Honda’s pocketful of mini motorcycles has struck a chord with young and old riders alike. The re-imagined Monkey 125 tugs at heart strings that remember the golden 1970s while providing thoroughly modern, compact and funky urban transport for riders of any age. The MSX125 Grom serves up left-field, customisable style for ‘Generation Y’ but also as perfect paddock transport in the worlds of car and bike racing.
For 23YM a new bike joins the fold. The ST125 Dax fully owns the genuine authenticity of the 1969 original* but brings thoroughly 21st century performance from chassis, engine and ergonomics. The most recent version of the Dax was produced from 1995 to 2003 for the Japanese market. The more recent European success of its siblings has hastened its return and its mischievous charm and easy-going riding proposition bless the ST125 Dax with an extra layer of desirability.
Of course, nostalgia will play a part in the Dax’s appeal to riders now in middle age – riders who may have owned a Dax in their youth and are pleased to see it return. Equally, ‘retro’ is important to younger owners; that’s real retro, not faux. A certain style sets some machines apart and the Dax has just that in abundance thanks to the form of its iconic T-shaped frame. Which is also how the bike got its name: extending from under the seat to the handlebars, and sitting atop the small 12” wheels, the look is reminiscent of the universally-adored Dachshund. Or Sausage Dog, to give it its everyday English name…
As it should, the Dax keeps it simple. A steel frame provides strength and houses the fuel tank while 31mm USD forks, twin rear shocks and 12-inch wheels with chunky tyres provide light steering and good suspension performance. Braking is via hydraulic discs front and rear with ABS control.
Robust and fuel efficient, the 124cc SOHC two-valve engine’s power is linear in delivery with smooth torque. A centrifugal clutch manages shifting between the four ratios so there’s no need for a handlebar-mounted clutch lever. It offers twist-and-go simplicity with the added entertainment of changes via a traditional left-foot gear lever.
All lighting is LED and a circular LCD display shows exactly what the rider needs to know. The pillion gets a chromed grab rail, too.
The 23YM Dax will be available in the following colour options:
Pearl Nebula Red
Pearl Cadet Grey
The styling really is the frame; everything is attached to, or held within it, giving the Dax its unmistakeable retro look. As do all the other parts; the thick dual seat – seat height is just 775mm – chrome high-set handlebars and the 1970’s dirt bike-inspired upswept muffler with drilled, slotted and chromed heat shield. The frame’s mid-section wears a black stripe with ‘Dax’ picked out in quirky font, right next to the classic Honda Wing logo that marks its special heritage. A unique finishing touch comes in the form of a cartoon image of a Dachshund.
A chromed mudguard leads and sits below the evocative, circular headlight. To add extra charm to the light, signature round LEDs are used and the front indicators/position lights sit snugly in between low and high beams. The compact instrument display is a round, negative LCD while the rear taillight and indicators take their cues from the headlight and are also LED.
There’s a neat chrome grabrail for the passenger to hold while a cover seals the drive chain away from weather and loose clothing. A rear carrier and heated grips are available as optional extras.
The iconic T-shaped frame design houses the fuel tank, is authentic in aesthetic detail and constructed in pressed-steel with modern engineering know-how. Rake and trail are set at 24.9°/84mm with wheelbase of 1020mm. Wet weight is just 107kg.
31mm USD forks provide supple suspension response and, combined with the wide upswept handlebar, easy steering. Twin rear shocks are tuned for smooth compliance, even with a pillion. Blacked-out 12-inch rims (from the super-cool MSX125 Grom) wear fat, balloon-like tyres; a 120mm wide front and 130mm rear. They add sure-footed grip allied to nimble agility. Single-channel ABS manages braking force. Hydraulic front and rear calipers grip 220/190mm diameter discs respectively.
124cc, air-cooled SOHC two-valve design produces 6.9kW and 10.8Nm
Stress-free centrifugal clutch and four-speed gearbox
Fuel economy of 63.7km/l (WMTC mode)
Drawn from the new Super Cub C125 – so flexible, efficient and durable – the Dax’s 124cc air-cooled engine features a SOHC two-valve cylinder head, with relatively long stroke and high compression; bore is set at 50mm, stroke at 63.1mm with compression ratio of 10.0:1. Peak power of 6.9kW arrives @ 7,000rpm, with peak torque of 10.8Nm @ 5,000rpm.
