The Honda MSX 125 Written Review

honda ridgeline

 ****UPDATE: 04/27/2013

I have finally had the chance to take the Honda MSX up to Pai. As in, I am here right now. Today I took the MSX 125 Off Road and my opinion of this motorcycle has improved 100%. I loved this bike when I first reviewed it but now… I really love this bike. The video will be ready in a week or so I promise. I am going to hold off on writing another in-depth post for a few days since I have a few more off road adventures to tackle but…. The MSX is the Mimimoto Jack of all Trades.  Check out our upcoming video HERE

I did a total of 30 river crossings with the Honda MSX today, some of them well over knee high. I was rolling over boulders, dropping off ledges, kicking up dirt and HAVING A BLAST. The MSX had more than enough power for me to get out of steep walled river beds and because it is so light, I was easily able to manage the bike in tight or sticky situations.

Everything I said about this bike not being able to hold it’s own off road I take back. I was concerned about the MSX’s ability to perform adverse conditions and it proved me wrong – 30 times.  Stay tuned for the MSX 125 Review #2

Regarding my old review comment on the suspension being a bit stiff…  My issues with the suspension are actually the complete opposite from what I had stated initially. The problem I am running into is that the front forks are getting almost completley loaded under hard braking and thus loosing any real effective dampening ability. The the suspension becomes so loaded at entry that I have to deal with the rebound as I approach the apex and it seems to consistently get things a bit squirrly. I would hope that when they release this bike to the United Kingdom / America that they equip it with a bit stiffer front fork. I would assume that the average rider weight here is around 65 kilos, I am almost tipping 90 which may explain my problems with the squishy suspension.

—–Old Review Below—–

 

Fortunately the Mayan calendar was wrong, the world did not end, and humanity lived to see the release of the new 2013 Honda MSX 125.The supermoto inspired Honda MSX or, “Mini Sport Extreme”, poses as an exciting new toy that Americans can look forward to in the near future.

 

I had been planning to make a short term move to Thailand around March of 2013. I arrived March 22nd and little did I know, I had arrived a week before the debut of Honda’s new minimoto monster, The Honda MSX. I knew I would be needing to buy a set of wheels for the six month’s I would be spending in this region, but I never could have guessed it would be this sexy specimen as shown below.

honda ridgeline

My sales rep “Pay” and I posing on my Pearl White MSX 125cc. Pay is the man!

 

I had actually been looking at buying a similar, minimoto styled bike that was designed by Kawasaki. When I first arrived into Chiang Mai and saw the youngsters rolling around on these Kawasaki’s, I said that I would be getting one of those, and I probably would have… had I not stumbled upon the Honda variant. While the Kawasaki and Honda look like they could be kin to one another. When one takes a moment to inspect the two more closely, the decision on which you should buy becomes obvious.

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Comparing the similar looking mini bikes is like comparing a KTM SX-F converted to a supermoto bike, or a Husqvana 450, against a Ducati Hypermotard. At a glance you could say they are all supermoto styled bikes but if you know anything about motorcycles, then you know that this is like comparing apples to oranges.

The KTM and Husqvana are true dirt bikes turned supermoto. Either could hold their own on the twists, or off the road… These bikes are amazing in their own rights. The Ducati however, is a supermoto inspired, street designed motorcycle. It will dominate the twists, it has the V-Twin low end torque you need to make exiting those turns a cinch, but put this animal on the dirt and you are in for a less than desirable time…

Carry this over to our two, at a glance, related bikes… Unlike the KTM & Husqvana; based on the suspension configurations I have seen, I would take a guess that neither the Kawasaki nor Honda would handle anything other than paved roads favorably. That being said, the Kawasaki looks far more like a traditional styled dirt bike and the Honda looks more refined and developed like the Ducati.

So what’s the point? The point is that both bikes, the Kawasaki and the Honda, would fall under the Ducati category. And, if I am going to be buying a minimoto bike, I am going to buy the one that gets better fuel economy and has better build quality.

My Thoughts On The Honda MSX 125cc

The Honda MSX is likely the best city bike ever built to date… It is everything I loved about the Honda Ruckus, plus everything I would have changed about the Honda Ruckus – it is to me…perfection. It retains the fat wheels and relatively barebones feel of the Honda Ruckus. The comparably small frame and light power plant make zipping around town a joy rather than a task…

 

honda ridgeline

 

How it rides: it rides like a ruckus, but  better.

