Rare SportBike: 1985 Honda MB-5

When it comes to vintage motorcycles, dirt bikes, and scooters, you really have your choice of any number of makes and models that could serve as a worthy restoration project. Big bikes, small bikes, fast bikes, slow bikes – it’s a bit staggering how many options there are. And there’s always more popping out of the woodwork, models you’ve never heard of, like this 1985 Honda MB-5, which exists somewhere between a scooter and a motorcycle, but definitely not a road bike as it makes just seven horsepower – but like all things Honda, however, its genius lies in how much it does with so little. Find it here on craigslist with an asking price of $2,500.

The MB-5 was a one-year-only model in the U.S., though it continued to be sold in Europe several years afterward. What’s curious about this bike is that it’s listed as an ’85 and the seller emphasizes that it’s a “UK model,” which doesn’t seem quite right given sales ended in the U.K. in 1981 (it continued to be sold in other European countries through the late 80s). In addition, he states that the bike was sold at a police auction in the early 90s after living in a barn for 25 years. So there’s a bit of a story going on in the background of this bike, and it seems likely that it was imported at some point and allowed to live here in the U.S. before being abandoned and sold at auction.

The MB-5 was a fairly genius piece of kit, featuring the sort of packaging you’d expect on a small vehicle with big ambitions. According to the website MotorcycleClassics.com, it featured oil injection for lubrication; straight-cut primary gears driving the wet clutch and five-speed gearbox, and a frame featuring tubular spines and some clever welding to arrange the engine mounting location and swingarm pivot. The design is such that you don’t necessarily consider it a scooter at first glance, but rather a bare-boned sportbike. That had to have helped shake the perception for some riders that you were riding what would otherwise be considered a moped.

Image courtesy of TheCreeper.Net

I think this ad captures perfectly the essence of this bike: it’s got seven horsepower but looks way cooler than that. As far as passengers go, seven horsepower doesn’t give you a lot of options, but the MB-5 could still reach 53 miles per hour and its 49.5cc  two-stroke could scream all the way to 10,500 RPM, so perhaps this young man was able to take one of his admirers on a ride around the block. For collectors of the multitude of scooters, dirt bikes, and mini trails made in the 70s and 80s, exclusivity likely plays a role in determining what goes into a collection, and this MB-5 certainly possesses that quality in spades.

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  1. alphasud Member

    I have a black MB-5 with about 300 miles on the clock. My friend gave it to me. It was hers when she was in high school. Drove it a few times but grew tired of it. I need to spend some time to get it running again. I remember the commercial when I was in school. Cool bikes with a cult following.

    Like 15
    • JBD

      Awesome! It is now a rare bike!

      Like 2
    • Ethan

      Interested in selling?

      • alphasud Member

        Ethan, I promised her I would bring it back to life and use it. Have no title since her dad passed and it was in his name.

  2. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    These had an amazing ONE-THIRD more horsepower than the Super Cub! (7 vs. 4.8).
    Typical of American thinking of motorcycling it didn’t attract enough interest to bring them in the following year, helped in part no doubt by the looming ban on 2 stroke smokers which ring face also ended the monster 500cc Superbikes and hairy scary 500cc dirt bike singles.
    Does anyone recall if there was a racing series involving these 50cc Honda’s? I seem to recall something of that at a Battle of The Twins race back in the day, but my memory sometimes is as fuzzy as my face especially in the morning..
    Good luck to the new owner!

    Like 5
    • SMS

      Battle of the Twins. Haven’t heard that in a long time. Used to race in that series. Several of the racers also ran little bikes like the MB5. Usually on kart tracks. Remember one race at Willow Springs. Was fun to watch the skill of the riders as the advantage went to the one who scrubbed off the least amount of speed.

      I gave it a try but at 6’ and 170lbs I was not competitive.

      Like 8
    • EPO3

      My memory is a little fuzzy on that subject but I think I watched a super bike race and they had a division with those bikes.But maybe I took in to much two stroke smoke back in the day.

      Like 5
  3. DayDreamBeliever Member

    Hardly, as there are no pedals on these.
    The theoretical 53mph would be with a 95 pound rider, prone on the bike, maybe a little tail wind….

    This example is going to require a lot of hunting for parts, if anyone thinks about putting it back to a stock configuration. And those will cost a lot. The ask seems high to me, as a complete bike in decent cosmetic and running condition shouldn’t be much more.

    I have essentially the next generation of this, the NS50F. Water cooled, 6 speed transmission. I saw an indicated 67mph on it (electronic digital speedometer added on), but it has a 68CC kit, and some performance mods. And, I was drafting a tanker truck on the 403 in Canada…. Somewhere around 14K rpm….

