Discover everything you need to know about the Honda Monkey Mini-Bike Z Series, from its early beginnings in a Japanese amusement park to the American streets.
Walt Disney may have dominated the headlines when he opened his first theme park but meanwhile, visitors to Tokyo’s Tama Tech Park were having some real fun in Japan. Part of the complex was Motopia, the Honda Motor Co’s motorsport-themed area. As well as featuring motor vehicle attractions, Motopia was also a testbed for Honda’s new models.
In 1961, a new attraction opened featuring miniature 50cc motorbikes. It became an instant hit. Kids got elbowed out the way as fun-loving adults squashed themselves onto a tiny motorcycle to buzz around a miniature racetrack.
This mini-bike was the Honda Z100 and it became the park’s most popular ride. When a press member commented that the hunched over adults looked like ‘circus monkeys,’ the nickname stuck.
Honda’s Monkey bike was born but it would be another seven years before the tiny wheels of the first Z50 were to roll off the manufacturer’s assembly line.
Not one to ignore the tiny bike’s popularity, in 1963, Honda launched the CZ100 street-legal version aimed at the European and Asian market. Ironically, although not released in the United States, Monkey bike sales went nuts! At least a dozen companies offered lawn mower-engined mini motorcycles and after a while, Honda sat up and took notice.
You can forgive Honda for not getting on board the mini-bike boom earlier, as, in 1965, the brand had the large capacity market in their crosshairs. This year saw the infamous CB450 Black Bomber launch. The model turned big-bore bike sales in the United States on its head, stealing riders away from both Harley-Davidson and British manufacturers.
The European Launch of the Z50M
To return to our main focus and to cut a long story short, 1967 saw the European launch of the Z50M. This motorcycle featured Honda’s indestructible single overhead camshaft (SOHC) cub engine and a new frame and cycle parts. However, when American dealers finally got their hands on it in 1968, expectations were low. In fact, many people thought Honda had missed the mini-bike boat.
Ironically, the reverse was true. The slightly redesigned and renamed Z50A Mini- Trail sold out as soon as it hit the showroom floor. So rather than missing the mini-bike boom, Honda reignited it and then added more fuel to the fire.
Honda’s micro Monkey bike became a best seller and a cult classic, with a production run spanning over an incredible 50 years.
The Price to Pay for a Honda Monkey Bike?
The list price of the Honda Z50 range from 1969-1999 ran from USD225-1,299.
Previously owned Honda Mini-Trail Z50 prices sell for USD500- 80,000!
Of course, the final price depends on the celebrity status of its owner, whether the mini-bike is fully restored, in pristine condition with OEM components, or sold for parts.
Due to its cult following, pre-owned Z50s priced at USD2000-5000 in excellent running condition are considered a viable investment.
For all you avid Monkey mini-bike fans, here is the definitive account of every Z50 series Monkey bike released in the United States during its entire production run:
In their first production year, Honda sold a staggering 50,000 Monkey bikes. The initial 1000 or so are called the “slant guard” models. They get this name due to their angled exhaust cover. This model is now highly collectable.
The first edition Mini-Trail had no lights and went on sale as suitable for off-road use only. Due to its popularity, any alterations or design changes had to occur as the bikes passed along the production line.
The first Z50A had high bars that could be folded flat and the handlebar grips were white. They also featured a seat more elevated than the gas tank. The model was available in two colour options. The two choices were Red/White or Yellow/White.
The ignition switch was an On/Off toggle under the tank and transmission was via 415 chain and sprockets. The original cost of a Mini-Trail model in 1968 came in at USD225.
Today, you may find a restored version on sale at around USD5000.
1969 Z50A K1
While the ‘Easy Rider’ movie made its big-screen debut in 1969, Monkey bike fans got treated to some big changes. To increase the mini- bike’s usability, Honda added head and tail lights together with a conventional key-operated ignition switch.
Weight increased due to the new electrical system and battery. Cycle parts also came in for an upgrade with chrome fenders, a restyled seat, chain guard and slightly lower handlebars. The bike also bore the legend Mini-Trail emblazoned on a circular tank badge.