“Uhm… is that a good thing? “

Put it this way… I have owned an R6, an R1, a 600rr, an 848 and I have ridden a handful of other powerful bikes, and in my opinion, they all share one thing in common. They belong on the track.  I have to go way too fast on these guys to get the rush that makes me love-riding motorcycles. And this is why, until recently purchasing the Honda MSX 125, my old 49cc Honda Ruckus was my favorite motorcycle (if you can call it that) I have ever owned.

I called it my Zen bike. It taught me to realize that I did not need gobs of power to have fun on a motorcycle. The power I believed I needed, I liken to the small muscular guys I often see driving oversized trucks. Once my Ruckus taught me this, I began to realize that the real fun was to be had on every day roads. There were two throttle positions; stop, and go. I was either parked at a light or wide-open throttle – conquering suburbia… in all it’s 35mph glory. However, even though the Honda Ruckus was my favorite, and never ceased to create a grin on my face from ear to ear… it had its obvious limitations.

The Honda Ruckus was a scooter after all… now while this did not keep me from getting into my racing suit back in my college days, and teaching lessons to guys on 600+ cc bikes down Flagstaff hill in Boulder,CO – I always wanted more from the Ruckus. I felt that beyond its obvious power limitations; it was limited by its design characteristics… You could not take hard corners on this thing without the frame bottoming out. It was at this point, for the first time in my life, that I realized I had actually mastered a vehicle… I had pushed it to its limits, and knew exactly what I needed to allow me to take it to the next level…

The Honda MSX 125 rides amazing and for getting around down, this bike makes more than enough power for me to have fun with. This is what every racing school should have their students start on. The small frame is ridiculously easy to maneuver and control. The clutch is very light and forgiving. It is responsive but and fairly smooth when entering into and exiting corners. I feel very connected to the road and while I am still getting familiar with the bike, so far it seems very predictable. With the minimoto style frame as opposed to my old ruckus scooter frame, honda ridgelinegetting a knee down or flagging a foot out is now feasible. While I would say that I probably am sitting higher than I would have been on the Ruckus, the center of gravity when riding this bike, feels much more balanced and conducive for harder cornering. The inverted front fork that Honda has equipped on the MSX 125 is from the looks of it, the same fork they are using on the Zoomer X (Looks like Honda’s new Ruckus Line).

However, I feel the suspension is a bit lacking… While the suspension is a vast improvement to what my old ruckus had – which was constantly bottoming out. Something seems off with the spring & strut combination they are running. The suspension feels a bit stiff and I never feel like I am able to get the front forks compressed very well when entering into a turn. Contrary to what I said initially, the issue I have discovered is actually the polar opposite. The suspension is TOO soft, and I am over loading the front forks when braking hard at entry. In all honesty however, I had this same issue with my factory 848 suspension before switching to Ohlins. I suppose that Honda and any manufacturer for this reason, design their suspensions so that it will suit a wide array of riders. At the end of the day, I am doing knee downs and it is holding the lines fairly well, so I can not really complain. The small 12 inch wheel diameter is more than enough for this bike’s suspension and power configuration. You do notice a little less stability with this bike when compared to a big bike. I am assuming you have less centifugal force due to the smaller wheel diameter, but is this necessarily a bad thing? With less centrifugal force ( gyroscopic effect?), you have significantly less resistance when taking turns. On the highway, when I topped this thing out at 108 kmph, the bike still felt stable but you can begin to feel a little chatter starting to emerge in the handlebars.

The clutch system on the MSX is very easy to work with. Smooth transitions when riding the twists and for day-to-day riding around the city, I have had no issues with arm fatigue.

Like any similarly designed bike, this bike’s seat is best enjoyed in short bursts. If you were intending to do touring on this, which you could feasibly do with it’s 65mph top speed – I would not recommend it. The seat will bust your ass if you have to sit on it for longer than 30 minutes. That’s not to say that you could not tolerate the discomfort, but it is not what I would call enjoyable. I have been riding it to get from point A to point B quickly and it has served it’s purpose well on the streets of Chiang Mai. The fat wheels allow me to hop up on curbs, off curbs, over curbs and other obstacles without fear of bending a rim.

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 12.10.21 PM

 

And as for a second rider? Honda did equip a second pair of pegs on the frame for a second rider but…… mmmm…no. I’m not a very big guy and my girlfriend is more on par with an elf in terms of size, and she was on the edge. Now obviously, a Thai couple may argue differently, as I have seen these guys fit five people on a scooter before – two to three on average. So their idea of comfort, or concept of a tight squeeze may be a bit different… Regarding the second seat, to Honda, I salute you. The Honda MSX was not designed to be shared and if your girlfriend wants to ride, tell her to buy her own.

