Life on bikes

Is that an elephant or Monkey in the room?

Jock is starting to come to terms with the eye-watering amount of money he’s spent on upgrades for a Honda Monkey. Sort of.

There’s an elephant in my garage the size of a Monkey. Well, in reality, it’s more like the size of a heavily bruised credit card.

You may or may not ask how did it get there, but I know I sure as hell am? And you know what, I’m struggling to answer that myself. Two names spring to mind, and neither are mine. Ben and Wayne. In my defence, I’ll lay the blame there and come back them in due course, your honour.

The elephant in the room is the now ‘non-standard’ Honda Monkey I bought towards the end of Autumn last year, only recently returned from a trip away to London without me. It’s not the parts, more the sum of them that is the large, herbivorous mammal poorly hiding under a cheap bike cover in my garage. Truth, the cost to bring the Monkey home in this condition could have bought a new MT09SP or ZX6-R, even an NC750X DCT if it tickles your fancy. Ok, maybe not an NC750, but you get the drift.

Ed: Nothing wrong with an NC750 sometimes. 200 miles for £14 can’t be a bad thing

Why spend an MT09SP size of money on a bike that’s cheaply made and overpriced in the first place; a bike that has, depending on who you talk to, 8 maybe 9 bhp? Why not leave as standard, or just simply add a few well priced anodised parts as many owners do and then ride the thing? If I had a decent answer to that, I’d happily type it out and let you know.

When I had my Grom, bought as a winter bike, it was the perfect blend of stupid fun on a cold day, for next to jack all cost. I could ride all day, have a bacon butty and a coffee and still, genuinely, get change from a tenner. That is a near impossibility on much larger bikes unless all you do is ride around the corner to your local café. And during winter at least, are bigger bikes ridden that much quicker than the little Grom anyway? I think I re-learnt how to use the back brake after a winter on a small bike with little power, little brakes, but a decent amount of handling. What you lose in sheer credibility, you keep in your wallet if you leave the aftermarket parts catalogue well alone.

I fucked that last part up with the Monkey. I bought it to update, upgrade the credibility of a 50-year-old bloke on a small bike.

What the feck was I thinking? You can’t look credible on a small bike when you look like a circus bear in the first place. No chance. But then that’s half the appeal of it really.

upgrades for a Honda Monkey
© Jock McJock | You know what you want to do to that exhaust, don’t you?

Armed with the knowledge that I was going to remain a circus bear on a clown’s bike, I sought out other owners with modifications on their mind if only at first to see what was happening in the growing’ new Monkey’ scene. It’s at this point we bring in the co-defendants, Ben and Wayne. Oh and Josh also, Ben’s partner in this crime.

Ben is Ben’ The Enabler’ Harman. He owns BensBikeRacing in Belvedere, London, running it with his co-defendant, Josh. He has his finger on the pulse and can ease his hand into your wallet if you ask him / let him. He’s one of the few real go-to guys in the UK Grom / MSX / Monkey scene, where a straight forward question is answered with a straight forward answer. You want stupid though; he can give you that too. And with social media bringing down barriers he’s also the go-to guy for many people outside of the UK. Ben advises, supplies and with Josh turns your ideas and wallet into results.

Ben put me in touch with Wayne, a new Monkey owner who had big ideas for a fresh credit card. Be warned, long conversations with anyone submerged in a subject will pull you into the warm, inviting waters all too easily. Spend long enough in contact with this type of person and your credit card has to learn to swim too. And this isn’t Wayne’s first gig; he’s massaged the performance and looks of previous Groms before he turned to his new Monkey. His passion and knowledge for the subject matter turned me into an aspiring amateur, hoping for semi-professional status. My credit card alert to this quickly prepared itself for Olympic duties.

upgrades for a Honda Monkey
© | SP Takegawa Honda Monkeybike upgrades

Ideas came flooding in. Messages to Ben facilitated the image in my head of what the bike would look like finished. A picture of a yellow Monkey, built by Takegawa was spread across social media and became a mobile phone wallpaper reference point when ideas were being formulated. The overall silhouette of this bike was what I wanted for mine. The performance was a consideration, but being mechanically inept reliability had to have its place. Compromises were found, partly down to my lack of time and spannering skills, but mostly down to my diminishing bank balance. Some back pay that was owed came at the right time and spreading the load over several months helped too.

