Far too young to remember the original, Ross Mowbray turns simian with a retrospective look at an influence on one of Honda’s recent releases.
Pictures: Honda Europe and Mortons Archive
With its chunky tyres, mini-‘ape’ style handlebars, minuscule fuel tank and big, squashy seat, the Honda Monkey is arguably one of the most iconic motorcycles in existence.
Its popularity was mainly as a result of its instantly likeable design, tiny dimensions and ultra-light weight – which made it a whole load of fun around town. And because it was so easy to ride and not intimidating to look at, it could be argued that the original Honda Monkey sold the idea of motorcycling to the general public, more than any other machine in history.
The original Monkey was actually a 49cc child’s toy, designed for an amusement park in Tokyo – Tama Tech, which opened in 1961 and closed in 2009 – before being developed into a fully road-going version as a result of its popularity.
And now, Honda’s iconic mini-bike has been re-imagined for the present day – with styling that draws heavily on the original, complemented by modern, premium touches such as USD forks, twin rear shocks, LCD instruments, IMU-based ABS and full LED lighting (see panel on facing page for full details).
And while today’s desires for goods that echo the styles and passions of previous generations have brought about the Monkey’s rebirth, it is the popularity of the machine in the Sixties and early Seventies that mark it down as being so memorable.
Coinciding with a time in which personal mobility was a desirable commodity that seemed to outweigh just about everything bar eating, the Monkey was cheap, easy and fun to be around. Little surprise then that it was received with such empathy by American youth, as the hippy culture, flower power, free love and the West coast surf vibe filtered its way into everyday life around the globe.
Images of cool young things heading to the beach, with flowers in their hair and not a care in the world, ensured that the Monkey bike became synonymous with a happy, youthful existence.
Whether this translated to an early Monday morning commute in a grey and rainy Salford was a different matter entirely.
Read more and view more images in the December 2018 issue of OBM – on sale now!