Enduro / offroad
Single cylinder, two-stroke
Twin shock absorbers
Left Side upswept black muffler (Chrome heat shield)
When news of this month’s write-up came cross my desk, I was giddy with excitement. At the top of the letter was penned the grandest of American motorcycles: a Harley Davidson. Pphhwwwooarrrrr! All that hulking chrome, a shorn-off exhaust that melts ear-drums, and an engine that . . . hang on, is that a 125cc? What the bloody hell is this?!
There are numerous oddities about this bike that separate it from its exhibitionist brotherhood. Let’s begin with an advert in Playboy from the era (available on Flickr). Marketing may well have been out to lunch (or returning from a liquid one) when boasting that it’s Great American Freedom Machine – a 125! – was audaciously ‘the nicest way you’ll ever go from one place to another’. It expanded further to say that it was an ‘on-road, off-road, five speed, oil injected goodtime machine.’ Nothing like pandering to the Playboy fanbase, they added ‘sun-drenched, tingly and feeling like new money.’ Take a minute. Just look at it. I’ll wait here, it’s all right.
In fairness, it’s an Enduro machine for on and off-road, so lightness was the name of the game. But in saying that, the handle-bars were stolen from a child’s scooter. It has drum brakes front and rear (disc brakes weren’t introduced on production motorcycles until ’75 with Honda’s CB750) and an exhaust cover made from a sixth-year student at technical college. It has an oil pump feed with an external tank feeding into its single cylinder two-stroke. The rear sprocket is almost bigger than the wheel itself, and the tail-light seems to be half jet-blaster and half-police speed scanner - it’s monumentally big! People driving behind must think that it’s constantly sunset. The dash is basic, relaying the current speed, miles travelled, and whether the indicators are on. Given the sheer size of the tangerines on the handlebars, you’d have thought that adding an orange indicator was a little unnecessary. Like giving a cow bell to an elephant. If you didn’t notice it first time . . .
So, what gives? Everyone knows that Harley were kicking out their signature 45-degree air-cooled V-Twin as early as (google search) 1910, and so channelling our inner-Wisconsian yet-seemingly-more-Texan, what in tarnation was goowwwwiiinnnn onnnn?! 125s?! They may as well been buildin’ golf carts and snow mobiles! These are what are known as Harley’s “AMF years”. Yup, that AMF, the ones that own the ten-pin-bowling. With Harley Davidson in lean times, AMF purchased the company in 1969 and with a wave of foreign bikes all proving successful in the United State of the USA, continued Harley’s early ventures into the smaller market – some were actually Italian-made Aermacchi motorcycles re-branded as Harley’s (an arm later sold to Cagvia). But what could be less Harley than a 125cc Harley? Well, try the golf carts and snowmobiles. Ardent followers must have been apoplectic! Eventually AMF righted a few wrongs and bought out the Super Glide, a 1200 cruiser, and the infamous Fat Bob in ’79 before being sold back to the original Davidson’s grandson.
The TX-125 was for the 1973 Model Year only as it was transitional between the MLS Rapido series and the SX-125 series with equally daring adverts and brochures. Despite the odds, there are a few 125’s kicking around, and as much as it grates with the traditional Harley ethos, they do look a lot of fun, and as distinctive as you’re ever likely to find.