The Honda Monkey bike is perhaps most widely known as a groovy icon of the 1970s, but it first saw the light of day in 1961. Originally developed as a 49cc child’s plaything for Tama Tech, an amusement park in Tokyo, it proved so popular that a road-going version was developed, which was initially exported to America and Europe in 1963, with a distinctive chrome tank, folding handlebars and 5-inch diameter rigidly-mounted wheels.
Its popularity was based on acute, instantly-likeable design, tiny dimensions and ultra-lightweight – which made it a whole load of fun around town. By 1969 its wheels had increased to 8-inch in diameter and from 1970 it gained even greater popularity when the addition of quick-detach forks meant it would fit into the trunk of a small car.
By 1978 – a point that marked the start of real prime time for the Monkey – the bike had been re-styled with a teardrop style fuel tank and became hugely popular with legions of RV (Recreational Vehicle) drivers in need of convenient transport to use once they were parked up. And this is where and when the cheeky Monkey really cemented its place in millions of hearts; with its 3-speed gearbox and centrifugal clutch (which needed no ‘traditional’ motorcycle skill to operate), it gave thousands of riders their first experience of twisting the throttle on a powered two-wheeler.
Because it was so much fun, and so easy to ride, it did more to sell the concept of motorcycles to a wider public than perhaps any other machine. With its chunky tyres, mini-‘ape’ style handlebars, miniscule fuel tank and big, squashy seat the Monkey look is unmistakable of its time, but – just like the affection in which it is held – also timeless.
In 2018, the Monkey’s time came around once again. Inspired by the original (but also as a usefully fun 125cc motorcycle fit for the 21st century) a brand-new Monkey cheered up the roads of Europe. Now, for 2022, the Monkey gets an engine upgrade, a larger gearbox, refinements to the suspension, brand new colour and detail improvements, further widening its ‘smile’ factor and building-in extra day-to-day usability
New 124cc air-cooled engine delivers 6.9kW power and 11Nm torque
Addition of 5-speed gearbox improves cruising speed
The Monkey has a new 124cc SOHC two-valve air-cooled engine (drawn from the MSX Grom) with 50mm bore, 63.1mm stroke and compression ratio of 10:0:1 Peak power of 6.9kW @ 6,750rpm with peak torque of 11Nm @ 5,500rpm.
And it’s an even easier Monkey to ride and have fun on. A new correcting plate manages the path of fresh air drawn in and feeds an intake duct inlet and connecting tube redesigned to smooth airflow. The shape of the airbox has also been revised to further support smooth airflow, promote torque output and improve drivability. For EURO5 compliance the revised catalyser, while smaller, deals with spent gasses efficiently. The downpipe length has been altered to match the intake changes, while the muffler goes from a three-chamber to one-chamber design to improve performance and create a characterful exhaust note.
The new 5-speed gearbox, replacing the older 4-speed, spreads the gear ratios further apart to improve longer journey performance and provide a more relaxed cruising ability. Top speed is 91km/h. Manual clutch operation imparts a full-sized motorcycle experience while 12-inch wheels deliver agile around-town response. Naturally, the Monkey’s small stature and assured low-speed balance allow it an easy passage through jammed traffic.
It’s also an economical engine, returning 1.5 litres/100km (WMTC mode) by using low-friction technologies, such as an offset cylinder and roller-rocker arm for the valve gear. Sophisticated PGM-FI guarantees highly efficient combustion.
3.2 Chassis & styling
Steel frame, USD forks and 12-inch diameter tyres
Twin rear shocks feature two-stage springs to deal with rough surfaces
Wet weight of 104kg, with wheelbase of 1,145mm and 775mm seat height
Classic Monkey style continues - a timeless statement of individuality
Rear carrier available as an official accessory
The Monkey’s steel backbone frame is tuned for a suitable balance between rigidity and supple feel – perfect for the wide variety of conditions the machine is designed to be ridden in. Oval in cross-section, the swingarm echoes the circular design theme that runs through the bike.
USD front forks employ 100mm travel and wear a premium Alumite finish. The dual rear shocks now feature two-stage springs and revised damper rubbers, for improved ride quality on bumper roads and reduced bottoming. They have 102mm of axle travel; maximum ground clearance is 175mm.
A single 220mm front disc and 190mm rear provide secure stopping performance, managed by the IMU-based ABS. Fat, block pattern tyres make for a smooth ride and are sized 120/80-12 65J front and 130/80-12 69J rear.
Wheelbase is set at 1,145mm with rake and trail of 25°/82mm and a minimum turning radius of just 1.9m. Wet weight is 104kg, with a seat height of 775mm. The plush seat is made of high-density urethane for maximum comfort.
Classic Monkey style (mini-ape handlebars, chromed mudguards, upswept exhaust with stamped heat shield, chunky tyres, padded seat and ‘peanut’ tank) pays loyal homage to the original and provides all the cues required to chime both with those of a certain age, and a much younger generation.
Older riders connect to a certain ‘70s irreverence – maybe matched to a memory of their first feel of motorcycling freedom – innate in the design while newer riders, already turned on to all things retro, get both that and something undeniably funky to set them apart from their friends. One thing that unites everybody, whether riding a Monkey or simply passing one by, is the ‘smile’ factor. It’s that sort of bike.
For 2022 a fittingly stylish tubular steel rear carrier is available as an official accessory – usefully suitable for heavier loads of up to 3.0kg. The glossy 5.6L fuel tank, finished in the same paint colour as the frame, swing arm and rear shocks, proudly wears a historical 3-D Classic Wing design Honda logo.
The 2022 Monkey 125 will be available in three colour schemes:
Pearl Glittering Blue **NEW FOR 2022**
Pearl Nebula Red
Digital circular LCD meter
Full premium LED lighting
IMU control reduces rear lift under braking
‘Answer back’ system for easy identification
Modern technology is fully present amongst the classic looks: a digital full-LCD circular meter features a speedometer (which winks playfully when the ignition is turned on), odometer with two trip meters and six-segment fuel level indicator; all lighting is LED; the ‘wave’ pattern key (which also wears the Classic Wing motif) features an ‘answer back’ system that makes the lights flash at the push of a button to allow easy location in crowded car parks; the single-channel ABS system operates with an IMU to mitigate rear ‘lift’ under strong braking.