Honda has a strong grassroots support base for motorcyclists. They offer beginner-friendly scooters and minibikes such as the Trail 50 and Cub. The company has been focusing on expensive machines that cater to experienced riders with disposable income in recent years. The 2014 debut of the charming was a surprise. Grom minibikeThere was a lot of demand for something smaller and friendlier. Global sales of more 750,000 bikes have been recorded.
Honda has come up with something even friendlier. The 236-pound Navi is a glorified Activa scooter with the same 7-horsepower 109cc single-cylinder engine as well as a continuously variable transmission.
But it has motorcycle looks and a lockable plastic storage box where a motorcycle’s engine would usually be, lending the Navi the look of an electric motorcycle. The Navi’s price tag is just $1,807. This is half the price of the manual-shift Grom (10-hp), making it affordable for beginners.
Let’s clarify what we’ve got here. The Navi is licensed with a plate. It has a headlight with high beams and low beams, turn signals, horn and taillight. It can be used on the street as a real motorcycle. It features a standard motorcycle speedometer as well as handlebar-mounted controls. There’s also an old-school kick starter, if you want to channel your inner Hell’s Angel.
The Navi is not suitable for riding off-road, unlike dirtbikes some riders use to learn to ride. The Navi is not suitable for yard use, as the street tires are very slick on grass and the suspension has very limited travel (3.9 inches in front, 2.8 inches at the back), especially when you consider the weight of an adult. It should be kept on gravel or smooth pavement. Our model was in Grasshopper Green. Red, Nut Brown and Ranger Green are all alternatives.
[Related: I rode an electric motorcycle for the first time. Here’s what I learned.]
Despite all of these “real” motorcycle attributes, the Navi doesn’t have a gear shifter or a clutch handle. It is easy to ride away from a halt by twisting the right handlebar grip just like on a scooter. With an adult rider, you’re going to probably twist the throttle all the way open until the Navi reaches your target speed.
In my neighborhood, it is the perfect toy for cruising around at 25 mph; I’ve been able to connect surface streets between neighborhoods to cover a decent area around without getting onto any bigger roads. It is purely a coincidence that there’s a Baskin-Robbins in the next neighborhood’s shopping center to serve as a popular destination!
I ventured onto one bigger road briefly, to test the Navi’s top speed: it reaches 47 mph, but it isn’t happy doing it. The tiny 12-inch front and 10-inch rear wheels provide great maneuverability in the neighborhood, but the ride gets busy—a little hectic and unstable feeling—at near-highway speed.
Front and rear drum brakes can be operated by cable, just like classic motorcycles in the mid-20th century.Th century. Unlike those antiques, however, the Navi’s brakes actually provide crisp response to a squeeze on the brake handle, and the bike’s low speed and light weight mean that the superior heat dissipation of disc brakes is not needed.
The brakes also provide a solution for the Navi’s CVT transmission. To prevent the motorcycle from rolling off its kickstands, riders park it in gear on traditional, manual-shift bikes. The Navi’s CVT won’t hold the bike in place when it is shut off, so instead there’s a parking brake to hold it still. A CVT is the type of automatic transmission most familiar to scooter-riders. It adjusts the drive ratio automatically, without discrete gears. The engine speed changes depending upon how aggressively the rider twists the throttle grip, while the Navi gathers its speed intentionally.
The Navi uses cheap, car-like stamped stainless steel wheels that bolt together with four lug nuts. These wheels are an alternative to the standard motorcycle spoked aluminum wheels. This is perfect for the bike’s low power and speed.
Something to keep in mind, in a country where some people resist simple measures such as helmets, is that while the Navi doesn’t go very fast, riders are still exposed to other, bigger and heavier vehicles, so proper safety gear for every ride is a must. Although the Navi is a great toy, it is important that you use a helmet, shoes and long sleeves. Even for the Navi, shorts and flip-flops do not make a good riding outfit.
Also, you’ll need to get a motorcycle license to ride the Navi in most places. But look for motorcycle riding schools to embrace Navis as their training bikes, so you’ll be able to get a head start familiarizing yourself with the bike while earning your license.
Already, the early returns are in. Navi sales have been hot and Honda claims the bike is poised to be the most-sold street bike in the US. The reasons for its popularity are obvious— low price, ease of use, fuel efficiency, and more—so I wholeheartedly endorse the Navi as not only a great starter bike for novices, but a fun toy for experienced riders to putt around their neighborhoods.
If all goes well, Navi riders will soon be back at Honda dealers to try out the CB300R and CRF300L for size as commuter bikes or weekend toys. Just like how the old Trail 50 put riders on a path to the company’s CB350 back in the day.