Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Desire - WORDS PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

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.

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