HONDA MONKEY 125 (2018 - on) Review
- Impossibly cute 125cc pit bike
- Suitable for riding on a CBT
- Typical Honda build quality
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£80|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Honda produced the very first Monkey Bike back in 1967 and the new model carries on the ethos of the original. The frame and engine are from Honda's MSX125, which also donates its wheels, brakes and front suspension, meaning the modern Honda Monkey Bike is now powered by a four-stroke 125cc motor.
- Related news: the 100mph Monkey bike!
- Related news: Monkey bikes through Romania
- Related feature: Touring on a Monkey
Size wise we’re talking small, the Honda Monkey 125 has 12in wheels and a seat height of only 776mm. From new in 2018, it cost £3699 and it was hugely enjoyable to ride, and able to keep with, and cut up traffic with ease.
For riding around town, the little Monkey is quite simply brilliant. It’s so small, light and nimble that it slips through traffic with ease but unlike other dreary commuting bikes, it’s a laugh a minute.
- Related: Honda 125 model history
The Honda Monkey is a laugh a minute
The biggest compliment you can give the Monkey is that it works just like any other modern 125 – with a sheet chucked over it you’d be hard pressed to tell you were riding something that looks so daft.
Honda have built a bike that not only looks good, but also functions in the modern world. On some retros that isn’t always the case as, frustratingly, styling so often takes priority over ride-ability.
As with most 125s, the Monkey can be ridden on L-plates with a provisional driving licence, as long as you've taken a CBT.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Key in, turn it on and the Honda Monkey bike's LCD dash bursts into life and gives you a cheeky little wink (no really). Stab the starter button and nothing happens. Except it does happen – it starts like normal – it’s just so damn quiet you’d be forgiven for thinking it was broken.
Then just click it into gear and set off on one of the most grin-inducing rides you can imagine. The little Monkey is unbelievably fun.
It's my derrière’s best friend
Because it’s so small you can just fly around town, hitting gaps in traffic that aren’t really on, before buzzing off into the distance. The suspension is ultra soft, as is the enormous seat, but on the rough roads of London’s West End, it was my derrière’s best friend.
The only downside to this soft ride is that there’s a max system weight of 105kg, which you could easily reach if you’ve got all your gear on and a bag full of swag.
It’s bloody dull, but, yes, you can take the Monkey on a motorway, not that I would recommend it. This is a bike designed for urban living, something it demonstrates by making light work of a heavily congested Stratford.
In town the Monkey is excellent and you appreciate its ultra-light clutch and feather-light gearbox, which changes ratios with little effort. It is so physically small that you seldom encounter a gap it can’t fit through and the soft suspension dispatches potholes with ease.
Even the ABS, which is linked to an IMU to keep the bike level under hard braking, is faultless and the only time I manage to get it activating throughout the day is on some very aggressive traffic calming bumps.
People instantly warm and respond to the wacky Monkey bike. From the petrol pump attendant who laughed at its size to the builders on the M40 who filmed the Honda as it crawled past a lorry, everyone reacted positively to it. Throughout the day we spent together there were so many small moments as people reacted to the diddy Honda that made me smile.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The little air-cooled single has enough poke to keep things interesting and because it weighs nothing it pulls away quite quickly. It only has four gears though, so it does seem to run out of puff around 55mph, but that's more than enough for inner-city riding.
While that’s fine for sitting in flowing traffic, overtaking is pretty much ruled out. It accelerates well and you can outgun cars into roundabouts and up to about 40mph, but even 50mph lorries require a very long stretch of clear road to crawl past.
The Honda Monkey's throttle is delightfully smooth too, without any hint of snatchiness at low throttle openings – quite something on a modern polar bear friendly fuel injected bike. It’s also remarkably vibe-free, except at tick over when it shakes like a miniscule Harley-Davidson.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
All the classic details are there, including the old-school Honda Wing logo on the tank, but it doesn’t look any worse for the modern features either.
Did we mention it does 189mpg?
It even exudes an air of old-school Honda quality because all the shiny things are proper metal, not just plastic with a chrome veneer. The Grom has a good rep for relability, so there’s no real reason the Monkey shouldn’t do. Did we mention it does 189mpg!
We've got just the one Honda Monkey owners' review on MCN, and it's a full 5 stars out of 5. The owner simply wanted a gear indicator.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
At £3695 at its launch, the Honda Monkey is exactly £300 more than the Honda MSX125 Grom that it’s based on but, in our eyes at least, it’s worth it for the extra cool factor alone.
Like all modern manufacturers, in 2018 there were a couple of finance options available including PCP for £65 a month and HP for £100 a month.
