For those looking to go off-road on their motorcycles, an adventure bike is the common steed of choice. And with models like the Royal Enfield Himalayan and KTM 390 Adventure, tackling trails doesn’t have to mean draining your wallet. But even off-road motorcycles like those may be a bit intimidating for some, especially for newer riders. Luckily, there’s an even more affordable, simpler alternative: the 2021 Honda Trail 125.
The 2021 Honda Trail 125 is a simple but not stripped-down off-road motorcycle
First shown as the CT125 Hunter Cub concept, the 2021 Honda Trail 125 is starting to arrive in US dealerships. There it joins the likes of the Grom, the Super Cub, and the Monkey as part of Honda’s ‘miniMOTO’ lineup, Road & Track explains.
Like those other bikes, the 2021 Honda Trail 125 has an air-cooled 125cc fuel-injected single-cylinder engine, Motorcyclist reports. Like the Super Cub and 60s Trail bikes, it’s linked to a 4-speed ‘semi-automatic’ transmission with a centrifugal clutch. And like the Super Cub, the Trail 125 has 8 hp and 7 lb-ft, Cycle World reports.
However, the Honda Trail 125 has a different exhaust than the Super Cub as well as a different final sprocket, The Drive reports. Neither change modifies the output, but together they improve the engine’s low-end power. That’s vital for an off-road motorcycle, which often has to crawl through dirt and sand.
The 2021 Honda Trail 125’s off-road features list isn’t long, but it is carefully considered. It has 3.9” of front suspension travel and 3.4” of rear travel as well as 6.5” of ground clearance. The air intake is mounted higher to avoid catching flying dust and debris. That’s the other benefit of the modified exhaust: it’s raised high to prevent it from catching on obstacles.
The Trail 125 also comes with a skid plate and crash bars, RideApart reports. Plus, it has dual-purpose tires and disc brakes, though only the front brake has ABS. Though, with a 259-lb curb weight, rear ABS is arguably unnecessary.
The Honda Trail 125 isn’t an adventure bike, but it’s not trying to be
Admittedly, there are several affordable adventure bikes that offer more features and suspension travel than the 2021 Honda Trail 125. However, with a $3899 starting price, the Trail 125 undercuts even the Himalayan. And, as Cycle World and RideApart explain, it’s not meant to be an outright replacement for your ADV or dual-sport.
With a 31.6”-tall seat, it’s easy for riders to put a steadying foot down on the ground. And while the Trail 125 outweighs some of Honda’s dirt bikes, it’s actually more manageable off-road, RideApart reports. That’s thanks to the seat height and the motorcycle’s low center of gravity. Plus, while the suspension travel may appear to some to be insufficient, neither Cycle World nor RideApart bottomed it out during testing. However, those going far into the dirt may want to upgrade the tires.
On paved roads, the Honda Trail 125 is a bit less refined than the Super Cub, Cycle World reports. The sprocket and exhaust changes mean it revs a little higher, though never uncomfortably so. But it still makes for an excellent city commuter or back-road explorer, with stable handling through long sweeping corners. And it has a rear cargo rack to store things like extra gear, water, or fuel.
The 2021 Honda Trail 125 doesn’t have all the features found on more expensive adventure bikes. But people look towards vintage off-road SUVs over modern ones for similar reasons. The simple mechanical nature of the bike is its most appealing feature.
Are there any alternatives also worth considering?
With its sub-$4000 starting price, the 2021 Honda Trail 125 has few direct competitors.
The Honda ADV150 scooter arguably comes closest, and it has identical ground clearance though more suspension travel. Plus, it has almost double the Trail 125’s horsepower. However, it costs $400 more and doesn’t offer any additional off-road features. It doesn’t even have a skid plate.
The upcoming Volcon Grunt is another potential Trail 125 rival. It has 12” of ground clearance, wide off-road tires, and 50 hp. It’s also electric and fully waterproof. However, the Grunt also costs about $2000 more than the Honda.
But is the 2021 Honda Trail 125 worth buying over something like the Royal Enfield Himalayan? That depends on what kind of on-road and off-road riding you plan on doing.
The Himalayan is better-suited to long-distance touring than the Trail 125, while still offering excellent off-road credentials, Cycle World reports. But it’s also taller and heavier and doesn’t offer a semi-automatic transmission. And if you just want to have some simple fun in the dirt, it’s arguably overkill.
The Honda Trail 125, then, is to an adventure bike like a moped is to a motorcycle. It’s not quite as capable, but it’s cheaper and more approachable. Which, frankly, is the appeal of the Grom and the Monkey.
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