It was only seconds after hopping aboard the 2019 Honda C125 Super Cub that laughter started to erupt. Despite rainy weather and cool temperatures, we journos couldn’t help but smile on the new Super Cub, and we hadn’t even left the parking lot of 4077 Pico Blvd – the site of the original American Honda HQ. This is the effect the Super Cub has on people; even those whose job it is to test ride every motorcycle under the sun. It’s cute, it’s inviting, and it’s just fun. If you can’t have a laugh on it, you’re dead inside. In a world where digital media is stealing away everyone’s attention (including yours since you’re reading this), maybe the Honda Super Cub can reinvigorate motorcycling in America just as it did 57 years ago when the original Honda Super Cub (called the Honda 50 here in the States) arrived on these shores.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Super Cub is the most significant model in Honda’s history – two wheels or four. Sure, today we automatically think of Honda as the giant in both the motorcycling and automotive worlds, but the company might have been a blip in history if it weren’t for the success of the Super Cub. Take yourself back to 1959. American Honda was established in September that year, hardly anyone knew the brand, and certainly nobody thought a little scooter from one of the countries that lost the war would ever sell. Through a series of calculated marketing and advertising risks, however, attention surrounding the little scoots picked up. At the end of 1962, the legendary “You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda” ad campaign debuted, and sales of the Super Cub in 1963 skyrocketed, cementing Honda’s place on the motorcycle landscape. The Super Cub’s production hasn’t stopped, and in October 2017 the one hundred millionth model rolled off the floor, making it the best selling motor vehicle in history.
In celebration of American Honda’s 60th birthday, the time was right to finally bring the Super Cub back to America and give it a facelift, and the all-new 2019 version is a perfect example of new meeting old. Or is that old meeting new? Whatever. The design concept for the new model was simple: Copy the old one.
You can see that straight away. The bottom of the S-shape silhouette starts at the (metal) rear fender, then works its way towards the foot controls, then swoops up to protect the legs, where the top of the S pokes out over the front fender. It’s timeless and classic, just like the Pearl Niltava Blue color scheme, which is the same combination of blues and red Honda used on the original Super Cub back in 1958. Everything else – new and modern.
We start, of course, with the engine. Like the Grom and Monkey, the Super Cub uses the same fuel-injected 125cc Single as its #MINImoto cousins (because carburetors should stay in the past). Nothing’s changed about it from a performance standpoint, but the SC stays true to the original in its use of a semi-automatic centrifugal clutch, meaning your foot does all the shifting (there’s no clutch lever), leaving your left hand free to wave at passersby as you roll on by. Just remember: neutral is all the way down and the other four gears are a toe-click upward. In case you forget which gear you’re in, a handy gear position indicator is front and center on the dash display, just under the equally handy fuel gauge. Speaking of which, Honda says you can expect “over 100 miles” from the 1-gallon tank.
Despite Honda’s claims, the little 125 sure felt a little peppier than the Grom in my opinion. Internal gearing was changed slightly to deal with the centrifugal clutch, but also because of the 17-inch wheels the SC rides on instead of the 12-inchers the Grom and Monkey use. Typically, it’s good to ride as if nobody sees you, but ironically enough with the Cub, you will be seen. Baby boomers can’t help but feel nostalgic when they see you, and it’s a good bet one will roll down their window and strike a conversation with you at a red light about how they used to have one. At least that was our experience. Half a century on and the “Nicest People” ad campaign still rings true.
If you’re not feeling particularly talkative, the Super Cub can scoot away from city traffic easy enough, and shifting couldn’t be easier – just click up or click down, you can’t stall this thing. A heel-toe shifter means you can use whichever part of your foot you want. In a straight line, I saw the analog speedo tickle 60 mph. Downhill, easily more. And if you’re in California at least, you can scooch between cars no problem.
While it may not sound like much of a difference, a five-inch gap in wheel size makes the ride quality much smoother for the Super Cub. Little road imperfections that would jolt the Grom, the Cub rolls over with grace. The telescopic fork and twin shocks are sprung on the soft side, but the 3.9 in. and 3.3 in. of travel give a comfortable ride in all but the harshest of roads. Fuel injection was the first obvious nod to modernity, but a single 220mm disc with a two-piston caliper is a less obvious second. Front ABS comes standard (and yes, that’s the third nod to modernity). For those nostalgic types, the rear brake is still a drum.
Riding the Super Cub, it’s hard not to get caught up in the nostalgia of it all and place yourself back in a simpler time. It’s so easy to ride, you find yourself paying more attention to the world around you, enjoying the sights and sounds. If you live in a big city, it could be a good alternative to a car or motorcycle to run your errands or commute to work, except for a few things. While I understand the fact the new Super Cub stays true to the original, it’s woefully lacking in storage compartments. A single side cover is the only thing that opens, and it’s only big enough to swallow a wallet and DMV paperwork. The one accessory Honda America offers is a rack behind the seat. It helps, but if it were mine, I’d go period correct and jury rig a milk crate to the back so I could moonlight as an Uber Eats delivery person. It’d have to be removable, however, because, despite the fact you meet the nicest people on a Honda, if you want to give one a ride, the Super Cub is only a single seater. Adding a pillion seat and pegs would suffice for me, but I imagine there’s already someone in a developing part of the world fabbing up a long banana seat to carry their extended family. And maybe their dog.
For $3599 the Super Cub is over 1400% more expensive than the $250 the original sold for in 1962 (the first year they were offered in the States), but in today’s money, it’s still an easy load off the wallet. Boomers who want to relive their past will surely gravitate towards it, as will anyone looking for cheap/reliable transportation that’s easy to ride, easy to own, and will simply put a smile on your face. Then there’s someone like me who could use one to run around town on. Personally, I see this market being really small Stateside. Honda probably does too, but since it’s a global model, I have no doubt it’ll be a strong seller around the world – I mean, 100-million models sold, and counting, speaks for itself.
|2019 Honda C125 Super Cub Specifications|
|Type||124.9cc air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke|
|Valve Train||SOHC; two-valve|
|Bore x Stroke||52.4mm x 57.9mm|
|Induction||PGM-FI w/ 24mm bore, automatic enrichment|
|Transmission||Manual; four speeds|
|Final Drive||Chain final drive; 14T/36T|
|Front Suspension||26mm hydraulic telescopic inverted fork; 3.9 inches travel|
|Rear Suspension||Twin shocks; 3.3 inches travel|
|Front Brakes||Hydraulic; single 220mm disc w/ two-piston caliper; ABS|
|Rear Brakes||Mechanical leading trailing; single 110mm drum|
|Rake (Caster Angle)||26.5°|
|Ground Clearance||5.4 inches|
|Seat Height||30.7 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||1 gallon|
|Colors||Pearl Niltava Blue|
|Curb Weight||240 lbs. (claimed)|