I try to be as hands on as I possibly can and while I’m nowhere near the level of our writer Kate who’s also a motorcycle engine whisperer, I always love to learn new tricks and tips. So when I stumbled upon this video of James “Captain Slow” May talking us through the reassembly of an original, early generation Honda Z50 Monkey, I had to share.
You may be like director Jason puts it mildly, “tired of all three of ‘em”. The three of ‘em, of course, refers to the original Top Gear trio of Jeremy “I beat people up over sandwiches” Clarkson, James May, and Richard “I crash everything” Hammond. Since the whole sandwich incident we won’t get into details about, the three former BBC stars moved their paychecks and allegiance over to Amazon.
Seemingly during the limbo gap between the end of the original TG era, and before The Grand Tour official launched in 2016, James May kept busy with a short BBC series and associated YouTube channel, James May The Reassembler. Only a handful of episodes were produced during which Captain Slow, well, reassembled a number of objects including a lawnmower, a telephone, a portable record player, and an original Honda Monkey.
This very intimate moment shared with May shows us just how much he knows about stuff in general—including the history of motorcycles—and how good he is at vulgarizing. In 2019, for someone to manage to keep me around for a 30-minute video without skipping ahead is quite an accomplishment. It goes to show how good May really is at what he does.
With perfect ease (or almost), he slowly but surely pieces the fully disassembled Monkey back to together, explaining the steps along the way. He casually compares riding a motorcycle to a medieval equivalent of a horse-straddling knight as he bolts the wheel back together or shares his hate of springs as he fights to assemble the brake drum. I don’t know if it’s the British accent that confers him some extra credibility and making it extra pleasant to listen to, but I would listen to James May tell me how to assemble a bike for hours.
After 13 hours and 51 minutes of work, the Honda Monkey is ready for its test ride. One flick of the kickstarter and the tiny 50cc engine fires into action. The video ends on May riding away on his newly assembled, perfectly vintage Z50. Deep joy!