If you refuse to be deterred by the weather when it comes to winter motorcycle riding (but are perhaps stymied by the tech – or lack thereof – on your small bike), check out this Exhaust Note feature from “Moto Mouth” Moshe K. Levy that originally appeared in Rider‘s February issue.
Sales of small motorcycles have been booming in the U.S. Their low prices, excellent fuel economy, playful aesthetics, and sheer riding pleasure make minibikes irresistible. My 2021 Honda Trail 125 is so addictive that I find myself hopping aboard its spartan solo saddle not just for local chores but for longer weekend trips as well.
However, all that fun eventually collides against the limitations Mother Nature imposes on those of us who suffer cold winters. Normally, on my big bikes, I just plug in my 12-volt electric jacket liner and gloves and keep on going. But on small bikes like the Trail, there simply isn’t enough electrical capacity to run a full suite of heated gear.
Since parking the bike for the season is never a serious consideration for me, I developed a solution that is relatively low cost, readily available, functionally effective, and applicable for virtually any motorcycle with a marginal electrical output.
First, you need some battery-powered heated gear, which is abundant in today’s marketplace. I’ve had excellent luck with Warm & Safe’s Long Sleeve Heat Layer Shirt, which is powered by a 7.4V, 7.8Ah lithium-ion battery. For gloves, I like Klim’s battery-powered Hardanger HTDs, which operate on 7.4V, 2Ah lithium-polymer batteries. Both products feature multiple heat levels that allow the rider to adjust temperature as necessary, and they have held up well over multiple seasons of abuse.
Indeed, heated gear is the only thing permitting your faithful, winter-hating Mediterranean columnist to survive arctic riding – at least until the batteries deplete! And therein lies the rub: To stay out all day in the cold, we need continuous power. Here’s how to get it.
First, we need spare batteries for all the heated gear we use. Manufacturers generally offer spares, as does Amazon. Always try to get at least as high an Ah (amp-hour) rating as the original battery – preferably higher. The higher the Ah rating, all else equal, the more run time you will get.
Next, we need to keep these spares continuously charging so they can be swapped in when the original batteries run down. We can accomplish this with a basic square-wave DC-AC inverter and a wiring harness to connect the inverter to the bike’s battery.
My typical setup inside my Trail’s top box is shown in the photo below:
1. Sinloon waterproof cigarette lighter harness, available on Amazon for $9.99, which connects directly to the motorcycle’s battery
2. BMK 200W square-wave DC-AC inverter, available on Amazon for $25.99, which plugs into the Sinloon harness and converts the 12V DC from the bike’s battery to 120V AC
3. AC-DC battery chargers, included with the heated gear and plugged directly into the inverter, which convert the 120V AC output back to 8.4V DC to charge the spares
4. Spare lithium-ion battery for my W&S Heat Layer Shirt
5. Spare lithium-polymer batteries used in my Klim heated gloves
Both the harness and inverter are generic, and it really doesn’t matter which brands you use. (Some riders might already have the wiring harness in place, e.g., for a Battery Tender.)
Everything is secured in my Trail’s top case so things don’t shake around too much. All I need to do is flip the inverter to “on” to continuously charge the spare batteries while riding. Yes, it’s inefficient to convert power from the bike’s 12V DC to 120V AC and then back to heated gear’s 8.4V DC charging voltage, but this setup gets the job done with common, inexpensive components and requires no fancy wiring.
Total draw on this setup is only about 32 watts, including inverter losses. That’s only about one-third of the draw of my 12V DC Warm & Safe jacket liner, so minibikes and even many older bikes with limited electrical capacity should be able to handle this load with ease. Mission accomplished!
Depending on the ambient temperatures and settings of the heated gear, I typically pull over every one to four hours to swap the dead batteries for freshly charged ones, allowing me to stay out all day in the cold – long after most other riders have parked for the season. For a true addict, there is no other choice!
Opmid’s M1204 Multi Meter is a direct plug-and-play replacement for the stock gauge cluster on 2019-and-newer Honda Monkey and Trail 125 models, and it alleviates the two most common complaints about the OEM setup. First, unlike stock, the Opmid’s adjustable backlighting is very bright and visible in all conditions, including direct sunlight. Second, gauge functionality is vastly improved, providing the rider with a wealth of information and customization not available on the factory cluster.
