2021 Honda Monkey Review
When little equals big fun.
On the Honda Powersports website pages dedicated to the Honda Monkey model lineup, there is a “features” section. It has Monkey-specific headlines like, Performance, Technology and Handling. It really misses the mark.
Nowhere on the page are what would be the most accurate Honda Monkey attribute headlines like, Smiling, Giggling, Mood Elevation, LOL’ing, Thumbs Ups From Strangers, etc. These are the features of the Honda Monkey that are real life. These are the things that matter. And they are all extremely powerful inside this little bike.
The Honda robots that built the website did drop two good ones, though: Durability and Style. Although, I’d put Style on the top of the page.
2021 Honda Monkey Review | Probably The Coolest
The Honda Monkey is probably the coolest mini moto on the market today. Honda Groms and their countless copycats are nearly identical in dimensions across the board, but a mini race bike? Why? Mini is fun, and Groms seem a little too serious/macho (in a leather-tights-and-knee-pucks sort of way) after seeing and/or riding a Monkey for 30 seconds. This is what 12-inch-wheel bikes should look like and feel like.
The Honda Monkey is made to look cool. And it’s made perfectly to do so. Can you find a better attempt at retro style on a modern platform anywhere in motorcycling? I haven’t, yet.
The details are perfect. And even though you can tell it’s sitting on a Grom frame and the EFI/airbox/exhaust system has all the emission bits, it all works magically together.
The obvious style wins are the metal, chrome and stitching specifics that take a sharper-edged mini sportbike and turn it into a savory classic. The flat-seat motorcycle industry precursor to plastic-faired rockets of questionable aesthetics is alive and well, here. This is a throwback to the good-old-days of motorcycling where style was absolutely king.
I love every part of the Monkey-ness of this bike. Chrome fenders—love. Round instrument gauge that blinks monkey eyes at you when you start it—love. Retro Honda wing logo on the gas tank—love. Seat upholstery—love. Cast wheels—love. Twin shocks—love. Headlight—love. It doesn’t stop.
2021 Honda Monkey Review | Capability
Performance is a terrible headline for the Honda Monkey. First, it’s not important. Second, nobody cares.
Capability is much more accurate. And the Honda Monkey has just enough momentum inside it to make you feel cool and be capable for urban assault. It’s not fast. It’s pretty slow, actually. But it can move away from stoplights quick enough to be carpool competitive up to about 40 mph. It’s better on 25-35 mph streets and Dairy Queen parking lots—cruising like a cool bike should and blowing people’s minds with coolness.
For the past few months I’ve used it to commute across town, swinging from stoplight to stoplight and cutting through shopping center parking lots. I’ve also taken it on a couple insanely fun day trips to the coast (about an hour drive in a car) and through the hills separating Orange County and the Temecula Valley in California. I’ve tested plenty of motorcycles on these roads, exploring the smallest and twistiest routes. And I had a lot more fun on the Honda Monkey than most. From 65-mph roads to 15 mph, this Monkey can do it all. But it is happiest in the 45 and below range.
Its 125cc four-stroke engine is EFI-programmed lean as can be. One, this is superb for meeting emission requirements. Two, this allows the monkey to clock 100-plus mpg consistently. It has a 1.5-gallon tank so you can do the math pretty quickly to calculate how much money it costs you to ride for 100 miles. And, if you’re commuting or cruising on this thing via urban streets, 100 miles will last a long time.
The brakes are fine. If you’re really worried about stopping a bike with control from 40 mph or looking for wet-climate confidence, ABS is an option, but it will cost you an extra $200. The Monkey will go faster than 40 mph, like 65 mph if you try really hard, but why? The suspension is also fine. There’s little to complain about its capability. We can only long for a bit more strength from the stock clutch pack as we’ve been hogging on it pretty hard. It’s showing some weakness but still hanging in there.
2021 Honda Monkey Review | Value
Value is off the charts with the Honda Monkey. It retails for $4000 and will cost you almost nothing to own for years. It’s about the same price as a low-end electric mountain bike that doesn’t look nearly as good and won’t last nearly as long. Also, you will never look as cool (or cool at all) on an electric mountain bike. It’s not possible.
Finally, this is an amazing family motorcycle. It’s a bike that you can bring home and your spouse will steal, mine did! It’s a bike your kids can learn to ride on and take to the DMV to get their motorcycle driver’s license. Your parents and grandparents will ride it around your block and remember what it was like when they felt cool riding motorcycles. Your friends and their friends will ride it. Everyone will want to ride it. And everyone that does should seriously consider buying one. CN
2021 Honda Monkey Specifications
||Air-cooled, 4-stroke, single
|Bore x stroke:
||52.4 x 57.9mm
||PGM-FI w/ automatic enrichment
||SOHC; 2 valves per cylinder
||31mm inverted fork
||Single 220mm hydraulic disc; ABS optional
||Single 190mm hydraulic disc; ABS optional
||1.5 gal. (including 0.5-gal. reserve)
|Weight (claimed, curb):
||Pearl Nebula red, Pearl Glittering blue
||1 year unlimited-mileage, limited warranty