125 Elsinores were Honda’s first real motocrossers, first available in 1973 and 1974 respectively.

Like other Honda products, the basic engine design of the SL125 was used in several machines over a long period also in 100cc form. Honda finally gave us 5-speed transmissions, somewhat longer travel suspension with more ground clearance. But they invested in more dirt oriented frames and the high level fenders were functional and good looking. Backyard and farm field tracks everywhere gave riders some experience and many decided to go racing.

John Seager’s father bought him this particular Honda SL125 new in 1972, the first year Honda used the Motosport nomenclature which also appeared on their radical for the time XL250. John used it off road, used it to get to classes during engineering school and for engineering internships in San Francisco and Detroit, commuted with it and kept it in good condition for over 43 years before donating it to the National Motorcycle Museum. “As a young kid I added heavier rear shocks, the plastic front fender and the Hooker Header to let the neighbors hear us,” offers John.


    • Engine: Four-Stroke Single
    • Type: Overhead Cam, Two Valves per Cylinder
    • Bore & Stroke: 56mm x 50mm
    • Displacement: 122cc’s
    • Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
    • Ignition: Battery, Points, Coil
    • Carburetor: Keihin 20mm
    • Starting: Kick Only
    • Horsepower: 11HP
    • Primary: Gear Driven
    • Clutch: Wet, Multi-Plate
    • Final Drive: Chain
    • Transmission: 5-Speed
    • Frame: Double Down Tube, Steel
    • Suspension: Hydraulic Fork / Swingarm, Dual Shocks
    • Brakes: 5″ SLS Drum Front / 5″ Drum Rear
    • Wheelbase: 50 Inches
    • Wheels / Tires: 2.75 x 21/ 3.25 x 18
    • Weight: 210 Pounds
    • Top Speed: 72 MPH
12 replies
  1. Mark
    Mark says:

    Yes, Ed, and deeper research shows the SL90 Motosport and SL350 Motosport arrived in 1969, the SL100 Motosport and SL175 Motosport in ’70 and your SL70 Motosport and the SL125 Motosport were 1971 introductions.

  2. Don Storing
    Don Storing says:

    And those were truly the days. So many of us were bitten by the motorcycle bug back then and still can appreciate those creations. Things are fancier today and probably more powerful and perhaps even more reliable but the fun that was had on those things will never be surpaced, not by me anyway and I’ve had a slew of bigger, badder, more impressive motorcycles.

  3. Charles Hall
    Charles Hall says:

    My learner was a CL125,wish I still owned it 50 years later. When I turned 16 I had my choice of upgrade. My circle of friends were Yamaha Enduro riders so I chose the Elsinore over the SL 250. It was a great bike but being a kid I was infatuated with the RPM’s. I immediately regretted it. Gone were the days of just starting at the bottom of a hill and twisting the throttle for instant torque, I now had to start out with a fifty yard run and rev it up until that 250 screamed like a power saw. Those were the best years for motorsport bikes.( 1968-1980) imo

  4. Tom
    Tom says:

    The exhaust appears to be a hooker pipe…the original eem pipe was different..I know cause I had the original & took it off to install the hooker pipe plus a powroll hicomp piston kit…

  5. Anthony Douglas Hayward
    Anthony Douglas Hayward says:

    I had one (UK spec) in 1974. It was my first bike and I kept it for many years. Recently I acquired another 1974 model which will be restored. Lovely bikes, just a pity it was the on SL series bikes we got in the UK..

  6. Joseph Fruth
    Joseph Fruth says:

    We had 71 SL125, 74 XL175, and 5 XL250’S, all sideport, between my Dad, Brother and myself. Still have a XL250 bored 40 over. Previous owner tried running her without oil.

  7. jeffrey w myers
    jeffrey w myers says:

    I had a bike like that in high school in the 70s. Many guys in school had one. I’m now 66 and would love to have one to play on. I really miss mine.


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