2019 Honda Monkey Review – First Ride

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams

Monkey business on the islands

All I remember was walking down the street in Long Beach, CA, minding my own business when I heard it. Was that the sound of an irate primate? Living in Long Beach for a few years now, between the cacophonous flocks of bright green parrots and unmistakable roar of Indy cars once a year, the sound didn’t concern me, that was until I felt a heavy blow to the back of my head.

2019 Honda Monkey

Editor Score: 88.25%
Engine 18.0/20
Suspension/Handling 13.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 9.5/10
Value 8.5/10
Overall Score88.25/100

I woke up on a helicopter filled with equally groggy journalists as we approached the fabled Isle of Monkey. The Jurassic Park theme song boomed in my head as the lush green mountains drew ever closer. Over the years I’d heard hushed mutterings about the Isle. Tales of sun-scorched tourists on droves of golf carts, but nothing could have prepared us for what lay ahead. Once the helicopter touched down, we disembarked and set off to explore the island on our own troop of simians, a septet of 2019 Honda Monkeys.

Throwback Thursday

Chances are, here in the states, that you recognize the 2019 Honda Monkey, but you might know it by a different name. The Honda Z that started it all was actually part of an attraction in 1961 at a Honda-owned amusement park, Tama Tech, located in Tokyo, Japan. Just as the Monkey is now, the 49cc-powered Z100 was introduced to park-goers as a way to showcase the fun of motorcycling in a safe environment on an unintimidating motorcycle. Attendees jested that the larger guests looked like monkeys on the machines, and the nickname stuck.

We were able to snag a few Z50 ads from Honda North America. A different time, for sure.

Honda’s Z series of motorcycles were introduced in the United States as an off-road only model in 1968. This model came complete with eight-inch wheels, knobby tires, an adjustable seat, and folding handlebars. Honda sold 50,000 Z50As the first year in the U.S. Due to the instant popularity of the Z50A, Honda’s 1969-70 models were outfitted with a headlight and taillight to broaden the usability of the little machine. Throughout the years the Z series has seen many iterations, some of which are included in the collage above, though many of those models were unavailable in the States.

Much larger in stature than the original Monkey bike, the 2019 Monkey features a fuel-injected 124.9cc single-cylinder engine which gives this fun motorcycle plenty of pep for zipping around town.

Fast forward to the resurgence in popularity of small minimoto bikes in the USA, mash that up with the current adoration of retro-vintage styling, and Honda’s new Monkey is poised to be an absolute home run. A mini-motorcycle to hit Boomers right in the nostalgia, hip folk in their locally-grown, non-GMO wallets, and fun-loving motorcyclists everywhere, right where it counts.

Monkeying around

Sena was onsite with its new Savage Bluetooth-integrated 3/4 helmet. This new offering from Sena has its microphone located near the forehead of the helmet rather than using the traditional boom-style mic. The Savage worked well for low-speed phone calls and listening to music. I was unable to test the helmets high-speed worthiness on the small island with a small bike.

Spending a day on the Isle of Monkey, bombing around twisty stretches of scenic pavement while dodging tourists and golf carts was the best way to test the 2019 Honda Monkey. When attending new model intro after new model intro, you get to be friendly with your fellow journalists. Getting to ride in a group of new and old friends, rounded out by Honda North America’s friendly faces on the 2019 Monkey was an absolute blast. Wheelies, stoppies, brake slides, and off-road hill climbs were abundant (don’t worry, I kept all of the oil on the inside of the bike this time).

The Monkey was very comfortable scooting around town for my 5-foot 8-inch frame. It also never bottomed under my 175-pound weight when being hucked off of sweet jumps.

Honda looked closely at its successful Grom platform to borrow crucial components when building the 2019 Honda Monkey. The two miniMOTOs share the 31mm inverted fork, frame, and SOHC 124.9cc air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke engine with a slightly different side cover.

The 220mm single disc brake with dual-piston caliper up front and 190mm and single-piston caliper in the rear are also shared, as is the option to purchase an ABS-equipped model for $200 extra. ABS is activated by front wheel lockup or excessive pitch, which is decided by an inertial measurement unit. ABS is only available on Pearl Nebula Red models and is only equipped to the Monkey’s front wheel. The rear will still let you get all slideways with liberal brake application. Kind of like a mullet; all business up front, all party in the back.

That trick looking headlight sure would look better with some different turn signals flanking it. No worry, the aftermarket will undoubtedly be booming for the Monkey soon enough.

There are also of course, plenty of bits and pieces on the 2019 Honda Monkey that are non-Grom, including the rad LED headlight, the display that winks at you when flipped on, the high (real) chrome fenders, handlebars, ultra cush seat, subframe, swingarm, dual shocks, big ol black airbox, intake, and muffler.

