Ross Mow­bray on the lat­est tid­dler to carry the name.

It’s a de­sign icon and a true clas­sic – but what is the mod­ern Mon­key bike like to ride? Our man Ross tried it through Lon­don and in Nice, which was nice for him!


With its chunky tyres, mini-‘ape’ style han­dle­bars, minis­cule fuel tank and big, squashy seat, the Mon­key is one of the most iconic mo­tor­cy­cles ever. Its pop­u­lar­ity was mainly a re­sult of its in­stantly-like­able de­sign, tiny di­men­sions and ul­tra-light weight – which made it a whole load of fun around town. And be­cause it was so easy to ride and un­in­tim­i­dat­ing to look at, it could be ar­gued that the orig­i­nal Honda Mon­key sold the idea of mo­tor­cy­cling to the gen­eral pub­lic, more than any other ma­chine in his­tory, apart from per­haps Honda’s own Su­per Cub C50, C90 etc… The orig­i­nal Mon­key was ac­tu­ally a 49cc child’s toy, de­signed for Tama Tech (an amuse­ment park in Tokyo), be­fore be­ing de­vel­oped into a fully road-go­ing ver­sion as a re­sult of its pop­u­lar­ity. And now, Honda’s iconic mini-bike has been re-imag­ined for the present day – with styling that draws heav­ily on the orig­i­nal, com­ple­mented by mod­ern, pre­mium touches such as in­verted forks, twin rear shocks, LCD in­stru­ments, an in­er­tial mea­sure­ment unit (Imu)-based ABS sys­tem and full LED light­ing. First off, let’s ad­dress the mod­ern Mon­key’s styling. Per­son­ally, I reckon it looks bril­liant – and af­ter catch­ing sight of it at the big bike shows to­wards the tail end of last year, I gen­uinely couldn’t wait to ride one. Ad­mit­tedly, I’ve al­ways wanted to have a go on a Mon­key – ever since I was a lit­tle nip­per, tear­ing around my par­ents’ gar­den on a lit­tle Puch 50 scram­bler – but sadly, I’ve not yet had the chance: un­til now. Of course, the new Mon­key’s a long way from the orig­i­nal 1961 ma­chine – and to be hon­est, it’s even a hell of a leap from the last pro­duc­tion Mon­key which was re­leased in 2009. It’s no longer a toy or a nov­elty – and it’s much big­ger than you re­mem­ber. It’s a proper bike, along the lines of Honda’s hugely suc­cess­ful MSX125 (or Grom). As you’d hope and ex­pect, Honda has worked hard to en­sure the styling stays true to the orig­i­nal Mon­key, de­spite its in­crease in size – and it’s done a hell of a job. Out on the road, the lit­tle Mon­key is equally im­pres­sive. It’s pow­ered by Honda’s tried and tested hor­i­zon­tal SOHC 125cc sin­gle-cylin­der en­gine – the same as the Grom. It’s a peach of a pow­er­plant – sim­ple, ro­bust and tuned to de­liver use­ful about-town per­for­mance, kick­ing out a bit less than 10bhp at 7000rpm and a shade over 8lb-ft of torque at 5250rpm. In prac­tice, it’s per­fect for bomb­ing around town – with plenty of beans to help you get the jump on traf­fic, and enough grunt to let you sit with traf­fic up to

around 50mph. It might do more – but we sim­ply didn’t get a chance to stretch its legs beyond the ring roads of Lon­don, and dis­cover what its true top speed might be. It’s fit­ted with a four-speed gear­box, which I found smooth and as­sured – and the ra­tio is spot on for around town too. In fact, for the vast ma­jor­ity of the com­mute across Lon­don I stuck to first and se­cond as we nipped in and out of traf­fic, and made steady progress through the swathes of traf­fic due to the nim­ble Mon­key’s minia­ture di­men­sions and thor­oughly ag­ile na­ture. For brak­ing, the Mon­key comes with a fairly ba­sic sin­gle 220mm front disc and a 190mm sin­gle rear disc. Don’t worry though – they’re well up to the job, with the help of its Imu-based ABS sys­tem. On the trek across Lon­don, a cou­ple of chances to put the brakes through their paces pre­sented them­selves – and in a cou­ple of hairy sit­u­a­tions they han­dled my hard brak­ing ad­mirably and pulled me up with­out too much trou­ble. As I said, the brakes are ba­sic – but the ac­tual ma­chine weighs so lit­tle that they don’t need to be as so­phis­ti­cated as they would be on a bike twice its size and weight. Sus­pen­sion comes in the form of in­verted front forks up front, and a twin-shock setup at the rear. In prac­tice, it helps to soften the bumps and lumps on sketchy sur­faces while of­fer­ing an ex­tremely com­fort­able ride. As you’d ex­pect, it’s not es­pe­cially re­fined, or per­for­mance fo­cused – but it helps to de­liver (prob­a­bly) one of the most com­fort­able rides I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced. Talk­ing about com­fort, I was sur­prised to find out just how happy I was in the sad­dle on the com­pact lit­tle ma­chine. I’m just a shade over 6ft, with spindly pins and big feet – but the Mon­key looked af­ter me well, and af­ter a good five to six hours ex­plor­ing Lon­don I had no aches and pains what­so­ever. That’s im­pres­sive. An­other high­light of the Mon­key is its fuel ef­fi­ciency. One full tank should hold enough for close to 220 miles of rid­ing – which trans­lates to close to al­most 190mpg. That’s bloody good. We left Ace Café at about 9am with a full tank, and rode across Lon­don (with a cou­ple of stops) un­til 4pm and the fuel gauge had barely moved. Priced at £3699 – I think the Mon­key’s good value for money too. Sure, it’s £310 more than Honda’s MSX125, but I also think it’s much cooler. And any­one out there moan­ing that it’s a for­tune com­pared to the orig­i­nal Mon­key needs to re­mem­ber that the lat­est in­car­na­tion is a dif­fer­ent beast en­tirely. It’s a mod­ern, fully func­tional mo­tor­cy­cle, packed with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy. In essence, I love the new Honda Mon­key. I was a fan when I first saw it – and af­ter spend­ing a full day in Lon­don (and an evening in Nice) putting the stylish lit­tle ur­ban com­muter through its paces, I think I’m in love. It’s not for ev­ery­one, granted – but it’s re­fined, ca­pa­ble and very com­fort­able, and if you were do­ing a lot of close quar­ters rid­ing in towns and cities, I don’t re­ally know why you’d want any­thing else. If I lived in Lon­don, I’d have one!

The lat­est ver­sion has ‘grown’ a bit!

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