Honda has made an interesting play in the small bike market.
The big news is the Trail 125 finally coming to Canada as a 2023 model after appearing in the US as a 2021 model. The Trail 125 has a strong nostalgic pull as it is a bike familiar to millions of motorcycle riders – young and old – although mostly older. Millions is not an overstatement as almost three-quarters of a million units were built ranging from the first CT50 to the CT110 which debuted in 1981 as the final offering in the original series.
The CTs, but in particular the Trail 90, have been touted by Honda as being the first ADV bikes which may seem like hubris considering an ADV machine today. Honda’s own Africa Twin and the new Trail 125 have very little in common beyond two wheels. But go back to the early 1960s when the Trail 50 first appeared and the options for multipurpose riding were much slimmer than they are today. Often a multipurpose bike was created by modifying a street bike or vice versa. Honda built one for the showroom floor.
The Trail 90, while not doing it at speed, was equally at home bouncing down a single track or crossing town on a shopping trip. And it kept either ride happy.
Which brings us to Honda’s bet covering. Along with the announcement the Trail 125 was coming was the announcement that the Honda XR150L would also be coming to Canada as a 2023 model. The bike is a modern(ish) dual sport featuring a 149cc air-cooled single and a five speed transmission. What makes this comparison with the Trail 125 is the price, the XR150L has a MSRP of $3921 while the Trail 125 goes for $4971, more than $1000 higher. Is that the price of tugging at the heartstrings. Not exactly, the CT125 features a fuel injection, semi-automatic transmission and ABS. The XR150L has a carburetor (talk about nostalgia) and no ABS. There is evidence for the lower price.
The CT 125 exudes character, the XR150L not quite so much. The XR150L will do the same work and perhaps tackle the rough stuff better. But the Trail 125 will hold that patina of use better – as anyone who has seen one of the long ridden original bikes will know.
The Trail 125 will set you back a few hundred less than the Monkey 125. The Honda XR150L comes in about the same price as a Grom as Honda expands its offerings at the bottom end of the price spectrum. Whether nostalgia or price win the battle, it is good that there are more offerings that won’t break the bank.