The K1’s engine featured a three-speed auto transmission. At the same time, the exhaust was fitted with a spark arrester making it forest-friendly.
A new Candy Apple Blue and White paint scheme joined the colour option lineup, and sales topped six figures. Honda advertised the Mini-Trail as being “easily stowed in a boat or plane.”
In 2018 former Beatle, John Lennon’s ’69 K1, low mileage Monkey bike sold at auction for a staggering GBP57,500 (USD78, 133). The Mini-Bike owner, yachtsmen John Harrington from Dorset, bought the bike in 1971 from Henry Graham for GBP250 (USD340). Harrington was unaware of its famous original owner when he purchased the mini-bike.
1970-71 Z50A K2
For production years 1970 and 1971, Honda made some interesting small changes but kept the same basic spec for both years. The model was available in Mexican Yellow and White, Candy Sapphire Blue and White and Candy Ruby Red and White.
For 1970, Honda inverted the colour scheme so that the solid colour was now on the top half of the tank. In addition, an oval badge replaced the previous year’s circular badge to enhance the tank further, and the Mini-Trail typeface changed.
As for cycle parts, the front mudguard increased a little in size and the taillight came in for a restyle thanks to the rear mudguard’s additional length. Handlebar levers also changed to aluminium.
Having gone to the trouble of designing a new electrical system the year before, in 1970, Honda took the questionable decision to remove the battery and return to magneto ignition. The result was a slightly lighter bike than the previous model but the lights were too dim to be practical.
In May 2021, a 1971 Z50A K2 went on sale at RM Sotheby’s for auction with a price guide of USD2000-3000.
1972 Z50A K3
If the Honda Monkey bike design team coasted through ’71, they more than made up for it in 1972.
This year, the K3 got treated to a major facelift, with every part of the mini-bike receiving attention. The most noticeable change is the conventional coil spring rear suspension replacing the ugly hardtail sub-frame.
Together with a repositioned studded seat and new shape tank, the Z50 began to look more like a miniature motorcycle than a fairground ride. In addition, the tail light bracket and headlight had a welcome update together with a new larger, louvred exhaust heat shield.
Two new paint schemes became available. These were Ruby Red and Candy Gold, with new, more prominent Mini-Trail graphics. A nice addition to the 1972 K3 was a “handsome nylon race jersey,” which came free with every K3 purchase.
Some die-hard fans say that Honda took the Mini-Trail concept too seriously with the new alterations. However, the Z50A was still the fold-down fun bike it always was and if anything, the rear suspension only added to its popularity.
You can find this model available on many auction sites with winning bids from USD2200 – 4500.
1973 Z50A K4
It is safe to say that Honda blew their budget on the ’72 model, so the K4’s updates were largely cosmetic. However, one much-needed upgrade was the change from rubber footrests to motocross-style ‘alligator’ pegs.
Two new paint jobs became available, Hawaiian Metallic Blue and Candy Orange. In addition, the designers dumped the Mini-Trail tank graphic in favour of a Honda graphic. However, apart from the chain guard going from chrome to black, little else changed.
If you’re looking to join the ’73 Z50A mini-bike owners club, you can expect to pay around USD2000.
1974 Z501 K5
Once again, 1974 was not a year for significant modifications. Yet the US government did introduce laws to regulate mini-bikes. This legislation came about as most Monkey bikes consisted of poorly made lawnmower engines housed in pushbike frames.
Honda wasn’t concerned, though, and to show willingness duly increased the rear mudguard and taillight size.
Advertisements appearing in 1974 show the K5 to have a seat height of a mere 24.8-in and marketed as the ‘fold-away kid’s bike that’s fun for adults too.’ Weighing in at 117-lb in weight, it was undoubtedly an adult’s job to get it in and out of the trunk! At least the sealable gas cap meant it didn’t stink the car out, though.
New colours for the year included Candy Sapphire Blue and Candy Topaz Orange. With a fresh tank graphic mirroring the CB250 and 350’s, the little bike got big bike looks.