    Like 8
  4. Derek

    There was a moped racing series over here; Kawasaki staffers won the first one with an AR50 (did Bike magazine organise it?).

    Not BOTT, but I remember the BEARS organisers getting upset about someone turning up with a crosser-based KTM or Maico racer.

    Incidentally, that one has pitted fork legs. Gaiters are a bodge to pass the MOT. No front mudguard, either.

    Like 2
  5. MattR Member

    This would be a great dense city bike for serious threading and parking anywhere.

    Like 3
  6. bill tebbutt

    The ladies in the commercial advert are laughing. Not at the bike. At the owner of the bike, for owning the bike.

    I like it, and admire the engineering. But in the day, at my high school, you’d be way better off showing up on foot than riding one of these into the parking lot!


    Like 7
    • AZVanMan

      100% right, Bill. As an RD-350 and GT-750 owner, I remember the billboards with these odd little 2-strokes popping up in Phx. around 1980 or so. The billboard consisted of a pic of the bike and “10,500 RPM” as the hook. With out the idiot box to look it up on, I stopped at a Honda dealer and got the back-story. Not interested, needless to say.

      Like 2
    • Chris M.

      Don’t show up at Sturgis on this thing.

      Like 4
      • Howard A Member
      • MattR Member

        In college, I lost my ride to a Rolling Stones concert so I rode my vintage Vespa from Madison to the Alpine Valley amphitheater. As I approached I rode by a mile of backed up cars and straight to the amphitheater wall where the motorcycle parking was. I pulled into a slot surrounded by Harleys and Harley dudes. They had a big laugh at the sight of me. I smiled and enjoyed the show. I’ll never forget that or riding back late at night down rural roads in a full moon freezing my ass off barely able to pull in the clutch. But I made it. Good times.

        Like 5
  7. local_sheriff

    A friend of mine had one and this was the street version of the far more popular MT5 (dirt bike variant). According to national law at the time, to classify as a moped it’s displacement could not exceed 50cc, not be able drive faster than 50km/h and not exceed 2.5hp(!).

    Needless to say there where extremely few of these bikes that did not receive a new(read:bigger) cylinder/piston kit and upgraded carb as they responded extremely well to these upgrades, particularly with a lightweight 16year old in the saddle.

    This fella seems to have quite a few bits for these bikes on shelf

    Like 4
  8. MarveH

    These were very desirable in the town where I went to High School because you could ride them on the street without a license. No one under 16 laughed at you because, without one, they were walking or peddling.
    I lived 15 miles out of town in the sticks and had a 1974 Yamaha DT 175. That was great because we had no police and you rode what you wanted, where you wanted. But, if I lived in town, I would have had one of these in a minute.

    Like 5
  9. stephen keller

    These were very fun bikes, and some of the euro spec ones did in fact have pedals, I had mine plated as a moped, sketch, but I got it done, 53 is about right wot. This example is in rough shape, hacked wiring harness, wrong lights fore and aft, no fender. Worth more for parts than whole, price is way high for non-stock, worth no more than about 1k on the high side, and that would presume it to at least be titled.

    Like 1
  10. Rick

    I’ve had a couple of these over the years, seems the seller is a bit high for a not quite complete stock bike, I guess you’d really have to want one to pay that price. Of course I sold my 15/20 years ago too and got good money for them “then” at around $1000 ea but they were nice examples too. Funner to ride than a moped but thats about it…….

    Like 2
  11. Patrick Anderson

    These seemed to disappear as suddenly as they appeared.
    I love the hotties creaming their jeans over the bike. Probably thinking about the possibilities as a street legal vibrator

    Like 1
    • MattR Member

      That is why I kept my hard-mounted Harley Shovelhead for so long.

      Like 1
    • John

      Totally tasteless post.

      Like 1
  12. Will Owen Member

    I loved the looks of these things, and somehow (can’t remember) actually got to ride one.Since my Honda riding history went from CB150 through Super Hawk I was expecting only a pleasant outing, and that’s what I got. The only odd thing about it was those alloy wheels; I’d never realized how well regular wire wheels dampened harshness from the road, but I’ll swear I could’ve run over a dime and known whether it was heads or tails!

    Like 1
  13. JBD

    These were so much faster than mopeds! Both in acceleration and top speed. A real find, if you can find one.

    Like 1
  14. RodOpel

    I had 3 of these growing up on Ireland, 2 white ones and a black one, they were restricted there to 30mph! I put a big bore kit (63 whooping cc’s) regeared it and made my own exhaust for it from a CD175 downpipe (1 of them). I had just started as an apprentice diesel mechanic, the bike ran great , 63 mph , more down a hill ,we had so much fun on the backroads as 16 year olds, my buddy had a red one just like that one, great memories

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