The Many Faces of Motocycles - Monkey Bikes
 


Monday, August 8, 2011

The Many Faces of Motocycles - Monkey Bikes


Google "monkey motorcycle" and you're going to get a million and a half YouTube videos and pictures of monkeys riding motorcycles. And while this may be extremely amusing (especially during a painfully long day at work), it also calls to mind a particularly peculiar motorcycle niche that seems to get overlooked: the monkey bike.

Formally known as the Honda Z100 or the Honda Z50 series, these bikes first hit the market in 1961 as a children's ride in a Japanese amusement park known as Tama Tech. This small amusement park was part of the Suzuka Circuit developed by Honda, which had just been built. Honda had hoped that adding this little theme park would expand the race track beyond just moto racing and help promote mobility for all ages. Of course, Honda also threw a safety education facility in there as well.

The amusement park featured a mini racing circuit that could be ridden on Honda's new 50cc mini bike. And while children and adults began to quickly fall in love with these tiny rides, one thing about them became blatantly obvious: anyone who rode one was instantly turned primal. Because of the size of the bikes, riders looked to be very much like primates; hence the nickname.

These little guys started out as a children   Of course, their nickname derives from the distinctly simian appearance of riders while on one.
These little guys started out as a children's ride at the Japanese amusement park Tama Tech.   Of course, their nickname derives from the distinctly simian appearance of riders while on one.

Because of the popularity of the bikes in the ride, Honda soon began to produce a version known as the Z100 that was capable of being ridden on the street. Come 1963, Honda was exporting this new version by the barrel. In 1967, Honda revamped the Z100 and renamed it as the Z50. And while the version used in the actual park was never sold, some seem to have managed to weasel (or should we say monkey?) their way out in order to become some top dollar collector's items.

Throughout the years Honda continued to produce upgraded and modified versions of their tiny monkey bike. However, the popularity of these bikes did wane over time and the amount of them that were sold were not as massively frequent as other motorcycle models. It wasn't until recent years when Honda put out a few special edition monkey bikes. Still, only a small number of these bikes were made and sold to monkey bike enthusiasts.

Today, monkey bikes are becoming rarer by the year, particularly those from the first years. And since Honda has once again stopped selling them, the best place to find one is from a used seller. But if you're not looking for the real thing and have just fallen in love with these tiny bikes due to their charm and wit, there are quite a few manufacturers in China that make some pretty decent knock off's for a fair price. After all, everything these days in made in China, right?




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