At auction, a private Orlando seller in September 2021 was lucky enough to realise USD4500 (including seller fees) for his’ mostly original’ Candy Topaz Orange, K5.
1975 Z50A K6
The 1975 Mini-Trail became more noticeable for what didn’t feature on the model than for any new additions. Also, this year was the first time there was only one choice of paint scheme, Candy Apple Red. However, it was still a stunner with matching fork shrouds and headlamp brackets.
This year also saw the ‘K’ model designation drop.
If you are looking for an investment, you may be interested to learn that a K6 first sold in a Las Vegas auction in 2019 for USD2200 sold one year later for USD3520.
As mentioned before, this is the first Mini-Trail Monkey bike in eight years not to have a K prefix. The change was due to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) altering motorcycle classifications.
This year’s colour was Parakeet Yellow. Yet despite its perky paint job, sales plummeted. From a high of 150,000 per year to just 4,000 units sold in 1974, Honda advertisements to woo a new audience-targeted their campaign towards young female riders.
Minor tweaks and changes include the blacking-in of handlebar triple clamps and a lower exhaust shield.
In November 2021, a Parakeet Yellow, Ohio-based 1976 model sold at auction for USD3500. Now that’s something to squawk about!
Tahitian red became 1977’s featured colour and the new paint scheme remained the same as that used on the manufacturer’s larger off-road bikes. The ’77 was also the first Monkey bike to feature the iconic Honda wing logo.
More minor changes came with the gear and rear brake levers losing their chrome, favouring a powder-coated black finish.
On March 3, 2020, a bike restoration seller in Indiana sold a pristine 1977 Tahitian Red Monkey bike, at auction, for a whopping USD4400.
For 1978, modifications were once again thin on the ground. However, the significant difference was the introduction of colour-coded front and rear mudguards. The Tahitian red remained but the coordinating front-to-back paint job had a powerful visual impact.
This year heralded an end to the A prefix.
In 2021 some lucky buyer got a piece of the Monkey bike action with their purchase of a 1978 mini-bike, sold by a Las Vegas private collector, at auction, for a mere USD2420.
To mark the introduction of the R model, the Mini-Trail came back with a bang and 1979 saw the most extensive makeover in seven years. To cash in on the success of Honda’s Steve McQueen endorsed CR Elsinore range of off-roaders, the Monkey miniature motorcycle received a dramatic dirt bike facelift.
The first thing to notice was the new sleek gas tank, a far cry from the one fitted to its predecessor. In addition, an all-black exhaust system offset the color-coded bodywork from the previous year.
To hammer home the Mini-Trails’ off-road potential, gone were the front and rear lights, replaced on the front by a red racing plate. Likewise, a racing plate bearing the 50R logo replaced the left-hand side panel.
The restyled seat featured the Z prefix. Meanwhile, the Monkey bike’s famous fold-down handlebars disappeared. Their replacement was a set of high-rise, black, braced conventional bars, which only appeared on the ’79 model.
Honda continued with the bright red colour scheme, which extended to the swinging arm. In addition, a simplified Honda wing logo minus any graphics featured on the tank once again tying in with the gas tank paint scheme belonging to the CR motocross range.
In the UK, you can buy a 1979 Monkey bike bargain for around GBP1780
The addition of a new race plate on the right side of the mini motorcycle meant the exhaust and heat shield needed a redesign. However, the colour scheme and graphics remained Tahitian red and the new race plate featured a 50R graphic.
The final part of the colour coding appeared on the side of the seat, with the Z logo going from white to red. As for cycle parts, the ’80 model got a change of wheels. While the lower handlebars were proportionate with the rest of the bike
The 1980 Z50R has the appearance of a fully scaled-down dirt bike aimed squarely at young riders. Honda intended to instil brand loyalty into a new generation of baby dirt riders ready to progress to their full-size CR range.
If you are looking for a 1980 Z50R, check out Craigslist, break open the piggy bank and head to California with a fistful of USD2000!
This year saw no changes to the cycle parts or general design, with the only alteration being to the 50R graphic on the bike’s side-mounted race plates.
