A Notable Amount Of Techno Wizardry At This Price Point

Honda puts out a lot of fun products, it’s true, but few machines can match the level of whimsy one gets from the Honda Monkey bears the genetic markers of the original without being a slave to it with a 9.25-horsepower modern powerplant, larger wheels (thank goodness) and disc brakes. Join me whilst I take a trip down memory lane and take a look at this pint-sized icon destined to hit showroom floors this year.

Continue reading for my review of the Honda Monkey.

  • 2018 Honda Monkey
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Displacement:
    125 cc
  • Price:

2018 Honda Monkey Design

2018 Honda Monkey
- image 779423
Beefy tires and inverted front forks lend the Monkey some serious-business credibility, even if its diminutive size brings smiles from passersby.

Right. No matter how you slice it, the Monkey falls within what most of us think of as the “mini-bike” category. Granted, it’s not quite as diminutive as the originals that ran with five-inch solid wheels and a 49 cc engine with folding bars so you could shove it in a trunk, but it’s still the runt of the litter even compared to Honda’s cheeky little Grom with only 45.47 inches between contact-patch centers and an overall compact build.

Beefy tires and inverted front forks lend the Monkey some serious-business credibility right up front with a classic round LED headlight can and turn signals that help tend to the street-legalities, and a tripletree-mount fender to contain the front-wheel fling. Mini-apes raise the hands enough to keep them out of your knees, mostly anyway, and that puts the mirrors high enough to see over your thighs.

A faux tuck-and-roll bench seat provides the pilot with room to scoot back as needed for legroom, within reason of course, and the seat itself rides at 30.5 inches off the ground so you can count on being reasonably uncramped when you deploy your training wheels. A full rear fender prevents that dirty stripe up your back with an LED taillight and rearward winkers to finish off the lights. What can I say? It’s as cute as a bug; I just wanna’ run up and pinch its cheeks. No giggety.

2018 Honda Monkey Chassis

2018 Honda Monkey
- image 779422
You usually don't see such high tech this low on the foodchain -- front and rear disc brakes with ABS and IMU -- so it really is a fully modern machine in spite of its small size and classic design.

A steel backbone frame serves as the skeleton for our little simian friend, and the factory gave it the same consideration as its larger bikes with due attention given to the balance between flexion and support for what it claims is a supple ride. Hard to reconcile the word “supple” against such a small ride, but there it is. The front end floats on a pair of usd forks that deliver 3.93 inches of travel with dual, coil-over rear shocks that give up 4.09 inches of travel, measured at the axle.

In a departure from more recent vintages, the 12-inch aluminum wheels run with a 10-spoke design rather than the old drilled-solid hubs with a 120/80 and 130/80 hoop on the front and rear, respectively. These road-rubbers sport deep grooves and generous street flats for decent dual-purpose functionality, and will perform particularly well on soft surfaces.

Amazingly, and in contrast to the vast majority of small, classically designed bikes and scooters, the Monkey runs with all-around disc brakes. To compound our astoundment, Honda chucked on an Inertial Measurement Unit that reads the g-forces at work on the machine, and it works with the ABS feature to provide a more stable ride by providing some rear wheel-lift mitigation. Crazy stuff, right? I mean, you usually don’t see such tech this low on the foodchain, and there are entire manufacturers that shun it across the board (cough, Harley/Indian cough cough), so the Monkey really is a fully modern machine in spite of its small size and classic design.

Frame: Steel backbone frame
Caster Angle: 25°
Trail: 82 mm
Suspension, Front: USD fork, 3.9 in. (100 mm) axle travel
Suspension, Rear: Twin shock, 4.0 in. (104 mm) axle travel
Brakes, Front: Single 220 mm hydraulic disc with IMU-based ABS
Brakes, Rear: Single 190 mm hydraulic disc 
Wheels: 10-spoke cast aluminum
Tires, Front/ Rear: 120/80-12 65J/ 130/80-12 69J

2018 Honda Monkey Drivetrain

2018 Honda Monkey
- image 779413
While power figures may seem a little underwhelming, it's important to keep in mind the 235-pound curb weight. Sound fun yet? You betcha'.

Power comes from the horizontally mounted, air-cooled thumper that looks similar to the original plant, but like the rest of the bike, it’s a thoroughly modern item. A 52.4 mm bore and 57.9 mm stroke adds up to a total of 125 cc with a moderate compression ratio of 9.3-to-1. A simple SOHC times the dual-valve head — hopefully with Honda’s slick little screw-and-locknut valve adjuster — and a PGM-FI system meters the induction.

In a departure from recent iterations, the MY18 Monkey drops the manual kickstarter in favor of a button-kick for ease of operation. Had they called me ahead of time I’d have convinced them to leave it as a backup, but instead, here we are. Oh well, as small as this mill is, you should be able to pop-start it in a pinch; if not, give up riding now before it’s too late.

Power delivery clocks in with 9-and-a-quarter horsepower at 7 grand and 8.1 pounds o’ grunt, and while that may seem a little underwhelming, it’s important to keep in mind the 235-pound curb weight. Sound fun yet? You betcha’.

