Riding The World’s Friendliest Motorcycle, The Honda Super Cub | Cycle World
Drew Ruiz

Riding The World’s Friendliest Motorcycle, The Honda Super Cub

The Honda Cub returns to the US with the 2019 Super Cub C125 ABS! Does it live up to the legend?

In the 1960s, Honda changed America’s perception of motorcycles and motorcyclists with its “You meet the nicest people on a Honda,” campaign surrounding the then-49cc Cub. The small-displacement motorcycle was fun, cheap, and didn’t make any attempt at being tough or badass. From Hollywood movies to American highways, many thought of motorcycling as an activity for tough guys and outlaws until the friendly little Honda came along. The little bikes were a refreshing change when they first arrived, and, as many bikes in the US seem to be getting bigger and bigger, an approachable motorcycle like the Cub is just as welcome now.

The little bikes were a refreshing change when we first saw them, and, as many bikes in the US seem to be getting bigger and bigger, an approachable little bike like the Cub is just as welcome now.

With a small and efficient engine, affordable price point, and styling that is both nostalgic and iconic,the 2019 Honda Super Cub C125 ABS cuts the intimidation factor for new riders and invites everyone to come have some fun on a motorcycle.

Honda has sold more than 100 million step-through motorcycles around the world, so while people may not realize it, they have most likely seen a bike like this before. Riding through Los Angeles, home of American Honda Motor Company since it entered the US market in 1959, the reactions from passersby were overwhelmingly positive. Seeing a group of eight riders sashay through traffic on these spritely, classic-looking machines must have been quite a sight, but it was all smiles from both riders and onlookers. One guy actually held his half-eaten burrito toward me while riding his bicycle, as if to cheer me for being so awesome on my Super Cub—at least I’m pretty sure that’s why.

2019 Honda Super Cub

The Super Cub can take turns with some speed, but getting a knee down is far from what this bike is about.

Drew Ruiz

Styling on the Super Cub is classic and well…friendly. It’s almost hard to tell the new bike apart from vintage models until you’re up close. From the two-tone paint to the iconic wind guards that block the elements from your legs to the old-school badge, Honda kept just about everything we loved about the old Cubs while updating enough tech to make the bike feel technologically advanced. LED headlights and turn signals are bright and clear. A keyless ignition and LCD dash also give the bike a modern feel, while not diminishing the nostalgic look.

Powering the Super Cub is an engine very similar to that in the Grom—air-cooled and fuel-injected, but equipped with a four-speed semi-automatic transmission, a unique ECU map, and some other minor adjustments. There is a semi-automatic clutch, but a heel-toe shifter moves you through the Cub’s four gears, keeping the ride simple and removing one of the main intimidation factors—figuring out how to use a clutch lever—for new riders. A semi-automatic centrifugal clutch engages when you twist the throttle but releases when you press the shift lever, then grabs again as you release it. This actually made smooth shifting require a little finesse. Releasing the shift lever slowly with a little throttle on upshifts and rev matching on downshifts smoothed out the shifting. We did find that the Cub could be bump-started, though we aren’t sure the EFI and ignition could do the job with a truly dead battery.

2019 Honda Super Cub

Top Left: LED lighting throughout the C125A are a functional modern touch. Top Right: Rubber grips on the Super Cub are designed to look like vintage hand-wrapped grips. Bottom Left: The 220mm front disc rotor and Nissin caliper. Bottom Right: The circular gauge is modern and easy to read, but with a stylish retro aesthetic.

Drew Ruiz

With a slightly taller profile and longer wheelbase than the Grom, the Cub has more of a “real bike” feel. And while the Grom and Monkey are fun machines, they aren’t often taken seriously as a commuter because of their small size. That’s where the Super Cub fills a void, an economically conscious commuter that is more motorcycle than scooter, built to take you across town reliably and inexpensively with a larger, more visible profile.

2019 Honda Super Cub

Left: The Cub comes with only a center-stand, with no kickstand currently available in Honda's accessory catalogue. Right: The heel-toe shifter on the Super Cubs was originally designed to save commuters' loafers from scuff marks caused by the shift lever.

Drew Ruiz

The Cub stops quickly and safely, equipped with a 220mm front disc, single-piston caliper and front-only ABS, as well as a drum brake on the rear. The soft springs and lightly damped suspension give a compliant ride and fit the Cub’s intended role. A 26mm inverted fork suspends the Cub’s front tire, and twin shocks hold up the rear. The machined 17-inch wheels mean there will be plenty of rubber options when the IRC tires wear out. Compared to the Grom, the tires are narrower but with a larger radius, meaning obstacles are crossed more easily and less drag on the tire, so slightly better fuel economy.

Vintage Honda Cub frames were made of pressed steel, but the new Super Cub gets a tubular-steel chassis covered in plastic bodywork. In fact, all of the bodywork on the new bike is plastic except for the metal rear fender.

Riding through King Harbor

Riding through King Harbor on these little bikes gave us a good chance to gauge reactions from non-motorcyclists, and they loved it!

Drew Ruiz

The Super Cub’s 1-gallon fuel tank is good for 100 miles, Honda says. We didn’t get a chance to measure fuel mileage on our press-introduction ride, but will do so when we get a Super Cub in the test fleet. As for top speed, I saw 65 mph on flat ground and still had some room to go. But this bike isn’t about redlining in top gear, and backing it down to 50 mph for general cruising around was much more comfortable. That’s probably adequate for many commuters, but would make us avoid Southern California highways, which generally run a lot faster than that.

The Super Cub reminds me of the simpler times just cruising, not pushing the bike for peak performance or overthinking things—and I love it. It’s the fun, timeless experience that we all remember from getting started and now—with its $3,600 MSRP—it’s just as affordable and approachable as ever. Honda has done a great job of modernizing this legendary little bike. Hopefully more riders of all levels will be compelled to throw a leg over, or rather, through, the Super Cub.

Super Cub

The Super Cub is the first new Honda step-through motorcycle in the US for the first time since 1983.

Drew Ruiz

2019 Honda Super Cub C125 ABS Specs

MSRP: $3,599
Engine: 124.9cc, air-cooled, SOHC single-cylinder four-stroke; 2 valve/cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 52.4mm x 57.9mm
Fuel Delivery: PGM-FI w/ 24mm bore, automatic enrichment
Transmission/Final Drive: 4 speed/chain
Front Suspension: 26mm hydraulic telescopic inverted fork; 3.9 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Twin shocks; 3.3 in. travel
Front brake: Hydraulic; single 220mm disc w/ two-piston caliper; ABS
Rear brake: Mechanical leading trailing; single 110mm drum
Front tires: 70/90-17
Rear tires: 80/90-17
Rake/Trail: 26.5°/2.8 in.
Ground Clearance: 5.4 in.
Wheelbase: 48.9 in.
Seat Height: 30.7 in.
Fuel Capacity: 1.0 gal.
Claimed Curb Weight: 240 lb.
Available: Now
Contact: powersports.honda.com

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