However, available at the time, you could have a larger Honda CB300R for just £59-a-month, or a Honda CMX500 Rebel cruiser for £89-a-month, which both make the little Monkey look like poor value. But do they offer the same cool factor? You decide.
Some monkey bike history with Honda. Which do you remember pic.twitter.com/xhFTDnUYMF— Motor Cycle News (@MCNnews) July 19, 2018
Amazingly the wee Honda Monkey is full of the latest tech. For a start the little LCD dash features a digital speedo, two trips plus a six bar fuel gauge. The little key fob has a button to ‘answer back’ in case you lose it in a crowded bike park or indeed a field with tall grass…
There’s also LED lighting throughout and most impressively of all an IMU for anti-tilt ABS on the front wheel. This is the system found in the 2014 to 2016 Honda Fireblade. It works well too, although the rear brake, which isn’t part of the ABS, is poor in comparison.
|Engine type||Air cooled SOHC four-stroke, 2 valve|
|Frame type||Steel backbone|
|Fuel capacity||5.6 litres|
|Front suspension||Non-adjustable USD forks, 100mm travel|
|Rear suspension||Non-adjustable twin shocks, 104mm travel|
|Front brake||Single 190mm disc, with IMU ABS|
|Rear brake||190mm disc|
|Front tyre size||120/80 x 12|
|Rear tyre size||130/80 x 12|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||189 mpg|
|Annual road tax||-|
|Annual service cost||£80|
|Used price||£3,100 - £3,500|
12 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||9 bhp|
|Max torque||8.1 ft-lb|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||235 miles|
Model history & versions
Although the Monkey 125 was launched in 2018, the Monkey name has been around since the 1960s, starting in 1961 as an attraction for children at a Japanese theme park, complete with dinky five inch wheels and rigid suspension.
This then spawned a variety of other models, each sporting their own style and size. The first road-going Monkey arrived in 1963 and remained in Honda's line-up until 2009. Nine years later, it makes its return. See the above review for a more in-depth infographic of model history.
The Honda Monkey 125 is based on the similarly-sized Honda MSX125, or Grom as it's also known.
Using the same wheels, brakes and front suspension, the humble Grom has been with us since 2013 and, in that time, has recieved updates to make it Euro4 compliant.
Owners' reviews for the HONDA MONKEY 125 (2018 - on)
3 owners have reviewed their HONDA MONKEY 125 (2018 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£80|
The Honda 125 Monkey Bike is great fun, built to a high standard and surprisingly comfortable. It handles like any other 125 but with a low seat height and being very lightweight, it is easy to ride and exceptionally nimble and manoeuvrable around town.
The ride quality is very good and the seat is exceptionally comfortable. The bike has ABS, so breaking is quite reasonable. The smaller tyres just mean you have to be careful of pot holes but it generally rides like a regular bike.
The engine is quite spritely, given its size and will get you away from traffic lights fairly swiftly. The four gears take a bit of getting used to and with no gear indicator, at first I was always trying to change up to an imaginary 5th gear. On faster roads it will sit comfortably at 55/60 mph but I wouldn’t like to take on a dual carriageway as it lacks power at higher speeds.
I have only had the bike a few months, so long term reliability is unknown but so far it hasn’t let me down. Starts first time, all the switches and gauges work fine and the bike has LED lights and indicators which help you to be seen. The bike feels premium and well made.
The bike is very frugal and so far I’ve covered nearly 200 miles on £5 of fuel! Insurance is very cheap (but obviously this will depend on your age and where you live) and annual road tax is next to nothing (£20).
Equipment wise, the bike is quite basic but that is part of the attraction. It has a nice electronic gauge with speed, fuel and mileage easily readable and comes with ABS. It could benefit from a gear indicator though.
Buying experience: Bought pre-owned from Moonraker Motorcycles in Norwich who were excellent.
makes you smile from ear to ear
Super nimble and confidence building
Annual servicing cost: £85
Running costs make this bike practically invisible to own ( I’m 56, insurance negligible, road tax £20 and MPG easily 160) Looks awesome (imho), suspension more suited to the “lighter” rider!
Suspension is suited to the lighter rider, consider upgrade if in the 85kg or higher category as the bike bottoms out to easily if you like the pies...
I don’t know what you’d expect from a road legal 125 but it’s more than adequate for its intended purpose.
Built to last - Typical Honda.
Took out a service plan to ease the cost. Good value overall from the dealer.
Could do with a gear indicator, Rev counter and clock imho but it has most everything you need. Easily sorted via the aftermarket..
Buying experience: £3650 not much discount as the bike was a new release and in demand so dealers couldn’t get them quick enough to meet demand. They are being discounted now though ( 12 months later)