Installation on my 2021 Honda Trail 125 was very straightforward using the included harness. Opmid’s 10-minute installation video (on YouTube) was comprehensive enough for any reasonably competent DIYer to get the job done in 1-2 hours with hand tools. To begin, the stock gauge cluster is removed, and the new meter’s 5 x 3.9 x 2 inches (WxHxD) chassis drops into place. The only tricky part on the Trail is removing the body panels for the first time, since they utilize delicate tabs which can easily break if forced, but the video helps in that regard as well. (The Monkey’s installation is less painful than the Trail’s, since there are fewer body panels to deal with.)
Once the panels are out of the way, the intake snorkel is removed to allow access to the area beneath, and from here the wiring job begins as the Opmid’s main harness is laid out carefully and zip-tied into place. It plugs directly into the gauge cluster’s sub-harness, stock temperature sensor, and ignition coil. Check that there’s adequate cable slack as the handlebar is turned left to right full lock.
When the Opmid is first powered on, there’s some programming to input front and rear sprocket sizes, rear tire diameter, and the initial value of the odometer (take a picture of your stock odo before removing it, for reference). All the stock figures to input are in the installation videos, but it’s nice to see that the device can be customized for different sprocket combos and wheel sizes as necessary. Once that’s finished, just button everything back up neatly and go for a test ride.
Out on the road, mini-moto riders will be grateful for the upgrade from the dim, spartan stock display. With the M1204 now installed, the rider has the following information readily available (some of which is customizable): speedometer, tachometer, odometer, A/B tripmeters, clock, gear indicator, shift light, fuel gauge, oil temp, voltmeter, oil temp warning alarm, speed warning alarm, oil change reminder, hour meter, and max records (speed, RPMs, and oil temp).
Many of the settings are adjustable if you get into the weeds with programming, but for most Trail and Monkey riders, the primary benefits are the addition of the tach, the gear indicator, and the oil temp reading. The rest is icing on the cake, but it all adds to a more enjoyable riding experience on these pint-sized Hondas.
After almost 25 years of riding, I came to regard my enthusiasm for all things motorcycle as an infinite source of pleasure, but little did I know just how crucial one specific bike – a HondaTrail 125 – would be in helping me recover from the sickest point in my life.
The story begins on the morning of my scheduled Covid-19 vax in February 2021, when, as luck would have it, I awoke with flu-like symptoms. Testing revealed I was positive, so I began my mandatory two-week quarantine at home. It felt just like the flu – no big deal. But 17 days after that positive test – well after the flu symptoms had disappeared – a new wave of symptoms emerged which would change my life indefinitely.
The worst of them was extreme vertigo, an intense feeling of rapid dizziness, confusing disorientation, and a total loss of balance. Sometimes, moving half an inch in any direction would feel like falling off a tall building – my body would tense up, break out in a cold sweat, and then shake uncontrollably, which further exacerbated the vertigo. I was completely incapacitated, unable to perform even the simplest tasks autonomously.
Thus began the arduous journey back to normalcy, starting with learning how to walk again. It sounds farcical now, but walking speed was initially a challenge that took a solid week of practice to overcome. Stumbling forward at 2 mph felt more like warp speed, as my addled mind struggled to process motion like an old bogged down 386 computer. I had to stop every few feet to sustain my balance and reassure myself that, indeed, I was only walking! All the while, a persistent feeling of dizziness dominated every waking hour, punctuated by roiling headaches that could not be appeased.
These migraines were always aggravated by barometric pressure in the atmosphere, so if it rained, I was completely out of commission. The only escape was sleep. When I closed my eyes, bright bursts of a hot white color would interrupt my rest, like lightning strikes but with more pronounced durations. Any sound, no matter how faint, would immediately wake me. A strange new sensitivity to light compounded the symptoms, making any surroundings other than a soundproof, pitch-black room unbearable. It was a depressing period, to say the least.
During this early stage of the disease, I’d often stagger down to the garage to gaze at my collection of motorcycles. Each one of them triggered an avalanche of memories, beckoning me to recall better times. “Remember all the states we’ve visited together?” queried my BMW R 1200 RT. “Don’t you miss the saucy growl of my small block V-Twin?” purred my Moto Guzzi V7 Racer. “Don’t forget the winter you took me all apart and got me running again!” commanded my Yamaha YSR50.
