Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. After all, it’s the foundation of business for brands such as Harley-Davidson and Indian, and model lines such as Triumph’s ‘modern classics’ and the BMW R nineT and R18.
It’s also the driving force behind ‘Gorilla,’ the latest build from Bunker, the prolific custom powerhouse based in Istanbul.
Mert and Can Uzer, the brothers behind Bunker, were inspired by their customer’s reminiscing—which dates back to an early fascination with minibikes in the 1970s. “On his first boat trip at the age of 8, Alp was spellbound when sailors docked their boats at the Vieux Port de Cannes,” says Mert, “and then cruised along the coast on scooters and minibikes.
“At night, he watched them ride back up the gangway and store their machines on the boats.”
As an adult, Alp still loves the sea, and he’s become fascinated with by the Honda Monkey as he’s gown older. And even though his first bike was a Harley Fat Boy, he’s always yearned for a Monkey.
In 2018, some 40 years after Alp first watched the bikes roll onto the boats in Cannes, Honda reintroduced the Monkey. Alp was delighted but also somewhat dissatisfied with the modernized look. He felt that the ‘new’ Monkey 125 lacked the retro feel he craved.
“My brother had just finished a custom project with Bunker,” Alp says. “It was a total rebuild of a Triumph scrambler and I loved it. I suddenly thought, ‘How cool would it be if I could customize a new Monkey to look more like a retro bike, to put on my boat to scoot around the Greek Islands?”
At that moment he decided to call Bunker.
With a 2019-spec Z125 in the workshop, the Uzer brothers started analyzing the potential. It needed to be a scaled-down version of classic aesthetics, and remain as small as possible—so that Alp could squeeze his Monkey onto his boat before cruising the Mediterranean.
To shorten the forks six centimeters and get a longer look for the Monkey, Bunker used a lowering kit from the Taiwanese suspension specialist Racingbros. And because the front suspension was quite ‘springy,’ Bunker also installed a Racingbros adjustable rebound and compression kit, with some modifications.
“This gives way better front suspension performance without compromising the original travel distance,” says Mert. “We also ditched the alloy wheels and fitted 12-inch spoked rims. Some spacing modifications to the front hub were necessary to keep the ABS working.” A wise move, given the short wheelbase and imminent engine upgrades.
Racingbros shocks with adjustable compression and rebound were also used at the rear: “A combination that works like a charm.”
With the Monkey well planted on the road, it was time to juice up the air-cooled single-cylinder engine. The intake was opened up using a MNNTHBX intake tube with DNA air filter, matched to custom exhaust pipework with a neat Cone Engineering muffler.
To make the most of the new breathing, Bunker installed a Bazzaz EFI unit, which auto-tunes the engine with a self-mapping capability. “This is the first time we’ve used the Bazzaz kit, and we are quite impressed with the performance and the practicality of it,” says Mert. “It was essential after getting rid of the chunky airbox and the stock exhaust. And the Monkey now has quite some punch for a 125 cc engine!”
The aesthetic mods were selected with proportion in mind. Compact bars from Composimo are fitted with Puig mirrors on custom-made stems, and the boys replaced the chunky headlight brackets with custom brackets. The turn signals are tiny Kellerman Attos: “They’re almost invisible when not blinking,” says Mert.
The rear fender has been binned in favor of a short custom aluminum unit, fitted with Dime City Cycle’s ‘Prism’ stop lamp and more Atto indicators. The license plate holder is custom stainless steel, and so are the front fender brackets—which are holding a new aluminum fender.
The seat and side bags provide a softer, artisanal touch, and were handmade by local leather crafters. The paint is equally expert, with a Gorilla illustration on the tank designed with the help of (and hand-painted by) Flama Design House.
Alp now has a bike that reminds him of his childhood, and is terrific fun to ride as well. Like they say, it’s often the little things that count.