USD2200 is about all it will take to add a lovingly restored 1981 mini-bike to your collection.
In 1982, with no mechanical changes to the engine, Honda designers went to work on the paint scheme and graphics.
The side race plates were now white and featured the red Z logo formally on the seat, which had the 50R graphic on the side. In addition, the Z50R appeared even more like its grown-up motocross siblings with the new subtly different Blaze Red bodywork. Many models in the Honda line up including the CR motocross range, would get the blaze red paint scheme a year later.
If you lost out on that all-important 1982 Monkey bike for USD2200, no worries, you can bag the later model for around the same price.
The 1983 Monkey bike model got an even sharper motocross makeover with the side panel and seat graphics once more swapping positions. The difference for this model is the deep yellow, side and front race plates, which contrasted nicely with the blaze red.
The cherry on the cake was a gas tank cap overflow pipe giving the mini motocrosser more dirt appeal.
An ’83 copper plated custom Monkey bike recently sold at auction for USD4950.
Another model year with not much to write home about by way of modifications, 1984 saw the first year of the blue seat models. The full-size CR range changed to blue seats the year before and now, with identical paint jobs and race plates, the Z50R became a real mini-me version.
The identical bodywork was yet another indication of how closely Honda wanted young 50R riders to identify with and transition to the CR range when old enough.
1984 is also the last year of Honda’s iconic wing tank logo, which incidentally, the CR range continued with for another year.
You can expect to pay from USD1700 and upwards for a 1984 model in excellent condition.
Mirroring changes to the large bore CR models, the 1985 Z50R waved goodbye to its familiar yellow race plates. The Honda graphics team has also been cooking up a new tank logo to replace the yellow wing.
The entirely new and innovative design was yet another Honda wing but this time in Red, White and Blue, which was bland against the Blaze Red gas tank.
The rear suspension also got in on the colour-changing action, switching from red to blue springs to match the seat.
A quick look at the Z50R’s advertising campaign for 1985 (always a good indicator of the times) sees Honda swapping the image of the young girl rider with Mom. Dad and son are now back and this time, Jnr. is fully kitted out in motocross boots, helmet and gloves. The subliminal messaging insinuates that young Z riders are committed to the mini dirt lifestyle and take their fun seriously.
Check out the auction sites and private sales and become a member of the 1985 Monkey bike mania for around USD1800-2000.
1986 Z50R and Z50RD Christmas Special
Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s
There must have been something in the water in 1986 as it’s the year Honda launched twin Monkeys. The standard model received a glitzy remodel with gold wheels and matching suspension hardware. In addition, the front and side race plates were now white instead of yellow.
Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s
These albeit small additions make the mini motorcycle highly collectable. Today, a pair of genuine A1 condition ’86 gold wheels command almost the same price tag as a complete bike.
Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s
If that wasn’t also enough, in 1986, along came the Z50RD Christmas Special, the most chromed-out blinged-up Monkey bike yet. Everything got the chrome treatment here, including the gas tank, forks, suspension, swinging arm, mudguards, exhaust guard, and frame.
Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s
The aluminium wheels were polished, and with a contrasting red seat, handlebar grips and red white and blue wing logo, the RD popped.
Released to top-selling Honda dealers only, the debate rages on the number of RD’s released for sale. Ironically though, the 1986 Z50RD Christmas Special generated poor sales figures.
Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s
Today this model is one of the most collectable Monkey bikes, with a recent auction bid reaching USD9500 for a pristine example. A far cry from the USD500 ticket price of 1986.
The red, white and blue ’87 model has major patriot appeal. However, there is a reason why motorcycle manufacturers don’t produce motorcycles with white frames and gold wheels. Take a look at the ’87 Z50A, and you will see why!
Some colour schemes just don’t work. The white frame, suspension and mudguards combined with red tank and panels and blue seat make this year’s Z50A look like a parts bin special.
This paint scheme appeared for one year only, so this model may become collectable in the future. Yet, if you thought this was a taste of things to come, the Honda Monkey bike team had another surprise in store.