In those early post-infection days, the daydreaming in the garage vacillated between a resolute desire to get back in the saddle and a bleak hopelessness that I would never recover.
Over the course of the next few months, I graduated past walking and onto running, but only in spurts. I could drive my car again, albeit slowly. Eventually I dared to ride my motorcycles for short distances, if only to get the old juices flowing once more. But riding with “long Covid” symptoms was a profound handicap. The headaches and dizziness could burst like a thunderclap in my head, ferocious and debilitating.
Most worrisome was the “brain fog,” which would appear suddenly, obliterating my ability to focus on anything for more than few seconds. It happened to me once while hustling my 600-plus-pound BMW RT through a mountain sweeper, where I wound up in the opposite lane facing oncoming traffic, unsure of how I got there. Other times, I would suddenly forget the basics, like which side of the handlebars the clutch lever was on. My brain was frustratingly dysfunctional.
Adding to these mental challenges were the physical trials. I’ve been riding successive generations of BMW’s venerable RT Series for over 15 years, but I suddenly felt intimidated by the size, weight, and speed of my 2015 R 1200 RT. Low-speed maneuvering was unsteady at best, and anything quick or technical scrambled my mental processing to the point of paralysis. It was a watershed period in my life.
It took me many years of dedicated practice to achieve some modicum of riding proficiency, and it was exceedingly difficult for me to accept that many of my abilities had vanished. Riding my full-size motorcycles – once almost the most delightful activity I could imagine – had morphed into something nerve-wracking and dangerous. I knew I wanted to keep riding, but I had to slow down until my symptoms and skills both improved.
Since taming the twisties on my large-displacement bikes was out of the question, I had to find a way to pair what little was left of my riding skills with a suitable machine that was still a motorcycle. (In my mind, riding an automatic twist-and-go scooter would have been acquiescing to defeat.) Enter Honda’s Trail 125, Big Red’s rough-and-ready retro miniMOTO. Simple, lightweight, and slower than a tranquilized sloth, it was the perfect choice for my circumstance.
Through persistent searching, I nabbed one and headed off in search of slow lanes through local hamlets and forests. It was here, on these solitary explorations, that the Trail began to nurse me back to health.
Regardless of our diverse backgrounds and brand preferences, we all recognize the therapeutic value that motorcycles provide. Some refer to what the late psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously termed “flow,” or the mental state in which a person is fully immersed in the moment, completely focused and free from all discursive thoughts. The late Rush drummer Neil Peart described the feeling of moto-motion as a subconscious reminder of a mother gently rocking her baby. Every one of us who has swung a leg over the saddle has our own individual reasons why two-wheeled moving mediation therapy just plain works.
So it was for me on the Trail, ambling down rutted paths in the woods, scooting along serpentine bicycle paths, and focusing only on the basic rudiments of discovering how to ride again. Like relearning to walk, it was initially frustrating, but the diminutive Honda’s mellow personality encouraged me to just keep trying anyway. Wherever we were, it beckoned me to keep pushing: “Let’s go! Just a little further!”
It’s difficult to describe the character of an inanimate object, but the Trail never judged me for my mistakes the way my big bikes seem to do. We started out on local 40- to 50-mile loops, but before long, we were ripping through nearby states for 300- to 400-mile weekends. I felt like a real rider again, enthusiastically kicking the semi-automatic transmission through its four gears and unleashing all eight of the miniscule thumper’s stampeding horses as we bombed down the backroads.
Granted, all this action was despairingly slow by objective standards – but it was engaging in the way that only a real motorcycle can be. This continuous engagement is what rebuilt my ability to focus on a singular task for prolonged periods of time – the very foundation of riding well. Thanks to the eager Trail, I was still in the game, still moving forward, and gradually building my confidence back up. According to the GPS, I never exceeded 59 mph on the modest Honda, but in terms of fun, I might as well have been leading the pack around the Isle of Man TT!
