What’s better than something designed to be a tiny version of a normal-sized thing?
Be it Mini Coopers, or Mini Skirts, people have always had a thing for things that are preposterously tiny and yet still fully functional.
To those that grew up in the 1970s, and loved motorcycles, this meant amazing creations from the legends at Honda like the Z50 mini bike and its bigger brother the Trail 70. See, Honda knew they had a hit on their hands when the “monkey bike” that first debuted as a children’s ride in Tama Tech park was a hit with not only the kiddies, but the adults as well. Within a few years of this concept, the Z50 was a hit in not only the home market of Japan but in markets all over the world.
Honda wouldn’t stop at the diminutive Z50, no way. Right on top of the tiniest bike in the lineup was the Honda DAX, so-called because of its goofy proportions that resembled Dachshund wiener dogs. This slightly larger bike was properly outfitted for trail riding and included space for 2 people and even a bit of space for their gear.
The DAX would make it to the shores of the U.S.A and be named the Trail 70, named after its plucky 70cc engine. Today the Trail 70 is one of the most highly sought-after minibikes on the vintage market and its much-loved design brings some serious money to the used market.
Trail 70 Design & Configurations
Let’s start off with the most obviously unique feature on the Trail 70: the pressed steel frame and compact dimensions.
The Trail 70 was designed to be easily transportable at 150 pounds dry (though not as easy to haul as the Z50) with fold-down handlebars, and a built-in carry handle on each side of the bike. Where the Trail 70 really differentiated itself from the Z50 was in its ability to carry not one, but two people on its well-padded seat, and dual footpegs. For small families or families with multiple children, the ability to have 2 people ride-along was a serious advantage over the tiny Z50.
Rather than go for a traditional tube-style frame, the engineers at Honda gave the DAX a pressed steel frame that was both lightweight and extremely strong. Inside this uniquely designed frame sat a 72CC 4 stroke engine sporting a single overhead cam, a single carburetor, and two valves. Power output was a barn-burning 6 horsepower, and transmission options were either a super easy to use semi-automatic 3 speed, or a 4-speed manual that was available from 1970 to 1972.
What made the Trail 70 perfect for new riders was the easy-to-ride and easy-to-shift 3-speed semi-automatic transmission. As a result, this was by far the most popular transmission choice in the early years, although 4 speed manual examples were great for those looking to eventually make the jump to bigger and more powerful bikes down the road.
Suspension on early Trail 70 models consisted of a dual front fork (hydraulic or sprung), and twin shock absorbers in the rear. Again, this was a major upgrade over the Z50 that had only a light travel front suspension fork and a rigid rear end that was a real teeth rattler. This meant that the Trail 70 could handle rougher trails with ease and had plenty of power to get it all done. Well, maybe power was not exactly ample, but it was enough to have fun!
Color was all the rage when the Trail 70 hit the streets, and Honda was ready with the selection of awesome colors. K0 models were available in candy Ruby Red, Candy Gold, and Candy Sapphire Blue. Every model had chrome throughout the entire design including an engine guard, spark plug guard and even a tail light bracket. It was as ostentatious as the 70s themselves.
Following the introductory model, the K0, the K1 series was sold from August 1971 to June 1972. Each K1 model utilized a hydraulic front fork, while other models only used coil spring front forks. The seat style had also changed a bit, along with the speedometer which was now separate from the headlight.
1973 saw the introduction of the K2 model, which was only offered as a three-speed. Candy Topaz Orange, and Candy Riviera blue were among the new colors that were offered, as well as additional chrome trim.
Sales quickly dwindled in the later 1970s, and the model would bite the dust around 1982.
Why The Trail 70 Was So Popular
It's not hard to understand why the Trail 70 was so popular with both motorcycle enthusiasts and outdoor aficionados. The entire bike only weighed a few hundred pounds and included fold down handlebars that could shrink the bike down into a size that could be packed into nearly any trunk or cargo area.
During the early 1970s, RV culture had taken hold of the United States and the Honda Trail 70 was squarely aimed at this demographic of people. Typically, people who owned RVs usually had families that consisted of children that ranged in age, and this unique motorcycle allowed parents to ride along with their children or turn older kids off on their own to have fun.
This is also a vintage Honda motorcycle - which means undeniably reliable performance and a nearly bulletproof engine. Even the most basic DIY person could take care of the Honda four-stroke and perform basic maintenance items like swapping out the contact points, changing the spark plug, or changing the oil. The entire rig could take a beating and keep on going, much like every other Honda motorcycle.
Lastly, the Trail 70 was super cheap! With the retail price of around $400 bucks, even the most middle-class family could afford to put one of these things in the garage.
Trail 70 Values
Hemming’s reports that the market for Trail 70 motorcycles is hotter than ever, and they can sell for well over $10,000 and in some cases over $20,000! People who grew up in the '70s are nostalgic for these ultra-fun motorcycles, and even though over 350,000 were sold over its production run, there aren't that many that are still in great condition.
Today, you can get a Trail 70 and reasonable condition for anywhere from $7,000 to $8,000. Sure, there are plenty of motorcycles out there that will give you the same feeling for way less, but there are no match for the nostalgia of the original minibikes from Honda.
A minibike built for two it's just as fun as it sounds and if you ever have the opportunity to ride one, don't pass it up!