The engine’s strong performance means that even two-up a 90km/h cruising speed is achievable, with smart acceleration from low speed – just what’s needed for lively around-town amusement. On the left-hand side of the bike the distinctive oval air box, filter and connecting tube ensure smooth, efficient airflow through the clean side, delivering crisp throttle response and driveability. The upswept muffler and heat shield is evocative of that golden motorcycling era of the ‘70s. A single catalyser is all that’s necessary; thanks to precise ECU settings and the engine’s combustion efficiency, EURO5 compliance is achieved.
In keeping with the laid-back, easy to ride feel the gearbox is a 4-speed unit (with neutral at the bottom) operated via centrifugal clutch, without the need for a clutch lever. At standstill the rider simply selects the gear required with the left-hand foot lever and, as the throttle is opened, the clutch operates automatically and does so through each ratio change, up or down.
Various low-friction technologies, like an offset cylinder and roller-rocker arms in the head, ensure impressive fuel economy of 63.7km/l (WMTC mode). This gives the Dax a range of approx. 240km from the 3.8L fuel tank.
In 1967, The Monkey Z50M was introduced in response to the demand for a ‘leisure-oriented bike’ for the American and European markets. Although well received, especially in America, by adults and children alike, thanks to its adjustable seat height and foldable features which allowed it to be loaded into a car, for 1969 American Honda requested a larger bike for its customers, but one that was still filled with the spirit of Monkey.
After visiting the US to better understand the requirements, engineers, inspired by the T-shaped frame of the CS90, which was a very popular bike in Japan, developed the Dax to have lower and longer proportions (compared to the Monkey) that allowed adults to have a more relaxed riding position as well as ride two up. The fuel tank, wiring and other components were housed in the T-shaped frame to create a unique, but also simple – and now iconic – design.
1969 ST50/70 Dax Honda
Built for the export markets of Europe and the USA the original Dax was nifty, nimble and easy to ride. It appealed to both die-hard motorcyclists and recreational users as it was just plain fun. This is the bike that launched many two-wheeled journeys.
The engine was based on the well-established Super Cub engine, but with the addition of modifications to both the intake and exhaust system to provide more torque at low-mid range. Available in both 50cc and 70cc versions, the Dax featured a 3-speed automatic centrifugal clutch, telescopic front suspension, hydraulic rear suspension and wide tyres with a unique tread pattern for stability and handling even when off-road.
1972 ST90 Mighty Dax
The ST90 Mighty Dax featured a more rigid T-shape frame, wider, more upright custom style ‘mini ape’ bars, high level front mudguard and a bigger engine that packed more speed and acceleration. The new larger 14in wheels came fitted with semi-off road pattern tyres to increase handling performance and stability, even when off-road.
1973 CY50 Nauty Dax
Aimed squarely at the RV (Recreational Vehicle) leisure market, the Nauty Dax was developed to offer even better riding performance and stability over rough terrain. Changes to the valve timing and the final drive – now with 4 speeds – increased torque in the low to mid range. With a new exhaust, fuel tank, side covers and unique rectangular shaped headlight, the Nauty Dax also featured a stepped seat and funky paint scheme. The new light and rigid diamond frame and the new fat balloon tyres made for easy rolling over rough campsite terrain
1995 ST50 Dax
After 14 years, the Dax returned to the Japanese market. All the iconic design cues remained in place – a pressed steel backbone frame, telescopic suspension, wide foldable bars, chrome mudguard, muffler and block tyres – and were joined by the addition of a longer seat. The 50cc engine featured an automatic cam chain tensioner and magneto ignition for easy starting. Enjoying an eight-year production run, the ST50 Dax finally went off sale in 2003.
2022 ST125 Dax
Straight out of the traps with a useful, usable 124cc engine, four speed gearbox and centrifugal clutch the Dax makes a welcome return to the Honda minibike fold, joining the Monkey and MSX125 Grom.