The Honda Z50 bikes were one of Honda’s best-selling bikes. The Z50 is a 49-cc mini trail bike series manufactured from 1961 to 2017. Called Monkeys and Gorillas, the tiny, lightweight trail bikes preceded the Dachshund-like CT70 and led to the boom of minibikes in the ’60s, thanks to its super-reliable air-cooled four-stroke power mill.
Apart from its powerful and reputable engine, its overall build quality and design gave it a competitive edge against its lawnmower-powered counterparts. With its 8-inch wheels and folding handlebars, this monkey bike was ideal for outdoor adventures and convenient to transport.
Thankfully, its small frame made it fit in an average-sized car’s trunk or a trailer home’s under-seat with ease and also forced a funny, simian crouch out of its owners. Read on to learn more about the Honda Z50.
About the Honda Z50
The Honda Z50 was introduced in 1961 as the CZ100 in Tama Tech Park in Tokyo. This pocket bike was initially sold in Europe before the United States initiated a market for commercial minibikes. Since it gained massive success, it became the prototype for other two-wheelers like the CT70 and other dual-sport bikes.
Although the repurposed lawnmower engines were present in the ’50s and minibikes were being sold through dealerships, the mass production of the Honda Z series made these commonplace. The Honda Z50 made a huge impact on the riding community.
The manufacturer saw the huge potential of the bike outside amusement park tracks and released a road-legal version in 1964 after redesigning some elements. Honda launched the Z50 in 1968 in Europe and the U.S. in 1969. This launch came at a time when there was a minibikes boom of the ‘60s.
There was a great difference in technology between the Z50 series and its rivals, which gave the bike a competitive edge and translated to over 70,000 units in one year in the United States alone.
The Honda Z50 series came with five model designations, including Z50M, Z50R, Z50A, ZB50, and Z50J. Out of the five models, the Z50J came with the longest run, followed closely by the Z50R series. The generations of the Honda Z50 series were in production until 1999. But including iterations, these minibikes were produced until 2017.
Honda Z50 Specs & Features
The Honda Z50 series of minibikes are powered by a single-cylinder, air-cooled, 49 cc overhead-cam engine. The four-stroke motor has a bore of 39 mm and a stroke of 41.4 mm with a compression ratio of 8:8:1. It comes with a 13 mm Keihin carburetor that handles the air-fuel mixture for the minibike.
The fuel system was changed in 2008 and replaced by Honda’s Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) system, which improved torque and power output of 3 hp/3.04 PS @ 7,500 RPM.
The bike was initially equipped with a flywheel magneto ignition and an AC generator charging system. This was later changed to a Capacitor Discharge Ignition for ’88 bike trims and onward, and the electrical components upgraded from 6V to 12V.
The first monkey bike came with 3.5 x 5.0 inches wheels. However, the later models had 3.5 x 8.0 inches wheels.
The Honda Z series have the same gearshift pattern and clutch assembly as the CT70. The main differences come in the front and rear sprockets, transfer gear ratios, and final drive. Driveline components were unchanged in the first decade of the Z50 production.
The Honda Z50 used the expanding front and rear brakes and didn’t shift into disc brakes until the 2019 125-cc retro-styled iteration and Monkey R/RT series.
The initial Honda Z50 Mini Trail models came with welded steel tubing without rear suspension. The small front fork gave a very primitive wheel travel. However, after entering the U.S. market, the bike was equipped with a dual-shock rear suspension. This adjustment came alongside a new seat, a new frame, and a redesigned fuel tank.
The Honda Z50 had two 6V 15/15W headlights and a 6V 17/5.3W brake/taillight that provided superior light distribution.
Everything about the Honda Z50 was somewhat similar to the CT70, with a few upgrades for later-year models. The payload capacity was unchanged throughout the bike’s production. It had a curb weight of 118lbs and a vehicle load capacity limit of 150lbs.
The list prices of Honda Z50 ranged between $225 and $1,299. However, the 2017 50th Anniversary Special Edition trim had a price tag of $3,999. The secondhand units of Mini Trail Z50 cost between $550 and $1,000, depending on whether the bike is being sold for parts, kept in mint condition, or fully restored.
Because of its age, used Z50s are priced between $3,300 and $5,000. A unit costing below $2,800 may need some work to function.
Is a Honda Z50 street legal?
Yes. The Honda Z50 is street-legal and meets all the requirements.
Is the Honda Z50 2 stroke?
The Honda Z50 comes with a single-cylinder four-stroke engine and a semi-automatic transmission. Therefore, the Honda Z50 is a 4-stroke.
The Honda Z50 strikes a perfect balance between the sporty and casual nature of the two-wheeler and fulfills the riders’ desires of how a Monkey Bike should look. Whether you’re looking for a well-kept 1969 trim or a modern version, you’re guaranteed a memorable riding experience.