We were pretty torn up when Honda announced in April 2017 that it would discontinue its Monkey motorcycle by the end of the summer, especially when it was the 50th anniversary of the 50cc mini-bike. The reason given was that it was too hard to certify the engine for emissions, but as it turns out, Honda had (literally) bigger plans, like bringing it back to the US.
The last 50cc Monkey rolled out of the factory last August, so color us surprised when saw a new one at the Tokyo Motor Show in October. Turns out, Honda was not entirely killing off the Monkey; they were just making a larger one, both physically (with a larger frame) and with a 125cc engine.
The reason for the increase, apparently was that Honda was planning to bring the Monkey and the Super Cub, both equipped with the 125cc engine, to the US. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s not as whimsical as the original.
The Monkey began life in 1961 as a children’s ride at Tama Tech, Honda’s motorsports-themed amusement park on the outskirts of Tokyo, and at Motopia, the amusement park at Honda’s Suzuka Circuit. Ostensibly, it was meant to introduce kids to the joys of two wheels, but adults quickly took to them as well. When grown-ups climbed aboard the child-sized bike the resemblance to our primate cousins did not go unnoticed, and the term “monkey bike” was born.
It Z100, as it was named, proved so popular that Honda released the CZ100, a version that the public could buy in 1964. In 1967, the name Monkey became official. The original was imported to the US as the Z50A in from 1968-79. After that, it evolved into more trail-oriented variants, while its counterpart in Japan remained largely unchanged until its cancellation last year.
The 2019 Monkey will measure 67.3 inches long and 40.5 inches tall. That’s almost 10 inches longer and 7 inches taller than the original. The size increase is visibly significant, and the greater displacement means that in most states you’ll need a motorcycle license to operate one.
Prices will start at $3,999, and only two colors will be offered — Nebula Red and, appropriately, Banana Yellow. If you’d like to spring for an ABS-equipped version, that’ll cost $200 extra, but Nebula Red will be the only color option. It will hit showrooms this October.
At the same time as the Monkey announcement, made during the Smoky Mountain Crawl rally in Tennessee, Honda announced that the Super Cub 125 would be making a return to the states as well. Unlike the Monkey, the Super Cub hasn’t undergone a drastic makeover, just a continuous evolution for 60 years.
Though it hasn’t been sold in the US since 1983 when the C70 Passport left our shores, the original Super Cub was a transformational bike when it was introduced in to the US market. The “You Meet the Nicest People” on a Honda ad campaign changed public perception of motorcyclists from rowdy outlaws to everyday citizens. The Beach Boys even wrote a song about it.
Interestingly, it was never officially called the Super Cub in the US. That’s because the Piper airplane company already had a model called the Super Cub, and it would have violated their trademark. It was renamed to the Honda 50, C70, and C90 depending on engine size, but no matter what it was called, it became selling motorized vehicle on earth. Last year, it reached the 100 million unit mark. It is still used frequently in Japan, as courier, personal, and postman bikes.
The Super Cub C125 will be offered in only one color, Pearl Niltava Blue, a two-tone reminiscent of one of the original color schemes. Pricing starts at $3,599 and it will be available starting January 2019.
Some images courtesy of Honda.
I’ve got a Monkey in my shed, it’s in parts now, but it ran well when I disassembled it and put it away
I’ve got a Monkey in my shed, it’s in parts now, but it ran well when I disassembled it and put it away. It’s old.
Hmmm… The Monkey would make a great pit bike. Put a rack on the back for a fuel jug and it would be perfect.
Disc brakes! It was never that way in the 1960s.
Here in Finland the Monkey is a legendary bike along with the Suzuki PV. 50 cc bikes can be driven at 15 years old here and those two have been the most popular ones since the 80s. They have quite a cult status and are often modified to go even 100 km/h (legal limit is 45).
“but no matter what it was called, it became selling motorized vehicle on earth.”
Spent a long time looking around the Super Cubs at the Tokyo show last year. They look like proper boutique products now – beautiful paintwork and really nice detailing.