Review: 2021 Honda Trail 125 ABS

Review: 2021 Honda Trail 125 ABS

The 2021 Honda Trail 125 ABS is a ridiculous motorcycle. Its 125cc thumper motor is underpowered and slow. Its centrifugal clutch is clunky. It’s only got four speeds. Its suspension is crude: I have kitchen stools with thicker legs than the forks and rear swingarm on the Trail. Did I mention it was slow?

I lashed an old soapbox onto the Trail’s rear cargo rack and looked for excuses to ride the thing. I rode to Goodwill with old clothes in the soapbox. I picked up Thai food. I made a post office run. I bounced along grassy ground, the aforementioned suspension doing very little actual, you know, suspending. And then I went “away” for the weekend.

My old pal Les lives on his grandfather’s farm, so I threw some water-resistant bags in the soapbox and rode 40 miles in the rain for a visit. On the way down, I moto-paced a bicyclist on a quiet country road. I went to a store, ordered a sandwich, and chatted with a fellow from India who came out to see the bike and take photos for his Instagram. Then I got to the farm and the rain broke, and I bounced around the fields for a bit before getting stuck axle-deep trying to cross a muddy creek. The 125cc motor sounded like an angry sewing machine as I tried to “power” my way out of my predicament. No luck.

Can’t Help But Love It

Here’s the thing, though—of the scores of press bikes that I’ve ridden over the years, from luxury touring barges to shiny, 20-something (thousands of dollars, not years) adventure bikes and everything in between, nothing has attracted as much attention from both the motoring and non-motoring public as the Honda Trail 125. The Trail drew admiring stares and compliments from young 20-somethings (years, not dollars) and retirees alike. Older riders grew misty-eyed as they recalled the Trails of their faded youth, while others were pleasantly surprised to see that the Trail was back.

And this underpowered, slow, crude, and clunky motorcycle was a total hoot to ride. No matter the rain or the mission, the Trail always put a smile on my face. It’s slow but go-anywhere nature invited me to explore local roads that were too bumpy, narrow, or short to ride on a “proper” motorcycle. On the Trail 125, they felt just right. Also, contrary to the primitive and allegedly stone-reliable mechanicals, there’s a refined air to the Trail’s fit and finish. From the LED headlight to the rear wheel, there’s a quality here that belies the $3,899 MSRP. The only piece that looked cheapish was a roughly-finished boot shift lever.

I could waste the next hundred words on specs, but I won’t. You either want this thing despite (or perhaps because of) its deficiencies, or you don’t. It’s as simple as that. In summary, the 2021 Honda Trail 125 is a ridiculous motorcycle. And I love it.