Honda’s Z series is responsible for a myriad of mini-models that were the first forays into motorcycling for many a rider. As a result, many of these Honda minis hold a special place in legions of riders’ hearts. Though it lacks the older vintage flavor of the original Z50, the ZB50 still has its own unique late-’80’s character that’s hard to dislike. If its sportbike-esque bodywork didn’t give it away, the ZB was largely geared towards street use – and maybe some trail riding – as where the Z50R was more aimed at off-road and dirt-track riding. In 1987 and 1988 Honda released the Monkey R and RT models which were very similar to North America’s ZB50. In 1988, Honda produced 3,058 units for the US and Canadian market. The ZB50 would reportedly see production for one more year before Honda pulled the plug, citing a high-cost of production.
Some argue that the ZB50 is the rarest Monkey of all time. Its sporty appearance made it a more desirable model for many youngsters who utilized the ZB as a road-goer. After all, the ZB50 was a street-legal bike. Its aesthetic was helped along by an aluminum twin-spar perimeter chassis and was dampened by a telescopic fork up front and a trick little monoshock in back. The ZB also came equipped with drum brakes – cable-operated up front and rod-operated in back. The bike had a seat-height of 26 inches, a 1.8 gallon fuel-cell (+ 1/4 gallon reserve), a wheelbase of 41.9 inches, a dry weight of 157 lbs, and a claimed top-speed of 31 mph.
At the heart of the ZB50 was an air-cooled, 2-valve, four-stroke 49cc SOHC single that made a reported 2.6 hp and 3.5 ft-lb of torque at 4,500rpm. The ZB also enjoyed the benefit of a CDI magneto ignition and roller bearing supported camshaft. Married to the engine was a three-speed semi-automatic transmission (with a 3-up shift pattern) with wet multiplate clutch operated by both centrifugal action and gear-lever. Lubrication on the ZB was handled by a forced and wet sump, and a 13mm Keihin PB 12, piston-valve carb (with butterfly style manual choke) supposedly came on the ZB50 from the factory. The ZB also had a 12-volt electrical system and a kick-start. Unlike the Z50R, the ZB50 is said to have boasted an automatic cam chain tensioner, and a 10:1 compression ratio.
According to the seller, this 1988 ZB50 example is said to fire right up, run, and ride “perfectly”. This little Honda’s odo has yet to even reach quadruple digits (it’s at about 950). This ZB also happens to be in really clean shape and has a clean California title. The factory paint (including the red on the wheels) and bodywork are all pristine and the red leather seat looks almost brand new. This bike also has all of its original lights (all of which work), signals, decals, brackets, and mirrors. Not only are examples rare, but examples this clean are even more seldom seen. Plus, how can you not love that shamelessly 1980’s “ZB” graphic. Too fresh!
You can find this 1988 Honda ZB50 example for sale here on Craigslist in 29 Palms, California with a price of $2,800.