Up until recently there was an interesting category of sporting 125cc two-strokes that dominated the European beginner bike market. Countries like Italy and Britain restricted new teenaged riders to 125cc machines as a “learner” category that was well catered to by most of the major manufacturers. These learner specials often had race-replica sport-bike styling and sharp dynamics to appeal to the masses of hormone-addled 17 year olds who wanted to look fast, even if their machine couldn’t have more than 15bhp by law. Four-stroke 125s were always available but the hot ticket up until recent years was always a rip snorting two-stroke that could be derestricted once you had completed your learning period. While the four-strokes and two-strokes made the same power when restricted, the smoker could be uncorked afterwards to unleash the full fury of the mighty single – as much as 35-odd horsepower, manic power in a machine that scarcely cracks 250lbs with a full tank of fuel.
Most of these learner specials are by and large inspired by their bigger stablemates – thus you could get a miniaturized Yamaha YZF-R, Honda NSR/CBR, Aprilia RS, or even an 8/10ths replica of the iconic Ducati 916 sold as the Cagiva Mito. There was, however, one notable exception to this rule where a manufacturer went all in and gambled on producing a totally unique design that would break the mould. Gilera produced what was possibly the weirdest 125 sport bike of all time – the short lived and radically-styled Gilera CX125, which would quickly earn a status as a cult special that had some of the most futuristic design to ever grace a “beginner” bike.
Gilera is one of those unfortunate cases of a once-great marque that has recently fallen into obscurity and the realm of the mundane. Gilera was once a mighty force in motorcycle competition, producing some of the most advanced Grand Prix machines of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Gilera today is a mere footnote in the history of Italian motorcycle brands and a feather in the cap of parent company Piaggio, who debased the once-storied name it by slapping its logo onto a series of dull scooters. It wasn’t always so.