Fur1ous 9e0rge: 190cc Honda Z50R Monkey

Honda Z50R

The meanest little monkey in California…

Some ten years after the introduction of the original Honda Z50A monkey bike, Honda noticed an increasing demand for a more aggressive, race-ready minibike to meet the needs of owners hopping up their machines for mini racing. In 1979, they introduced the lightweight Z50R, featuring a new seat, tank, and BMX handlebars. Whereas past minis were geared toward casual trail use, the Z50R was pocket-size racer, ready for the track.

Honda Z50R

Today, minibikes continue to foster tight-knit two-wheeled communities all over the planet. One of the strongest mini scenes is the San Francisco Bay Area — a culture which brought together friends Andres (@Vndresg) and Eric (@row4design). Says Andres:

“Over the past 5 years, I’ve gotten to ride with and been inspired by the best builders and tuners in the San Jose / Bay Area. One of those being Eric at Row4 Design, who started off way before I did building Ruckus customs for customers.”

Honda Z50R

For Eric, who’s ASE Certified with a degree in Applied Automotive Science, motorcycles — and minis in particular– are a family affair. His wife, brother-in-law, and friends all build and ride small bikes.  His San Jose-based workshop, Row4 Design, has been in business since 2015:

“I have built more than 10 since that day and got to know many many people in the industry and community, including Andres.”

Andres found the donor for this build in an old barn in Danville, CA. It was rusty, with a hole in the frame, but the new property owner was giving it away for free, so Andre loaded it on his truck and brought it home, sending Eric photos that same night.

“Quite frankly we wanted to build the meanest little monkey in California with a modern features and controls, while still retaining the elegance, power, and safety features of a modern bike.”

Honda Z50R

The modifications are simply staggering — all detailed below. Fixing and sand-blasting the frame, Honda NSR swingarm, front disc brake conversion, aftermarket controls and electronics, Takegawa steering stabilizer, custom-stitched seat from Little Bean Upholstery, custom paint color-matched to Andres’s quicksand Toyota Tacoma, and much more. Our favorite piece has to be the Japanese-built Daytona engine, painted black with quicksand accents:

“We agreed that a 190cc 4 Valve Monkey was downright bananas and went with it.”

When we saw this mean monkey at this year’s One Moto Show, we were stunned. Truly, this is the meanest monkey we’ve ever seen, and the riding experience doesn’t disappoint:

“Like riding on the back of a pissed off gorilla.”

Below, we interview both the owner and builder of the machine, getting all the details on the build, along with some stunning shots from Phil Hendrix (@phillihendrix / @photosbyphil_).

The Owner: Andres

Honda Z50R

• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.

I started riding motorcycles at 21, despite my dad having Hondas at the house growing up. I’d always liked minis but it was always hard to convince my dad it was worth anything to restore or build one when I was younger. It wasn’t until the Grom came out that a street-legal mini was finally becoming more of a reality for me. I saved up and got one, not knowing the incredible culture and people that I was about to experience on 12-inch wheels. Over the past 5 years, I’ve gotten to ride with and been inspired by the best builders and tuners in the San Jose / Bay Area. One of those being Eric at Row4 Design, who started off way before I did building Ruckus customs for customers. My stable currently includes a Honda Grom, my 1977 Monkey, and a 2019 Super Cub that is waiting to be torn apart in the comfort of my living room.

Honda Z50R

• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?

1977 Honda Monkey (Z50).

• Why was this bike built?

The bike started its life for us in an old barn in Danville, CA. It was considered trash to the new property owner and was offered to take the bike for free. Despite having rust and a big hole in the frame, I strapped it to my truck and took it home. I called my friend Eric that same night and sent him pictures, and he immediately shined hope on the new project with an enthusiasm to build that I couldn’t match. It sat in my living room for a week before taking it to Eric’s garage. The build spanned about a year and half and in that time we had a lot of forks in the road about where we wanted the bike to end. We ultimately were inspired to build based off the people and places this bike represents, along with the drag race / tuner mentality that’s heavily ingrained in the Bay Area mini bike scene. We agreed that a 190cc 4 Valve Monkey was downright bananas and went with it.

