Little, Rare, and Italian – 1991 Gilera CX125

In Italy, Small Displacement, Sport by Tim HuberLeave a Comment

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The Gilera CX125 is a really unique little avant-garde motorcycle. Obviously its unorthodox front wheel setup is its most predominant feature, but its space-age full bodywork definitely furthers the adventurousness of the design. The small-bore scoot was built by Gilera, an Italian motorcycle manufacturer founded more than a century ago that was eventually bought by the Piaggio Group. The Arcore-based manufacturer has a rich history and has produced everything from small-displacement mopeds to premier class prototypes as well as racers used to compete at the TT. Beloved professional racer Marco Simoncelli – who tragically died during race in 2011 – also piloted a Gilera to victory in the 2008 250cc World Championship. While Gilera has fallen from grace, it definitely holds an important place in Italian moto-history.

The name comes from the founder, Giuseppe Gilera. He previously spent time apprenticing as a mechanic with companies like Bianchi and Moto-Reve. In 1909, he designed and built his own 317cc OHV single and went racing. He would receive funding not long after and set up a bonafide factory operation in Arcore, Italy; a municipality in the Province of Monza and Brianza. Fast forward some three-quarters of a century later to the mid 80’s and Gilera would produce its first fully-faired 125 sportbikes: the KZ and KK, both of which were met with a warm reception from the motorcycle world. The two bikes would become the foundation upon which the much tricker Gilera SP-01 machine would be built in ’88. The SP-01 was a fairly cutting-edge liquid-cooled 124cc two-stroke single powered race-oriented sportbike that made a reported 35 hp at 10,600 rpm and, had a 13.5:1 compression ratio, could break into cripple-digit miles-per-hour, and had a dry weight of 250lbs (290lbs wet).

Gilera spent time developing an unusually large steel twin-spar beam-design frame for the SP-01 that would be passed onto the next evolution of the 125: the SP-02 from ’90, followed by the Crono which was introduced in ’91. Both these bikes looked pretty ahead of their time and also sported some hardware that was usually reserved for larger, more expensive sportbikes such as their 40mm inverted Marzocchi forks. The Crono and SP machines would ultimately be where the CX would get a lot of its DNA from, though unlike those models the CX was reportedly designed by Luciano Marabese – who designed a handful of bikes for Gilera, and penned some designs for Moto Guzzi, Triumph, Vespa, Aprilia, Yamaha, and Bajaj.

Marabese also mentored Rodolfo Frascoli who went on to design some pretty epic work, including the recently unveiled one-off XJR1300 street-tracker entitled “Mya” which was built for the #46 Yamaha rider himself: Valentino Rossi. I’ve also read other sources that claim Federico Martini – who formally worked at Bimota and deigns the DB1 – was the man behind the CX’s design. Gilera also produced one of my all-time favorite production models which I think would sell like crazy if recreated today with modern components – the production cafe-racer Saturno Bialbero 500.

The 1989 Gilera Saturno Bialbero 500

Gilera would pull the cover off of the first publicly unveiled CX prototype at EICMA in 1989. The concept was unique and exotic, but unlike most envelope-pushing prototypes, the CX would actually see production two years later without straying very far from the original design shown in ’89. Single-sided rear swing-arms were still a relatively new feature at that point in time (thanks Honda) and aside from the experimental race machines from ELF – such as the awesome 1984 ELF2 which the CX clearly took a lot of inspiration from – or a few other machines like the BMW flying bricks, a single-sided front swing-arm was pretty unheard of in 1990. The CX was only possible thanks to the Crono already existing, as the CX is more or less just a Crono with a trick front-end and stylish full bodywork.

The 1984 ELF2 Racer

The twin-spar chassis developed for the SP machines was passed onto the CX as it was with the Crono, (though the Crono’s was aluminum and the CX’s steel) the CX also got the Crono’s engine: a liquid-cooled 123cc two-stroke power-valve single that made a reported 29hp at 10,500rpm and 13.2ft-lbs of torque. The exhaust system on the CX had been adjusted to make more midrange power though this came at the expense of top-end muscle, and the APTS valve on the CX was controlled electronically rather than mechanically like on the Crono. The CX came with a 32mm Dell ‘Orto carburetor and a six-speed manual transmission with a chain final drive. Up front there was a single fully-floating four-caliper 300mm disc while a 240mm disc was in back, both of which were produced by Grimeca who also built the CX’s stock 17-inch alloy wheels.

Gilera called the suspenders on the CX the “Single Suspension System” or SSS, which consisted of a single-sided front fork and singe-sided swing-arm, not a hub-center unit like on the Yamaha GTS or Bimota Tesi – more like half of an inverted telescopic fork. This didn’t really offer much of an advantage in any measurable way, but it also wasn’t a disadvantage, and it looked pretty cool, so why not. Steering was controlled via the lower triple clamp that was connected to the main 45mm arm via a series of articulated alloy rods. The front suspension on the CX was manufactured by Paioli, who worked with Gilera on developing the component. While it does admittedly look a little unusual, when you start to examine the front-end of the avant-garde 125 that is the CX, it becomes increasingly clear how simple and straightforward it actually is.

The CX125 is one of the marque’s more memorable models for obvious reasons and was built to compete in a competitive European market twenty-five years ago. Because places in Europe like the UK and Italy restricted new young riders to motorcycles no larger than 125cc’s, a booming class of 125 two-stroke “beginner” sport bikes were being produced. At this same time, Gilera also built a number of entry-level enduro style machines like the RTT and ER 125’s. The CX125 would first hit showroom floors in 1991 and reportedly came with a price tag of $2,995, though according to one trustworthy source, pristine CX125 examples can fetch around $15K, while clean examples are supposedly worth around $10K. The CX125 would stay in production for two years before Gilera would pull the plug on the model.

The unorthodox futuristic designs of the 1980’s were followed by an equally enthusiastic ’90’s that saw some really cool and unique machines like the CX 125 and Bimota Tesi. The bike didn’t introduce any near parts or technologies and it wasn’t at the top of any of the charts in its class, but it did take a handful of features seldom seen on eighth-liter motorcycles and put them all together. It’s also just a really fun little bike, and one that I’m surprised saw production. These things are pretty rare and will almost certainly only go up in value. Supposedly only 1,000 units were ever produced, with half of them being for the Italian market and never leaving their country of origin. Making examples of these cool little learner bikes that much more rare is the fact that lots of them were beaten to shit and ridden into the ground by Italian teenagers who – like all teenagers – aren’t always the most responsible owners, or usually very responsible in general.

This particular first-year (’91) CX125 example is a true survivor and is all original. It has been well kept living in a private collection in the Netherlands and only has 6,300 miles on the odo. The seller says the bike is “technically perfect” and that it comes with papers. Emissions regulations may be tricky as this is an oil-burner, but this is a really cool and really rare bike, at a surprisingly fair price. I don’t expect everyone to like this one, [EDITOR’S NOTE: I do, this thing is awesome] but at the very least I don’t think anyone can deny how creative, interesting, or unique it is.

You can find this 1991 Gilera CX125 for sale here on RaceBikeMart in the Netherlands with a price of $7,000.

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