It’s hard not to love Honda Monkey motorcycles, which date back to their origins 61 years ago. The first American iteration of the Monkey was the 1968 Honda Z50M, better known as the Mini Trail. Although it was a dual-sport bike, the Honda Mini Trail’s primary customer base was kids learning to ride in the dirt—it launched countless lifetime careers on two wheels. Fast forward to the all-new 2022 Honda Monkey, which is a tribute to its ancestry, while being updated for adult consumption.
- Unlike the 1961 Honda Monkey, the 2022 is designed for adults. Although it looks remarkably like the Mini Trail 50, the 2022 Honda Monkey has grown-up ergonomics. Seat height is 30.5 inches, three inches higher than the Honda Rebel 1100 and less than half an inch lower than a Honda CB500F. Although the seat height may seem a bit high, the seat is soft, so you sink into it nicely. Plus, the 231-pound curb weight makes the monkey easy to tame for most adults. Overall, the rider’s triangle is compact, but not cramped, making it comfortable for multi-hour rides around town. This soft seat – a single pilot – is particularly comfortable and will not force you to leave the Monkey prematurely.
- Honda fitted the MiniMoto Monkey with a beefier engine this year. The bore has become narrower by 2.4 mm and the stroke has been lengthened by 5.2 mm. Although the change drops by a cubic centimeter, the fuel-injected, SOHC, two-valve, air-cooled, long-stroke engine delivers impressive torque. A bump in the compression ratio to 10:1 adds to the monkey growl. The electric start triggers the procedure without delay.
- The Monkey’s engine also gets a new five-speed transmission. The old four-speed was decent, but limited the Monkey’s effectiveness. The five-speed gearbox widens the gears available, being lower in first gear and higher in fifth gear. Along with the added torque of the new motor, the lower first gear makes the Monkey easier than ever to pull off the line at a stop sign. The manual clutch returns, though we wonder why Honda hasn’t enticed new riders with an automatic centrifugal clutch, as it did on the Mini Trail and current Super Cub C125. Yes, we know that a fully automatic DCT is too much to expect on a $4199 motorcycle.
- We love how the 2022 Honda Monkey pulls away from red lights. You’ll want to hit the gas when the light turns green in order to stay clear of cars, especially Teslas. If you’re lazy, cars will come crashing down on you. You don’t need full throttle, although that’s not a bad idea. Given the Monkey’s modest power output, you don’t have to worry about subtle movements of your right wrist – good news for new riders and a welcome treat for experienced riders. The clutch is light, but we wouldn’t complain if Honda added an assist feature for those day trips.
- As long as the road you’re on has a speed limit of no more than 50 mph, the Monkey is fine. The maximum speed varies considerably depending on the slope of the road and the weight of the cyclist. Although we hit over 60 mph on the Monkey on the descents, consider anything over 50 mph a bonus. As you go over 40 mph, the rate of acceleration slows. You’ll want to twist the monkey’s neck in fourth gear to get some zip on tap. Fifth gear is more of an overdrive, a nice feature when riding at higher speeds on flat ground or on slight descents.
- Along with the new engine and transmission, the chassis is quite different. Although Honda hasn’t hit the rake or the trail, the wheelbase is 1.5 inches shorter than last year and the twin shocks have 0.7 inches more travel. As you’d expect from a bike with a 45-inch wheelbase and 12-inch wheels, handling is exceptionally nimble. Experienced riders should adjust the amount of body English used or they will replace the bike. New riders need no introduction, it just works for them. The 2022 Honda Monkey’s easy handling is a big part of its appeal.
- You feel a bit vulnerable in traffic due to the monkey’s small physical size. It helps to remind you that even though it’s a MiniMoto, you sit higher than on most cruisers, so people can see you. Lack of acceleration is another cause of jitters, so ride smart.