Honda Z50R

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

Quite frankly we wanted to build the meanest little monkey in California with a modern features and controls, while still retaining the elegance, power, and safety features of a modern bike. At the time I was enthralled by the Ducati scrambler and wanted something on a smaller scale.

• What custom work was done to the bike?

Literally everything. The frame was stripped down and powder-coated gloss black. The handlebar and front brake master are from a Honda Grom. It has Stage 6 controls and throttle with color-matched details to the tank. The headlight is a Koso Thunderbolt LED headlight that’s sitting on USD forks which are powdered to match the frame. It has bigger 10-inch Takegawa two-piece wheels powdered in black chrome. The front drum brake has been replaced with the disk brake. The rear swingarm is from an NSR50 along with the rear wheel hub and rear disk setup. The bike is sitting on 10-inch Michelin tires. The extended aluminum swingarm from Over Racing in Japan was also painted gloss black to match the frame. The seat is a custom-stitched seat from Little Bean Upholstery in San Jose. Custom LED pod style brake light under the seat. The gas tank is a slightly bigger Z50 tank painted Quicksand to match my Tacoma which hauls it around. The gas tank stripe and Honda badging was done by my good friends at Eminence 209 Wrap Shop. On the steering stem butt is a monkey engraved and color-matched with the tank as well. On the fork is a Takegawa steering stabilizer connected to the frame. And all this is powered by a 190cc 4 valve Japanese-built Daytona Engine, which was also painted in black and the accents matched in quicksand as well. (I’m sure Eric can get into more detail here.)

Honda Z50R

• Does the bike have a nickname?

Fur1ous 9e0rge.

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?

Like riding on the back of a pissed off gorilla.

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

I can’t take any credit for the build, but I’m particularly proud of having what in my mind is the perfect little 43 year old. Having it displayed at the 1moto in Portland was huge for me.

Honda Z50R

The Builder: Eric

Honda Z50R

• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.

My name is Eric. 37 years old from the Philippines. I first started riding motorcycles back in the late 90’s. Started off with dirt bikes and moved on to street bikes. My first and only dirt bike was a 1999 CRF125. I moved on to a 1997 Kawasaki EX500 then onto a 1997 Honda CBR900RR. That bike was when the customizing began. I got involved with a local motorcycle social club and saw what could be possible. After building my CBR900RR, I purchased a 2007 CBR1000RR and went crazy! It went through four different builds! Black and gold, green and gold, white and gold, and the final form was a tribute to the 25th CBR anniversary colorway, which was white and HRC colors.

My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, also caught interest in riding and we purchased her first bike with was a Kawasaki Ninja 250R. I built that one too, not too crazy but it was black with candy purple wheels and rear sets and some tasteful aftermarket goodies. One of my close friends also had a 2007 Kawasaki ZX10R and I completely redid it. Slate gray metallic with candy teal wheels. All controls was matte black. My brother-in-law’s friends was into mini bikes and scooters. I met them and saw the Honda Ruckus for the first time and fell in love. Little did I know, this scooter community had been customizing these since I’ve been customizing! So, me and my brother-in-law bought two and started to build those. Then the Honda Grom came out, yes I got one. Before the wife and I got married, we sold the street bikes and kept the small bikes. My Grom went through two different builds and my Ruckus is up to six now, including one with air suspension.

One day my brother in law went across the street at Chevron to gas up. A guy came up to him and was in awe of what he was riding. It was his Honda Ruckus that I had built with a San Jose Sharks colorway. He told him all about it and who built it and then he said to him that if he liked his, he should see mine. Later we found out, he owned that gas station and wanted to propose a business opportunity to me and him. Long story short, he came up with the funds as a start up, got my LLC going and built two more Ruckuses as shop bikes. I have built more than 10 since that day and got to know many many people in the industry and community, including Andres. I’ve been in business since December 2015 and like Apple and Hewlett Packard, I work out of my garage. My mechanical background came from a degree in Applied Automotive Science. I am ASE Certified and a Smog Technician for almost 20 years.

Honda Z50R

• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?

