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On The Trail of A Legend : Honda CT125 ( Trail 125 )

UPDATE: The Honda CT125, or Trail 125, is coming to Canada as a 2023 model and will have an MSRP of $4971.

Deep roots, updated technology, the CT125  has it all. It could be said that the Trail 125’s origin bikes, the 1960s Trail 50 and Trail 90, are due partial credit for Honda’s initial success in North America. Those early CT bikes sold more than 700,000 units over their long lifetimes and introduced many rider to Honda product.

It was early in Honda’s history in North America that the CT series motorcycles, a machine ubiquitously exploring dirt roads or carried on the back of campers through the 1970s and 1980s, made its first impression. For those growing up at the time and with an interest in motorcycles, the CTs were a accessible entry-level bike with semi-automatic transmission and not enough power to get an inexperienced rider into too much trouble into trouble.

There was a lot to like. The CT was light, dependable and would go pretty much wherever. The price was right, you could take it fishing, camping or hunting and you could ride one without the inherent ribbing that often came with piloting a proper scooter. The CT70, CT90 or the CT110 weren’t exactly cool but it was recognized by riders of all stripes as an effective tool which is why over 725,000 were sold.

The CT’s precursor began life as an urban bike intended for city riders but in 1960 a Boise, Idaho Honda dealer named Herb Uhl came up with the idea of changing the rear sprocket and outfitting the bike with knobby tires. He was selling them quickly and ordering more, which drew the attention of the head office in California. One of Uhl’s bikes was sent to California and from there to Japan. Within a year the  Trail 50 was offered as a production model. The 5-hp bike was fitted with 17-inch wheels, three-speed semi-automatic transmission, solo saddle, utility rack, skid plate and street legal lights. Gone were the leg shield and front fender. The price was $275US.

In 1964 the Trail 90 was released with a larger motor, four speed semi-automatic transmission and  a high mounted exhaust and intake. This bike would create a huge following as it continued to improve with features such as a selectable reduction gear in the transmission to allow for crawling over obstacles, an all-new aluminum engine with more power, a telescopic fork and foldable handlebars and finally even turn signals. By 1981 the bike became the CT110 with a 105cc engine.

For 2021 Honda is offering the new CT125 ( Trail 125 )  which, like its ancestor, is based on a street machine, the Super Cub. Losing some of the street bike’s paraphernalia, the new bike remains true to the spirit of the CT series while allowing for modern technology including ABS, fuel injection and disc brakes. The transmission is still a four-speed semi-automatic with centrifugal clutch. With 4.3 inches of travel in the front and 3.4 in the rear and weighing 259 pounds, the bike is still worthy of some light-duty off-highway adventuring to the extent allowed by its 1.4-gallon (US) tank. 

The CT90 / 110 was a bike that despite its small engine and rudimentary, yet improving, technology accomplished its intended multipurpose role. If not it wouldn’t have achieved such impressive sales numbers and gathered so many fans along the way.

This is no longer the 1960s: the price of the Trail 125 is now $3,899 (US$) and there is no word yet if the bike will be brought to Canada. (No longer so, see update above).

By John Molony Canadian Biker Issue #350


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