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First Ride: Honda Monkey

Published: 06 August 2018

The Honda Monkey is back for 2018 and it’s 125cc of good looking, grin inducing proper biking

There aren’t many bikes that you can call genuine iconic but the Honda Monkey is certainly one of them.

Fans of the monkey have come from far and wide in society, including both Michael Jackson and John Lennon, and now it’s been re-imagined for a whole new generation.

Major changes

Unlike the original bike, which started out life as a kids toy really and was made road legal, the new Monkey is a fully-fledged road going motorcycle.

Based on the strangely popular Honda MSX125 (or Grom to most people), the Monkey has a 9.25bhp air-cooled 125cc single – a decent step up from the teeny 49cc original.

The new Monkey gets a four-speed gearbox too (compared to the three-speed original) but the centrifugal auto-clutch has gone in favour of a standard lever.

A fuel-injected engine

The new bike is fuel-injected too, delivering a whopping claimed 189mpg, which means you’d get just over 230 miles out of the tiny 5.6l tank, although anyone attempting such a feat is likely to be locked away.

Just because it looks classic, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s lacking in modern tech either. It’s got a nifty LCD dash, full LED lighting throughout and IMU-based ABS to prevent rear wheel lift.

There are still some classic elements remaining though, like the steel frame and skinny swingarm but even the handling has received an update with the new Monkey sporting the world’s tiniest USD forks. More amazingly still, it still only weighs 107kg!

We rode the damn thing

Just standing next to the new Monkey there’s no doubting that it’s a cool looking thing. 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.

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.

Key in, turn it on and the 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.

'It's a grin inducing ride'

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. 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 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 at around 55mph.

A delightfully smooth throttle

The 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. In fact, the whole bike is delightfully smooth. It’s also remarkably vibe-free, except at tick over when it shakes like a miniscule Harley-Davidson.

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. Amazingly it’s also stuffed 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. It works well too (don’t ask how I know) although the rear brake, which isn’t part of the ABS, is poor in comparison.

Conclusion

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.

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.

At £3699 it’s a little more than the MSX125 that it’s based on but it’s so much cooler that, in this testers eyes at least, it’s definitely worth the extra.

Like all modern manufacturers, there are a couple of finance options available including PCP for £65 a month and HP for £100 a month – much better than a bus pass eh?


A second opinion: Senior Road Tester Adam Child

MCN's Child rides the new Monkey in Nice

Whilst on the launch of Honda’s new Forza 125 in Nice, Honda gave us the unique opportunity to ride their all-new Monkey Bike. 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 monkey bike is now powered by a four-stroke 125.

Size wise we’re talking small, 12in wheels and a seat height of only 776mm. Bikes are already available in dealers, at £3699 and it was hugely enjoyable to ride, and able to keep with, and cut up traffic with ease.

And in the glamorous backdrop of Nice, it turned more heads than the endless supercars being driven along the exclusive sea front.

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