A 1987 Z50A mini-bike recently went under the Las Vegas hammer for the healthy sum of USD4750. Thanks to its limited-edition colour combination and comprehensive restoration using NOS and original parts.
This year saw the most extensive redesign since the Monkey bike lost its rigid frame way back when. The Shasta White frame and suspension live on, but the scheme doesn’t look so bad when coupled with white wheels.
The biggest deal, though, is the redesigned bodywork. The angular tank flows seamlessly into a one-piece side panel and rear mudguard. The design followed a similar upgrade to Honda’s larger off-road models and a blue tank-hugging seat topped off the overall look.
Another first for the ’88 model was an update to the engine. Internally it was still the same 49cc 2-valve, three-speed automatic powerhouse it always was, but the exterior cases were anodised dark gold. The new angular Monkey bike also got a CD ignition but neither feature added to the Z’s audacious 28mph top speed.
Last but not least, the graphics team once again pulled out all the stops creating a new tank graphic, a white letter Z.
Sadly, this would be the last of the significant facelifts the tiny Z would receive before entering retirement in 1999.
If you’re hunting for a low mileage 1988 model in Greece, expect to pay more than EU4000.
Although the 1989 model stuck with a white frame and wheels, it featured red mudguards front and back to tie the paint scheme together nicely. The tank-hugging contoured seat reverted to red, and this was the only year red mudguards featured both front and back.
The 88’s “Mark of Zorro” tank logo now resided on the seat, while the Blaze Red gas tank provided a solid background for the return of a white Honda wing graphic.
You can usually find an average ’89 starting at around USD1500.
If someone were even to offer you a pristine 1990 Z50R for silly money, keep on walking. Honda did not officially release a model this year. Who knows why? They don’t appear to have launched any new large-capacity models this year. We can only surmise there was a large inventory of 89’s still to move!
The plot thickens as you may well see 1990 models for sale. Don’t worry that they’re dodgy! All it means is their registration took place in 1990. Be aware that the documentation should state the year of manufacture as 1989.
With 1989 documentation, any Monkey bike advertised as 1990 should be offered for sale at around USD1200.
Colour and graphic changes set this Monkey bike apart from the 1989 model. White front and rear mudguards now joined the existing Shasta White frame.
Instead of Honda’s traditional blue, the race plates were purple, and the seat and tank graphics once more changed places. Handlebars were powder coated white with black grips and the 89’s gold-tinted engine cases got replaced with a silver variation.
The silver lining for this model, is its price tag of around USD 1000.
At first glance, the 92′ is more or less identical to its predecessor, with only minor changes made to the tank and seat graphics. All engine and cycle parts remain the same.
You can find a 1992 Z50R at auction, in immaculate condition for around USD1500.
For this year, the red, white and purple paint scheme remained unchanged. The only thing that differentiates the ’92 from the ’93 is a slight alteration to the tank graphics. Here, we see the 50R logo overlaps the Z.
A decent runner will set you back around USD1000.
When it comes to mid 90’s Monkey bikes, there are two schools of thought. The first one is that Honda lost interest, or second, the manufacturer didn’t feel the need to fix what wasn’t broken.
Apart from a bland new logo on the seat and the Honda name appearing under the tank’s Z logo, in 1994, the world got another identical mini- bike.
If you are looking for a project, an unrestored 1994 is the way to go, at around USD500-750.
Yet again, we see a carbon copy of the previous year, with the only changes being to the seat and tank graphics. The 50R text on the seat became more discernable and the gas tank got a more prominent Z.
The 50R’s colour scheme remained identical to Honda’s large bore CR range.
In well-used but working condition, Fo this model expect to pay around USD800.
There are no changes to this year’s model except for a slight tweak to the Z tank graphic.
Fully-restored, dig deep, at around USD2000.
In 1997, at last, we saw a change in the bodywork paint scheme, even if it is a retro step backwards. White mudguards and side panels now joined the white frame and wheels.
The only thing preventing fans from losing their tiny bike in a snowdrift was the blaze red seat and new Z logo on the tank.