 

THE MIRRORS ACTUALLY WORK. I honestly cannot even remember if the Ruckus mirrors worked but beyond that, I have never owned a motorcycle that had mirrors that were worth a damn. The Ducati 848 mirriors were without a doubt the worst – even if you could see something, the bike rattled so damn hard you would end up having a seizure trying to focus on the object in view. The MSX’s mirrors on the other hand are nice, big, and round, and they actually serve their purpose. They do look a little cheesy in my opinion but this would be consistent with my view of Honda anyways. Sometimes function trumps form and in this case, I prefer it this way.           

honda ridgeline honda ridgeline

Aesthetics?

honda ridgeline

I would probably not be the first one to say that Honda has produced some pretty hideous vehicles in the past. The Honda Ridgeline for example was anamazing machine from a functional design perspective but made me sick when I looked at it. While it lacked a “true” truck style chassis like the Tacoma, it had some impressive design characteristics that should have made it really stand out. Unfortunately, the thing was flat out hideous. They took an amazing machine with what I feel had huge potential and beat it with an ugly stick.

Besides the ridgeline, I feel that Honda typically plays it pretty safe with their designs. They prefer to let the reliability of their products do the marketing. As for their motorcycles? Beyond the 600rr I had a long time ago, I never really consider Honda as an option when shopping around for motorcycles. Typically, their designs are a bit tame in comparison to the competition. Yamaha I feel has always produced some of the best looking “Jap” bikes, on the market. I used to be a fan of the Kawasaki Ninja but the new one just turns me off. Kawasaki’s z1000 on the other hand is a beauty. Honda? Well. Honda builds proven machines I will give them that. But they rarely evoke any emotion when I look at them.

Honda MSX Headlight

The Honda MSX Headlight Assembly. Classy.

What does $3.00 get you in Thailand? An entire team of detailers to make your motorbike really shine!

What does $3.00 get you in Thailand? An entire team of detailers to make your motorbike really shine!

With the release of the MSX 125, I would argue that Honda is trying to take a step in the right direction. The bike really needs to be seen in person to be
appreciated. It has just enough plastic to give it some class and it shows enough powder coated / aluminum components to make it look a bit wild. I love the headlight assembly and I have already found some locals that are doing HID + Halo light conversions that look great. The digital, orange backlit gauge cluster is very nice as well. Although I would have liked to be able to see the engine temp in the form of a digital readout or even oil pressure, but things like this impact the retail price of the bike and likely, most people don’t care.

 

For those that do care, you can be rest assured that this bike was designed to be modified. Whole product lines are rolling out for this motorcycle by companies allowing individuals to modify the MSX and make it your own. I am sure, come time, there will be some truly awesome custom MSX builds popping up on the web that will have me drooling. The Honda Ruckus as an example – the custom work that some people have done to these scooters is just awesome. Only time will tell however.

Honda MSX 125 Modifications

Performance Potential?

I am not going to lie; I have no clue what type of potential this motor has. But from what I understand, the air-cooled 10hp motor is said to be a proven and reliable power plant. Honda has always built pretty bulletproof machines. I personally would have liked for them to use a water-cooled configuration as they tend to run cooler and run quieter but again I honestly could care less. The bike makes more than enough power for my needs and as long as it continues to serve my needs without any hiccups, I will be a happy rider.

Could I modify it to squeeze any extra two or three hp? Sure, I am sure performance modifications will be coming, pro tune fuel maps, etc. But remember, extra power always comes at a cost. My self personally, I guess I am getting old but I am done and over with modifying things… I think?

 

Should you buy one of these when they release in the states?

Absolutely. With a top speed of 65+ mph, a range of 135 miles, and a small and maneuverable frame – the 2013 Honda MSX presents a super fun bike that will tap into an almost non-existent market segment in the US, that will undoubtedly send the other makers scrambling to play catch up. A great looking and versatile motorcycle, offered at a reasonable price, the Honda MSX will surely make its mark.

 

msxvsducati

 

 

Honda MSX 125

Out with the old and in with the NEW Honda MSX 125!

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Stay tuned for the Honda MSX 125 Video Review in English! We are taking it on a little road trip to mountain town of Pai. This road is famous amongst many riders because of the 50 kilometer section containing 762 turns!

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