Despite the Monkey’s 46.5-inch wheelbase, the wee Honda felt comfortably stable while zipping around the island.

There isn’t a lot to talk about when considering the performance of the motorcycle. The brakes are strong enough to prompt rear slides and stoppies, the suspension is cush around town and has enough damping to hit small jumps without the bike bottoming with my 175-pound self on it. Power comes on nice and smooth making the bike ideal for blasting around town. Once you start railing it through canyon roads and bringing up the speeds, you’ll start to notice that the components weren’t built for that, so slow it down Speed Racer. Relax and revel in the number of bystanders who can’t keep their eyes off of your sexy lil’ Monkey. Naturally, if you’ve got a need for speed, the aftermarket will be there. Many parts created for the Grom will bolt on, and we’re told Yoshimura already has a pipe made for the Monkey.

Favorite tank badge. Hands down.

To say the 2019 Honda Monkey is an attractive motorcycle would be an understatement. The color-matched frame and 1.47-gallon two-toned metal tank with the Old Wing Honda logo look fantastic. The entire motorcycle has a quality feel and finish to it, from the real chrome high fenders to the modern LED headlight. There are just two visual complaints I could make: One being the bulbous comically large airbox, and the other being the monstrous turn signals and blah taillight (another victim of DOT regs).

When you start hustling the Monkey, you begin to feel the limits of the stock brakes and suspension fairly quickly.

Of course, all of that pretty metal is going to cost you. The non-ABS Monkey has a claimed weight of 232-pounds (236 lbs for the ABS model), only three more than the non-ABS Grom. More importantly, is how all of those premium finishes are going to hit your wallet. The standard Honda Monkey in Pearl Nebula Red or Banana Yellow is going to run you $3,999. If you’d like ABS with that front wheel, again, in red only, you’re looking at $4,199. If you’re into this bike, the price is really the only thing that might make you second guess yourself. The Monkey demands a $600 premium over the standard Grom, though the attention to detail, use of quality materials, and off-the-charts cool factor are enough for me to say it’s worth it.

You’re not going to be folding the handlebars down on this one and sticking it in the trunk, but with a bike that looks this good, why would you want to? The 2019 Honda Monkey is here to usher in another generation of riders as its preceding Z series familia has done for many years. Honda says the Monkey will be a brand ambassador for them and doesn’t plan to build more than 17k of them for the initial run. When asked if the Monkey becomes a smash hit, would they consider building more, the response was a resounding yes. Here’s to a world overrun by miniMOTOs with Monkeys, Groms, and Super Cubs (oh my!) filling the streets of Everytown, USA.

2019 Honda Monkey

+ Highs

  • Quality fit and finish of componentry
  • Built on the successful Grom platform
  • Smiles for miles

– Sighs

  • That fit and finish demands a premium in the price department
  • Two-up riding will be an intimate affair
  • Will cause smile wrinkles

2019 Honda Monkey Specifications

Engine Type124.9cc air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Valve TrainSOHC; two-valve
Bore x Stroke52.4mm x 57.9mm
Compression Ratio9.3:1
InductionPGM-FI w/ 24mm bore, automatic enrichment
IgnitionFull transistorized
Starter Electric
TransmissionManual; four speeds
ClutchMultiplate wet
Final DriveChain final drive; 15T/34T
Front Suspension31mm hydraulic telescopic inverted fork; 4.3 inches travel
Rear SuspensionTwin shocks; 3.3 inches travel
Front BrakesHydraulic; single 220mm disc w/ two-piston
caliper; ABS option available
Rear BrakesHydraulic; single 190mm disc w/ single-piston caliper
Front Tire120/80-12
Rear Tire130/80-12
Trail3.2 inches
Length67.3 inches
Width29.7 inches
Height40.6 inches
Ground Clearance6.3 inches
Seat Height30.6 inches
Wheelbase46.5 inches
Fuel Capacity1.5 gallons
Curb Weight232 lbs. (236 lbs. with ABS)
ColorsRed Pearl Nebula Red, Banana Yellow
ABS: Pearl Nebula
Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams

Ryan’s time in the motorcycle industry has revolved around sales and marketing prior to landing a gig at Motorcycle.com. An avid motorcyclist, interested in all shapes, sizes, and colors of motorized two-wheeled vehicles, Ryan brings a young, passionate enthusiasm to the digital pages of MO.

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2 of 29 comments
  • HeDidn'tWeDid HeDidn'tWeDid on Oct 01, 2018

    BBB just got done here in NWA...you will lose on the stoplight throttle jerkin', but you will be noticed for sure in a sea of protective bandannas and sissy bar thong holders. The Monkey is Honda doing what Honda needs to do with their larger motorcycles; which is injecting some fun and character into them.

  • Starmag Starmag on Oct 02, 2018

    "Two-up riding will be an intimate affair" should be in the "+highs" column.