Encouraged by the progress, I outfitted my Trail with accoutrements to increase functionality and add some flair to its spartan workhorse aesthetic. A cavernous Givi 58-liter top case provides ample storage, while a cushy aftermarket seat, a wireless phone charger, auxiliary LED lighting, an Opmid gauge cluster, and toasty Koso Apollo heated grips make for a more comfortable traveling experience.
Molding this Trail as uniquely my own cemented the bond between man and machine almost as much as our rides themselves did. Ultimately, I’m certain I wouldn’t have recovered so far, so fast, without this bright red miniMOTO as a willing partner.
Today, I accept that Covid-19 has impaired me, perhaps permanently. My innate senses, mental processing, and physical reaction times still aren’t what they used to be, but I’m confident that over time they can be restored. Indeed, these days I find myself mixing in more rides on my full-sized motorcycles as I relearn how to pilot them competently again.
In the meantime, I want to sincerely thank Honda for imbuing this spunky little Trail with character – one that brings all the essential healing joys of wind therapy to the beginner and expert alike, even if it is in the slow lane.
Another crop of returning 2022 models, as well as a couple for 2023, has been announced. Joining those listed above are 10 additional models in four categories, including sport, miniMOTO, dual-sport, and scooter.
Headlining the announcement is the legendary CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP, which in 2022 adopts important new performance upgrades to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Fireblade’s original introduction in Europe (followed a year later in the U.S.).
Also returning for 2022 are the CBR650R sportbike and CB650R naked bike, both of which come standard with ABS. On the miniMOTO front, the 2023 edition of the popular Grom is back, as is the 2022 edition of the retro Trail 125. The PCX also returns for 2022, continuing as the benchmark model among scooters, and joined by the 2023 Ruckus.
Three dual-sport machines were also announced – the popular CRF300L; its adventure-focused sibling, the CRF300L Rally; and the classic XR650L, the latter in a new color.
“We recognize that motorcycling comes in many forms, a fact that is reflected in today’s announcement,” said Brandon Wilson, American Honda Manager of Sports & Experiential. “The models included are each unique, but they share a commitment to delivering the enjoyment of two-wheel recreation. We’re proud of the disparate nature of the motorcycling community, and we’re happy to serve all of its members in 2022 and beyond.”
To celebrate the original, groundbreaking CBR900RR and a record of continuous challenges since the introduction of that game-changer, Honda offers a stunning 30th Anniversary version of the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP. For 2022, development of this model’s inline four-cylinder engine centers on mid-corner acceleration: the intake ports, airbox, airbox funnels and exhaust mid-section are all revised to deliver extra midrange power. The final-drive sprocket has gone up three teeth for stronger acceleration through each ratio, and quick-shifter performance has been upgraded. Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) has also been optimized, with feedback from HRC’s riders, for refined rear-tire traction management, and throttle feel has improved even further.
The 2022 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP will be available in Pearl White with an MSRP of $28,900, and it will be in dealerships in July 2022.
2022 Honda CBR650R
Designed to be appreciated on the street, but drawing inspiration from the supersport realm, the CBR650R excites riders with its sharp lines, complete bodywork, and corner-carving abilities, but it also delivers comfort, practicality, and value. A full-fairing sport variant of the standard CB650R, this model has a high-quality Showa Separate Function Big Piston fork, stylish aesthetics and excellent emissions performance. With a finely tuned chassis delivering light, responsive handling, and a high-revving inline 4-cylinder engine that offers enjoyable power, the CBR650R is exciting to ride and a pleasure to own, a gratifying intersection of values for the modern sportbike rider.
The 2022 Honda CBR650R will be available in Matte Black Metallic with an MSRP of $9,799, and it will be in dealerships in August 2022.
2022 Honda CB650R
Honda’s iconic CB moniker evokes a proud legacy of middleweight machines that boast user-friendly four-cylinder engines mated to nimble, confidence-inspiring chassis. That’s also an accurate description of the CB650R, which features a Showa Separate Function Big Piston fork, excellent emissions performance, striking aesthetics, and comfortable ergonomics. Showcasing Honda’s Neo Sports Café design theme through its smooth lines and compact packaging, the CB650R is a popular and enjoyable naked bike that builds on the CB history of catering to diverse riding experiences, from daily commutes to exhilarating outings on tight, twisting backroads.
