The 2022 Honda Navi is a new breed of motorcycle. Priced at $1,800, it’s less expensive than a lot of electric bicycles, but can go 45mph and gets 110 miles per gallon. It’s also more affordable than a lot of scooters that happen to be far slower. And, because Honda wants to push the Navi as user-friendly transportation, there’s no clutch: this bike gets a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic. Riders need only hop on, hit the electric start and twist the throttle—the bike does the rest. Riders still need a motorcycle license, but Honda’s message with the Navi is that a lot of the intimidation surrounding motorbikes has been removed.
At just 236 pounds, the bike makes slow-speed parking maneuvers that are difficult with heavier motorcycles easier, and the small wheels (12-inch front and 10-inch rear) and very short wheelbase make the Navi that much more nimble, playful and a snap to park just about anywhere. Small wheels can get twitchy on rough pavement, so it’s good that Honda added 3.5 inches of suspension travel at the fork, and almost three inches at the rear shock. Given the low weight, Honda says the 109cc, single-cylinder bike has plenty of power to keep up with traffic. There’s an on-bike waterproof keyed storage “locker” below the gas tank, which is handy for bringing a change of clothes for the gym or transporting takeout and groceries.
Honda has also been a pioneer in welcoming third-party mods in the mini moto space, inspiring a new level of customization. While you can order a vinyl kit for your Navi from Honda from partners Icon and Throttle Jockey, the more interesting designs and accessories come from Tennessee’s MNNTHBX and LA’s Steady Garage. Both longtime collaborators were invited to make a one-off Navi at the bike’s US launch, and each had a very different idea. What the shops have in common is the belief that the Navi is a “canvas,” especially since the basic bike is so affordable to begin with.
At MNNTHBX, Kevin Estop says their design represents the beginning of what’s possible, but promises, “You don’t have to be a fabrication [expert] to make something unique and custom to you. And that’s how we approach pretty much everything.” Their design (which was meant to be an ideal runabout pit bike at a race track) still has great ergonomics, with a flatter seat and an upgraded bar with white grips. The Öhlins shock and Yoshimura carbon-fiber exhaust were extremes, but the most functional addition is using the storage space to house a Bluetooth speaker.
Rather than preserve the brand’s DNA (as MNNTHBX did using traditional red-and-blue Honda racing livery), Steady Garage went for a retro-futuristic, cyberpunk-leaning customization. Technical director at Steady, Kevin Dunn, cites films like Ready Player One as influences on the shop’s style, and also says there’s a clever trick with their Navi build: using solid wheels, as “it just looks a little more futuristic and stretches it visually.”
Like MNNTHBX, Steady added a revised exhaust, but theirs is completely custom. Their creative director Francis Clemente “drew two or three sketches,” Dunn says, but they weren’t quite sure how it would look. When it came back from supplier Vance & Hines it also had an over-the-top braided metal flex pipe. “The contrast of industrial-looking metal against the matte blue of the body color really makes it pop,” Dunn says. They also threaded LED strip lighting throughout the chassis, to literally highlight their customization work. That got particularly challenging to wire around the CVT transmission, which they wanted to illuminate from the backside.
Both the MNNTHBX and Steady Garage bikes had to be crushed, because they were pre-production mules. Still, customization in the mini moto segment provides plenty of options, since modification is relatively affordable. Couple that with an already reasonably priced bike, and those initially intimidated by motorcycles could find commuting on two wheels even more appealing.
Hero image courtesy of Steady Garage