Helen Lloyd has ridden the length of Africa and beyond on a 225cc Serow, so who better to test the Sinnis 125 Terrain – a little bike built for big adventures. Try it for yourself at this year’s Overland Event.
The 125 Terrain, the new adventure bike from Chinese manufacturer Sinnis, certainly looks the part. A 125cc bike priced at only £2,499, it is both affordable and available to even the youngest rider armed with only a CBT. With crash bars, bash plate, centre-stand, panniers and a top box included in the price, it is ready for adventure straight from the showroom.
The question is does it act the adventure bike part too?
My bike had been in storage in Bulgaria since last summer. Having ridden it through Africa, I’d left it there to return quickly back to the UK to earn some money. Now, almost a year had passed and I was still in the UK without two wheels… until I got hold of the Sinnis Terrain.
I was warned that I might find it underpowered, but I knew that smaller engines were only limiting on the motorways. If you prefer exploring a country by its back roads and green lanes (which I do) or are simply prepared to allow extra time for a journey (which I am), then a 125cc bike will more than hold its own.
After all, how many times had I been riding down a technical, rocky trail or across long stretches of sandy desert in Africa, thinking what a tough adventurer I was, only to be passed from the other direction by smiling locals riding three-up on a battered 125cc. If they could do it, then why couldn’t I on the Terrain?
It sounded like the perfect bike to discover the Lake District, where I was now based.
My own, and my mates’, initial impression was that it looks like a much larger capacity adventure bike, but unlike most bigger bikes, for the vertically challenged like myself (I’m 5’4”), my feet comfortably touch the ground when I sit on it. With a seat height of 800mm, it was a perfect fit. Only a few miles along the winding coastal road, I was already feeling confident, and confidence is what many riders who will be interested in this bike will want.
It offered smooth transitions and handled the bends well. What did take a little longer to get used to was the linked braking system; whereby, when you engage the rear disc brake, the front end automatically brakes as well. But as with anything new, it soon became the norm. I welcomed the increased responsiveness, especially when I turned onto a single width lane and narrowly avoided a car coming fast round the bend by making an emergency stop. Now, by comparison, the brakes on my Serow feel more like I’m dragging my heels than having real stopping power.
Of course, it doesn’t have the acceleration or top speed of a bigger beast, but that’s not what a 125cc bike is for. It’s a smooth, easy ride that made for an enjoyable day out exploring the Lakes where the narrow, hilly lanes mean limited top speeds are never an issue. Back on the main road headed towards home, it struggled to hit 60mph but did just keep up with the traffic.
Daily Use and Bigger Adventures
Although it was still winter, I used the bike regularly for popping into town. Having the panniers and top box fitted as standard meant bringing home the weekly shop was simple. And I no longer had to worry about how I’d transport those last minute extras. The top box and panniers are not constructed of the most robust material. However the crash bars provide protection for the panniers, so this is of little concern. The lock is simple and I suspect not too difficult to break either, however it will certainly deter any opportunistic thief and while I would prefer not to leave a valuable laptop locked unattended in there all day, for short trips to the shops and longer-term storing of less valuable gear, I wasn’t concerned.
On clear days, I like to head out walking in the hills. What I don’t enjoy is having to drive to the start point. But now, with the ready-to-go Terrain, I’d put my hiking clothes in the pannier, my daypack in the top box and have a fun ride into the central Lakes as well as a good walk up the Old Man of Coniston or in the Langdales. At the start point, I’d change into my hiking gear, stash my bike clothing in the top box, my boots in the pannier and lock the helmet to the bike for security (although my helmet also fits in the top box when not filled with other stuff). That was the great thing about it – the bike is really handy. It’s an enabler. Little thought or preparation is required for it, so you can just go out and enjoy the day and the ride – whatever you have planned.
With the ‘Beast from the East’ Siberian chill plaguing my plans for a multi-day camping tour, I opted for long day rides through the Lakes. Used to endless hours of arse-numbing, butt-cheek-bruising proportions that come from riding my Serow on road for hours at a time while touring in Africa, I am used to stopping frequently, every hour or so, to give brief relief. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover that the Terrain 125’s seat is like a sofa chair in comparison. I no longer stopped because my body screamed for it, but could ride all day without taking a break, no bruised backside and no tight shoulders or back. Now I stopped only because I wanted to take a photo or grab a coffee to warm up. This bike is comfy. And that means, if you need to, you can still cover big distances in a day.
