Great looks, twin front discs and a handlebar fairing were just some of the additions that gave this back-lane hustler a proper grown-up feel
HOSE OF US limited to little bikes at the start of our riding careers always wanted more. If we couldn’t have more power and capacity, we at least wanted sporty looks. The thing we were keen to have less of was weight; lower insurance premiums were always attractive too.
Honda’s MBX80 combined lusty lines with power close to that of the 12bhp limit imposed on the restricted 125s from the early 1980s. They also mounted the revvy, liquid-cooled, two-stroke single engine in a sensibly-sized frame; almost big enough for us Brits. Its fuel tank was wide enough to give you something to grip your knees to.
The impression you’d snagged a proper grown-up bike didn’t end there. Comstar wheels were of the type found on Honda’s big-bike offerings of the day and even small details like 12-volt electrics, where tiddlers normally made do with 6-volt systems, suggested the MBX80 had ideas above its modest capacity despite being based on the even smaller MBX50W. A handlebar fairing and bellypan just added to the appeal, along with a shrouded rad.
Then there were the twin front discs on Uk-market bikes and Honda’s Pro-link monoshock rear suspension. However, a standard-fitment luggage rack did undermine things somewhat, despite its undeniable usefulness. You might not have wished to make much use of the dual seat and pillion pegs for their legitimate purposes too often, but at least the MBX had them for those get-your-mates-home moments and attempting to impress the sixth-form hotties (provided you’d passed your test). The main liquid-cooled 80cc class competition, the Yamaha RD80LC, didn’t even bother with pillion pegs.
Speaking of comparisons with the LC – the only other liquid-cooled 80 on the market when the MBX was launched – the Honda anticipated the issue of vibration by the fitment of a balancer shaft. The Yamaha
opted for pivoting engine mounts.
They were fairly evenly matched on top speed, both hovering around a true 64mph and covering the standing quarter at a shade over 20 seconds with terminal speeds just shy of 60mph, with the Honda just pipping the Yamaha at both. One area where the MBX failed to match its LC nemesis was in fuel consumption, with the Honda drinking down a gallon of four-star every 57 miles compared to the Yam’s 73.
While the MBX’S peaky delivery might have been an irritation to those who had bought one for some sedate commuting, it made for an engaging riding experience to others who liked to keep it on the power while hustling the little Honda down the back lanes racing their mates.
Today we might wonder why anyone would have opted for an 80 when a learner licence allowed them to ride a 125, but insurance was a very real consideration, with sub-100cc machines being a few quid cheaper to insure. That said, at £699 new when launched the Honda was by far the priciest 80, with an RD80LC retailing at £646 and Kawasaki’s air-cooled AR80 costing £529. If you could afford the bike you could probably afford to insure it.
That’s one of the reasons why there don’t seem to be many around in the UK now. The MBX was very popular on the continent, particularly Germany, so ebay.de is a good source of bikes and spares. There was also a fully-faired version, the Integra, sold in Japan and some other regions including Germany, also distinguished by its flush-mounted rear indicators and single front disc with a two-piston sliding caliper. A Spanish-built version, the ambitiouslydesignated Hurricane MBX75, also had the single disc and a sleeved-down 75cc engine to meet regulations in Spain and Portugal.
Many who had an MBX claim they would like to own one again, citing fond memories of the fun they had on the little single. That in itself is reason enough to seek one out.