Motorcyclists are snobs. We’re enthusiasts. We love speed, quickness, and capability. And since we’re out there in the elements when dabbling in these things, we tend to see ourselves as harder-of-core than our four-wheeled, “cager” brethren.
“Oh, you’re new Bronco Raptor can go off-road and hit jumps eh? That’s cute” mutters the muddied BMW GS rider.
“Your Huracan STO was developed on the track!!??” exclaims the Ducati Panigale V4R pilot, while feigning fascination and swapping knee pucks.
Truly, the only way to humble us is to wave another motorcycle under our nose. A motorcycle that boasts none of those characteristics. A small, slow, cute, and cuddly Honda miniMOTO.
No rider worth their leathers can resist one of these things. So, when Honda kindly sashayed four of them my way, my helmet could barely contain the explosion of joy.
First things first, there has never been a better name for a vehicle, ever: Ruckus! Honda’s smallest miniMOTO offering (which is actually known as the Zoomer across the pond) is a bare-bones mount, designed with utility in mind. Powered by a 4.3-horsepower, 49 cc single-cylinder engine, the Ruckus can get out of its own way and is up for some fun, but you will have to run wide-open throttle nearly all of the time.
In my books, this makes the Ruckus a blast to ride, and can actually be helpful in learning speed management. Scrub too much off with those drum brakes and it will take a moment or two to get all 88 kgs of Ruckus back up to speed – there are no gears, so you’re at the mercy of the V-Matic to translate revs into velocity. I was barely able to muster 80 km/h with a full tuck, and it must be said that climbing a hill isn’t the Ruckus’ jam, but it is more than capable for urban commuting. Oh, and even running at the ragged edge, it sips fuel to the tune of around 2.0 L/100km, so expect that 5 L tank to score about 170 km of travel.
With my legs positioned in front of me – the Ruckus is a step-through design – leaning into corners does feel a bit different the first few times, but the Ruckus is incredibly nimble and extremely communicative. There is plenty of storage space, thanks to the open frame design, and when parked you can lock your helmet under the decently padded seat.
It will cost you $3,699 to heed the words of the Wu Tang Clan, but bringin’ the Ruckus is fun for all.
If step-throughs aren’t your thing and you’d like a little more oomph for a little less money, Honda’s new-to-North America Navi might be the mini-mount for you. Designed for the Indian market, the Navi is a 109 cc, 7.8 horsepower commuter that is almost too cute to offend any drivers you slink by.
Like the Ruckus, the Navi is a twist-and-go affair but the looks are clearly more moto in inspiration. The Navi that had been left to me was a custom creation by way of Oregon moto-gear maker, Icon Motosports. It had been treated to an intergalactic graphics package that is very much in keeping with the brand’s style.
Swinging a leg over the Navi greets with a familiar yet shrunken position. Below the fuel cell, where an engine would typically whir away, the Navi has a lockable storage container (the engine is actually mounted to the rear wheel) that can easily stow a small bag/backpack.
Riding around town, I immediately appreciated those couple extra ponies the Navi was packing and the familiar ergonomics. It made the riding experience feel more natural and the Navi is decently quick to get up to speed, but will run out of puff around the same 80 km/h mark.
Priced at a mere $2,299, the Navi makes a strong argument for itself against all of those ramshackle, grey market mopeds and e-scooters blighting our roads. I hope Honda sells them by the boatload. I know if they had existed in my University years, I would have slogged one to class every day.
Although it's only been with us for eight short years (well, two of those were quite long actually), the Grom has developed an extensive cult following in the moto world. With nearly a million units sold in the U.S. alone, it has been Big Red’s best selling street bike since introduction. The newly introduced model marks the third generation of the Grom but the changes are more substantial with this round. And the tweaks feel like they’ve paid off.
Power still comes from a 125 cc, single cylinder engine and it still doesn’t break the two-digit mark (there is 9.7 horsepower on tap) but compression has been boosted for quicker response, and the little mill burns even cleaner. The fuel tank has grown to accommodate 6 L of fuel and even with a wide-open approach, you can expect to see over 200 kms of travel between fill-ups. Most importantly, the new Grom packs a five-speed transmission (up from four), so the gearing across the range is more optimally distributed to keep you in the meat of that miniscule powerband.
Whether coming from a full-sized motorcycle or just starting out, riding a Grom is a revelation. All of the “freedom” and “fun” that gets romanticised about in motorcycling is instantly obtainable. The low speeds, small stature and light weights at play make exploring mechanical limits something anyone can do within minutes of riding, at less-than street legal speeds. If you want something that delivers a full-sized motorcycle experience in a pint-sized package, the Grom is an incredible value. It can even be optioned with ABS braking ($4,149).
If the futuristic looks of the Grom aren’t your cuppa, but you’ve been sold on the experience it can deliver, the Honda Monkey is a retro-tastic choice that has absolutely captured my heart. Looking like a slightly beefier version of Honda’s original monkey-bikes (also known as the Z-series), the Monkey debuted south of the border in 2019.
Thankfully, after much badgering on social media, the case was made that us Canucks like to Monkey around too, and Honda delivered the goods.
Beneath the scrambler bodywork, the Monkey is underpinned by the Grom’s mechanicals, so performance is the same (admittedly the Grom feels quicker, though). There are changes to the suspension – the Monkey gets a twin outboard shock in the rear – and the Monkey comes standard with ABS braking. The classically shaped, metal fuel tank holds a bit less fuel but you can still expect to see returns around 1.5 L/100 km.
Riding the Monkey instantly turned me back into a 10-year old on my BMX bike. The chunky tires and scrambler looks inviting me to chuck it down whatever “road” I could find. Its power was ample but never threatening and when I got into a situation where its tiny 12-inch hoops couldn’t climb over something, I simply picked up its 105 kgs and hoisted it onto the line I wanted and squirted down the trail.
The Monkey does command a $1,250 premium ($5,299) over a similarly equipped Grom, so there’s no doubt Big Red is cashing in on nostalgia, but it’s an incredibly cute and competent mount that will probably draw more attention than its modern stablemate.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN...
Ever since his dad started bringing home a weekly Matchbox or Hot Wheels toy as a toddler, Matthew has had a slightly unhealthy obsession with everything motorized. When an opportunity was presented in 2006 to start writing about his experiences, he jumped at the chance and hasn’t looked back. And while he still relishes every chance he gets behind the wheel of something with a performance bent (and preferably three pedals), his happy place is being somewhere, anywhere on a motorcycle.
REPORT AN ERROR