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.
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.
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!
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.
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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.