The Yamaha Gladiator Type SS is big, good looking and sporty – things we all would like our bike to be

The RX100 and RD350 ruled the roost during the golden age of two-strokes in our country. There was no doubt that Yamaha was top dog – but somewhere, somehow, they floundered with the four-strokes. However, they have now taken the decision to go back to their roots, and the Gladiator Type SS and RS are the first step in that sporty direction.

‘SS’ stands for ‘Stylish and Sporty’ and the ‘RS’ stands for ‘Racing Sports’. There isn’t much to differentiate the two except for their paint schemes, decals and the colour of the rear springs.

The new Gladiator is instantly recognisable, due to the 28 changes Yamaha has made to it, but what hasn’t changed is the quality of the fit and finish; it still remains top notch. The front mudguard has been changed, as has the fairing, now with a vent in the centre, above the headlamp. The indicators have new clear lenses that have replaced the old Gladiator’s amber ones; the handlebar is flatter, encouraging the rider to lean forward, and the handle crown is redesigned.

The muscular tank is complemented well by an engine cowl. The footpegs are made of aluminium now, and the attractive pillion footpegs snap into place with a very satisfying click. The brake pedal is redesigned, and the gearshift lever is truly sporty, now only a toe-shifter. The under-seat cowls look like they flow into one another thanks to the very well-executed decal job, and the seat is dimpled for extra grip during hard riding. Red springs on the dual rear shock absorbers connect the seat to a rectangular swingarm. The new Gladiator also has an exposed chain that requires minimal maintenance. On the right, the newly-designed muffler end-piece is inclined at a suitably sporty angle. Alloy wheels are now standard on the Gladiator. Unlike a run-of-the-mill 125, the Gladiator is a big bike and it shows the tank recesses accommodate the knees of tall riders comfortably. The low handlebar puts a bit of weight on the wrists, but on long rides or the occasions when you’re corner-carving, this is a good thing.

The 123.7cc, 4-stroke, single-cylinder engine’s power and torque outputs are unchanged, with the only changes being a high-flow paper air filter and a silent cam chain.

Twist the throttle, and the engine responds with a rorty note that makes other road users sit up and take notice of you. The engine is extremely smooth and vibe-free, and pulls strongly from 3000rpm onwards.

The bike moves briskly, especially when you factor in that the intuitive 5-speed gearbox needs just a nudge on its gearshift lever to swap ratios. Finding neutral is never a problem, either. The clutch is soft, with smooth engagement. Handling is exceedingly nimble. Ride quality on the new Gladiator proved plush, always comfortable over bad roads, as was the case with the previous generation model. The Gladiator Type SS has stepped into the arena of the 125s and is the opposite of a commuter bike that positions itself as a 100cc alternative. It is big, good looking and sporty – things we all would like our bike to be.

If you’re a student who wants to impress your friends without shelling out too much on petrol, or a commuter who wants a bike that you can have fun with on weekends, take a long, hard look at the Gladiator. It might just be what you’re looking for.

CHARLES PENNEFATHER

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