Spearheading Honda’s efforts to build new audiences for its motorcycles is its 125cc triumvirate of the Grom, Super Cub C125, and Monkey.
For our first ride on the Monkey, Honda presented the little guy in the sleepy town of Avalon on Catalina Island off the Southern California coast.
We’ll do some more extensive testing of the 2019 Honda Monkey when we get it on the mainland, but we couldn’t wait to give your our first impression!
1. The Honda Mini Trail motorcycle is back—aimed squarely at licensed motorcyclists this time, but bringing out the kid in all of us. The original Honda Mini Trail 50 family of the 1960s and ’70s was targeted at kids and looked more like toy dirt bikes, even though many versions were street-legal. Everything is in perfect proportion on the new 125cc 2019 Honda Monkey, so an average sized adult can comfortably ride it.
2. The 2019 Honda Monkey is eye candy for older riders, and retro/hip/cool for younger budding motorcyclists. The aesthetics hit the mark with the kind of styling details you pored over as a kid, like every last word on the back of the cereal box.
3. The Honda Monkey uses the same 125cc air-cooled single-cylinder motor as the Honda Grom (and the new Super Cub C125), and that’s about the only stat you need to know. The Monkey is not about performance, it’s about having fun, and Honda is on a mission to remind us why we all started riding in the first place.
4. The Monkey has enough power to put a big smile on your face, but (mostly) not enough to get you into trouble. Small engines can deliver big smiles, and you can’t ride the Monkey with a serious face. New riders won’t be intimidated, and experienced riders can always find a way to break the rules. Just as that steep hill you tackled when you were a kid turned out to be a minor grade, the Monkey doesn’t need to swing fast through the trees to make you feel like whooping and screeching under your helmet.
5. Suspension is old school, sort of. Four inches of travel at both ends is not too shabby, and in conjunction with the cushiony seat and high profile tires, gets the job done for the expected use. The inverted forks don’t spoil the look, and the dual shocks (with paint-matched springs) carry the day.
6. With a 30.6-inch seat height, you can tell by looking that you can fit on the Honda Monkey. It’s about the least assuming adult-sized motorcycle you’re going to find, and everyone who stopped to ask about the Monkey would willingly have thrown a leg over the bike had I vacated the saddle—including several women beyond their middle years.
7. The Honda Monkey is a perfect* starter motorcycle. With welcoming round features—from smooth tank, thick ribbed saddle, and chubby tires—the Monkey is about as cute as a baby. You just want to pinch its cheeks. From a functional standpoint, it has electric starting and trouble-free EFI.
8. *The devil is in the details, and surprisingly, Honda missed one important point—the clutch. To play with the Monkey, you need to know how to use a clutch. This is a barrier to many new riders, particularly Millennials who didn’t learn to drive a stick. That Honda didn’t use the automatic centrifugal clutch of the also-new Super Cub C125 is an odd choice.
9. Disc brakes are a welcome upgrade that doesn’t detract from the retro feel of the Monkey.Engagement at the front lever is soft enough to not cause mishaps, yet sturdy enough to keep the simian in check. The rear brake makes a gentle first impression, though with enthusiasm you can break traction and slide the back end. ABS is a $200 option that’s probably a good idea for a new rider.
10. The 2019 Monkey is bred for the urban (and suburban) jungle. Unlike the original mini trail bikes, the modern Monkey is not an off-road animal, despite the ADV-style tread pattern on the Vee Rubber tires and the high-mounted front fender. You can wander down a smooth fire road or gravel path, but there’s no protection for the Monkey’s soft underbelly. Cornering is confident due to the large rubber footprint and minimal power.
11. Four-speeds are plenty in urban areas. Catalina Island which has no speed limit over 25 mph limited the testing to urban and suburban speeds. Given that the package is technically similar to the Grom, expect it to top out at around 50 mph. Still, the Monkey is more about tooling around town and avoiding the highway.
12. Warning—your best friend is going to have to get a Monkey, too. Yes, you can have loads of fun scampering around your neighborhood on your own, but the Monkey is best enjoyed in troops. You’ll find yourself reverting to your 12-year-old self, acting silly and grinning from ear to ear—just what every adult life needs.
13. If you don’t like the Banana Yellow in the photos, the Monkey also comes in PearlNebula Red. It’s a tough choice—a Monkey needs his banana, but it’s hard to go wrong with red. Either way, Honda definitely had fun naming the yellow used on the Monkey, and that’s what this little motorcycle is all about.
14. The 2019 Honda Monkey appeals to the inner kid in all of us, regardless of age. I see it, I want it, and at my age I don’t have to convince Dad and Mom to buy it for me. A 16-year-old might have to get some parental assistance, however, as the price is just a dollar short of $4000—a discouraging $600 more than the Grom. It’s up to you do decide how much nostalgia is worth.
2019 Honda Monkey Specs
- Type: Horizontal four-stroke single
- Displacement: 125cc
- Bore x stroke: 52.4 x 57.9mm
- Compression ratio: 9.3:1
- Fueling: EFI
- Cooling: Air
- Valve train: SOHC, two valves
- Starting: Electric
- Transmission: 4-speed
- Clutch: Multiplate wet
- Final drive: Chain
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 31mm inverted fork; 3.9 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Non-adjustable shocks; 4.1 inches
- Tires: Vee Rubber
- Front tire: 120/80 x 12
- Rear tire: 130/80 x 12
- Front brake: 220mm disc w/ Nissin caliper
- Rear brake: 190 disc w/ Nissin caliper
- ABS: Optional ($200 additional)
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 46.5 inches
- Rake: 25 degrees
- Trail: 3.2 inches
- Seat height: 30.6 inches
- Fuel capacity: 1.5 gallons
- Curb weight: 232 pounds
2019 Honda Monkey Color:
- Pearl Nebula Red
- Banana Yellow
2019 Honda Monkey Price:
- $3999 MSRP