Honda Monkey – Return of the iconic mini-bike

The first model of the Honda Z-series was originally produced as a children’s ride at a Japanese amusement park. It was later refined and put into mass production hitting the European market in 1967. Since then, Honda has produced a wide variety of Honda Z-series mini bikes, with annual model updates still in effect.

Honda’s genuinely iconic mini-bike is re-styled for the present day with the 2018 edition. The design and styling details draw heavily on the original and are complemented by modern, premium touches such as USD forks, twin rear shocks, LCD instruments, IMU-based ABS and full LED lighting. The 125cc air-cooled engine delivers 6.9kW power, and fuel efficiency of 67km/litre; wet weight is a mere 107kg. Despite of its small size, the Monkey is a fully modern machine with a classic design.

The Honda Z-Series refers to the lineage of mini bikes manufactured by Honda Motorcycles. The official model designations are typically Z50A, Z50J, Z50M, Z50R and ZB50 but they are more commonly referred to as the “Monkey” or “Gorilla” because of the way people are said to look when riding the bikes.

Most Z-Series bikes are small, light, collapsible motorcycles made for convenience and ease of transportation. Their outstanding feature is a 50 cc four-stroke engine with an overhead camshaft. Some have a centrifugal clutch and a three gear manual transmission, while others have conventional manual clutch and a three- or four speed gearbox.

Numerous similar designs predate the Honda model, notably the World War II Welbike motorcycle used by parachutists. However, it wasn’t until the introduction of the Honda Monkey bike that this type of design became commonplace.

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the 2018 model has not yet been announced but is expected to be within the $3.5k – $4k range.

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Monkey milestones

1961: First model – made for use at amusement parks, with 5 inch wheels, rigid suspension, foldable handlebars and 3.1kW 49cc engine.

1963: First road-going model – exported to North America and Europe.

1967: First model sold in Japan – with ‘fold-down’ seat

1970: Quick-detach front suspension made it possible to fit in the trunk of a small car

1978: First model with custom bike style ‘tear drop’ fuel tank

1984: Limited edition ‘Gold’ model

1987: ‘R’ model with twin tube frame and hydraulic front brake disc

1991: Off-road styled ‘Baja’ model with twin headlights

2004 Special: In colours based on the CB750F ridden to victory in the Daytona 100 by Freddie Spencer

2009 Monkey Ltd.: First fuel-injected version, with roller rocker arm and off-set cylinder

2017: 50th anniversary

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