Engine: Air-cooled SOHC 4-stroke 2-valve
Displacement: 125 cc
Bore x Stroke: 52.4 x 57.9 mm
Compression Ratio: 9.3:1
Max. Power Output: 9 hp (6.9 kW) @ 7,000 rpm
Max. Torque: 8.1 ft/lb (11 Nm) @ 5,250 rpm
Carburetion: PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
Clutch Type: Wet multi plate clutch
Transmission Type: 4 speed

2018 Honda Monkey Price

2018 Honda Monkey
- image 779432
MSRP hasn't been announced as of this writing, but I'll guess in the $3.5k-to$4k range.

MSRP hasn’t been announced as of this writing, but I’ll guess in the $3.5k-to$4k range since it is close in size and specs to the Grom with front and rear discs and ABS.

Color: Banana Yellow/Ross White, Pearl Nebula Red/Ross White, Pearl Shining Black/Ross White
Price: TBA

2018 Honda Monkey Competitors

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Z125 PRO
- image 728443
no article
- image 770803
2013 - 2018 KYMCO K-PIPE 125
- image 771863
2017 - 2019 Honda Grom
- image 776531
These rides are quite similar to the Monkey in size and stature with buck-and-a-quarter engines to push them, but there remains some very decisive differences.

It’s a street-legal mini-bike, no way around it, and as such there really isn’t really much in the way of toe-to-toe. Sure, we have similarly-sized rides out there, but most use the swing-mount drive which shoves them over into scooter territory. Ice Bear’s Maddog comes to mind, and while it’s as cool as the other side of the pillow and runs a similarly sized powerplant, the radical build and scooter-drive just puts it in a class all its own.

There’s also the popular little pocket bike category that is populated with the likes of the Z125 PRO by Kawasaki, the KYMCO K-Pipe and Honda’s own groundbreaking Grom that started it all. These rides are quite similar to the Monkey in size and stature with buck-and-a-quarter engines to push them, but there remains some very decisive differences.

The three competitors kind of look like what you get when you leave a proper naked sportbike in the dryer too long, but with none of the “mini-bike vibe” the Monkey puts off. None of the Monkey-bike vibe either, just altogether different in spite of the similarities. I think it’s fair to say the Monkey is unlikely to create a niche all its own — probably closer to the truth to say it will cull some customers from the same buyer base as the above — but it’s street-legal status and deep historical roots will no doubt appeal to young riders with unimpeachable taste.

He Said

“There was a time that I would have absolutely pined for such a ride, back when I was about 12 years old or so, but we aren’t talking about me here, I’m not in the market. With ’60s and ’70s style enjoying a resurgence in interest (not just here, but in the automotive field as well), I can see this ride making a hit, especially with the name recognition that comes along with the Monkey moniker. It could also see service as a pit bike, riding around staging areas for events centered around more serious machines. Well done, Honda.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I was wholly surprised to find such a substantial bike is such a small package. The LED lighting is premium. There’s a surprising amount of tech present including a fully-digital instrument cluster. Compared to the Grom, these two are like brothers-from-another-mother. They both look like big bikes somebody left in the dryer too long: the Grom in sportbike-styling and the Monkey in standard UJM styling. Lightweight with a tight turning radius and great fuel economy, this would make a commute a lot of fun.”

2018 Honda Monkey Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Air-cooled SOHC 4-stroke 2-valve
Displacement: 125 cc
Bore x Stroke: 52.4 x 57.9 mm
Compression Ratio: 9.3:1
Max. Power Output: 9 hp (6.9 kW) @ 7,000 rpm
Max. Torque: 8.1 ft/lb (11 Nm) @ 5,250 rpm
Carburetion: PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
Clutch Type: Wet multi plate clutch
Transmission Type: 4 speed
Chassis:
Frame: Steel backbone frame
Caster Angle: 25°
Trail: 82 mm
Suspension, Front: USD fork, 3.9 in. (100 mm) axle travel
Suspension, Rear: Twin shock, 4.0 in. (104 mm) axle travel
Brakes, Front: Single 220 mm hydraulic disc with IMU-based ABS
Brakes, Rear: Single 190 mm hydraulic disc 
Wheels: 10-spoke cast aluminum
Tires, Front/ Rear: 120/80-12 65J/ 130/80-12 69J
Dimensions & Capacities:
L x W x H: 67.3 x 29.7 x 40.5 in. (1,710 x 755 x 1,029 mm)
Wheelbase: 45.5 in. (1,155 mm)
Seat Height: 30.5 in. (776 mm)
Ground Clearance: 6.3 in. (160 mm)
Turning radius: 6.2 ft (1.9 m)
Curb Weight: 235 lbs (107kg)
Oil Capacity: Upper 1.2 qt ; lower 0.95 qt
Fuel Tank Capacity: 1.47 gal. (5.6 liters)
Fuel Consumption (WMTC mode): 157 mpg (67km/liter)
Electricals:
Starter: Electric
Battery: YTZ5S
Headlight: LED
Taillight: LED
Details:
Color: Banana Yellow/Ross White, Pearl Nebula Red/Ross White, Pearl Shining Black/Ross White
Price: TBA

References

Kawasaki Z125 PRO

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Z125 PRO
- image 679843

See our review of the Kawasaki Z125 PRO,

Honda Grom

2017 - 2019 Honda Grom
- image 776526

See our review of the Honda Grom.

KYMCO K-Pipe

2013 - 2018 KYMCO K-PIPE 125
- image 772579

See our review of the KYMCO K-Pipe.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: powersports.honda.com, icebearatv.com, kawasaki.com, kymcousa.com

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