Enforced waits for parts was fine, it was winter, I wasn’t riding, my Grom was sold and in the hands of a friend to help fund the growing parts list. Ideas came thick and fast; growing at the same rate as the parts catalogues, which in turn were keeping pace as Monkey sales found global traction. Yes, there are only so many parts on a bike to change, but the sheer depth of options for all manner of ideas is vast and growing. These bikes are a growing cult and finding a standard one may soon be harder than finding one with several modifications. Let’s be fair; this was part of the appeal of the original Monkey and now is the case with the new one.

Facebook proved to be a dangerous place to hunt out ideas. It turns out Ben and Wayne were not the only ones sharing ideas. Owner discussions grew as the FB pages did. Some quality companies quickly pushed through the cheaper made products as global markets, which received the Monkey before Europe started to spike interest in mainstream manufacturers, such as Yoshimura, for example. Now you have options to spend big or spend small. Decisions aren’t limited to a few companies or cheap eBay listings, and this is only going to grow. I genuinely can’t see the Monkey getting less love in the coming year. With summer coming and parts ranging from coffee to caviar prices, mostly any owner can add some ‘bling’ to their bike, whether that be cheap from China, or expensive from Japan.

But building a bike up over several months has its negatives. You often forget that the budget is getting chipped at ever so slightly more than you think, especially when some nice products arrive before your much-awaited exhaust, for example. It may help spread the load, but it doesn’t stop the load getting any heavier.

After a few weeks at Bens in London, the bike was built, tested and polished. The call came in and out I went out in the van to collect the bike that had been drip fed into my inbox by Ben as the build was, well being built, I guess.

And now the bike is done. Kind of. It has a look I was aiming for, and I’m well chuffed with how it turned out. It won’t be the trickest Monkey there ever was, but it’ll be mine, and it’s something I’m absolutely chuffed with. But, even after collecting it from ‘The Enabler’, I went online and ordered a couple of carbon fork guards to replace the standard ones. Why? Oh, I don’t know….because the original plastic ones were plastic? I’ve got myself in the water well past my nose, and in all honesty, I can’t see myself getting out any time soon. I guess when you decide to customise a bike all too often the last part added is not the last part you’ll add.

 upgrades for a Honda Monkey

 upgrades for a Honda Monkey

© Jock McJock | So many shiny things…

And here’s the rub. I’ve owned more bikes than I can remember over my 33 years of riding. I’ve ridden maybe twice as many as I’ve owned and only a few have made me sit with a beer at my garage door and take in the view.
The first bike I owned was the best bike I ever owned. Not because it was, but because of what it meant. I was now free. And I loved that bike more than I loved my family at the time. I would wash it repeatedly, then sit back and look at it, proud that I had paid for something I was now responsible for. I added an Allspeed exhaust and polished it after every ride so that I could see my face in that alloy.

When the 916 came out, it had lines we hadn’t really seen before. Same with a couple of early 90’s Bimotas. The RC30 that I put in a field not long after taking ownership of was a short-lived beauty. These are the bikes I remember taking the time to actually sit and look at.

Now I’m not saying a 2018 Honda Monkey with an array of parts is anywhere near as special as the bikes above, but, after getting it home and unloading it from the van, I sat down and spent 30 minutes just looking at it from the open garage door. Because it cost so much money to get it to how I wanted? No, because so much is different from the standard, it took 30 mins to digest it all. Plus a couple of beers are a nice way to fill 30 minutes.

Upgrades to the Honda Monkey

The bike wears some A-listers, some B-listers and I deliberately avoided C-listers from the start:

Kitaco – 2v 181 Neo engine kit, clutch cover (provides oil filter, rather than a spinning gauze), starter motor cover, 60% clutch springs, HV Oil pump, cam chain tensioner arm, 34mm throttle body kit.

ARacer – RC1 ECU, AF1, Blink (Bluetooth to mobile app), 4-1 cable.

Takegawa – Aluminium swingarm, 5-speed gearbox, slipper clutch, 4th bearing support, high mount oil cooler kit, rev counter, front fender lowering kit, aluminium chain guard.

RacingBrothers – suspension – rear shocks and forks internals, (springs provided to rider weight).