The bike is a 1977 Honda Monkey Z50R.

• Why was this bike built?

I’ve gotten to know Andres through the mini bike community and he’s been a great friend and supporter of myself, my shop, and my builds since we met. He came to me after finding the Monkey and asked if I knew how to work on them and if I possibly see a potential for it. I told him I would love to rebuild it for him! He dropped it off and I got started.

Honda Z50R

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

After seeing what the bike originally looked like. It definitely had that classic Japanese mini bike look. But, the way it stood up gave me a different way of looking at it and saw it had the potential of looking like a Ducati Scrambler or a café type hunch to her. Andres was the biggest influence, he knew what he wanted but just didn’t know which direction. After brainstorming, we came up with a vehicle match colorway. He wanted it to match his quicksand Toyota Tacoma.

Honda Z50R

• What custom work was done to the bike?

Before any custom work can be done. I wanted to tackle a few flaws I saw after tear down. One of the biggest was the previous owner had drilled a hole and banged up a section on the frame to accommodate a bigger carburetor and fed the line through. I welded that shut and smoothed it and it looked like it wasn’t even there.

Sand-blasted the entire frame and other brackets and parts and powder coated them. We decided to ditch the original 50cc engine and gave her a 190cc Daytona engine. Painted it gloss black with quicksand “Daytona” logo on the valve cover. After we got her into a rolling chassis, the tank was moved forward a bit so the seat can be moved forward to hug the back of the tank. We cut the seat thinner, replaced the cushion and reupholstered it with black leather and stitched the top to mock the original design. Tank was cleaned inside and out and painted Toyota’s quicksand color.

Custom upper tree with bar clamps was used and secured with a custom nut with a “monkey’s face” engraved on it, painted that quicksand also. OEM Honda Grom handle bar was used, trimmed shorter. Stage6 left and right controls was fitted. OEM Honda Grom master cylinder was used paired with ASV Honda Grom Levers. For the headlight, we used a KOSO LED headlight with a fabricated mount utilizing the original bracket. On the aftermarket peg mount, we took the right foot brake and fabricated a “shoe print” foot brake. I used an oil cooler plug from a Kitaco Grom case to extend the rear master cylinder’s mount off the engine.

Running an SP Takegawa split wheel set, it was hard to align the wheel center and hard to align the sprockets even after all the spacers tired. We finally decided to get a Honda NSR swing arm which was longer and wider. We went to our friends at Steady Garage in Irwindale, CA and had Kevin cut us some custom length wheel spacers.

We finally centered it. The next challenge was disc brakes. The front disc conversion went on without a hitch but the rear being an NSR rear end, didn’t fit quite right. Solution was, why not get an NSR rear brake caliper and bracket. Solved! Custom rear tail light mount to fit a round LED light from Dime City Cycles. An Over Racing high mount exhaust was used, and a custom muffler bracket was made. Had to relocate the rear brake reservoir under the seat but still accessible. A custom folding gear selector was used. Andres wanted a kick on, key off operation so we found an original Honda ignition cylinder and key and we fabricated a mount for it and it’s mounted on the left side of the engine above the front sprocket case. Lastly had a wrap company line up the tank with some matte black vinyl with a vintage Honda script.

Honda Z50R

• Does the bike have a nickname?

The bike’s nickname is Fur1ous 9e0rge, the 190 is for obvious reasons!

Honda Z50R

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?

Like a jack hammer at first. After the longer swing arm and an SP Takegawa stabilizer, it was much smoother. Vibrates a lot but that’s expected since the frame was built for accommodate a 50cc, not a 190cc. On a rebuild I may gusset the frame corners.

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

Not anything particular but I got super stocked when I finally had it as a rolling chassis. During clean up and restore it mostly sat on the floor, while waiting on parts. When I finally got to roll her on the lift and actually got to step back and saw that she was standing up. That’s when I really saw what she could eventually look like and got me even more motivated.

Honda Z50R

Follow the Builder

• Please list links for us to include. (Website, Instagram, Facebook, photographer credit, etc.)

One Comment

  1. Can you send it out of USA if anyone wants it ?? & is it custom bike ??

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*