New Honda Trail 125 becomes heir to a legacy of Aussie shenanigans
To American riders, the Trail 125 will look like a slightly wacky, semi-scramblerized version of the venerable Cub, something like a light off-road scooter. But any Australian biker that sees one will be swept away in a flood of memories.
Its immediate predecessor, the CT110, which looks for all intents and purposes exactly the same as this thing, was far and away the best selling motorcycle in Australia for decades. Not because anyone was particularly excited about buying a new one; hell, no. But because the Australian postal service used to buy them from Honda by the container load, and send the postmen out to deliver mail on them.
Thus was born the "postie bike," and these gutless but reliable wonders would serve their tours of duty on the mail run and then hit the auction block in their thousands once they'd outlived their use-by date on the postie fleet. A decent quality example might set you back a few hundred bucks, the motor was every bit as unkillable as the Cub's reputation would suggest, and there's something about that combination of factors that seemed to inspire shenanigans.
These were bikes you truly didn't have to give a single hoot about, making them the perfect machines for stupid, potentially destructive fun. Groups of mates would buy 10 of them and wobble off around the country, pinning the throttles to the stop and crouching low to try to squeeze more than 50 mph (80 km/h) out of them on the highways. There would be a lot of butt-slapping and killswitch-prodding, and one imagines the novelty would wear out on the thousand-mile straight-line grind of the Nullarbor highway, but they'd do it again the next year.
Other goons would take them out in the bush and bang them around hastily-constructed motocross courses in full-contact race events, booting each other off the bike at any opportunity and recreating medieval jousting with cardboard tubes.
People would customize them in every direction imaginable. A popular addition was chopper-style "ape hanger" handlebars, although there were also lots of murdered-out black ones with chunky motocross tires too. Everyone seemed to know at least one guy who was putting a turbo on, although completed "express post" examples were rare.
Their little semi-automatic transmissions would simply pull the clutch in for you as you pressed the gear lever one way or the other, so from a standstill you could hold the gear lever down, rev the guts out of the motor, then lift your foot to engage the clutch and wheelie away. I saw an actual postman do it once, fully laden with mail and grinning like a lunatic in his regulation open-face lid as he putted away on one wheel, and it damn near brought a tear to my eye.
It is this legacy of unhinged tomfoolery – as well as the distinctive sound they make that tells you to check the letterbox – that's inextricably entwined with the model in my mind and the minds of many Aussie bikers. So it's with an odd fondness that I report the new, 125cc, 2021 model is coming to the United States as well as Down Under.
Don't go expecting anything too fancy; it's got a simple 125cc, 4-stroke single cylinder motor, that same semi-auto heel/toe shift transmission, a single seat pad, a weird riding position, a center stand, and slightly, but not much longer, travel suspension than the Super Cub. In its latest incarnation it also gets ABS braking, if you can somehow generate enough force through its tiny 2-piston calipers to break traction.
It's got a big flat rack tray on the back for your letter bags or intercontinental touring luggage. It's got a gnarly perforated cover over the high-mounted exhaust. It's got rubber gaiters on the stick-thin forks. It's got kick and thumb start.
It's got an upward-facing air intake right behind the rider's butt, so it'll literally suck your flatulence through the motor as you bang it through a couple feet of water; I'm not sure if hydrogen sulfide can provide any performance boost, though. It comes with engine protection rails and a little bash plate, so it's clearly expecting to be abused. Amusingly, it appears to rock daytime driving lights, as well as some of the ugliest indicators I've ever seen.
Unfortunately, it's priced at US$3,899 – that's higher than the Grom and way higher than the sort of dollars that would encourage Americans to wring silly fun out of these things the way the Aussies have over the decades. But hey, for light off-road duties in a practical and fuss-free package, it's not a terrible bike.