Honda Z series motorcycles first appeared in Japan in 1961. The 49cc, 4.5 horsepower motorcycle was originally created for visitors to a theme park owned by the manufacturer to enjoy. Soon after its integration into the park, it earned the nickname ‘Monkey Bike’. This was due to the disproportionate scale of the rider to the minuscule motorcycle. After seeing how well the Monkey had been received by the public Honda wisely decided to put the model into full production locally in 1964. A few years later they began exporting the Monkey to Europe and then North America where it enjoyed huge success.
In 2017, Honda ceased production of the beloved Z series Monkey. The manufacturer saw no way they could satisfy upcoming stricter emissions laws using the same, small engine design. It was devastating news to Monkey fans around the world, but their sadness was short-lived. The following year Honda revealed an all-new Monkey 125 that used the same engine as their hugely successful Grom. Now sporting a 125cc engine, a 5-speed gearbox, digital gauge and ABS The Monkey 125 was a whole different breed of ape, but it promised to be every bit as fun as its predecessor.
Honda has been the most popular motorcycle manufacturer in Thailand for an impressive 33 years running. In 2021 they sold 1.236 million motorcycles. The 110cc Cub-styled Honda Wave is the country’s go-to mode of two wheeled transport. As for the Monkey 125, it has quickly built a cult-like following and it’s attracted the attention of the country’s custom scene.
This one-of-a-kind Honda Monkey 125 was unveiled at the 2022 Bangkok Hot Rod Custom Show. It’s the work of Chayakrit Kaewwongwan, aka Winny Boy, who runs several aftermarket motorcycle parts stores including Advance Automotive Accessories and the Honda Monkey-focused brand, MonQey King.
Chayakrit has a soft Hondas. That passion extends to the Monkey and in the past, he’s built some incredible customs based on the 125cc platform (check out his Bosozoku-style Monkey pictured below!). So when he got word that the 2022 Bangkok Hot Rod Show was scheduled to go ahead it was the perfect excuse to churn out another one-of-a-kind Monkey 125.
His latest Monkey project took only 10 days to complete. This is because he’d already designed the bodywork for a local Honda competition called the ‘DAX125 H2C Motorbike Idea Challenge’. In the end, he built a different custom Dax for that event so rather than let this design go to waste he repurposed it on the Monkey.
“I was inspired by the design of locomotives from the British industrial era,” says Chayakrit. “I’m also obsessed with steampunk style so I merged the two together to create this design.”
One historic image that resonated with Chayakrit’s aesthetic was that of a streamlined locomotive built by Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. The 1937 Union Pacific P-13 2906 was decommissioned and sadly scrapped in the mid-fifties but its influence on this project is clearly visible.
“I think the design of that era was very futuristic. It conveys good design which I really like, so I created this bodywork and I think it fits with this Honda Monkey 125 well.”
Chayakrit’s method for building a custom motorcycle starts with a digital sketch in Photoshop. He applies his design directly to a photo of his chosen donor to get the proportions right. Once he’s happy with how it looks he builds the bodywork, but unlike most of the bikes we feature, this Monkey is built from ABS plastic rather than composite fibres or hand-shaped aluminium. Chayakrit’s reasoning for this is simple. He uses ABS every day to produce some of the parts he sells in his store and it’s a material he’s clearly very comfortable with.
Everything from the all-encompassing front fairing to the fuel tank, belly pan and bagger-esque tail unit is made from ABS plastic. Even the chequer plate-style panels are ABS which helps to keep the weight to a bare minimum. This is of course very important on a small-capacity motorcycle like the Monkey.
Despite only taking 10 days to build Chayakrit says the project wasn’t without its challenges. “Not modifying the main structure at all was very difficult. No cutting, no drilling, no damaging the frame. With this build, I didn’t want to destroy the original bike so even the new look fuel tank is simply a cover.”
For the rest of the build, Chayakrit swapped original parts for ones that better suited his theme. The new even lower seating position utilises clip-on handlebars and rear-set footpegs. The lower stance was achieved by dropping the forks by 4 inches, which is a lot for a bike that’s barely 40 inches tall, and there are shorter Murazaki shocks in the rear. To complement the wider bodywork the wheels use wider D-project rims and rubber.
It’ll come as no surprise that Chayakrit’s Monkey 125 wowed the crowds at the Bangkok Hot Rod Show. It also caught the attention of the events judges who gave the Monkey top honours in the “The Best Minibike” category.
The Thai custom scene is relatively new territory for us here at Return of the Cafe Racers, but you can rest assured that thanks to this awesome Monkey we’ll be keeping a much closer eye on it!