Motocicli Audaci builds a Monkey Scrambler…and races it!
The Honda Monkey is one of the most beloved two-wheelers of all time. Legend has it that the original 1960s models were based on a children’s ride at a Japanese theme park, and Monkey sales continued to boom through the 1970s. In 2018, Honda introduced a modern version of the 1960s classic, featuring 12-inch wheels and the bulletproof 125cc single-cylinder engine from the Grom. For 2022, the 125 Monkey has received a new Euro5-compliant engine and five-speed transmission — one extra gear!
While the Monkey may have less than 10 bhp on tap, it’s a undisputed giant killer in the fun department. The folks at Cycle News may have said it best:
“Smiling, Giggling, Mood Elevation, LOL’ing, Thumbs Ups From Strangers, etc. These are the features of the Honda Monkey that are real life. These are the things that matter. And they are all extremely powerful inside this little bike.” —Cycle News
Recently, we heard from our friends at Sardinia’s Motocicli Audaci (MAAN), who’ve been building some really neat customs in collaboration with Honda Italy of late. Their Honda Rebel 500 “MAANboard” recently won Honda Europe’s Custom Rebel competition, and their Honda “MAAN Cub” was one of our most popular features of 2021.
Now they’re back with a 2022 Monkey inspired by the Baja bikes of the yesteryear:
“This is a project by Motocicli Audaci in agreement with Honda Italy to test the off-road peculiarities of the Honda Monkey, which, although it has an aggressive look, is mainly designed for the city.”
To that end, they put the lion’s share of their focus on the suspension, working with their go-to Öhlins whiz, Fabrizio Corda of Power Moto, to replace the OEM rear shocks with a pair of Öhlins tuned to their needs, and Öhlins cartridges in the forks as well.
“The same Andreani-Öhlins technician who looks after all our bikes performed the tests and calibrations on our instructions: you can’t change a winning team!”
They then worked with their friends at SC Project to craft a full high-mount exhaust system, tuning it for better power delivery — and it looks trick, too! Other highlights include the knobby off-road tires, engine guard, wider and taller handlebar, ABS / safety sensor bypass, and a narrower and taller seat that can be squeezed between the rider’s knees while riding standing up, as most off-roading is done.
If you thought all of this work was simply an aesthetic exercise, you’d be wrong. The MAAN crew has put their “MAANkey” to the test in the Italian Scrambler championship, where MAAN co-founder Nicola Manca (@miciogattillo) placed 2nd in the Scrambler Light category.
The following week, rider Adelio Lorenzin took part in the Swank Rally, placing 47th out of more than 130 riders riding full-size bikes over 1200 km of off-road riding!
“What made us especially proud was seeing the faces of everyone once we showed up on the grid with the MAANkey when everyone had specialised factory rally bikes. Then to see their faces when they found us in the parc ferme at the end of the stage, incredulous, is as satisfying as we could have asked for.”
Honda Monkey Scrambler: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
The original motorbike is a Honda Monkey 125, m.y. 2022, with new engine and 5-speed gearbox.
• Why was this bike built?
This is a project by Motocicli Audaci in agreement with Honda Italy to test the off-road peculiarities of the Honda Monkey, which, although it has an aggressive look, is mainly designed for the city.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The concept is inspired by 80s and 90s Baja motorbikes.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The Honda Monkey already has a distinctive and successful design. We worked mainly on the suspension, replacing the original shock absorbers with two Öhlins tuned to our needs and a front cartridge in the fork, also Öhlins. Fabrizio Corda of Power Moto, the same Andreani-Öhlins technician who looks after all our bikes, performed the tests and calibrations on our instructions: you can’t change a winning team!
In collaboration with SC Project, we created a full exhaust with a high-passage, as the Monkey originally had, which allowed us to have better power delivery and increase the ground clearance compared to the original.
To avoid having to re-oil the tank we inserted a plastic cover with the new graphics, also replaced the rear mudguard and rebuilt the front part in Baja style.
Incredibly, compared to our usual designs, we also used a front wing, but we think the design improved in this case. Finally, we installed two knobbly tyres, an engine guard, a wider and taller handlebar, bypassed the abs and all the safety sensors, and a narrower and taller seat, so that the bike can be squeezed with your knees when off-road.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
As usual, the name of the bike included the word MAAN and in this case it was not difficult to find the name: “MAANkey.”
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?
We did two tests to verify the technical characteristics of the MAANkey: the first was during a stage of the Italian Scrambler championship, ridden by Nicola Manca, of Motocicli Audaci, he placed 2nd in the Scrambler Light category and 30th overall out of 44 participating riders.
The following week we mounted a roadbook and with rider Adelio Lorenzin took part in the Swank Rally. This allowed us to check his performance on the Malpensa cross track, where he placed 47th out of more than 130 riders, and then to understand his strengths and weaknesses during the stages totaling more than 1200 km of off-road riding.
Adelio chose to do all the hard stages even when it was possible to choose the soft ones because we needed this test in order to be able to participate, if all goes well, in more prestigious and demanding international races.
Fuel consumption was over 60km per litre and the new engine with 5-speed gearbox responded very well despite the difficulties encountered, with good gear spacing and always a good pull, despite its horsepower being just over 10. Back home, in Sardinia, we have to repair something on the aesthetic level and we would like to make a second one because a demanding race necessarily requires another vehicle to be used in case of emergency. By now we’ve taken a liking to it and although the Dakar is too much even for fools like us, we are looking for something really extreme for the characteristics of the vehicle.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
What made us especially proud was seeing the faces of everyone once we showed up on the grid with the MAANkey when everyone had specialised factory rally bikes. Then to see their faces when they found us in the parc ferme at the end of the stage, incredulous, is as satisfying as we could have asked for.
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