A quick scan of Honda’s media involvement for the 1997 model saw the brand pushing the CBR and Shadow custom range with the tiny Z not showing anywhere. A far cry from the full-page advertisements of the mid-1970s.
In Greece, a 1997 Monkey bike with 10000-km on the clock is on sale for EU1900.
As Honda always plans their production runs in advance, it’s apparent they had the end in sight for the Z50R. As a result, no major or minor alterations appear on this model. Its entire bodywork remained white, with only the graphics receiving a splash of colour.
The Tank Graphic sees the yellow Honda wing hovering over the Z logo with red and black slashes in the background.
You can join in the 1998 pre-loved Monkey bike madness for around USD1000
It’s been a long and eventful journey, but the world’s favourite Monkey bike production finally came to a halt at the end of the 20th century.
The graphic designers have one final stab at updating the tank graphics but failed miserably with black and red stripes behind a white outlined Z logo.
If you are looking for a 1999 model with only one lady owner and in sparkling condition, head on over to Suffolk, England, with GBP4995.
Why did the Honda Monkey Fun come to an End?
As to why the fun had to end, there are two main reasons why mini-bike production ceased. First was diminishing sales in the United States. After enjoying crazy success in the early seventies, buyers appeared more interested in acquiring older models than they were in buying the latest version.
The final nail in the mini-bike’s coffin came with emissions. While it was cost-effective and practicable for Honda to undertake significant intake and exhaust modifications on larger and better-selling motorcycle models, it wasn’t worth it for the Z50R.
There are no official numbers concerning the total production run over the three decades but it is safe to say there were over a million. After 31 years of total domination in the mini-motorcycle market, the curtain fell on the Z50R.
Yes, the end of three decades of Monkey bike production and the end of an era but not the last of Monkey bike mania as fans clamour to own a piece of motorcycle history.
The Monkey Minibike King Returns with a Little Help from a Friend
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. In 2019, Honda finally caved in to pressure to bring about the welcome return of the Monkey bike.
This time around, though, Honda dropped the pretence of the Monkey mini-bike being for kids and went straight for the adult market. Again, a wise move as the all-new Monkey bike set its sights on putting the fun back to commuting.
Monkey bike fans may have welcomed its return but in fairness to Honda, they had softened up the market with the launch of another mini-bike in 2013.
Grom but not Forgotten
As the world of two wheels looked to be taking itself too seriously, along came the MSX125. This motorcycle became known around the world as the Grom. As with the Monkey bike, way back in 1969, the Grom was an instant cult hit.
The Grom’s angular 21st-century bodywork, without a doubt, tapped into a whole new generation of riders. Yet, the re-launched Monkey bike stuck like glue to the cartoon-like proportions of its forebears.
With a tiny gas tank, oversized seat and chunky wheels, the 2019 Monkey bike, in time warp fashion, appeared to have rolled straight out of 1972. In real terms, it was a wolf in Monkey’s clothing.
The Monkey Mini- Bike gets a Makeover
At 125cc, the new Single Overhead Camshaft (SOHC) engine, taken from the Grom, is more than double the original cubic capacity. So it is not surprising that power output is increased by 100% to a tarmac shredding 9-hp.
The engine features fuel injection and electronic ignition with the fun brought to a halt by front and rear discs. Optional ABS would be a wise move, too, as at 234-lb, the new Monkey bike is within 4-lb of being twice the original weight.
As for riding the new Monkey bike, Honda has pulled somewhat of an optical illusion. The dimensions may look the same but the scale is slightly increased. The seat height now comes in at a very adult 30.6-in. A full 3-in higher than the 1100cc Rebel. With high handlebars, the riding position is less simian and more begging canine.
Yet, two factors override everything else. First off, the fuel-injected 125cc engine returns a jaw-dropping 150-mpg. Secondly, riding this mini motorcycle is the most fun you can have and while still being legal.
If all that wasn’t enough, when it comes to the engine department, in 2022, Honda has treated the Monkey to a makeover.