The 2022 Honda CB650R will be available in Matte Black Metallic with an MSRP of $9,299, and it will be in dealerships in September 2022.
The undisputed emperor of the miniMOTO world and the spawner of a vibrant subculture of fun-seekers, Honda’s Grom inspires a cross-demographic army of enthusiasts who embrace the diminutive model with remarkable passion. Its low seat height and approachability make it an unintimidating option for new riders to learn with, while its modular styling and peppy performance make it an entertaining plaything for experienced riders and a customization platform for those looking for an amusing project. It’s no wonder that the Grom continues to be one of the powersports industry’s most popular motorcycle models.
The 2023 Honda Grom will be available in Matte Black Metallic, Cherry Red, and Force Silver Metallic for the non-ABS model (MSRP is $3,499) and Pearl White for the ABS model (MSRP is $3,799). It will be in dealerships in April 2022.
When it comes to fun, approachable, popular miniMOTO models, no manufacturer even comes close to Honda, and the Trail 125 is a prime example of one such machine that also pays tribute to the past. The model harkens back to a golden era of motorcycling when there was seemingly a CT model on the bumper rack of every motor home but, like Honda’s nostalgic Monkey and Super Cub, it also incorporates the modern joys of practical design and hassle-free technology. Compared to the urban-focused Super Cub on which it is based, the Trail 125 has a number of rugged upgrades, making it ideal for casual trekking on- and off-road.
The 2022 Honda Trail 125 will be available in Glowing Red with an MSRP of $3,999, and it will be in dealerships in April 2022.
The motorcycle industry’s top-selling dual-sport model, the CRF300L boasts strong power, low weight and excellent on- and off-road performance, while also delivering unparalleled value, reliability, and styling. The model has a broad powerband, predictable handling, and aesthetic cues that are carried over from Honda’s CRF Performance line, and it’s available in standard and ABS versions, both of which are ready to provide low-cost transportation and true dual-sport adventure.
The 2022 Honda CRF300L will be available in Red with an MSRP of $5,349 without ABS and $5,649 with ABS. It will be in dealerships in April 2022.
Based on the standard CRF300L, but with comfort-focused upgrades including handguards, more fuel capacity, and a frame-mounted windscreen, the CRF300L Rally evokes images of the Dakar Rally while delivering practicality and value. More suitable for long-distance adventuring than its standard sibling, the Rally version is also a stellar commuter.
The 2022 Honda CRF300L Rally will be available in Red with an MSRP of $6,099 without ABS and $6,399 with ABS. It will be in dealerships in April 2022.
2022 Honda XR650L
Yes, the XR650L has been a familiar part of Honda’s lineup for many years, but there’s a reason the tried-and-true dual-sport model continues to be popular with customers. It’s highly adaptable, opening the door to adventure on single-track trails, dirt roads, and backroads, while also delivering capable transportation in the city. The natural result of those characteristics – plus a proud Baja heritage – is a diehard following of riders, who will be pleased to know that the model has received a styling facelift for 2022.
The 2022 Honda XR650L will be available in White with an MSRP of $6,999, and it will be in dealerships in April 2022.
2022 Honda PCX
Honda’s PCX is the ultimate tool for tackling urban environments in style, continuing to set the standard for scooter design and technology. Equipped with a freeway-capable engine, the PCX is equally suitable for new riders and more experienced customers, delivering performance, fuel economy, great handling, a comfortable ride, and simple operation – all attributes that are vital in the scooter category.
The 2022 Honda PCX will be available in Pearl White with an MSRP of $3,899 without ABS and $4,099 with ABS. It will be in dealerships in April 2022.
2023 Honda Ruckus
When it comes to little two-wheelers that ooze personality and attitude, it’s tough to top Honda’s unique Ruckus, the model that launched an entire scooter-customization subculture. With an exposed frame and dual round headlights contributing to an industrial-looking design, plus practical features like reliability, fuel efficiency, and nimble handling, the Ruckus a great choice as a platform for personalization or affordable, around-town transportation.
The 2023 Honda Ruckus will be available in Gray, White/Metallic Blue, and Metallic Blue/Tan with an MSRP of $2,899, and it will be in dealerships in April 2022.