First Ride: Honda Monkey
The Honda Monkey may be compact in size, but can it deliver big-bike thrills? Jack Evans finds out
What is it?
Will Smith sang how ‘the smell from a grill could spark off nostalgia’ in Summertime back in 1991, and he had a point. Charcoal being lit, rain hitting a warm pavement or even the barking of a dog a few streets away can quickly transport you to a brighter, more care-free time.
And it’s the case with the Honda Monkey. The Japanese firm originally introduced its famously dinky motorcycle back in the 60s, and this all-new model is designed to transport those aboard – and those it passes by – to a bygone era when things were, perhaps, a little more fun. But can it keep up with the modern way of things too? We’ve been out on the Monkey to find out.
Underneath the Monkey’s cutesy looks beats a 125cc four-stroke heart. And though its looks are decidedly retro, Honda hasn’t scrimped on the up-to-date tech. It’s got a full LCD screen, anti-lock brakes (for the front wheel, at least) and even a full LED headlamp.
It’s all there to ensure that though the Monkey may be a bit of a timewarp to the eye, it’s anything but when it comes to mechanicals.
So, as we mentioned, there’s a 125cc engine powering the Monkey. Output figures don’t make for significant reading; 9.25bhp and just 11Nm of torque available at 5,250rpm. Its top speed is around 65mph, and getting there takes a significant time. But of course, this is a bike that’s about more than just numbers.
There are some positive figures, however. Honda claims an astounding 189mpg, which means that despite the bike’s compact 5.6-litre fuel tank, you’re going to be able to spend a lot of time enjoying the ride before having to stop to fill up.
The clutch is a four-speed multi-plate unit, with such a featherweight action that you barely notice you’re using it – but we’ll get to that in a moment.
What’s it like to ride?
The 125cc motorcycle is traditionally the entry point into the world of motorcycling, and though the Monkey uses an engine capacity you’d usually associate with L-plate users, it’s still a bike that will put a grin on even the most seasoned of riders. The suspension – coupled with the uber spongy banana seat – means that most potholes fail to unsettle it, while the upright riding position gives the bike an approachable feel.
Power delivery from 0-30mph is urgent enough for urban use, and sprints away from the lights or roundabouts are dispatched with minimal fuss despite the small amount of grunt on offer, while the gear change is easy-as-pie. Head north of 50mph and the little Monkey starts to run out of puff – we managed 65mph on a dual carriageway, but that really was pushing the limits of the bike’s high-speed abilities. But this is a bike designed for the urban environment, of course.
How does it look?
It’s hard not to be charmed by the way the Monkey looks. In fact, when you’re out and riding you notice how many people take time to study and smile at the tiny bike. The bright yellow paint is offset by a myriad of chrome touches to give it a retro yet sturdy feel.
The incorporation of the exhaust is neat, too, while the chunky tyres make you think that it could quite easily take on any adventure you could throw at it.
What’s the spec like?
Though the Monkey comes in at just £3,699, Honda hasn’t held back on the kit you get with it. The LCD screen winks at you on start-up, going on to display speed, fuel levels and a trip computer too. There’s no gear display, however.
It comes with a key fob with an ‘answer back’ function too, which can sound a small alarm should you lose it. The front LED headlight is surprisingly powerful, and it looks sharp too.
The Honda Monkey is all about fun, and it delivers it in spades. No, it isn’t the fastest bike out there by a long chalk, but to categorise the Monkey on performance alone would be missing the mark by some margin.
It’s surprisingly comfortable, effortlessly nimble and – because of its size – capable of snatching through gaps that other bikes couldn’t. Throw in the incredible fuel economy, and you’ve got a bike that will not only cost pennies to run on a daily basis, but stick a smile on your face each and every time you turn the key.
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