- Honda did a fantastic job with the suspension. One would expect a small motorcycle with 12-inch wheels to be a tough ride. It doesn’t, thanks to an expertly tuned suspension from the factory. There are four inches of travel in the rear, and the inverted fork has a bit more. Although potholes should be wary of due to the small wheels, the suspension is more than happy to smooth out rough or uneven pavement, even when thrown into fifth gear. As long as you still feel the imperfections in the road, the jerks are eliminated. Fat Vee Rubber tires give the suspension units a little help
- The Vee Rubber tires acquit well. No one thinks the Thai brand delivers premium rubber, but the ADV-style tires effortlessly meet the Monkey’s humble demands. We can slide the stakes in the slower corners and hold our line at 50 mph in the fast sweepers. The tires brake well, resist locking, and rely on ABS to bail them out.
- The brakes on the 2022 Honda Monkey won’t intimidate a new rider. The pads initiate braking smoothly and are never aggressive. This bike wants you to use the rear brake with the front – that extra deceleration will come in handy in an emergency. We rarely felt the ABS kick in, although we didn’t overuse the brakes. Experienced riders will want to explore some of the brake upgrade paths available.
- We took the monkey to some urban dirt with laughable success. The monkey won’t bother anyone, so passers-by won’t go wild when they see one mounted on a path in a sensible way – the jammer-style muffler sound keeps things quiet. The Vee Rubber tires had no problem finding and maintaining off-road traction; be sure to avoid rocks, as the exhaust manifold is vulnerable under the cases. Otherwise, have fun in the dirt.
- The LCD dashboard doesn’t look out of place. However, it’s easy to read, and the speed is displayed in a pretty cool tiki-type font. An analog-style speedometer would have been nice, but you’ll be the only one who knows. The round chrome housing looks sleek, matching the LED headlight, turn signals and mirrors. There’s a fuel gauge that seems superfluous – you’ll never drive it far from a gas station. We would prefer a gear position indicator in the limited space.
- You won’t spend a lot of time on maintenance. Other than putting gas in the 1.5 gallon tank once in a while, changing the oil and (new) oil filter now and then, and checking the chain now and then, you don’t have to worry about.
- You get two color choices when purchasing a 2022 Honda Monkey. However, we can’t imagine why anyone would go with Pearl Black over Banana Yellow. A monkey and a banana are made for each other, and it looks great with Arai Defiant-X’s retro Number White paint scheme. Whatever color you choose, chrome is abundant.
- We’re not even going to try to avoid the cliché: this bike is more fun than a barrel of monkeys! If you want a retro urban transport that puts a smile on almost everyone who sees it, you can’t do better than this pleasingly approachable primate. At $4199, it’s hard not to find a place in your heart and garage for the adorable 2022 Honda Monkey.
Photography by Kelly CallanDRIVING STYLE
- Helmet: Arai Defiant-X
- Jacket: Joe Rocket Alliance
- Back Protector: Joe Rocket SW Spine Protector Level 2
- Gloves: Joe Rocket Super Moto
- Jeans: Joe Rocket Anthem
- Boots: Joe Rocket Outbreak
2022 Honda Monkey SpecificationsENGINE
- Type: Horizontal single-cylinder four-stroke
- Displacement: 124cc
- Bore x stroke: 50 x 63.1mm
- Compression ratio: 10.0:1
- Fueling: EFI with 24mm throttle body
- Cooling: Air
- Valvetrain: SOHC, two valves
- Starting: Electric
- Transmission: 5 speed
- Clutch: Wet multiplate
- Final Drive: Chain
- Front suspension; Travel: 31mm non-adjustable inverted fork; 4.3 inches
- Rear suspension; Travel: Non-adjustable shocks; 4.0 inches
- Tyres: Rubber Vee
- Front tyre: 120/80×12
- Rear tyre: 130/80×12
- Front brake: 220mm disc with Nissin caliper
- Rear brake: 190mm disc with Nissin caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 45.0 inches
- Rake: 25 degrees
- Trail: 3.2 inches
- Seat height: 30.5 inches
- Fuel capacity: 1.5 gallons
- Curb weight: 231 lbs.
- Colors: Pearl Black; banana yellow
2022 Honda Monkey Price: MSRP $4199
2022 Honda Monkey Review Photo Gallery