In affirmation of the bike’s real-world commuter status, the previous manual four-speed box now gets an extra cog and all five gears have wider ratios. The elfin-like engine also produces more low and mid-range torque by reducing the bore but elongating the stroke.
An anti-locking braking system (ABS) is now standard, as are LED lights and a digital speedometer. The final nod to the 21st century is a cartridge-style oil filter. The new Honda even boasts an increase in miles to the gallon. At almost 160-mpg, the latest Monkey mini-bike takes fuel frugality to a new level.
The 2022 Honda Monkey Bike is available in black and banana yellow with a ticket price of USD4199 (EU3695).
Famous Monkey Mini-Bike Owners
Motorcycles such as the ’68 Triumph Bonneville, the 900 Monster and Suzuki’s Katana are responsible for taking ownership pride to a whole new level. Yet, as popular as these two-wheel icons are, few bikes aspire to or achieve Honda’s Monkey mini-bike cult status.
What’s more, the rich and famous are far from impervious to the mini-bike’s charms. Past and present celeb owners include:
JOHN LENNON: John Lennon was a big Monkey mini-bike fan using his 1969 Z50 to ride around his country estate in Berkshire, England. The photograph of Lennon riding around with his son Sean riding pillion is now famous.
RINGO STARR: Lennon wasn’t the only member of the Fab Four to fall for the charms of the Mini-Trail. Ringo Starr was also a fan and according to urban legend, his was a gift from Lennon.
JOHN WAYNE: You may not think of the Duke as a big Monkey mini-bike fan, but still waters run deep. The publicity shots on the set of the movie Big Jake feature John Wayne riding a Honda CL350. Dig a little deeper, though and you can find him riding his 1969 Z50A between shoots.
STEVE McQUEEN: The King of Cool was a keen off-road racer. Not one to take himself too seriously, he enjoyed blasting around his ranch on a Z50A. McQueen’s son Chad and child actor Mitch Vogal also spent lots of time kicking up mini rooster tails on the tiny trail bikes. When shooting for the movie The Reivers ended (featuring McQueen and Vogal), McQueen made a customary end-of-shoot presentation. The gift was a 1969 Z50A painted and engraved by buddy and legendary custom painter Von Dutch.
THE MONKEES: Sixties and Seventies American pop sensation, The Monkees often rode around the set of their chaotic TV show on Z50’s. Moreover, drummer Mickey Dolenz and guitarist Mike Nesmith were genuine bikers. The talented two often enjoyed riding the mini-bikes between shoots.
MICHAEL JACKSON: A young Michael Jackson and the other Jackson 5 members were also Monkey bike fans. They could often be seen riding around the grounds of their Californian home.
THE WHEELIE-ING ELVI: The world-famous Wheelie-ing Elvi is a 12-strong group of Elvis impersonators who wheelie around the USA. The fun-loving dozen perform stunts and formation rides at festivals and parades riding Honda Monkey bikes.
Owning a Monkey mini-bike is fun! But for some avid fans, it’s serious monkey business? So let’s stop monkeying around and check out some more tiny bike trivia!
Most expensive Monkey bike: This title goes to former Beatle’s member John Lennon and his legendary 1969 Z50A Monkey bike. The mini-motorcycle sold at auction for GBP57500 (USD80000), realising nearly double the anticipated GBP30,000 sale price. The bike went under the hammer at the UK’s National Motorcycle Museum (NEC) in Solihull.
Mini-bikes making history: On September 8 in 2021, flat tracker, bike dealer, motorcycle and mini-bike collector Denny’ Kannonball’ Kannenberg’s collection of 160+ motorcycles went under the hammer at a 4-day auction event. The no-reserve lots included: 1977 Honda Z50, 1984 Honda Z50R and 1984 Honda Z50 Monkey bike.
World’s fastest mini-bike: In 2009, Czech motorcycle enthusiast and nine-time Dakar competitor Ivo Kastan took his specially tuned Honda Monkey bike to the Bonneville Flats. Here, he set a new world record for the fastest ever Monkey bike, clocking up a speed of 100-mph.