Not only is this bike affordable to buy, it is efficient and cheap to run. With a 14-litre tank it only infrequently requires refuelling, making it much more suited as a tourer than the small tank on my Serow. The overhead cam, two-valve, fuel-injected single cylinder returned an average of 91 mpg accross the whole time I had it, and that included a real mixture of use.
In addition, the wind screen offers good protection and there is an in-built USB on the electronic dash, which means you can keep your phone charged en route. There is also an electronic fuel gauge and manual rev counter.
Although I prefer not to ride in the dark, sometimes it’s necessary. So when I was late returning home one day from visiting friends, I was surprised at how effective the headlight is. Unlike the Serow’s main beam, which is more of a candle useful only so that others can see you, the Terrain’s lights actually lit the road and surroundings sufficiently to ride safely and confidently in the dark. All the switchgear seems robust and is easy to use.
While the 125 Terrain’s suspension is not designed for serious off-road riding, and I found it bottoming out when I took the rockier sections around Grizedale at speed, it still managed to take me wherever I asked it to – just like those 125s ridden 3-up that I passed in Africa. If technical off-road riding is what you want, then get a full-on dirt bike. For relaxed on-road touring, gravel tracks and hard-packed trails, with the ability to handle harder sections when needed, this bike is more than capable even with the road-biased tyres that come as standard.
Because of the low seat height, being able to put a foot down makes tackling those trickier tracks much less daunting. It also means there’s less chance of dropping the bike. Despite having dropped my own machine in almost every country between here and South Africa, I was wondering when, not if, I would eventually drop the 125 Terrain. It didn’t happen on the solid trails in the Lakes, and wasn’t until I took the back back home to Norfolk that it finally ended up horizontal. Unlike the Lakes, the Breckland region of Norfolk is flat with sandy or muddy tracks depending upon recent rainfall. Either way, they are slippery. Riding through the forest I was surprised at how well the tyres handled the terrain, gripping better than expected. It was only when avoiding a large puddle on an open trail that the rear wheel slipped in the slick mud and ended up on its side. I was half-expecting it.
At 150kg (dry weight), the bike was easy to pick up, even for someone who’s not that strong and without requiring any special technique or massive exertion. Knowing that you can pick up your bike if you drop it is another confidence-giver. Together with the fact that it is easy to push, manoeuvre and turn around on a tight trail may be enough assurance to attempt an unknown trail, safe in the knowledge that if you drop it or have to turn around because it becomes too difficult, you can. Because the bike is factory-fitted with crash bars, you needn’t worry about damaging the tank or the panniers. Bar ends also protect the gear and brake levers.
The advantages of a 125cc bike are numerous… light (easy to pick up and handle) with a low seat height (good for the vertically challenged like myself), cheap to buy and cheap to run.
The Sinnis 125 Terrain is all these things packaged in a smart adventure bike style that is comfortable to ride all day long on the road and a confidence-giver should you wish to take it over rougher ground.
With panniers and top box as standard, it is all set for touring from the outset, but they also make it a useful everyday bike whether as a local commuter or for local weekend adventures.
Engine type: 4-Stroke, Air cooled EFI
Max power: 8.3kw
Transmission: Manual 5 Speed
Starting system: Electric
Fuel capacity: 14 litres
Dry weight: 150kg
Seat height: 800mm
Display: Part digital
Front suspension: USD Telescopic
Rear suspension: Monoshock
Front brakes: Independent twin piston calliper
Rear brakes: Disk combined with Front
Front tyre: 100/80×17
Rear tyre: 120/80×17
Review and photos by Helen Lloyd.
Test Ride the Sinnis 125 Terrain at the Overland Event
Sinnis will be bringing three 125 Terrains to the 2018 Overland Event for people to test ride on-road and over the supervised Skills Course. For more information, and to book your place, visit the Overland Event website.