It may surprise some, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has actually boosted motorcycle sales. Especially ones designed for off-roading, such as adventure bikes and dual-sports. And it’s not just new models that are gaining popularity. As with classic SUVs, vintage off-road bikes have captured buyers’ attention with style, simplicity, and fond memories. This is why, as the new Trail 125 arrives, many classic Honda Trail bikes are finding new owners, too.
The Honda Trail bikes: simple but smart
Although the Honda Grom isn’t a retro motorcycle, its engine helps power a few of them. That includes the Monkey and the Trail 125, both of which draw inspiration from vintage minibikes. The former is based on the Z50 ‘monkey bike.’ And the latter is the successor to the Honda Trail models, aka the Honda CT series.
In the 1960s, flat-tracking and dirt biking were exploding in the US, leading to the creation of the first scramblers. But before that, riders modified whatever motorcycles they had to go play in the dirt, Motorcycle Classics reports. That includes the first Honda Cubs. Honda itself eventually got word of this and created a kind of ‘proto’ Trail, the 1961 C100H Hunter Cub. That eventually led to the 1964 CT200, the first Honda CT model.
But it’s the later 1967 Honda Trail 90, aka the CT90, that really took off, Ultimate Motorcycling reports. The Trail 90 has an 89cc single-cylinder engine with 7 hp linked to a 4-speed transmission. Except it’s more of an 8-speed transmission—kind of. As with the Condor A580, the Honda Trail 90 has a dual-range gearbox, Hagerty reports, due to an additional reduction gear. You pull a lever and the bike switches from High to Low, Cycle World reports.
That wasn’t the Honda Trail 90’s only off-road-friendly feature, though, RideApart reports. The CT90 has a centrifugal clutch, like the Cub, which basically means it’s a semi-automatic motorcycle. It also has a step-through frame, a high-mounted exhaust and air intake, a snorkel, and steel bars to protect the engine. Plus, off-road tires and, by 1969, a telescopic front fork.
The Honda CT bikes were made for off-road adventures
The Trail 90 wasn’t the only CT model Honda released. There was also a smaller-engine, more basic model called the CT70, Silodrome reports, which also influenced the current Monkey. And in 1981, Honda introduced the CT110, with an 8-hp 105cc single-cylinder engine, Bring a Trailer reports.
Regardless of which Honda Trail you ride, though, these bikes are a lot of fun when the pavement ends. True, they don’t have the suspension travel of adventure bikes or modern dirt bikes. But the CT90 has a dry weight of only 179 pounds. It’s not a powerful bike, and it isn’t fast, RideApart reports. But it doesn’t need to be.
The dual-range transmission and compact size give the Trail 90 “’ the stubborn agility of a mountain goat,’” Motorcycle Classics reports. The step-through frame means you can easily get on and off even in heavily-forested or obstacle-ridden areas. The single-cylinder engine is reliable, rugged, and easy to repair. And with the optional rear luggage rack, a Honda Trail becomes something akin to a mechanical pack mule, UM reports. It won’t conquer the Paris-Dakar, but it can help turn your local forest into the next best thing.
Vintage appeal means these mini dirt bikes are gaining popularity
With the rise of retro motorcycles and the growth in off-road machines, vintage Honda Trails and CTs are growing in value. Luckily, they’re still fairly affordable. And while they were cheap bikes back in the day, enough were made to ensure a plentiful supply.
Today, a pristine Honda CT90 can cost over $4000, Hagerty reports. And some examples have sold on BaT in the $5000-$6000 range. That’s actually more than the 2021 Honda Trail 125, which has disc brakes, fuel injection, and a skid plate.
But whether you go vintage or modern, a CT is ready to hit the trail.
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