Accessories to make your Monkey Bike Stand out from the Crowd
It’s impossible to own a Honda Monkey bike and not want to turn it into a two-wheeled statement. To help with the process, we’ve found the top three after-market accessory companies capable of making your Monkey bike stand out from the crowd. From crazy performance upgrades to tricked-out custom parts, we’ve got you covered.
One of the most prestigious names in Japanese motorcycle tuning, Yoshimura, has an entire section devoted to engine tuning and accessories for Honda’s mini Monkey bike.
The company offers a wide range of facelift kits, including LED indicators, tail tidies and a Yoshimura favourite, the high lift cam.
You can also choose from a range of exhausts. However, if you have any concerns about the gaping hole left behind when you dump the stock exhaust system, don’t be! This Japanese tuning specialist makes a right-side panel kit to fill the gap.
Check it out at: www.yoshimura-rd.com
OORacing is a UK-based outfit specialising in tuning parts for small bikes. Better yet, their list of Honda monkey bike accessories and tuning parts is unbelievable.
To prove to the world just how monkey-mad they are, 00Racing built a turbo-charged Honda monkey bike. Known as Project Napier, the 50-hp blown mini monster engine took four years to build and helped the company develop several engine tuning kits along the way.
OORacing covers upgrades for every part of your monkey bike, from brakes to high-performance engines.
Find these and more at: www.ooracing.com
With the all-new Honda Monkey bikes manufactured in Thailand, it’s no surprise that Thai company Zeed Parts has every part you will ever need to give your little Monkey a makeover.
Zeed specialises in bolt-on bling with everything from aluminium swinging arms to carbon mudguards and custom mag wheels.
Most items are colour-coded to match accessories with the Honda colour options. These include Banana Yellow, Nebula Red and Black.
Check out: www.zeedparts.com
Pimp your Monkey: Three of the Best Custom Monkey Bikes
This trio of Homo Sapien bike builders show just how much fun you can have monkeying around with a mini-bike
Zeus Custom Monkey Bike Bobber
They say you can bob any bike and custom bike builders, Zeus, have put that theory to the test and then some.
The Zeus Custom shop In Bangkok, Thailand, took one of Honda’s latest born-again Monkey bikes, turning it into a sleek black bobber. The front end looks longer than stock but that’s down to lowering the back end considerably with short shocks and a new rear subframe.
Tilting the fuel tank up at the front adds to the illusion of a raked frame. The Monkey bike has forward footrests and the beautiful header pipe curves sinuously around the engine.
Biltwell Z bars bobbed front and rear fenders and a custom-made single saddle complete the look. This gloss black baby bobber is one lean, mean Monkey bike machine.
OORacing’s Turbo Monkey Bike
Believe it or not, more than one bike builder has turbo-charged a Monkey bike. The one that takes engineering skills to a whole new level though, is the incredible Project Napier from OORacing.
The company specialises in tuning and custom parts for mini bikes and the project was to highlight their engineering skills. The ultimate goal is a world speed attempt at Bonneville Flats in the USA.
The metallic-blue bombshell has lots of trick parts and took four years to produce. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to any land speed travel plans.
The company says they’ve tested the engine to 100-mph at 7000-rpm. In theory, though, the turbo could rev to 14000-rpm!
K-Speed Gorilla Café Racer
This elegant and understated café racer uses a 2019 125cc Monkey bike as its base. The builders, K-Speed, are one of Thailand’s most well-known custom shops and usually focus on big-bore customs.
The owner grew up around Monkey bikes and upon the 2019 new range launch couldn’t wait to get his hands on one. The only frame modifications to the café racer are a cut and shut rear seat loop to match the single saddle. The rest are bolt-on goodies to showcase the shop’s range of Monkey bike accessories.
From some angles, it’s hard to believe that the bike is so tiny. A combination of larger wheels with cut-down mudguards, a big gas tank cover and an extended swinging arm add to the scale illusion.
As with all great custom bikes, the devil is in the detail and the K-Speed Gorilla café racer is pint-sized perfection.