More fun than a barrel full of… Honda Monkey reviewed

As I was bringing this week’s test bike out of my garage I bumped into my neighbour Justin.

Now Justin is a pretty cool guy, runs his own jewellery business in the town along with his partner, has a distinctive and individual look, which usually includes a pork pie hat and a Fred Perry shirt, and enjoys a barbecue and some chilled music on a summer’s evening.

“Is that a Monkey bike?” he says, stopping in his tracks.

“It sure is, I reply. A newly released one.”

“Wow,” says Justin, bending down for a closer inspection. “I remember those from back in the day. That looks pretty darn cool.”

We chat a bit more while admiring the machine and he finishes by saying: “Well, you know, I have never really been interested in motorbikes, but I fancy one of those.”

That says it all about this latest incarnation of this popular little motorcycle – there’s something about it people just love.

Style icon
Style icon

It just looks cool and playful, with its bright colours, teardrop tank and original Honda wing logo.

And that’s even without riding the thing.

Because, as I found, when you do that, it just gets even better.

The finish quality is high and includes plenty of metal and chrome – such as the mudguards – and minimal plastic.

On such a small bike, I had been expecting a rather cramped riding set-up, but, in fact, it is the exact opposite.

The triangle between bars, seat and foot-pegs is just about perfect for comfort.

The seat is super plush and you can slide back or forward on it to select your ideal riding position.

All the lights are LED – the key fob even has an “answer-back” system that makes the lights flash at the push of a button, in case you lose the bike in a car park behind a couple of SUVs.

Switch on and the circular, digital LCD clock playfully winks at you.

Groovy: Cockpit on the Monkey
Groovy: Cockpit on the Monkey

Head off and its smooth and controlled as you shift through the four gears.

With a kerb weight of just 107kg, the little 125 motor is plenty pokey enough to keep you whizzing through the traffic and because it’s so small you can nip in and out of gaps where there really shouldn’t be any.

The soft suspension, via USD forks and retro-style twin rear shocks does a perfectly adequate job, and, combed with that seat makes for an extremely comfortable ride.

Braking employs a single disc front and rear, and the front has IMU-based ABS, which means you can grab a huge handful and still not experience any front dive as the system works to level things out.

Iconic: Retro looks with latest features
Iconic: Retro looks with latest features

It’s worth noting that, although the tank is tiny, this bike achieves an incredible 189 miles to the gallon.

Honda’s Monkey has been an iconic bike since it first appeared in 1961.

This latest version is the best yet.

It looks great, is well-priced, is amazingly economical – and is tremendous fun to ride.

Super cool: Fraser contemplates the Monkey
Super cool: Fraser contemplates the Monkey

The Facts

Price: £3,699

Engine: 125cc air-cooled, four-stroke

Power: 9.3bhp @ 7,000rpm

Torque: 8ft lb @ 5,250rpm

Colours: Yellow; red; black

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