OverRacing – full titanium exhaust (required O2 bung to be welded, done by a UK exhaust maker who wish to remain anon), billet aluminium rearsets.

Galfer – brake discs front and rear.

DID – 428 VX chain.

JT – 428 pitch sprockets (standard at rear, one up at the front to 16T provides an accurate speedo reading).

Venhill – brake lines front and rear.

ShiftUp – breather hose.

ASV – shorty brake and clutch lever.

R&G – Crash protection – aero sliders, bar ends, fork and spindle sliders, tail tidy.

Tyga – carbon sprocket cover and fork protectors.

Zoom – carbon side panel.

ProTaper – XR50 handlebars.

Zeta – Engine cover plugs.

All were on the guest list and addressed looks, handling, stopping and going. For longer rides (because the seat really is that comfy) Honda’s own rear rack, a Garmin Zumo 346 satnav and Oxford heated grips all made the list too. Most of the Monkey bike’s upgrades were sourced from Bens but the swingarm and Tyga carbon parts were sourced from Webike and Jap4Performance respectively.

My favourite part? Well the Bluetooth ARacer ECU has to be the best bling/gizmo on the bike that you can’t see. Out goes the Honda ECU, in comes the ARacer ECU which has a million customisable settings that you control via the mobile app. Need a dyno to set the bike up? Nope, just a smartphone and the £12 app alongside the ECU and relevant cables. Not the cheapest setup, I accept, but then it’s what gets the 2V Kitaco Neo engine running and can be customised at any time, even if just sat in your garage with a beer or two.

 upgrades for a Honda Monkey
© Jock McJock | That’s Monkey porn right there.

The not cheap OverRacing titanium exhaust is a work of art, but even that needed some attention to get it to work. It doesn’t come with a welded bung for the A/F sensor to screw into. So that had to be sent off to a specialist exhaust fabricator to do. I could tell you who did the welding, but given they’re so busy, they asked me (and Wayne who has the same pipe) not to.

So where does that leave me now? Well, all those bits need running in as it’s still pretty much a new bike, it still only has 40 miles on the clock. Planning is in full force for some longer rides, taking in some further afield locations if I get the time. Plus, we have a Southern Monkey get together to sort.

I also find a way of fitting a pit bull security device to the bike too. No matter how much these bikes weigh down your wallet, they’re too fecking easy to lift and have away. The Monkey will always be a ‘never out of my sight’ bike methinks. Kind of like that prick in the Porsche that parks across two bays so no one gets close enough to scratch their car, I’ll be the one sat on my bike next to you in the café having a fat boy brekkie. Well, only when I can afford one now, got to save some pennies for the next round of parts.

If you would like to speak to someone about your Monkeybike addiction in confidence…

Listen, you don’t have to go crazy; you can get some advice or simply a few bits from Ben at BensBikeRacing in Belvedere. But if you want to go crazy, there aren’t many others who can accommodate it as well as Ben can. Give Ben (and Josh) a call on 01322440655, or quietly stalk the website if you don’t feel strong enough to ‘Just Say No’ over the phone.

Oh, and if anyone ever gives you Wayne’s number, don’t call him. He’ll end up convincing you to go swimming with your credit card!!

Read more:

This is the latest instalment of Jock’s ridiculous infatuation with his Honda Monkey bike. Read more here.  

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The Author

Jock McJock

Jock McJock

Jock would describe himself as a world child, though a child with a greying beard and ever-receding hairline.

Gaining his bike licence over 30 years ago, from the roads of Perth, Scotland, to the dirt roads of Perth, Australia, he stopped counting the miles as the half million mark easily came and went, barely noticed. Emotive, sarcastic, direct, as happy to bimble and take in the view as he is to drag a kneeslider and ignore the view.

His biking CV is an eclectic mix, from racer to tourer, track instructor to ride leader, he has ridden all over the globe, describing the journey as ‘in progress’, never ready to sit back and settle for the biking memories he has. Rather than just going from A to B, Jock makes sure A to B has a story in it to tell.

Jock revels in the analytical side of riding and product testing. His passion spills out into helping everyone from newcomers to aspiring racers, providing guidance to those riders who may lack confidence on their bikes, through lectures and riding analysis.

So buy him a donut and a coffee and settle in for a roller coaster ride of biking emotions.